Hypothesis, Philosophy, recent

Beyond the Hypatia Affair: Philosophers Blocking the Way of Inquiry

Upon this first, and in one sense this sole, rule of reason, that in order to learn you must desire to learn, and in so desiring not be satisfied with what you already incline to think, there follows one corollary which itself deserves to be inscribed upon every wall of the city of philosophy: Do not block the way of inquiry.
~American Philosopher Charles S. Peirce

Philosophers are notorious for their willingness to consider questions that ordinary people find silly, such as whether or not we have knowledge of the material world. Recently, however, some philosophers having been trying to take hard questions about gender identity off the table. This camp remains a minority, but an energized and noisy minority that seems to be enjoying cultural ascendance and a sense of empowerment.

We caught a glimpse of this in 2017 with the “Hypatia Affair.” To recap, an untenured philosopher named Rebecca Tuvel wrote a paper arguing that if it’s possible to transition from one gender to another, then interracial transition is possible, too. Its appearance in the flagship feminist philosophy journal Hypatia incensed many on the academic Left. Over 800 people, including two members of Tuvel’s dissertation committee, signed a petition mischaracterizing her article and demanding that it be retracted. Hypatia’s board of associate editors responded by posting an apology on Facebook for the “harm” that Tuvel’s article had supposedly caused.

Most academic philosophers rallied around Tuvel, who was also subject to online harassment. Possibly because of this response, her paper was never retracted. Shortly after the incident, Oliver Traldi wrote in Quillette that the Hypatia affair represented a “line in the sand” for academic philosophy, meaning that trends would begin to move in the opposite direction. In my own Quillette piece, I worried that the faction that wanted to silence Tuvel would grow in strength. Recent developments confirm that, unfortunately, the field is galloping over that line in the sand.

In April of this year, Richard Marshall interviewed philosopher Holly Lawford-Smith for 3 AM Magazine, which has the contrarian slogan, “Whatever it is, we’re against it.” During the interview, Lawford-Smith expressed skepticism of the idea that self-identification alone determines gender identity. Shortly after the interview appeared online, the editors capitulated to the demands of activists, who again included philosophers, and removed it from the website. Marshall, who had conducted interviews for 3 AM for two nearly decades, departed in protest and started his own blog, 3:16 AM, where you can find his interview with Lawford-Smith.

The activists can claim a partial victory in this round, since the article was removed from 3 AM, but didn’t disappear altogether. The petition to retract Tuvel’s article argued that it failed to meet scholarly standards. Here that rationale doesn’t apply, since 3 AM is a public venue. Hence, it seems that suppressing a dissenting view was the real concern. It could be argued that the Hypatia affair is more serious since, in that case, the threatened article was a piece of scholarship. On the other hand, more people read public pieces than academic ones, so policing non-scholarly platforms might be more impactful.

Fast forward to June, when a widely circulated open letter by “t philosopher,” an anonymous philosophy graduate student, appeared at Medium. The author says that she is a trans woman, and that she feels compelled to change career paths because academic philosophy is unbearably transphobic: “I am leaving academia ONLY because of TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) — so called “gender critical feminists” —and those who amplify their voices.” She adds, “In sharing my pain and anger at being forced out of a career that I once loved, I hope to stir some of you to greater action.”

What kind of action? t philosopher’s recommendations include the following:

  1. If you are a journal editor or a referee, do not publish or recommend for publication transphobic articles. Do not entertain submissions that question the legitimacy of trans people. Do not entertain submissions that question what rights trans people are due. Do not entertain submissions about trans people that do not take great care to amplify trans voices and understand the trans experience.
  2. Do not invite conference speakers who are transphobic. Do not accept conference submissions that question the legitimacy of trans people. Make it clear that these are not welcome at your conference in your call for papers.

These are bold demands from a soon-to-be-departed graduate student! Nevertheless, Justin Weinberg, who runs the influential Daily Nous philosophy blog, wants us to seriously consider them. In his discussion of t philosopher’s open letter, Weinberg acknowledges that “transphobia” is difficult to define and rejects no-platforming. Otherwise his analysis is sympathetic to t philosopher.

Weinberg admonishes his readers to empathize with t philosopher and gives his own list of recommendations to make the field more trans-inclusive, such as: “Provide explicit statements of support for trans persons in venues in which trans-exclusionary work appears” and “If you are providing an academic platform for trans-exclusionary works, also provide one for trans philosophers or trans-inclusive philosophers.” Weinberg, like t philosopher, endorses the negative term “trans-exclusionary” to describe the views of self-described “gender critical” feminists like Holly Lawford-Smith and Kathleen Stock. He writes:

After all, it is not writings about gender norms in general that’s at issue. What t philosopher and similarly-minded people are focusing on is work that, for example, seeks to either exclude the kind “trans women” from the kind “women,” or exclude trans women from spaces typically reserved for women. It is all about excluding trans women.

Weinberg’s reasoning can be extended. For example, some philosophers defend views that imply that severely cognitively disabled humans don’t count as moral persons. Exclusion from personhood is more clearly dehumanizing than exclusion from any gender category, since it’s usually thought that personhood determines moral status. By contrast, nobody but the most extreme sexist thinks being a man or a woman makes a difference to moral status. So perhaps we should label these views “disabled-exclusionary” and take other steps to discourage their dissemination.

Episodes like the 3 AM incident and the circulation of t philosopher’s essay prompted 12 philosophers to attach their names to an open letter published at Inside Higher Ed in July. The signatories include ethicists Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan, the two best-known co-founders of the soon-to-be launched Journal of Controversial Ideas, which will allow academics to publish their work anonymously to avoid political backlash. The signatories wrote that measures to suppress dissenting views about gender identity “violate the fundamental academic commitment to free inquiry” and set a bad precedent.

This anodyne statement generated a vitriolic backlash.1 A few days after it appeared, Inside Higher Ed published a response by Mark Lance, a philosophy professor at Georgetown University. Lance compared debates about whether or not trans women are really women to debates about whether Native Americans have souls and moral worth (the Puritan Cotton Mather seems to have doubted this). According to Lance, “To produce arguments, in this [contemporary] context—that trans women are not women, or trans lesbians are not lesbians—is not just a view we can easily reject as confused and offensive. It is complicity with systemic violence and active encouragement of oppression.” He concludes:

It is not permissible to debate the lives of people who are oppressed and murdered. Those who treat this like an intellectual game should not be engaged with. They should be told to [unprintable here]—just as I hope we would respond to Cotton Mather. Every time. [brackets in original]

The signatories he criticizes don’t see themselves as encouraging oppression, however, or denying that trans people have the same moral standing as anyone else. Their letter even affirms the right of trans people to “live free of harassment and abuse.” So the comparison with Mather at his moral nadir is unwarranted.

A more even-tempered response, another open letter, appeared at the American Philosophical Association blog August 7, 2019. The 33 signatories deny that a climate of fear surrounds the topic of gender identity. They write:

As feminist philosophers who have, variously, argued for, researched, engaged with, and taught these views, we are well-positioned to claim that there is no established orthodoxy about gender in academic philosophy. There continues to be much lively disagreement on matters of gender without accusations of transphobia.

We might fairly ask if feminist philosophers are really in the best position to authoritatively declare that there are no orthodoxies about gender in philosophy. If orthodoxies about gender beset feminist philosophy in particular, then they might be the last to know. What the signatories say next, at the letter’s conclusion, qualifies their commitment to open inquiry almost to the point of nullifying it:

We do, however, think it is important, when exercising our academic freedom, that we consider how our views may impact others. Academic responsibility requires us to consider differences of power and vulnerability in speaking of and to others and the effects of our words in reinforcing structures of oppression. There are many diverse, contentious views about gender and gender identity that can be–and are–engaged with in ways that do not call into question the integrity and sincerity of trans people nor the validity of their own understanding of who they are.  We should conduct our research freely and responsibly, without treating other people’s lives as though they are abstract thought experiments. [emphasis added]

The italicized portion gives the game away. The signatories know that the acceptability of views contrary to the self-understandings of trans people is the sole issue that motivated the letter to which they are responding. It’s as if someone said, in response to concerns that Copernican views about the solar system were being suppressed, that there is no orthodoxy in astronomy—after all, you’re free to defend any view consistent with geocentric cosmology.

Mormon Sunday school teachers used to encourage obedience with a parable. Allegedly, a tethered goat will move as far away from the post as it can, so that the rope remains taut and never touches the ground. If only the goat would relax, the story goes, it could be content in the space it was given, which contains all the grass it needs. The moral is supposed to be that you can be happy within the church’s strictures, but the analogy backfires—who wants to be a goat on a rope in the first place?*

These feminist philosophers are a good deal more like Mormon Sunday school teachers than they realize. They seem to be saying: “We’ve given you enough intellectual space in which to dwell, and plenty of grass to munch on (in the form of trans-inclusive feminist views to consider). Now be a good goat and don’t strain at the end of the rope.”

Have they got good reason for wanting to rein in philosophical inquiry, though? Two basic arguments for suppressing anti-trans views are in the air. The first is that they’re so obviously false as to warrant immediate dismissal. The second is that questioning the identities of trans people causes, or perhaps constitutes, so much harm that it’s morally wrong to do. Often these arguments are not clearly distinguished. Lance’s piece, for instance, seems to be making both arguments simultaneously.

In response to the first argument, it seems that much about gender identity remains philosophically unsettled, as Alex Byrne’s work on gender identity in Arc Digital shows. It’s easier in science than in philosophy to determine when a view has been definitively refuted. Views thought to have been consigned to the scrap heap of intellectual history, like moral intuitionism, sometimes make unexpected comebacks. In philosophy, disagreements persist for centuries, and it’s not uncommon for philosophers to claim that their rivals’ views are not only wrong, but absurd.

In light of this, a philosopher claiming that a philosophical position has been definitively refuted, in the face of adamant disagreement from his peers, has a high burden of proof to meet. The trans-inclusive philosophers haven’t come close to meeting it as far as I can tell. Any argument for suppressing “trans-exclusionary” views within academic philosophy will therefore have to be made on the basis of their hatefulness or harmfulness, not their falsity.

The harm argument can be disaggregated into several distinct claims:

  1. Anti-trans arguments will lead to the adoption of oppressive policies.
  2. Anti-trans arguments are psychologically damaging to trans-people, who feel dehumanized by them.
  3. Giving anti-trans arguments constitutes a kind of “dignitary harm” against trans people.
  4. Anti-trans arguments inspire violence against trans people.

In response to 1), we should point out that virtually all moral discourse comes with this risk. Consider how important it is for people to have the correct views on our obligations to the poor, the moral status of animals, abortion, and issues of war and peace. Arguing for the wrong position on any of these topics could lead to disastrously bad policies being adopted. We don’t think that most moral and political discourse should cease for this reason.

A further concern is that we aren’t going to be in a position to know what policies are likely to be harmful or unjust until we’ve carefully inquired into each of these issues. Terminating a debate in progress in order to avoid promoting bad policy is question-begging. The debates surrounding the nature of gender identity, and the social, moral and political issues related to it, are debates that remain in progress, no less than debates over any of these issues.

As for 2), we might wonder whether it’s really true that trans people generally are deeply affected by philosophical arguments. Do ordinary trans people (i.e., non-academics) care much about arguments advanced and defended at scholarly conferences they are never likely to attend and in journals they will never read? Moreover, while every interlocutor deserves an initial presumption of good faith, we shouldn’t be naive about the possibility that some activists might exaggerate their anguish for rhetorical purposes.

As a thought experiment, suppose that some other group produced similar evidence that arguments against their convictions harmed them in the same way. Should we be willing to suspend critical examination of their commitments for that reason? For instance, should we stop criticizing Christianity because some Christians sincerely claim that this psychologically harms them? We wouldn’t, and shouldn’t do this. (“But Christians aren’t a systematically oppressed group!” Okay, then make them Pakistani Christians.)

It’s not uncommon to hear language that suggests anti-trans discourse constitutes harm—and perhaps even violence—against trans people—for instance, that certain expressions “invalidate,” “delegitimize,” or “erase” trans people. I find it hard to see how any kind of discourse can constitute harm, let alone violence, against any group apart from how it affects people psychologically. Calling arguments “harmful” or “violent” are plausibly examples of what I’ve called “concept inflation.”

This leaves us with claim 4), the claim that anti-trans arguments provoke violence against trans people. We need good evidence that scholarly discussions of gender identity really are inspiring violence, instead of the usual boredom. And again we should consider other cases. Suppose a rash of eco-terrorist (or, if you like, anti-abortion) bombings rocked the nation, and that the perpetrators mentioned well-regarded academic articles to justify their actions. Would this justify suppressing those articles, or the views they advanced, in teaching and scholarship? Certainly not.

A different claim, made by Robin Dembroff and others, is that gender critical philosophers don’t deserve platforms because they don’t adequately engage with the work of feminist philosophers who reject their arguments. Even if that were true, it wouldn’t apply to non-scholarly contexts, like Lawford-Smith’s 3 AM interview. Furthermore, the level of vitriol on display makes it hard to believe that any amount of engagement with other scholarship could make gender critical views seem acceptable to critics.

So it seems to me that the best arguments for suppressing “trans-exclusionary” views are unsatisfactory, and that they over-generalize to impugn huge swaths of moral and political discourse. The stakes here are higher than they might initially seem. If some faction of philosophers are able to declare an issue decided—over screams of dissent from other philosophers—then we can expect others to follow the same playbook. We are better off resisting now, before it becomes a precedent and we are all a little more like tethered goats.2

 

Spencer Case has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Colorado Boulder. You can follow him on Twitter @SpencerJayCase

Notes:

1 Another hostile response, which I won’t discuss here, was the open letter of three anonymous philosophers, “Recognizing Gender Critical Feminism as Anti-Trans Activism,” which appeared on Daily Nous on August 6, 2019.
2 As I have been finalizing this essay, more examples of intellectual policing and silencing dissent on gender identity have come to my attention. Kathleen Stock, one of the best known gender critical feminist philosophers, writes that a post at the blog of the Institute of Art and Ideas, to which she contributed, was taken down. The post consisted in 200-word statements on the transgender rights movement from several philosophers. She surmises that this was due to agitation from her opponents, who were unhappy with the inclusion of herself and Lawford-Smith.

* I’ve heard from a number of Mormon readers that they don’t remember this analogy being used in Sunday school. I remember hearing it, but it seems not to have been used very widely, or officially disseminated. Nonetheless, I find the analogy apt for my purposes here.

Comments

  1. “Gender critical” feminists, who aided the obliteration of dissent for decades in academia, who salivate over identitarianism, and who branched from a movement that seared every seed of rational criticism before a single root could break through the coat, are now being burned by activists from another branch of the same trunk?

    It’s like watching the Soviet Communist Party and the Communist Party of China fighting over economics – it’s why popcorn was invented.

    The author makes it sound like ideological inquiry in the humanities didn’t end long ago. Academic (Continental) philosophy is long dead. Shooting a mostly-decayed corpse doesn’t evoke much sympathy.

  2. I think much of the sensitivity being displayed towards the trans population is derived from the assumption that the roughly 40% lifetime suicide rate of trans individuals is caused solely by bullying. In a sense, this compassion over the well-being of others is laudable- in general, I am mainly sympathetic to the push for equality under the Law for Trans people and would use the appropriate pronoun as a matter of courtesy. It is only in the areas of trans kids, where evidence shows that trans kids (and their parents) have a tendency to misdiagnose themselves, and with trans women in competitive sports, where the advantage of being assigned male at birth is just too insurmountable, with non trans athletes facing exclusion through unfair competition, that further consideration is required.

    But drilling down into the suicide stats, what appears to help? Well family acceptance is one thing that can generally help significantly. As can the ability to ‘pass’, with those who do not disclose their sex assigned at birth, having lower rates of suicidality. The second factor shows the enormous pressure gender clinics are under to act as diagnostic gatekeepers, identifying those that fall on the autism spectrum and misidentify, those who are LGB and haven’t had the chance to accept it, and those who are simply gender nonconforming, as quickly as possible, and walking a fine line between assisting an individuals ability to ‘pass’ in future and the potential for puberty-induced biological desistance.

    One thing that Big Tech companies could do to help this process would be to create better unbiased software to project the curve of an individuals future appearance, based on the stage at which puberty blockers are introduced. Still, there are quiet voices of dissent within the therapeutic community asking whether it is better for the body to conform to the mind, or for the mind to conform to the body, given the suicide rates for the former approach, and the lack thereof for the latter. Given both family acceptance and the ability to pass, it is not unrealistic to expect that in future trans individuals rates of suicide might be cut to 25%, or even 20%, in more enlightened countries free from prejudice.

    But this still leaves one huge elephant in the room. The impact of rejection on mental health. Surveys show that only 2.5% of heterosexual males, and 1.8% of heterosexual females are willing to be trans-inclusive in their dating practices, to say nothing of committing to a lifelong trans partner. A more tolerant attitude towards trans dating within the LGB community does soften this harsh reality somewhat, especially for trans men, and it is conceivable that more inclusive attitudes amongst younger people may improve this statistic with time, but this still leaves a huge hurdle for trans individuals to surmount. (edit) Namely, that for the vast majority of the heterosexual population, male or female, trans dating simply isn’t an option.

    I think it’s because whilst our identity may be fluid, our notions of attraction are very fixed. In many ways our attraction to and acceptance of potential lifemates is a negotiation between a fixed image of our ideal, and the reality of the individual we find before us. For many of us, being trans may be one divergence too far in the assessment of a future partner, and in this, the ultimate goals of the more progressive amongst us, might forever be beyond reach.

  3. Much as this kind of acceptance might be nice for trans people wanting to enjoy a larger dating pool, I doubt the ordinary man, or woman, in the street is going to be happy to be told they much date trans people if that isn’t their thing. Nor will they shamed into it. It’s a question of competing rights. Mind you, we could resolve the problems of incels everywhere if we curtailed the rights of their objects of lust to say “no.” Somehow it sounds so much less attractive when stated that way.
    On a more serious note, we have little research into the actual causes of trans suicide. No doubt some part of it might be due to the response of families and society at large to trans people, and some will arise from the infertility and relationship issues that are secondary to transitioning. But given the unusually large incidence of mental health diagnoses, it might be that however well society accepts and treats trans people they will still have an excess of suicide. I don’t know whether that is true, and I suspect it would be hard to study it, as any kind of objective enquiry around trans matters is likely to be shut down if it might show a result inconsistent with dogma.

  4. This is the first time Lancelot_Gobbo has posted — let’s welcome them to our community!

    Welcome, Lancelot_Gobbo. Do you prefer to be referred to as “them”?

  5. I find most of this convincing, other than the fact that this is not a philosophical question, it is a biological question. A male is male, and female female. And whatever may be going through someone’s mind regarding denial of their own reality is a subject for psychology, not philosophy. Having said that, I have no problem with anyone who wants to claim to be trans, or to live their life as trans. I will not mock them or fire them or otherwise rain on their parade. I DO have a problem when they or others declare that my freedom be limited by requiring my belief or support of what I know to be a lie.

  6. How far away are we from a banned reading lists?
    People have endeavored to prohibit publishing since the advent of the printing press. What is disturbing is how many appear to go along. Being woke means being in lock step. Is there any room left for individual thought and expression on the Left?

  7. Good article, although of course it will fall on deaf ears in the academy. No matter the topic of leftist academic insanity, my thoughts always drift to how to starve the beast. Forcing all universities receiving accreditation to publish the GPAs, job titles, and salaries for graduates from every department for their first five years post-graduation seems a good first step. Eliminating government student loans, with universities and banks picking up the slack if they choose, and giving students the right to default would seal the deal. If students are going to be treated as consumers, give them the tools to make an informed choice, and let university departments be checked by market forces. So many of these humanities people are drains on the public purse and do more harm to society than good. They are best qualified to brew coffee and that should be made clear to them before they accumulate huge debt and pollute our intellectual space with ideas like transgender and feminist theory.

    On the trans issue, I don’t understand why it’s necessary to accept trans women as real women. It is biologically false. We can be kind to them, not discriminate against them in hiring, and even personally choose to use the pronouns that make them more comfortable without distorting reality in a way that has concrete negative consequences for female spaces. Accepting that trans women are men with a particular mental illness is not invalidating or hateful, any more than it is hateful to accept that someone with schizophrenia indeed has schizophrenia.

    With regards to the suicide rate, which @Geary_Johansen2020 brought up earlier, a 40% suicide attempt rate is far greater than Jews had in Nazi Germany or American blacks had during slavery. It is unquestionable that trans people are far less oppressed than those groups were, so their suicide attempt rate cannot be attributed to lack of parental or societal support. Being ugly also has the same effect as not being “passable,” (since a trans woman that is not passable is essentially complaining about going from being an average-looking man to an ugly woman), but ugly people aren’t known for their suicide attempt rates. Neither are incels, who similarly struggle with finding a mate.

    As @Lancelot_Gobbo and @EK-1 point out, the high suicide attempt rates are an inescapable consequence of gender dysphoria being a mental illness, and mental illnesses often being comorbid.

  8. & @ MorganFoster

    Starving the beast indeed begins with the metastasising Diversicrats and other such admins but as the Board of Trustees sits between state legislators and the uni, the former can’t pick line-item positions to axe. Rolling it back will be tough but doable if started practically. Legislatures could start with simply prohibiting any increase in the ratio of admin costs to teaching costs. This would likely pass muster with state law, defeat any legal challenges etc.

    Next, a scheduled reduction in that ratio is determined over the next 10 years or so, using the ratio as it was in, say, 1985 as a target. This would have wide popularity including among those faculty not milking the admin/diversocracy roles as way of not teaching much and then only plum ideological indoctrination courses, anyway. This last cabal are most difficult to deal with as their interests are more aligned with the admins, their admin roles themselves give them paid time to lobby on behalf of their admin roles but they still vote on faculty hiring committees, senates etc. These are primarily the ones who use indoctrinisation to exploit and weaponise hapless undergrads to demand more admin roles akin to corrupt construction companies using massively overweighted trucks which destroy the very roads they get lucrative contracts to repair.

    One way to clip their wings is for the legislature to mandate that no professor receive more than 10% of their university income from roles other than teaching/research or slightly more for academic deans/heads of department. Another is to limit the number of programs and degrees offered, the explosion of which hide numerous undersubscribed ideology courses as well as tightening graduation requirements (other than mere number of credits) so they can’t be met by such courses which should be truly electives. Furthermore, class credit for participating in demonstrations and attending political meetings should be abolished as an obvious perversion of academic credit.

    Furthermore, the legislature could ensure that state funds aren’t used to feed the Academic and Certification Complex (ACC) in other ways: prohibit public sector employers from requiring college degrees for almost all jobs. Requiring a firefighter to have a degree - and it can be any degree - in order to enter the training program is a transparent use of the state to require people to buy the product you sell: college degrees.

    Whatever student loans are available should have interest rates reflecting the likelihood of repayment on time based on sound statistics; engineering students will find themselves with a lower rate than gender studies ones. Legislatures can mandate high school curriculum to require a course in university costs and benefits with practical exercises in the different kinds of student loan costs, repayments, lack of bankruptcy protection etc along with testing on most/least lucrative college majors and graduation strategies. (Most students don’t realize that summer courses offer a major discount on credits per hours attended and credits per housing costs - especially as many are offered online to enrolled students - and high school students should know this before attending college.) Mostly they must learn what a potential scam college is and how to avoid being scammed as well as how to make the most of a system.

  9. Thanks for this article. It is appalling that professional philosophers are arguing for suppression of debate, and in so doing are being swept along and fanning the fires of the excesses of trans activism.

    Here is my view of these excesses, not having read the comments above, and not focusing on philosophy. I guess the same pattern occurs in other fields, with philosophers suppressing debate in order to comply with higher priorities of social justice.

    I think these extremes of trans activism are extraordinarily harmful to most trans people, though some of them who are and will be harmed may be swept along by the current social contagion of trans and non-trans people advocating supposedly upon their behalf.

    It used to be difficult enough being a woman - because women are human and this is difficult, and because of some pervasive and oppressive beliefs, assumptions, laws etc. plus being generally physically, economically and legally weak in a society which seeks to diminish and harm them. (This is not counting the benefits, for some women at least, that men were prepared to work hard and at times die for them and their children - its not all bleak.) BTW I am a man and this brief summary cannot be the complete story, but it is good enough for this discussion.

    Feminism, the women’s movement etc. can be divided into the essential and the excessive - the former being necessary and desirable to remove all unreasonable biases against women, and the latter being all the other stuff, purportedly for all women, which involves overreach, overly dramatic ideology and genuine harm to women and men.

    By this definition essential feminism lifted many burdens from women, without denying what it naturally is to be a woman, while the excesses of feminism constitute an ongoing disastrous campaign too extensive to describe here.

    Now, women have been largely relieved of one set of burdens (yet they remain physically and often economically weak, and subject to harassment, especially when young, from men to an unacceptable degree, and frequently rape and murder) - and they have to contend with another set of burdens, much harder to understand and counter, which result from the excesses of feminism. Amongst these are the widespread belief - including among women, frequently enforced by women - that it is unnatural or undesirable for most healthy women to want a loving husband, some children and to spend much of their life at home, all in preference to pursuing a challenging, potentially rewarding, career.

    I think this infernal morass, with all of society caught up in it - including men coming to believe that leadership, dominance and power makes one no different from Adolf Hitler - is much harder to sort out than the direct problems women faced before the general success of essential feminism. (Take a look at romance novels to see what normal, healthy, women want in men. The covers suffice - the text is almost impossible for men to read at length, I think.)

    So it will be with trans people, I predict.

    Ideally there would have been no excesses of trans-advocacy, or any such excesses would have been roundly rejected by most trans people themselves, and by everyone else. Yet I think most trans people keep their heads down, just as women have for decades, saying to themselves “Those so-called feminists don’t speak for me.”, but not shouting it from the rooftops at the same volume as the excessive feminists.

    Ideally, I think, trans people could have been accepted as they are - for instance someone born into a man’s body, who feels to some significant extent, female - in some but not all cases to the complete exclusion of self-identifying as male. This would be a separate class of people, as occurs in some cultures in the Pacific, for instance.

    Then, many or most non-trans people could have accepted this, welcomed the trans folk out of their closets and everyone could have gotten along reasonably well, except those who were repulsed or ideologically opposed to trans people, which will always be the case for some.

    Some of these trans people would be attracted to males, others to females, some to trans, some to both or whatever. This is a separate matter from sense of self.

    Instead, at least with MtF trans people, there has been an over-dramatic and simplistic clamour that they are “women trapped in men’s bodies” - which completely ignores the many trans people who feel both female and male. This lead to the unrealistic claim that these people actually are women, and should be treated as such. Its all downhill from there, with women rightfully complaining that their very identity is being denied and their spaces invaded by non-women. Again, the list of hell-in-a-handbasket situations resulting from the excesses of trans advocacy are too vast to enumerate here.

    I just hope that trans people can hang onto the gains made in recent years and somehow survive the anti-trans backlash against the flagrant excesses of trans activism, which, it seems, gain impetus with each new day, with no end in sight.

    If this wasn’t enough of a rant for you, see my second comment in: 'The Great Scattering': How Identity Panic Took Root in the Void Once Occupied by Family Life

  10. When the philosophy department adopts cancel culture, that’s how we know that all is lost in liberal arts academia.

  11. How on earth did trans become the Holy of Holies? Over and over, amongst the Progressive cult, I see the Trans identity as the Most Untouchable On High, more untouchable than Black people (eg Dave chappelle, who, largely because he - gasp - made fun of trans, is probably going to be a persona non grata), more than feminists certainly, more than Lesbians, more than gays. It’s possible the only group higher up on the cult hierachy - I’ve decided to call them a cult; there is no other word that better describes their methods and their madness - are Muslims, not all, but only the far-right, Orthodox, anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-semitic extremists (go figure, but consistency has never been a trait they aim for).

    It infects everything, now philosophy. Why why why why why? Why has this tiny group of people, fewer than probably 1% of people, suddenly catapulted to the Heights of Sancity? They aren’t homogenous - there’s mtf and ftm trans, there’s apolitical, intensely private trans, and so on - but they are repeatedly referred to as the “Trans community” as though they were a monolith. This “community” - more precisely, the handful who post on Twitter and try to get people fired, often women - is a tiny fraction of that 1% and yet wields enormous power. Why? Why is it such a line-in-the-sand piece of dogma that Trans is Sacred? I mean as opposed to all the other Protected Groups in the cult?

    And on top of that, how? How did it come to pass that otherwise intelligent academics roll belly up at the merest whiff of any questioning of the dogma?

    I think they check off a ton of boxes for them, mainly that they are a poster child for the Blank Slate philosophy of this cult, which is that everyone is born exactly equal and any inequality is caused by the corrupt defunct White Western state, and must be simultaneously rectified by said corrupt state. If anyone is a blank slate, a Trans person is. They are literally saying their entire being is a blank slate, including their genitalia. So they pick one of the least blank slate things about us, our genetic gender, and insist that this too is blank slate. The reason they have to attack anyone who takes this as a serious rational argument, and says, well, if gender is blank slate, why not race? They can’t have race be a blank slate because race is tied to their other rpiece of dogma, that is, that White People are responsible for all evil in the entire world throughout history. They need Black people to be an unchanging and eternal Victim of this hierarchy. If they’re not, if race is also fluid, then there are no oppressed races and oppressor races. And that is Not Allowed.

    So basically, everything they do is beholden to their cult. If the belief strengthens the cult’s dogma, it’s Good; if it weakens it, it’s Bad and must be attacked and destroyed.

    Reason will do nothing whatever to save us from the cult because the cult is not driven by reason and cares nothing for it. If you’ve ever known a member of a cult, you will know that they are impervious to reason. Members care only about the cult and the dogma. The only way to fight them is to either attack them on their own terms - emotional - or to ignore them. I think ignoring is best. The problem is admin and HR are super into the cult; and many jobs and whole industries exist based on the cult. Social media only strengthens their Infinite Nutshell, to quote Hamlet. Thus people have no incentive to leave the cult except for their integrity, but you know how cheap that is for some people…

  12. Yes, Muslims are above trans on the victim hierarchy because an ‘islamophobic’ trans will lose all trans privileges, but a ‘transphobic’ Muslim can still claim Muslim privileges.

    Sexual minorities are the also-rans on the victim hierarchy.

  13. Orwell was right when he spoke of smelly little orthodoxies on the left.
    So much ‘‘progressive’’ thinking these days seems to be based on a struggle to invent new orthodoxies and a new respectability to replace the old moral universe. As these idiots are trying to create new manners and morals without reference to the past, they are skidding along the way and acting in a highly authoritarian fashion wheever they see resistance. But resist we must, until the old ways are restored.
    Sinistra delenda est!

  14. Personally, I think that’s my marker for whether or not we have a really workable solution for people who are trans. If the suicide rate goes down to the point where it is the same as the general population, then we have found the proper way to help people who are trans. Anything that does not cause the suicide rate to go down is probably not a viable treatment. Right now, the love and acceptance, and the love bombing, let’s be honest, don’t seem to be affecting it. So this might be a sign that we need to search for another solution.

    Don’t get me wrong on this, I think that we need to demonstrate the same tolerance of trans people and their needs as we would tolerate anyone else’s differences. I do not think that unquestioning acceptance is a good idea, however, as long as that suicide rate is high. It tells us that there is something going on that we do not understand, and that we have not solved to the point where we really are helping trans people. Unquestioning acceptance and love-bombing don’t seem to be working so well, so maybe we need to figure out some other Solutions. I’m not entirely sure what they are, but one thing I do know is that more research, which is not politically influenced or ideologically influenced, but is done in honest inquiry, is absolutely needed.

  15. I was listening to Katherine Birbalsingh on the Brendan O’Neil podcast, and her point was that the real racism these days comes from the progressive Left. Because in denying poor Back kids the cultural heritage of the worlds best writers and composers, on the basis that they are all dead white men, they are hamstringing these kids future educational development. With music, it is all the more infuriating when you can hear the beauty of Mozart, Beethoven and Delibes, just by listening. Put another way, would Maya Angelou have been as good at writing, if she hadn’t read Shakespeare.

Continue the discussion in Quillette Circle

32 more replies

Participants

Comments have moved to our forum

48 Comments

  1. Pingback: News of the Week (September 8th, 2019) | The Political Hat

Comments are closed.