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From South American Anthropology to Gender-Crit Cancel Culture: My Strange Feminist Journey

I’m one of the many academics who’ve been “canceled” for having the wrong sort of opinion—or quasi-canceled, at least. As of this writing, I remain an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. Since July 2019, I had also served as the department’s undergraduate programs chair. It was supposed to be a three-year appointment. But in late March, I was dismissed from that position due to informal student complaints to the effect that I had made them feel “unsafe” by articulating feminist critiques of current theories of gender. Earlier this month, my colleague Carolyn Sale wrote up an account of my case for the Centre for Free Expression blog at Ryerson University. As tends to be the case with these controversies, this in turn caused students and colleagues to scour my social media accounts in search of yet more “gender-critical” commentary. When they found it, they demanded that I be fired from my tenured position and charged with hate speech.

Articles of the type you are now reading typically channel great anger, resentment, or sorrow. But in my case, I have to acknowledge that, a decade ago, it’s likely that I would have added my voice to the clamor to put a head like mine (the 2020 version of it) on a metaphorical pike. To my shame, in fact, I’m pretty sure I once joined the campaign to cancel Canadian sexologist Kenneth Zucker after reading an article about his cautious approach in regard to “affirming” the gender dysphoric claims of children. (Zucker’s work had been wrongly denounced as “conversion therapy,” and he later won an apology and large cash settlement from his employer, the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which had echoed the false claims against him in a public review of his work.)

In any event, I would like to tell the story of how I got from there to here—because I am hardly the only feminist who’s walked away from the beliefs and postures associated with radicalized trans activism. There will be many more of us coming forward in the years to come. And so it might be useful for readers to understand how one of us became invested in the debate surrounding gender ideology, and subsequently became disillusioned.

* * *

I first became attuned to the subject indirectly, through reading Alice Dreger’s coverage of an unrelated controversy in anthropology. At this point, I should note that I’d trained as a lowland South Americanist anthropologist under the supervision of Dr. Manuela Carneiro da Cunha and Dr. Terence Turner at the University of Chicago during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Dreger, a historian and bioethicist who would begin teaching at Northwestern University in nearby Evanston in 2005, was scathing about Dr. Turner’s involvement in urging the American Anthropological Association to investigate dramatic allegations regarding anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and geneticist James Neel, especially their work among the Yanomami Indigenous people of Venezuela.

This was a huge scandal in anthropological circles at the time, originating in a 2000 book by journalist Patrick Tierney, Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon. An American Anthropological Association investigation eventually concluded that several of Tierney’s most dramatic allegations could not be substantiated. But I was skeptical of Dreger’s claims to have made a comprehensive and dispassionate analysis of the case. From what I could tell, she’d never spoken to a single Yanomami person in the course of her inquiries, nor bothered to investigate earlier challenges to Dr. Chagnon’s ethics made by the Brazilian Anthropological Association. Moreover, the portrait of Professor Turner she presented seemed to misrepresent his conduct, motivations, and scholarship.

In 2010, I was invited to participate in a roundtable at the American Anthropological Association meetings, entitled “The Yanomami Controversy, A Decade Later.” I decided to discuss Dreger’s handling of the Yanomami controversy in light of her earlier analysis of the ferocious backlash surrounding sexologist J. Michael Bailey’s 2003 book about trans-identified men, The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. In both instances, I contended, Dreger mounted a defence of a besieged male academic whose research ethics had come under serious scrutiny. Moreover, both Bailey’s and Chagnon’s theoretical frameworks drew upon principles of evolutionary psychology to which I objected on feminist intellectual grounds. I prepared a paper on the subject entitled ‘Alice Dreger and the Academic Retrosexuals‘, and eventually contacted Andrea James, a trans-identified man who came in for particular opprobrium in Dreger’s work.

Andrea—whom I found friendly, informative, and funny—put me in touch with other trans activists, and gave me helpful commentary on successive drafts of my paper. Eventually, the paper got an encouraging revise-and-resubmit response from a good anthropology journal. But one of the reviewers urged me to rehash the entire El Dorado controversy within the limited space available. Since I preferred to focus on my feminist take on the parallels between the two cases, I withdrew the paper from consideration and decided to rewrite it entirely, this time for a gender-studies journal.

This was in the early 2010s. (I was getting divorced and raising a toddler on my own at the time, so I will confess that my memory of the chronology is somewhat fuzzy.) At this juncture, I’d written only for the anthropological literature, and so was naïve about the state of play on gender issues. I had an inkling that there wasn’t a unified feminist position on trans issues; and that some feminists, such as Janice Raymond, author of The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male, had expressed hostility to the idea of “transsexuals” (as was then a commonly used term) back in the late 1970s. But my impression was that Raymond had been part of the feminist second wave, which I’d thought no one bothered with anymore. Just to ground my arguments, however, I figured I’d do a bit of a research to make sure my approximate sense of the state of the feminist literature on trans issues was adequate.

I remember coming across a website called Gender Trender, maintained by a pseudonymous lesbian radical feminist named Gallus Mag. At first, I perused it as an anachronistic curiosity—an odd outpost from a bygone feminist era, atavistically hostile to the more up-to-date proposition that trans women are women. But Gallus’s prose style was funny and straightforward, in contrast to most gender-studies academic writing, and I found myself drawn back again and again to see what the old dinosaur (as I imagined her to be) would say next.

Dana Rivers

But for all Gallus’s sardonic manner of presentation, I came to realize the information she was documenting on her site was quite serious. She covered, among other things, the 2016 murder of two lesbians and their son in East Oakland, a crime for which prosecutors charged a trans-identified man named Dana Rivers (who’d also been an organizer of the “Camp Trans” campaign against a women-only music festival called Michfest during the 1990s). Gallus wasn’t paranoid in describing “female erasure” and “lesbian erasure”; nor in her insistence that gender ideology—which includes the belief that men may become women, and vice versa, by an act of declaration—served male interests.

I also began to appreciate her claim that the mainstream media often was reluctant to report on any facts that cast doubt on orthodox gender ideology. That aforementioned 2016 triple murder, strangely, received little media coverage. And Gallus’s own blog, which had been subject to countless attacks by trans activists, was censored and then taken down by WordPress in 2018 when she broke the story of Jonathan Yaniv—an eccentric Canadian misogynist who’s managed to deplatform dozens of women who express disgust at his aggressive sexual prurience (or who refuse to call him “Jessica”). But by this time, I was also reading Meghan Murphy’s Vancouver-based blog Feminist Current. (Infamously, Murphy herself was tossed off Twitter due to her interactions with Yaniv.) We are only now getting to the point where mainstream outlets, such as the Times of London and Newsweek, are giving air time to the gender-critical side.

J Yaniv

A full decade has passed since I began paying sustained attention to trans activism and gender ideology. I have published an essay of my own at Feminist Current, become an active commenter on the feminist social networking site Spinster, signed the Women’s Declaration on Sex-Based Human Rights, and become one of two Canadian country contacts for its campaign. In the process, I’ve met inspiring feminists from all around the world who share my concerns, and who are fighting rollouts of eerily identical gender-identity laws in diverse national contexts.

And yet I have never finished re-writing that El Dorado/Man Who Would be Queen paper that started it all—because the kind of feminist analysis I’d originally designed it around is no longer persuasive to me.

As I’ve changed, so has the world around me. In 2017, Canada became governed by Bill C-16, which adds “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination contained in the Canadian Human Rights Act. During the 2019–2020 academic year, the University of Alberta, my employer, brought in a sweeping set of policies aimed at promoting “equity, diversity, and inclusion” (EDI) in the workplace, complete with the obligatory focus on gender at the expense of sex. All of this has arisen at a university that, during my 15 years here, has otherwise provided me with an agreeable and supportive environment. By and large, I’ve been happy at the University of Alberta, and I’m sorry to come into conflict with it.

The conflict, though, is unavoidable. Contemporary gender ideology requires active affirmation of the proposition that men can become women and that women can become men. It further asserts that to refuse to assent to this proposition is to do active “harm” to trans-identified individuals. The doctrine requires uncritical reverence for retrograde gender constructs, such as the idea that a little boy who likes tea parties and pretty dresses can be deemed to have been “born in the wrong body” (and so is actually, in fact, a little girl).

I’m not on Facebook, but I regularly hear from friends that I’ve been charged on this or that Facebook page with “denying the existence of trans people.” My detractors may well be correct that I am in violation of my employer’s EDI policies by insistently bringing up biology, and by engaging in the critique (and sometimes mockery) of gender identity claims. This is my form of political dissent. And I cannot avoid getting into trouble, because I now know things I did not know 10 years ago.

Whatever the initial aims of gender-ideology advocates, this system of beliefs is leading to real horrors being inflicted upon women and children. Activist Heather Mason, for instance, has documented the harassment and abuses that have predictably resulted from transferring purportedly trans-identified men to women’s prisons. In 2005, the year I moved to Edmonton from the United States, a 13-year-old girl named Nina Courtepatte was raped, beaten to death with a hammer, and set on fire on an Edmonton golf course. Her killer now claims to identify as a woman and is housed with female inmates. Is anyone concerned about their right to “safe spaces”? Or read this account of a botched gender-reassignment surgery on a woman, or this one on a child. Read about the deadly risks associated with puberty-blocking drugs? Do you know what a trans widow is? A detransitioner? I do. And I can’t un-learn any of it.

I’m 49 years old. As already noted, my 39-year-old self would almost certainly have been part of the campaign to get me fired. I don’t know how the students and colleagues denouncing me now will look back on their actions in 2030. But I can articulate the principles presently guiding my own behaviour, as borrowed from James Baldwin: “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”

If you click on no other link, watch this powerful talk by Chilean feminist Ariel Pereira about her experiences transitioning and detransitioning. If you were a tenured professor, with all of the protections such a position entails, and you heard that talk, would you keep silent when people around you were insisting that nothing is better for young people than to celebrate and affirm gender identity, no hard questions asked?

When a Toronto-based Quillette editor invited me to write about my experiences, he suggested I tell my story and then “expand on it as a microcosm of some larger trends.” But honestly, I don’t think I have a clever general analysis to offer about the nature of our present handbasket.

That said, my experience has brought home to me various lessons I’ve always tried to communicate to students while teaching the history of anthropology. I tell them that, like all social sciences, anthropology often tells a story about itself that suggests its scholars figured out exactly the right thing to study, and at exactly the right time, through sheer cleverness and moral virtue: colonialism, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality. The truth is that it always has been social movements outside of the discipline that have brought each of these themes to the discipline’s attention. And so detractors aren’t wrong when they say the social sciences are driven by “trends.” But trends can be important. And their influence doesn’t make our enterprise “unscientific.” That’s because our object of study is society itself, and so it makes sense that we focus on the new ideas that circulate in a society as that society changes.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve been seeing that unfold in real time. My own so-called gender-critical feminism isn’t driven by academics, nor astroturfed by funders. There is no Tawani Foundation endowing professorships on my side of things. The women who inspire me now are theorizing on the fly and organizing on a shoestring. Together we are building an active social movement that has emerged to meet a real historical challenge. Someone like Sheila Jeffreys, a long-established feminist academic who has been gender-critical for many years, is rare. Instead, gender critical feminists are ordinary women such as Meghan Murphy, Nina Paley, Julie Bindel, Hilla Kerner, Eugenia Rodrigues, Allison Bailey, Max Dashu, Posie Parker, Cherry Smiley, Ghislaine Gendron, Raquel Rosario Sánchez, Linda Blade, Renee Gerlich, Jennifer Bilek, M K Fain, Maria Binetti, the late great Magdalen Berns—oh, and now a writer you may have heard of called J. K. Rowling.

This list of courageous women is multi-racial and international in its composition, and it is growing longer every day. But we still face regular, ferocious denunciation, threats to our livelihoods, and at times even violent intimidation from trans activists and trans “allies.” Even as this article goes to press, I am being warned that the student newspaper at my own university will soon be publishing a strident condemnation of me. And even if the university desists in its efforts to censure me, on the basis of academic freedom, school officials already have made it clear that non-academic staff can be legitimately dismissed for expressing views like mine. Unlike me, most women aren’t tenured professors with a faculty association to back them up. So the university can force them to “shut their eyes to reality.”

* * *

I earned my doctorate at the University of Chicago, a rewarding and rigorous educational program. The school’s anthropology department had a reputation for conservatism when I trained there in the late 1990s, principally because we read the history of anthropology and the social sciences at a time when it was becoming fashionable merely to denounce it.

It’s sad to compare that culture of rigor to what I now see today. One of the sources of my present troubles is having attended a University of Alberta Anthropology Department event at which students and several faculty held forth with the view that the gender binary is an artifact of “colonialism,” and that gender-critical feminists are “all white.” I said that this was not true, and specifically mentioned the work of Indigenous activist and educator Fay Blaney, who objects to the appropriation of Indigenous ideas about gender by contemporary trans activists; as well as Vaishnavi Sundar, who has similarly objected to appropriation of hijra identity from South Asia. I also made reference to Linda Bellos, a black lesbian activist who has been de-platformed in the UK for her gender-critical views. What was striking was that no one in the room had heard of any of these women—though at least one attendee felt free to suggest that they’d all simply been brainwashed by white colonialist propaganda.

But the truth is, were it not for what I quite seriously describe as a “post-doctoral education” under the tutelage of pioneering gender critical feminists, I would never have heard of any of these women either. The contemporary academy has simply stopped paying attention to non-ideologically compliant feminists. Yet even without institutional support, the influence of these so-called “gender crits” is now stronger than it’s been in many years—so much so that academics in the social sciences might eventually have to start paying attention.

I’ll close on a point drawn from my lowland South American research. I worked for over 20 years with Guaraní-speaking Indigenous people, principally in Bolivia. One of the features that marked the encounter of Guaraní-speaking people with European colonizers was the way missionaries—Jesuits, most famously—interpreted Guaraní cosmology as being uniquely compatible with Christian theology. They found features of Guaraní myth and religious practice as either “prefigurative” of the coming of Christ, or as being marked by an actual prior encounter with Christianity: Stories of the culture hero Pai Sume were supposed to encode a memory of a visit from the disciple Thomas, for example.

The way contemporary trans ideology assimilates any number of world cultural practices as evidence of the existential universality of transness—hijras in South Asia, two-spirit people in North America, bancis in Indonesia, bacha bazi and bacha posh in Afghanistan, sworn virgins of the Balkans, and so on—is quite similar. As with European Christian projections on to Guaraní culture, this is what happens when adherents of a totalizing worldview subject the truth about the outside world to their own narrow preconceptions. Anthropology taught me how to spot this instinct. Gender-critical feminists taught me how to stand up to it.

 

 

Kathleen Lowrey is an associate professor of anthropology in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta.

Featured image: Guaraní figures carved in stone at São João Baptista, Brazil.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. In any event, I would like to tell the story of how I got from there to here—because I am hardly the only feminist who’s walked away from the beliefs and postures associated with radicalized trans activism.

    And will you also walk away from the beliefs and postures associated with the radicalized feminism that surely led to radicalized trans activism?

  2. Here we go again. Another academic who used to toss their opponents to the crowd, finding that in the end they get tossed to the crowd themselves. All a bit poetic.

    But my main point is, why did you not see early on that calling for people to lose their livelihoods and their reputations was wrong? Why do you only see it’s wrong when it happens to you? Were you really not clever enough to see that?

  3. The author of this ‘article’ has wasted her existence studying a subject so drenched in falsity, snake oil and inherent idiocy that she can’t tell she’s been L. Ron Hubbard-ed. Now at 49, she’s no longer a part of the ever changing irrational trends of feminism/trans lunacy and finds her job at risk. To this I can only say: “Good, it’s about damn time!”

    The reason you are out of fashion is because the ‘discipline’ you’ve chosen to study is an absurd joke possessing no actual connections to reality and no insights into human nature. It has no real world value. You’ve allowed the lunatics to run the asylum and now you’re surprised that it’s not working well. Your only hope of hanging on is to double down, show you’re committed to the stupidity of the moment and follow that slippery slope down to it’s inevitable absurd singularity.

    Whatever you choose to do you’ve caused long term irrevocable harm to many individuals and the fabric of society itself.

  4. Yet another pro-censorship feminist who, upon having the weapon she created used on her, suddenly comes crying to a free speech platform because nobody else would have her.

    I wonder what would happen if I posted dissenting thought on her blog or any other communication medium where she is in control.

  5. Although I understand the anger of many for the culture & consequences you contributed to thank you for having the decency to forego your comfort by admitting your wrong doing & speaking out publicly. Well done.
    If there’s to be any significant changes in the current culture in universities more ‘outings’ maybe more forthcoming if we cut these guys a break by not being so scornful & hostile despite their ‘sins’.
    Cutting the nose to spite the face only prolongs the problem…

  6. I was reading one of the articles linked in the original post, and came across this when the penny dropped in my mind (ok, small mind and a Canadian penny, but still):

    In late March, Kathleen Lowrey, an associate professor at the University of Alberta, was asked to resign from her role as the Department of Anthropology’s associate chair, undergraduate programs, on the basis that one or more students had gone to the University’s Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights and the Dean of Students, André Costopolous, to complain about her without filing formal complaints. All Professor Lowrey has been told is that she is somehow making the learning environment “unsafe” for these students because she is a feminist who holds “gender critical” views.

    [bold mine]
    Where was she when this was office and its processes were created? Is she even now advocating that these, being fundamentally against due process, are wrong in a free society? I don’t know, though I’ve struggled at least twice through the original article which at its core simply seems to echo the usual progressive mantra, it’s always somebody else’s fault.

  7. I didn’t score. The trans activists scored. I’m a spectator in your sports analogy. It’s the oldtimers vs the up and comers. I dislike both teams and I find it funny to see the oldtimers defeated by their own signature underhanded plays which the younger team has learned from. Being more youthful and energetic, they just do it better.

    Having faced off against those oldtimers myself several times, I get a kick out of watching them lose to their own devious playbook. I’ve been to University and majored in a female dominated area of study. This is a team, from my experience, that is liable to just up and assemble and start playing full body contact against you with no warning while you’re just trying to sit there on the grass and peacefully read. Because you aren’t wearing their colours.

    I reject that I am spitting on anybody, even metaphorically, so I’ll dismiss those accusations and address the accusations of gloating, and explain what I think is to be gained by it.

    I realize I said she was shitting on people. She has admitted to signing a petition to ruin a man (underhanded play #34, one that is not in my own book–I don’t spit). Upon having that play used against her, she now wants recognition for showing remorse. But she has only shown remorse because the petition was then used against someone like her. Even so, she wouldn’t have cared or even noticed if it wasn’t then used against her directly. She seems more upset that her blind signature was eventually used against herself, not for signing blindly in the first place.

    Will she continue to sign such things and just research more carefully next time to make sure it couldn’t possibly apply to someone like her? She doesn’t say, so I’ll conclude that she hasn’t given it a moment’s thought.

    She expresses concern that unlike her, other “women” (not people) aren’t tenured and might be at risk. It’s clear she doesn’t give a flying fuck about anyone not in her immediate circle. The whole thing is an exercize in valoring gender critical feminists, which she just happens to be. Not one lick of concern for the job security of any non-feminist that might be affected by the playbook she helped to cement.

    So, what you call gloating, I call expanding to show the bigger picture. She claims this quote by James Baldwin accurately reflects her view now:

    “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”

    But her eyes are still shut. She thinks they’re open because she can feel the pain of her own wound and she has searched for other people–sorry, other feminists–with the same wound for solidarity. But her eyes are still firmly closed to the wounds of others, including those she has herself wounded.

    What I hope to gain, by bringing attention to this, is to prevent the oldtimers from taking that book of underhanded plays back exclusively for themselves. I want it to be used far and wide, against more and more “innocent” people, for increasingly trivial infractions and thus discredited wholly so that no one may use it any longer. I doubt this is what she wants. I’d put money on her wanting to take it back and keep it for herself and hers. The evidence is in the article where she neglects to condemn the playbook in it’s entirety, and focusses on how it is only her own team (old timey feminists) who are affected by it getting into the ‘wrong’ hands. She neither wants it destroyed nor made available to all equally. She wants it back in the ‘right’ hands. Her own.

  8. Not bitter. Just disagree. Any ideology that trumpets, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” is in a war with human nature. Children need fathers but feminism has been extremely hostile to that. Do some children thrive without fathers? Sure, but every study shows that most children are better off with dads. The statistics for suicide, drug abuse, promiscuity and just general sadness for fatherless girls are heartbreaking. Congrats to you that your daughters did well. I wish they all would. But wishes aren’t horses.

    I’m all for equal wages for equal work and was happy when feminists pushed laws that allowed police to arrest abusers when victims didn’t have the strength to press charges. (My husband was a policeman for twenty years. For years he begged women to press charges including one who was thrown from a second floor balcony to a concrete sidewalk and not one didn’t insist the police or the D.A. drop the case the next day.)

    Nevertheless, my general view is that most feminists are so hostile to men that the overall effect has been the further destruction of the family. Not the only reason, but clearly one of them.

  9. There is no way you could possibly know this.
    Nobody gets to see how things would have turned out if the facts were different. The best we can do is surmise and speculate.
    You are running a movie in your head, an edited autobiography of you and your family, then comparing it to another movie in your head called “My life without feminism” . Both are written, produced, directed and star you.
    You need to do some sort of utilitarian analysis, include all factors from all parts and times of the world, not just your little circle. And how does one judge the value of a persons life that, due to feminism, was never born at all ?

  10. Frankly, I see the laments of academic “gender-critical” feminists who have been excommunicated as little different from the cries of Palestinian Authority officials who whine that they have been pushed aside by “radical” Hamas. While there was undoubtedly a place for feminist theory back in the days when women were a legitimately oppressed class, modern academic feminists have spent the last couple decades ensconced in cozy tenured positions at prestigious universities gleefully helping to develop the sophisticated toolkit of unanswerable pseudo-theories, rhetorical weapons and marginalization tactics that are now being turned against them by those higher up on the intersectional Pyramid of Oppression. Critical deconstruction of the white male patriarchy was great fun while it lasted, but now that they themselves are being redefined as the oppressor class and the foundations of their field are being critically deconstructed using the same techniques, suddenly they’re concerned about the dangers of radical identity politics activism.

  11. I agree with much of what you say. But I think you missed the point that a little female emancipation was a good thing, but “feminism” has gone way beyond that, just like anti racism has gone past just treating all people equally.

    Feminists don’t want the war to end. They want power, by pretending that if they don’t get what they want, then we will automatically go back to to the 1950s. In other words, they are admitting that men are in fact better, and that women need help to succeed.

    Another question I have, are your daughters and granddaughter going to be HVAC engineers, plumbers, sewerage workers or tradies? It seems that the feminists are never very keen on getting women to perform those sorts of work. It’s all about getting middle class women into the professions, business or politics.

  12. LIke the author, I spent some months following Gallus Mag, reading her blog articles and all the associated comments. Gallus Mag was the name of a female bouncer at a bar who was renowned for biting the ears off of men she bounced. She kept a jar of ears as her souvenirs. The blogger’s avatar was an ear (on a keychain? or something like that). Cool, right? Very empowering. Gallus Mag is cited as an inspiration to question the woke ideology.

    Then the author mentions being published in Feminist Currents. The proprietor of that site, Megan Murphy, has published here with her own whiny account of pretty much the same thing happening to her - the woke mob led by transactivists coming for her with pitchforks and torches. I also have read many articles on that site and the comments which went along with them.

    At first, I was sympathetic to their TERF plight, but after a while the disgustipation with their raging misandry led me to not give one single shit what happened to them. I’m not proud of this. I believe they were correct in their objections to transactivists’ behavior, and I feel I should support them against what I agree is unfair. The problem is, they clearly hate someone like me so much I can’t find compassion for them. Their hypocrisy and lack of self awareness is breathtaking. Over the past few decades, their ilk has stolen freedom of association from men and insisted women be allowed into men’s spaces without exception. But oh how their panties get in a bunch when men who think they’re women try to get into theirs. Again, I agree with 'em, but fuck 'em, because half of the commenters on those sites would be perfectly happy if boys were slain at birth.

    Hyperbole? Judith Butler, also mentioned favorably in the article, was published on Feminist Current last year with her recommendation for good summer reading: The S.C.U.M. Manifesto. For those who don’t know, that stands for Society for Cutting Up Men. Just a clever eye-catching title by a justifiably enraged, oppressed woman? I don’t know, Valerie Solanas tried to kill Andy Warhol… on one hand I applaud the attempt but on the other we can’t quite permit that in a polite society. Plus she looked unwashed.

    To summarize, the author of the article is very kindly disposed towards women who really, really hate men with every fiber of their being (though I’m sure it’s justified in their minds). I doubt very much that there is anything here except pissing and moaning that someone is whuppin their ass at their own game.

  13. @Farris: I appreciate and respect your concern that the author should not be treated too harshly for publishing this article on Quillette. Nevertheless I support the criticism put forward by @Fantasmo, @HalifaxCB, @MorganFoster, @Bubblegumprincess, @Eidolon and @jnc. I would like to explain to you what I consider the central problem.

    In recent years we have seen an increasing confrontation between two parts of the intersectional movement: radical feminists and radical transactivists. The former are more established and focus primarily on fighting men (as well as women who do not agree with their ideology). The latter have not been around that long and are even more radical in their fight against binary gender roles and the foundations of our society.

    In doing so, they threaten, among other things, the established position of radical feminists, which is why the latter must decide whether (a) the two movements should continue fighting united against the white cis-heteronormative patriarchy or whether (b) they want to keep their privileges and fight the challengers. Kathleen Lowrey apparently faces the problem that she has only recently realized that the transactivists are a threat to her own position and she has accordingly moved from (a) to (b).

    The problem is that both movements represent an immense threat to all of us and that she has only recognized this in one - the one that threatens her - while remaining loyal to her own. If one of the two groups, whichever one, regains dominance, we gain nothing. In my view, the transactivists are even the “better” enemy, because they are so crazy that even normal people can easily recognize this.

    This is, I think, what @Fantasmo describes here:

    My own position on the confrontation between radical feminists and radical transactivists is best summarized in my (slightly ironical) response to an article similar to this one.


    Can you understand why many don’t have the impression that the author has moved from the side of the problem to the side of the solution?

  14. When it comes to feminists, here are some criteria to identify the good ones:

    • They don’t consider the relationship between the sexes a zero-sum game.

    • They recognize that men can also suffer from structural disadvantages.

    • They know that certain feminist narratives are nonsense (e.g. a huge pay gap for the same work, the conspiracy of patriarchy, an epidemic of rape).

    • They find hate campaigns against ‘old white men’ as stupid as any sane person.

    • They are not in favor of job quotas.

    • They support fair trials and the presumption of innocence.

    In short, they are reasonable people who can be allies in the collaborative quest for a better society.

  15. The reason so many commenters are reluctant to give the author a pass on this article is because she displays no recognition of her foundational error - much like a recalcitrant teenage kid who wrecks the family mini-van after a couple of beers with his buddies. “Gee, I’m real sorry about how much money, time, and grounding this is gonna cost ME!” She’s upset that someone stole her bludgeon and is now using it on her. There is nothing in her essay to suggest that, were the trans issue completely non-existent, she wouldn’t go right back to publicly delegitimizing and silencing voices opposed to her vapid theology.

    Authors such as Lowrey appear from time-to-time on Quillette and are always reliably thrashed by the community. I suspect that the root cause of our frustration with these folks isn’t their ideology, as repulsive as it might be. It’s because we find them to be so god-damn dim-witted!

    Lowrey et. al. spend a great deal of time and energy in life pursuing occupations that provide outsized rewards in salary, security, and peer recognition relative to either their benefit to society or intellectual rigor. Which is to say, any asshat with enough time and student loan debt to throw at it can become a Gender-Crit Feminist PhD. Not so with engineering, economics, medicine, or hell…even philosophy, for Chrissake!

    Top it all off with a massive chip-on-shoulder, victim complex that, as an added bonus, serves to persecute often otherwise decent men, and you have a gold ribbon recipe for scorn, derision, and revulsion.

    Look, this community isn’t soulless. Were this essay titled something like “Why Trans-Activism Caused Me to Walk Away from Radical Feminism” we would all be a lot more forgiving. But the utter and repeated failure of these authors to take a 30,000 foot view of things is remarkably frustrating.

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