Thursday, November 02, 2017

Feminists losing the terf war

It doesn't matter how outlandish a liberal innovation might seem, if it fits with liberal principles then it will be pushed onto society regardless - if, that is, there is no effective opposition to liberalism itself.

Here's an interesting example. There is a push on now to have people accept the idea that men can give birth to children. It is beginning to become politically incorrect to talk about "pregnant women" as this excludes women who identify as men but who nonetheless get pregnant.

Seems kooky, but look at the following Facebook thread:

This is a debate between radical feminists who insist that you need to be biologically female to be a woman (they are called "terfs") and other leftists who reject this as "transphobic."

The significant part of the debate is that a professional organisation for midwives (the Midwives Alliance of North America) has already committed itself to the idea that men can give birth ("suggesting that only women can give birth is not welcome here").

The midwives association repeated this view in another thread:

The "terfs" who insist that being a woman is based on biological reality are warned by the midwives alliance that "comments that say that men can't give birth are transphobic and will not be tolerated."

There is so much that could be said about this. The twistedness of liberal morality is apparent in this discussion. Liberal morality is built on the idea that we should be free to choose our identity and our own subjective goods, but that we should allow others to do the same. Therefore, there is no objective moral order for individuals to orient themselves to, but instead the point of morality is to show how tolerant you are of others choosing as they will.

But it all gets mired in a contradiction. On the one hand, if a woman declares that she identifies as a man you are supposed to be tolerant and accepting of her decision to identify this way. But this then means that someone who points out, as a basic fact of reality, that there is a biological aspect to being a woman, will be told curtly that their speech will not be tolerated. So a morality of "tolerance" ends up being, by all previous standards, remarkably intolerant.

You can tell that if things go as they usually do that the terfs will lose this battle. If, as per liberalism, we are to be free to self-determine our own identity and pursue our own subjective goods, then it is difficult in principle to say to someone biologically female that they can't identify as a man and become a "pregnant male." To oppose this is, in liberal terms, bigoted, prejudiced, phobic, hateful, discriminatory and all the rest of it.

In the past, the only opposition to the liberal left came from the liberal right (the "establishment conservatives"). The liberal right would sometimes initially oppose these kinds of things (as "going too far") but once they got traction, then the right liberals would fold and would eventually end up defending the new status quo.

It's interesting now to see something different emerging. There's a section of the alt right which is now doing what a genuine opposition would have done decades ago, and actually push back in a determined way against the left liberal project. It is still too small to win in the wider society, but it is carving out a political space where the older dynamic no longer runs as it used to.

So perhaps we won't see, in a few years time, a liberal speech code outlawing the use of the term "pregnant woman" as hate speech. Maybe the usual pattern of politics will continue to lose ground.


  1. Nice write-up. This would be frightening if it weren't unintentionally funny. Try as they might, liberals can't change nature. Anyway, I'm writing to tell you that this is a Facebook thread, not a Twitter thread.

    1. Yes, you're right - it was a screen capture of a Facebook thread posted on Twitter.

      I would find it frightening if I thought that liberalism had decades left in it. But I'm starting to think that we are close to breaking point, i.e. the point at which increasing numbers of people won't be able to follow along anymore.

  2. Every time I see an example of something like this happening, I think of the left's disdain for the "slippery slope" argument, despite the fact that that argument keeps being proven correct. But when it is, instead of admitting this, the left just starts changing the subject and attacking the right's premises. This scenario is played out over and over again:

    Liberals: Let's implement policy X.
    Conservatives: But that will lead to undesirable result Y!
    L: Don't be ridiculous! Y doesn't follow from X. There's absolutely no connection between X and Y. Besides, nobody wants Y. We all agree that Y is bad and would never want it. We liberals oppose Y. [In other words, we're making an unprincipled exception, because Y "goes too far."] You're just revealing your typical right-wing, ignorant-of-the-facts mindset if you think liberals are in favor of something as bad and ridiculous as Y. Typical right-wing troglodyte. You're employing the slippery slope argument, which is a fallacy. It's wrong, wrong, WRONG!
    *society implements policy X*
    *10 years pass*
    Liberals: Hey, everyone, now that we've had policy X for a while... it's occurring to me that there isn't really anything wrong with Y, and we should probably just allow it.
    Conservatives: See, we told you so! We said X would lead to Y, and now you're advocating Y!
    L: What are you on about, you lunatic? There's nothing wrong with Y. It's The Current Year; nobody with half a brain would think there's anything wrong with Y. The only reasons to oppose Y are ignorance, malice, fear, and superstition. Get into the dustbin of history where you belong, you bigoted, hateful, anti-Y-ist, you!

    We've seen this play out in the wake of same-sex marriage. Before same-sex marriage, the left said that same-sex marriage wouldn't lead to polygamy, and mocked and scoffed at the idea that it would, and furthermore, said that they themselves were opposed to polygamy and that polygamy would be bad for society. Now, I'm seeing liberals in online fora openly say "you know, now that I think about it, since we've allowed same-sex marriage, there really isn't any reason to oppose polygamy."

    And as you suggest, the terrible thing is that the mainstream right would never catch on. The mainstream right keeps trying to engage in rational, reasonable debate, from a position of shared, common premises, with the left, to which the left responds with meta-debate, attacking the right's precepts and impugning their motives. But the right never calls the left out on this, and just goes on trying to engage in another rational, reasonable debate with them. That's the great thing about the alt-right; finally someone is attacking the left's premises.

    1. That's an excellent comment, thank you. Liberals don't know themselves all that well - they think that they can draw a line where they think it is reasonable and that the line will then stay put. But it has not worked this way over many decades now. It is as you describe it. And that's hardly surprising. If, for instance, you define marriage as being a commitment ceremony celebrating the love of consenting adults, then there is no way that the principle can hold the line against an acceptance of polygamy/polyamory - and liberals are kidding themselves if they think this is so. It's just a matter of time before the principle is logically extended to an acceptance of polygamy.

  3. This is the stuff of "radical autonomy."

    "Pregnant male" = radical autonomy.

    Conceptually, ALL BUT THE MOST INTELLIGENT are bound to succumb, at least perceptually, to this equalization. In other words, a dulled mass can very much truly believe in an intelligent cabal creating "pregnant males." So a few outlier "racists" claiming that "pregnant males" are not conceivable at the hand and of the mind of the most intelligent of man is "stupid." The devilishly intelligent have the upper-hand by virtue of a dulled mass.

    What make the situation so dire is that hardly any high IQ white Christian men of the West conceptualize (P)erfection to the conclusion where the absurdity of a "pregnant male" and the self-annihilation of "radical autonomy" is accepted at the place of critical mass.