A NYT columnist accuses extremists on both Left and Right of erasing women

July 4, 2022 • 12:30 pm

Glory be! Here we have Pamela Paul, a new opinion columnist for the New York Times (she was editor of the NYT book reviews for nine years and has written eight books), actually criticizing the extreme Left—the part of the Left that won’t use the word “woman” unless it includes transsexual women. (She also criticizes the Right, too, because, after all, this is the NYT.) But to see a NYT bigwig like Paul go after the “progressive” Left for their language policing, and what she calls their “erasure of women” does my heart good.

Just look at the title of this piece! Click to read (and thanks to the many readers who sent me this link). What Paul writes about the bad behavior of the progressive Left toward women, and their “making nice” to extreme trans activists instead of debating them, instantiates what I’ve called “MacPherson’s” rule, after reader Diana. It goes like this (I believe she suggested a version of this in a comment):

“Whenever the Left is caught between two conflicting ideological positions, and one of them involves women, the women always lose.”

That holds for the treatment of women under Islam, it holds for transwomen’s desire to compete with cis-women in athletics, and it holds, as Paul shows, in the craven acceptance—and avoidance of debate—of extreme claims of trans activists, including their denial of biological women as a real category.

The denigration of women, or their reduction to their reproductive organs, is a well known tendency of the Right; that’s what the “pro life” Republicans and their new laws are about. But Paul sees the Left as aping that behavior, too: “women” are now defined by their bodily functions, and biological women must immediately accept the claims of that group of women born as biological men.

But let me quote Paul instead of paraphrasing her:

The right’s position here is the better known, the movement having aggressively dedicated itself to stripping women of fundamental rights for decades. Thanks in part to two Supreme Court justices who have been credibly accused of abusive behavior toward women, Roe v. Wade, nearly 50 years a target, has been ruthlessly overturned.

Far more bewildering has been the fringe left jumping in with its own perhaps unintentionally but effectively misogynist agenda. There was a time when campus groups and activist organizations advocated strenuously on behalf of women. Women’s rights were human rights and something to fight for. Though the Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified, legal scholars and advocacy groups spent years working to otherwise establish women as a protected class.

But today, a number of academics, uber-progressives, transgender activists, civil liberties organizations and medical organizations are working toward an opposite end: to deny women their humanity, reducing them to a mix of body parts and gender stereotypes.

As reported by my colleague Michael Powell, even the word “women” has become verboten. Previously a commonly understood term for half the world’s population, the word had a specific meaning tied to genetics, biology, history, politics and culture. No longer. In its place are unwieldy terms like “pregnant people,” “menstruators” and “bodies with vaginas.”

Planned Parenthood, once a stalwart defender of women’s rights, omits the word “women” from its home page. NARAL Pro-Choice America has used “birthing people” in lieu of “women.” The American Civil Liberties Union, a longtime defender of women’s rights, last month tweeted its outrage over the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade as a threat to several groups: “Black, Indigenous and other people of color, the L.G.B.T.Q. community, immigrants, young people.”

It left out those threatened most of all: women. Talk about a bitter way to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

And don’t forget when the ACLU put out a pro-choice tweet with the words of RBG, but with the word “women” and “her” actually omitted! Remember this?

Paul is of course no transphobe, but she’ll be called one for saying stuff like this:

Women didn’t fight this long and this hard only to be told we couldn’t call ourselves women anymore. This isn’t just a semantic issue; it’s also a question of moral harm, an affront to our very sense of ourselves.

It wasn’t so long ago — and in some places the belief persists — that women were considered a mere rib to Adam’s whole. Seeing women as their own complete entities, not just a collection of derivative parts, was an important part of the struggle for sexual equality.

But here we go again, parsing women into organs. Last year the British medical journal The Lancet patted itself on the back for a cover article on menstruation. Yet instead of mentioning the human beings who get to enjoy this monthly biological activity, the cover referred to “bodies with vaginas.” It’s almost as if the other bits and bobs — uteruses, ovaries or even something relatively gender-neutral like brains — were inconsequential. That such things tend to be wrapped together in a human package with two X sex chromosomes is apparently unmentionable.

“What are we, chopped liver?” a woman might be tempted to joke, but in this organ-centric and largely humorless atmosphere, perhaps she would be wiser not to.

That last sentence is excellent!

Paul then turns the language of the Purity Patrol back on them:

But in a world of chosen gender identities, women as a biological category don’t exist. Some might even call this kind of thing erasure.

For that she well could have been kicked off Twitter. But she removed herself this April (see her explanation here).

It’s heartening to see someone of Paul’s stature at a paper as influential as the NYT pushing back on irrational wokeness. Is this a trend now? Will it go away? I doubt it, but voices of dissent from Leftists themselves are beginning to be heard, and this article—I’ve quoted only a bit of it—is one. I’ll just add her ending:

Tolerance for one group need not mean intolerance for another. We can respect transgender women without castigating females who point out that biological women still constitute a category of their own — with their own specific needs and prerogatives.

If only women’s voices were routinely welcomed and respected on these issues. But whether Trumpist or traditionalist, fringe left activist or academic ideologue, misogynists from both extremes of the political spectrum relish equally the power to shut women up.

I expect that Ms. Paul knows what she’s in for, but she gets only kudos from me.

h/t: Carl

27 thoughts on “A NYT columnist accuses extremists on both Left and Right of erasing women

  1. I strongly recommend that readers click on the comments to this article in the NYTimes. They are must read! Here is the most popular one:

    Hopewell Junction NYJuly 3

    Thank you so much for this essay, which so clearly expresses my own feelings.

    I am a woman. I don’t see myself as a cis-gender non-binary female person. Just a woman. I welcome anyone who does identify as a woman to do so, and will gladly accept her into the fold. But don’t tell me that I have to change my identity – person who went through menopause after having children? – to accommodate someone else.

    The restrictions on abortion affect women. Maybe not all of us equally- not trans women, not for women who are infertile or struggle to get pregnant, or post menopausal women who are no longer in the game, or even women who welcome any number of children and pregnancies. But it affects women first and foremost, forcing a biological burden on them that cannot be comprehended by men. Men can be sympathetic, understanding , supportive, but they are not (except a very few trans men) possibly going to get pregnant, ever.

    Men are not going to experience pre-eclampsia, placenta previa, postpartum hemorrhage, morning sickness, the amazingly severe pain of delivery; or job loss due to absenteeism from pregnancy related illnesses or, later on, sick children.

    Stop the madness. There is room for us all. But give us the courtesy of recognizing that curtailing reproductive rights is aimed
    directly at women. And that we are first and foremost, women.
    5664 Recommend”

    This link should take you directly to comments:


    1. > I don’t see myself as a cis-gender non-binary female person. Just a woman.

      I’m sorry you feel that way. I identify as human, first and foremost. Secondarily, I am alive; most humans today are dead. After that, my group identifiers are much more fluid; in some contexts, I bring up my atheism first; in others, I bring up my libertarianism first; in others, I bring up my homosexuality first; in others, I bring up my genitalia first. Those are all context-dependent, but none of it trumps the fact that I am a living human.

    2. Thank you! I also am a woman , and I hate the deliberately demeaning word “cis-woman” that some who shall remain nameless are trying to push on women. I have a name , and nobody has a right to name me as they want to. The trans ideology has gone way overboard and is trying to erase women.All women need to fight this authoritarian attempt to do so!

  2. Gender-critical feminists such as Holly Lawford-Smith and Kathleen Stock, who acknowledge the natural reality and social importance of (binary) biological sex, are called “TERFS” (“Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists”) by their philosophico-political opponents, but the truth of the matter is that…

    “Although considerable energy has been expended by opponents of gender-critical feminism characterizing it as ‘anti-trans’, this conflict of interest does not put gender-critical feminism and support for trans rights in tension. While gender-critical feminists reject legal conflation between sex and gender identity, and advocate for continued protection of sex under the law, there is no tension with /also/ supporting the protection of gender identity, transgender status, or gender expression. The limit to our support for these things is that we do so /without/ believing that they change a person’s sex. Gender-critical feminism is not anti-trans. In fact, characterizing it as ‘anti-trans’ is a kind of anti-feminist propaganda, distortion of a movement and theory for women and women’s sex-based rights by labelling it according to what it is not about (…). It would be like the ‘pro-life’ side of the abortion debate insistently referring to the ‘pro-choice’ side as ‘anti-foetus’. Just as a woman does not terminate a pregnancy because she hates foetuses, and it would be patently absurd to claim that she does, a gender-critical feminist does not deny ‘transwomen are women’, or reject sex self-identification in law, because she hates transwomen. There is no hatred or other ‘anti’ sentiment anywhere in the view.”

    (Lawford-Smith, Holly. Gender-Critical Feminism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022. pp. 94-5)

    1. Why do the Idelogical-Identity-Obsessed-Tribalists (IDIOTS) constantly have to invent acronyms…?

  3. A good one! Now the extreme trans activists must immediately label her as a TERF or transphobe or whatever, but hopefully some of them can start to realize that not every critic can be plugged into those categories.

  4. I forgot to add in my previous comment an interesting tid-bit…..Pamela Paul left Twitter back in April of this year:


    Also, some of you may know the ACLU transmen lawyer Chase Strangio, he who wanted to do awy with Abigail Shrier’s book on gender identity issues. I believe this tweet is in reference to the article discussed by Dr. Coyne:


  5. The pushback against Wokeness is partly driven by the observation that it is causing the Democrats to lose elections. Of course, that’s only going to get worse in the short term.

    Although the case is strongly made for the erasure of “women” by the Left, the trans women are an exception as they are demanding to be called “women”. So confusing!

  6. I read this piece this morning and was very shocked- not only that it was published by the NYT but that it was front and center on the email page for my on-line subscription. E version of above the fold on a paper. My perception over the past few years is that the NYT printed a pro-trans (extremist) article regularly and did not print articles remotely expressing the viewpoint Paul so beautifully crafts in this piece.

    I read many of the comments, and the number of pro-Paul comments and recommendations far exceeded the “you are anti-trans” comments. This from NYT readers who are statistically highly educated and liberal. I hope this represents a water-shed moment for women’s rights returning to the conversation. Many people who wrote comments noted they support trans rights, but not the erasure of women as a biological sex.

    Many of us hope that the SC decision will move more people to vote for Democrats. That is more likely to happen if a liberal viewpoint is perceived as one like Paul’s, rather than that of the ACLU twitter post she quotes in her piece. They listed the groups negatively impacted by overturning Roe, very carefully omitting “women.” One of these positions will alienate, the other will resonate.

          1. Thanks Jez, I read and appreciated the article. Unfortunately, outraged single-issue websites don’t feel professional or reliable. It’s not one I’d be comfortable passing on to other people. I know, my comfort level and my impressions are not necessarily relevant.

            What makes matters more difficult is that Insley, the subject of the article, not only has a criminal record, but also undisclosed mental health issues. While his circumstances are extremely newsworthy, click-based ‘journalism’ rarely does cases like that justice.

            The internet is too segregated and stratified. There are too many echo chambers and clickholes. I’d love to see how a story like this would be reported in more reputable media – and I can see why the fact that it is not contributes to the whole sense of outrage of the site. All that said, I can see how the same tone develops in every other disenfranchised corner of the Internet from every party we disagree with.

  7. Thank you for posting this — my current budget excludes the NYTimes. The other day, when the Paulick Report called the winner in a mare’s race “the victress, I thought yes! As an old woman I don’t want to be called a womnx, or a person with a vagina, or a breeder. I’m hoping for Victress, or if not, at least the autonomy to make my own reproductive decisions.
    A happy Fourth to you.

    1. If you post the web address of an NYT article into the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine you should be able to access a free archived copy – and if there isn’t one saved already you can create an archived copy yourself. It’s pretty quick and easy (even I can do it…).

  8. I was listening to a Sam Harris podcast not long ago and when wokism came up he mentioned the NYTs yet again as having been utterly captured by wokism. I think Jerry also feels this way, somewhat (?)

    I saw it happening to, but frankly as someone who has been reading the NYT for most days (digitally), I’ve found they have become much more balanced. There has been more and more commentary on the excesses of the left to the point I’d say it’s almost routine. And the majority of reader comments usually agree (just like with the Pamela Paul article).

    I wonder if it’s time for Sam (and maybe Jerry) to re-visit the NYT more regularly to see if it has not, in fact, started to feature more pushback against the excesses of wokism.

    (Again…I don’t want to misrepresent Jerry’s view, so please correct me if I’m wrong).

    1. I read it every day (not every article), and I certainly am in a position to know what stand it’s taking (after all, I’ve written a gazillion posts about it). Until about six or eight months ago, before they got a new editor, it was really woke. Now it is getting more balanced. I attribute this to the new editor, and also to pushback arising from the public about their wokeness (see the readers’ letters on the Pamela Paul “unwoke” article–most of them are in her favor.

      So I agree with you, but the unwokeness really started when they hired John McWhorter as a twice-weekly columnist. And that was, I think, about 14 months ago.

      1. Ok thanks for clarifying.

        I thought I’d remembered your contemplating cancelling your subscription to the NYT due to the wokeness, but as I indicated my memory was fuzzy on that (and may have mixed it up with some other publication or something).

        In any case, I’m finding the paper easier to read these days.

        1. I did try to cancel it on the grounds of wokeness, but when I tried it (via phone) they offered me an incredibly low rate and since I do need to read the paper, I took it. I feel a bit hypocritical, but it’s still the paper of record.

          But I may have canceled it and then resubscribed when they offered me a very low rate. I don’t remember which, but I do remember that I told them I didn’t like the NYT’s wokeness.

  9. On NPR’s 06/27/22 “Morning Edition,” there was a piece about the 25th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book. Three writers inspired by the Potter books were interviewed. Of course they had to get in their digs at J.K. Rowling:

    ‘The “Potter” series has been hugely influential, especially for young writers, though some are conflicted about its author, J.K. Rowling.’

    LAURA LAM: ‘But the thing is – is, overall, the books are a little bit complicated for me now. I have kind of complicated emotions about J.K. Rowling’s, you know, comments on trans people.’

    SCOTT REINTGEN: ‘You know, those books meant a lot to me as a reader, but I can also look at the person who created them and say, I vehemently disagree with what they say and what they’ve been saying.’

    Of course, the authors can’t be troubled to quote – nor can the host be bothered to ask them to quote – Rowling in order to justify to listeners their concerns and claims regarding Rowling. Don’t you know listeners? Anything must be true simply and solely because the thought pops into one’s brain


  10. The far left excoriated Van Jones when he was on MSNBC explaining why a right-wing Latino woman won in an 84% latino riding in Texas some weeks ago. He had the sin of saying that liberals (Van Jones should have said the authoritarian left) make up weird (ideologically slanted) words that turn mainstream people off. He didn’t use ‘birth people’ and the Ginsberg quote mutilation, he used ‘LatinX’. I did a search for ‘LatinX’ on twitter and it was a stream of Latinos venting on lefty gringos hijacking their language for the ‘latino’s own good’. The vast majority if Latinos hate the word and the far left just keeps shoving it down their throats because Big LeftWing Brother knows best. It explains why most straw polls still have Trump ahead of Biden. Democrats, lose the weird words, talk like normal people.

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