Monday, 17 April 2017

Political Correctness Implodes: When Free Speech And Feminism Collide

Cartoon of Wendy Cockcroft as a moderate conservative
If popcorn prices are going up it's my fault: I've been enjoying the punch-up between the TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists), the Progressives (progs), and assorted liberal lefty luvvies over gender definition. Sorry if you're easily offended, but to a straight cis conservative, this is hilarious! WARNING: I'm too busy pointing and laughing to pull my punches.

The fight for feminism

This is the state of play: the way we define gender itself is up for grabs because, per Pink News, "Man! I feel like a woman" means you get to describe yourself as female even if you've got male body parts. It's true:

Also, anyone who self-defines as a woman. Got it? - What is a 'real woman?' by Josh Jackman for Pink News.

Yes indeed, pots of paint are out, as are gloves, hats, and flags but anyone who "self-defines" as a woman is a real woman because feelz. Okay... of course you realise that if you can self-define your gender you can self-define your species for reasons of feelz, right? Right. Just so we're clear. On the flip side, there's this:

That's not what they said, Daisy. What they basically said was, "Stop being mean to trans people. You're being mean. Very mean."

Some would argue that criticising the the TERF ideology makes you a “misogynist” but true feminism calls for equality for everyone.

...TERF’s claim that trans women are rapists waiting to happen, that they have mental health issues and that fundamentally they are not women. This level of dehumanisation is morally wrong, and all too similar to the persecution that other minorities such as LGB people have faced in the past.
If this sort of discriminatory practice is allowed to exist, then the main stream than the society we praise for being accepting will take a turn for the worst. - What is a TERF and why should you be worried? by Meka Beresford for Pink News

Meka's contention is that discriminating against 'them' will sooner or later result in discrimination against 'us.' Given the mission creep of other campaigns I'd struggle to argue with her about discrimination, but that's a different thing to having a conversation about "women with testicles," a fragment I can't form without raising an eyebrow. I've got to agree with the TERFs on this: what exactly is a woman if it's not "one who has a womb?" Meka continues,

An anonymous writer for the Independent who demonstrated TERF opinions asked why liberal men thought it was acceptable to tell feminists how to be feminist, and as a liberal woman I’m here to answer them: anybody can be a feminist but being exclusionary denies you that right. 

Yeah, that's the other problem with TERFs: they're so exclusionary and so militant about it that they exclude everyone who disagrees with them. Many of them are so violently awful they fear each other. The feminist I follow who retweets their stuff is afraid to ask any questions of them in case they turn on her; she doesn't necessarily agree with them, she just finds their comments interesting. This puts me on side with Meka, who argues for inclusion on the basis of safety in numbers because it's no fun being in a minority, particularly when it's a persecuted one.


The fight for feminism has a new battleground: deciding what it means to be female. The results so far are downright weird: we now have "pregnant people" so as not to offend trans men who retained their wombs so they could bear children. What do we call these? MINOs and WINOs? Men in name only? Women in name only? Because if they're not going to commit to going the full surgical monty it's flippin' hard for me to say, "Okay, Denise, we accept you in your new identity as a woman. With your beard and hairy chest." Come on, people, it's this:

and no amount of shouty, name-calling political correctness is going to change that. Yes, trans people got it bad, we don't know how bad they've got it. We do indeed have it easy, we don't know when we've got it good. Even Nik Kershaw doesn't know. Okay, I get it. But flip me, people, why should I deny reality itself just to accommodate a group of people who have deep-seated psychological problems that won't allow them to accept the body and gender identity they were born with? Is it only to avoid offending the sensibilities of a persecuted group? Because, dear friends, if it's just about the feelz, I can't go for that. No can do. And that will bring us back to d'oh! and away from Eighties classic pop.

Freedom of feelz

I'd love to be able to talk this over with both sides but given the likelihood of being ripped in half by both factions I'll give debating directly with them a miss. There does appear to be a middle ground:

Misogyny sees women with completely reasonable concerns continually smacked down.

We need a third way. It’s imperative that transgender people are able to live their lives in peace, free from violence and discrimination. It’s also imperative that women are safe and able to organise for the eradication of their sex based oppression. I see a future in which no group need be thrown under a bus for the sake of another. - The Misogyny Of Modern Feminism by Jeni Harvey for Huffington Post.

Ordinary women are responding positively to the article but the debate is set to rage on for as long as people are willing to vie for supremacy.

What about me?

This situation is but one of the many hotspots in the culture wars: basically it's gone beyond freedom of speech to the freedom of feelz. Personally, I don't give a rat's bum if you want to march around with a face like a member of ZZ Top in a sparkly swimsuit and heels calling yourself Glenda Spanglebottom, just don't ask me to play along with your fantasy; I won't. That's as near the middle as I'm willing to go. I won't beat you up or call you names but I won't celebrate you either. I don't ask other people to celebrate me for anything or make special allowances for my sensibilities even though they ride roughshod over them every. Single. Day. As a Bible-believing Christian I'm in a minority already. As a moderate communitarian conservative I'm in a political minority. I get bashed every. Damn. Day. Why? I'm not a trendy lefty prog liberal, nor am I a smug market-loving poor-bashing right-wing gimp. My "live-and-let-live" views are anathema to both left and right and don't get me started on the Twofold Principle, "The individual must be free to act and the will of the people must be respected." I seem to be in a very small minority of people who believe that. The pressure to conform is immense but I'd rather take the hammering on the chin and be true to myself than live a lie. That must be what it's like to be trans: it's worth the abuse to be true to yourself. But why should any of us suffer abuse at all?

Political conformity

Political correctness began as a well-meaning attempt to regulate our speech in order to prevent offence against protected groups of people designated by the ivory tower-dwelling powers that be. However, it has now become an oppressive regime whose ultimate goal is to decide what constitutes offence, who may be offended with impunity and who should be protected from offence. Woe betide you if you don't play by the ever-changing rules: you might be met with violence or worse as frantic protesters attempt to stop other people from hearing what you have to say. It's tyranny, end of.

Political correctness is imploding

Bearing all of the above in mind I do believe I'm entitled to gloat as the metaphorical chickens come home to roost. If you censor in the name of preventing offence to protected groups, sooner or later you will want to be considered part of a protected group in order to avail yourself of the protections afforded to them, to wit, protection from offence. So it is that the various factions of feminism are at each other's throats over the right to free speech, causing the rest of us to stand back in astonishment and mock them from a safe distance.

Identity politics and the demands for freedom from offence it breeds create a world where everyone can demand the censorship of everyone else. There is no better proof of this than the fate of the politically correct themselves. - The PC revolution devours its own, by Nick Cohen for Nick Cohen: Writing from London

People who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it because they don't believe that the lessons apply to them. You can't selectively censor forever: once you open the door it's very hard to get it shut. Once you decide that one special group "deserves" protection from offence, you decide you deserve it too — the minute you are offended.


I'm sure feminism will survive this batch of spats as it survived the others that preceded it but the censorship by intimidation has got to stop or the various factions will continue to lose whatever credibility they think they have outside of their respective echo chambers. It would be easier to end the culture of enforced conformity if we could finally give political correctness the boot. I don't need to be told what words to use to be respectful to others and they don't need to have the words dictated to them by elitists who have no personal interest in them. If we really want a kinder, fairer world, we'll have to learn to work together, not in spite of each other, to create it.

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