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Thursday, June 11, 2015

JVL: The Left Turns on Feminism—Thanks to "Caitlyn" Jenner

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June 11, 2015
No. 175
By Jonathan V. Last

Before we begin, surely it's not lost on you that there's only eleven shopping days left until Fathers' Day. And you know what would be a swell gift for the old man? The Dadly Virtues! It's this little book I put together with a bunch of my writer friends_Matt Labash, Steve Hayes, Jonah Goldberg, Chris Caldwell, Matt Continetti, Andy Ferguson, just to name a few. It's about fatherhood. But funny. It's great. I promise.

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As of right now, you can still get a copy on Amazon, but we've had trouble keeping them in stock. Barnes & Noble has been better about keeping them on hand. But if you're trying to get an order in under the gun and having trouble, email me. I'll see what I can do.

And if you're interested in hearing a little more about the book, I did an interview with the Conservative Book Club, which you can read here.

Now, about this "Caitlyn" Jenner mess. There are so many facets to study and enjoy.

* Will media "fact checkers" like Glenn Kessler refer to Jenner as a man, or a woman? Because whatever the dictates of politeness, as a factual matter, Jenner's chromosomes are XY. And the left is forever telling us that it demands rigorous science over hidebound ideology. (Or maybe they only worship "science" when it comes to climate change?)

* If the world does decide to take Jenner's gender claim seriously, then mustn't they demand that she return her Olympic medals? Because if Jenner is a woman, then she was competing in the wrong events at the Olympics. (Over at Wikipedia, there's already a fight brewing over whether or not Jenner is currently the women's world record holder in the 400 meters.)

* Is it sexist for transgender "allies" to praise Jenner for how attractive she (or he) now is? Survey says "Yes!"

But no. Let's be honest: The best reaction has been the pushback against Jenner from the old-guard feminist left.

Over the weekend the New York Times ran a long essay by Elinor Burkett, who's one of the old bulls of feminism. (You may remember her from such hilarious feminist classics as The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless.) Burkett is not having any of this "Caitlyn Jenner is a woman" malarkey. Not one bit.

We'll get into the details of her complaint down below.


"I've never been big on emoticons, or even small on them, preferring to do most of my emoting in private. Or better still, to channel my emotion into the songs I write for my Contemporary Christian rock band, Rahab and the Harlots (check us out on Myspace). As someone who writes for a living, I've always resented anyone who relies on these oppressive graphics, as I prefer the increasingly archaic system of thought-conveyance that relies on what the old timers call "words."

"Emoticons are coerced emotion, unearned communication. They are a prefab cheat-sheet for those too lazy or sub-verbal to say what they mean. And they are as propagandistic as anything out of Mao's smiley-faced Great Leap Forward, which featured posters of agricultural workers laboring with forced cheer under headers such as, 'We sell dry, clean, neat selected cotton to the state.'"

_Matt Labash, "Words, R.I.P.," from our November 7, 2011 issue.

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"Do women and men have different brains?

"Back when Lawrence H. Summers was president of Harvard and suggested that they did, the reaction was swift and merciless. Pundits branded him sexist. Faculty members deemed him a troglodyte. Alumni withheld donations.

"But when Bruce Jenner said much the same thing in an April interview with Diane Sawyer, he was lionized for his bravery, even for his progressivism.

"'My brain is much more female than it is male," he told her, explaining how he knew that he was transgender.'"

_Elinor Burkett trying to protect feminism from transgenderism, June 6, 2015


I've seeded Burkett's lede above just because reading her essay is such a joy. She argues that whatever Caitlyn Jenner is today, she wasn't a woman a few weeks ago:

I have fought for many of my 68 years against efforts to put women-our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods-into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes. Suddenly, I find that many of the people I think of as being on my side-people who proudly call themselves progressive and fervently support the human need for self-determination-are buying into the notion that minor differences in male and female brains lead to major forks in the road and that some sort of gendered destiny is encoded in us.

That's the kind of nonsense that was used to repress women for centuries. But the desire to support people like Ms. Jenner and their journey toward their truest selves has strangely and unwittingly brought it back.

People who haven't lived their whole lives as women, whether Ms. Jenner or Mr. Summers, shouldn't get to define us. That's something men have been doing for much too long. And as much as I recognize and endorse the right of men to throw off the mantle of maleness, they cannot stake their claim to dignity as transgender people by trampling on mine as a woman.

Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity. They haven't traveled through the world as women and been shaped by all that this entails.

And Burkett suggests that while her feminist friends have put up with the trans activists so far, they're reaching the end of their tethers:

Many women I know, of all ages and races, speak privately about how insulting we find the language trans activists use to explain themselves. After Mr. Jenner talked about his brain, one friend called it an outrage and asked in exasperation, "Is he saying that he's bad at math, weeps during bad movies and is hard-wired for empathy?" . . .

For the most part, we bite our tongues and do not express the anger we openly and rightly heaped on Mr. Summers, put off by the mudslinging match that has broken out on the radical fringes of both the women's and the trans movements over events limited to "women-born women," access to bathrooms and who has suffered the greater persecution. The insult and outright fear that trans men and women live with is all too familiar to us, and a cruelly marginalized group's battle for justice is something we instinctively want to rally behind.

But as the movement becomes mainstream, it's growing harder to avoid asking pointed questions about the frequent attacks by some trans leaders on women's right to define ourselves, our discourse and our bodies. After all, the trans movement isn't simply echoing African-Americans, Chicanos, gays or women by demanding an end to the violence and discrimination, and to be treated with a full measure of respect. It's demanding that women reconceptualize ourselves.

In other words, transgenderism is the new patriarchy. There follows a story about activist / actress Martha Plimpton becoming a target of trans activists because she promoted an abortion fundraiser-she was literally raising money for abortions in Texas-by using the v-word. (I'm being prissy here only out of respect for your spam filter.)

It turns out that transgender activists do not like the v-word. Not one bit. This word is, as one trans activist told Plimpton, "exclusionary" and-even better-"harmful." (It probably makes some trans people and their allies feel unsafe!) The trans community prefer the terms "internal genitalia." Or "front hole." Really.

It might seem as though the feminist-trans fight is the Iran-Iraq war of identity politics. But I assure you, it only seems that way. There are two possible outcomes from the current explosion of transgender mania. The first is that the trans movement becomes, like partial-birth abortion, a bridge too far-the point at which the rest of society refuses to follow. If so, the current identity politics bubble might well pop.

The second is that America signs up for the transgender program in full, reducing the self to a wholly plastic concept. There will be no objective truth, no way for any institution or structure to make any claims on the individual. There will follow otherkin and transablism and, literally, anything else people can dream of.

Jonathan V. Last

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