All posts filed under: Women

She Who Must Not Be Named

I’m writing a book about gender-identity ideology (if I scribble fast, it should be out in the middle of next year). And by chance, last week I was wrestling with the bit where I explain that across swathes of academia, and on the political Left, it’s become an article of faith that the word “woman” is fiendishly tricky to define. Indeed, I’d go further: In such circles the word is rapidly becoming taboo. And then J.K. Rowling shared an article on Twitter, entitled “Creating a more equal post-Covid-19 world for people who menstruate.” That clearly pushed the world’s most famous author past breaking point. “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for these people,” she tweeted. “Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud? Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate https://t.co/cVpZxG7gaA — J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020 Cue oceans of commentary, much of it indignantly …

How Britain’s Feminist Grass Roots Turned the Tide Against Gender Extremists

In the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic and a series of massive protests over racist police brutality in the United States, one might find it hard to believe that an author’s common-sense views on human biology would make headlines. Yet everywhere you look, you’ll see coverage of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who’s now being denounced as “transphobic” for speaking plain truths about the differences between men and women. In fact, so much attention has been focused on Rowling that some have missed the more significant British news in this area: The country’s Conservative government is distancing itself from proposed legislative reforms that would have enshrined gender “self-identification” over biological sex. Though Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, likely won’t be releasing the government’s policy response till July, leaks confirm that “self-ID” (as it’s widely known) will not be introduced. Moreover, Truss says she wants to protect gender dysphoric children from making “irreversible decisions” in regard to their bodies, and would allow women to create and maintain safe single-sex spaces free of male-bodied individuals. …

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, …

I May Have Gender Dysphoria. But I Still Prefer to Base My Life on Biology, Not Fantasy

Feelings and opinions have displaced facts and evidence in many areas of the liberal arts. This is nothing new. A more recent phenomenon, however, is the extension of this trend into the realm of biology, which has fallen victim to the idea that men can become women—and vice versa—merely by reciting a statement of belief. It is an insidious movement that combines the postmodern contempt for objective truth with pre-modern religious superstitions regarding the nature of the human soul. The subordination of science to myth was exemplified in the recent British case of Maya Forstater, who’d lost her job after pointing out the plain truth that transgender people like me cannot change our biological sex by proclamation. “I conclude from…the totality of the evidence, that [Forstater] is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate,” concluded Judge James Tayler at her employment tribunal. “The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.” I’m …

All the Single Ladies

“Oh, he’s kind of cute.” My friend at Yale, swiping through Tinder, leaned over and showed me his profile. “Wait, no.” She moved her finger leftward. “Why not? He seems alright,” I reply. He goes to a local, less highly-regarded university, she explained. In other words, not Yale. Swipe Right for a Master’s Degree The dating market for women is getting tougher. In part, this is because fewer men are attending universities. Why would male enrollment in higher education matter for women? Because women, on average, prefer educated men. One source of evidence comes from women’s personal responses to dating profiles posted by men. Researchers analyzed 120 personal dating ads posted by men on the West Coast and in the Midwest. They found that two of the strongest variables that predicted how many responses a man received from women were years of education and income. Similar results have been found in Poland. Researchers analyzed how many women responded to dating ads posted by 551 men. They found that men with higher levels of education and …

‘Girls Need Female Role Models’ and Other Bromides

There are a handful of dictums in the modern feminist discourse that are so omnipresent, so incontrovertible, so apparently obvious, that, whenever they are pronounced, the only appropriate reaction is enthusiastic head-bobbing. Or, if you prefer, solemn brow-knitting. Like two plus two equals four, these dictums are axioms, not to be discussed, let alone contested. Challenge them, however, and you’ll see how easily they fall apart. For example, consider the adage “What will we tell our daughters?” Each time I hear this phrase, I remember Emmeline Grangerford from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Miss Grangerford spent her short life writing funereal poetry and died of disappointment, aged fifteen, after failing to compose a satisfactory eulogy for a deceased neighbour called Whistler because she couldn’t find a word to rhyme with his name. What will we tell our daughters? Why not tell them the same thing we will tell our sons, our friends and colleagues, our Thursday night poker group—and that should be whatever is the fairest and most honest analysis of the situation. What …

The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is for Good Women to Do Nothing

In my pre-feminist days, sexual harassment and rape were so common, so pervasive, so accepted, that they were virtually invisible. The shame clung to the victim or to the whistle-blower; the abuser almost never experienced any consequences for his actions. In fact, he was rarely named and when he was all ranks closed to protect him and to destroy his accuser. Back then, people had very stereotypical ideas about who a rapist might be. He was a monster, a stranger, a loser—not the boy next door, not one’s husband or boyfriend, definitely not a wealthy celebrity, a diplomat, or the employer of hundreds. Like most young women in the 1950s and 1960s, I was sexually harassed, almost every day, certainly a few times every week—by strangers on the street, men on trains and in movie theaters, employers, neighbors, and professors. Like others of my generation, I was bred to accept it, keep quiet about it, and blame myself if something about it bothered me. For years I did this, until the feminist movement in the late …

In Praise of Sylvia Plath’s Forgotten (Sorority) Sister

A tragic early death can do wonders for a writer’s reputation. On October 27, Google dedicated its search page to the late Sylvia Plath, who would have turned 87 that day, had she not taken her own life, at the age of 30, back in 1963. It seems unlikely that Google will ever dedicate its daily doodle to the life and work of, say Edward Field, a gifted poet of Plath’s generation who is still alive at the age of 95. Nor is the internet likely to ever light up with praise for the likes of Maxine Kumin, A.R. Ammons, David Bromige, Robert Bly, Lucille Clifton, or any number of other poets who lived too long to die tragically young. Denise Levertov, another excellent poet of roughly the same generation as Plath, is never likely to get the same attention. At the end of her life, she traveled to various conferences and lectured on the art of poetry and spirituality, while she was suffering from lymphoma and, eventually, pneumonia and acute laryngitis. A tragic early …

Gilead Resembles an Islamic Theocracy, not Trump’s America

Margaret Atwood, whose work I have long admired, is now being hailed as a prophet. It is quite the phenomenon. According to the pundits, Atwood’s 1985 work, The Handmaid’s Tale, which Mary McCarthy once savaged, and the recently-published 2019 sequel, The Testaments, are dystopias which aptly describe the contemporary climate change crisis, toxic environments, the rise in infertility, and the enslavement of women in Trump’s America. Is this all Atwood is writing about? Do the increasing restrictions on abortion in America parallel the extreme misogyny of Gilead, the theocratic state in Atwood’s saga? Is the unjust separation of mothers and children, a la Trump on the southern border, what Atwood has foretold? Every review and interview with Atwood that I could find strongly insists that this is the case. Michelle Goldberg, in the New York Times, attributes the current popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale to Trump’s ascendancy. She writes: “It’s hardly surprising that in 2016 the book resonated—particularly women—stunned that a brazen misogynist, given to fascist rhetoric and backed by religious fundamentalists was taking power.” Michiko Kakutani recently reviewed The Testaments for the New York …

How the Trans-Rights Movement Is Turning Philosophers Into Activists

On July 3, I received an innocuous-seeming email from the Digital Content Editor of a London-based arts organization called the Institute for Art and Ideas. She asked if I might set out my views on the question, “How can philosophy change the way we understand the transgender experience and identity?” As the expected response was supposed to be only 200 words in length, the task didn’t seem particularly demanding. So I agreed, and sent along a brief answer in which I focused on the now common assumption that everyone has a “gender identity.” I provided some (necessarily) brief objections to the concept as it is currently being advanced by some trans rights activists, and ended by commenting that philosophers can help people to “understand what a gender identity might be, and whether it’s a fitting characteristic to replace sex in law.” The gender wars in philosophy had been heated since May, igniting with University of Sussex philosopher Kathleen Stock’s Medium post asking why academic philosophers—feminist philosophers, in particular—weren’t contributing to the discussion about Britain’s Gender …