Yet another word for “women”

June 24, 2022 • 10:30 am

As you know, we have a spate of new words for “woman” or “women”, all devised to either efface the distinction between biological women and transwomen, or to include transmen (many of whom still have male genitals, have periods and can bear children) together in a group with biological women.

If you say, “trans women are women”, then you are forced to make up new words to refer to biological women who are physiologically and reproductively different from tranwomen. So far these words have included “people who menstruate”, “chestfeeder”, “womxn” and others I can’t recall.  Yet the activists haven’t seemed to settle on one word that fits all.

Lately they’ve added a new one as a euphemism for “biological women + transmen who can have children”. This was brought to my attention by Nellie Bowles, whose Friday weekly summaries on Bari Weiss’s Substack site are both informative and snarky.

Here’s from her latest summary (her emphasis):

New slur for women arrives: “Womb carriers.” You have to hate women a lot to refer to Native American women who suffered horrific abuse as “womb carriers.” Verso Books, the ultra-trendy Brooklyn publisher and cultural hub, brings us the latest slur for females.

Because nothing really disappears on the Internet, I found the Verso tweet, which they’ve apparently removed because so many people mocked or criticized the usage. Yes, the sterilization and forced adoption (as well as forced away-from-home schooling) of Native Americans in Canada and America are well known, and are reprehensible and immoral. The problem is with how “women” are semantically described. I’m wondering what J. K. Rowling will have to say about this. What you can’t deny is that “womb carriers” is simply a synonym for “biological women”.

Speaking of “womxn“, Bowles also reports there’s a controversy about how to pronounce it (I had the same issue with “Latinx”.) The word was, I believe, introduced by feminists to take the word “men” out of “women” or “man” out of “woman”, but now is also being used to include transwomen.

Bowles:

For some dark humor, take a look at University of California, Irvine’s Womxn’s Center, a publicly funded institution now debating how to pronounce womxn. So as not to leave out the blind community who can’t see the X, the new thinking is: “say it as wom-inx or woma/en-x, or wom-ux.” Wominx. Womux. (h/t Aaron Sibarium)

I never say either word, preferring “Hispanic” to “Latinx”, and I don’t think it’s in me to say “womb-carriers.”

Some humor brought to our attention by reader Jez:

Abigail Shrier on the Left’s targeting of gender issues

June 19, 2022 • 12:30 pm

I suppose it’s only natural that if you consider yourself a Leftist—even a “progressive” one—and you get disemboweled by your side for saying something politically offensive to your side, you will get resentful of your erstwhile allies.  In some cases, I think, these people can be driven rightwards, either on the whole or at least in some attitudes.  One example is the relentless pushing of ivermectin and dissing of covid vaccinations by Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying after they were driven from Evergreen State, but even they haven’t become right wingers. Other people have, I think, but I won’t name names because there’s no point.

You remember Abigail Shrier, a liberal who, two years ago, ran afoul of the Purity Posse when she published her book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. (It was briefly banned from Target).I read it, and it was certainly not nearly as awful as the P.P. makes out: it’s not in the least transphobic. In fact, Shrier’s book was an important warning about the possibility that the exponential rise in girls who wanted to be boys might have substantial social causes (a “fad” of sorts; see the second part of Andrew Sullivan’s latest column), and that the premature treatment of these girls with surgery, hormones, or puberty blockers might be dangerous, either physically or by ruining people’s lives. (Transsexuality, of course, is a necessary procedure for some.)

That warning desperately needed to be issued, and it turns out that Shrier is probably largely right (more on that this week).  But her latest piece, on Bari Weiss’s Substack site, takes out after the “left” as if it were a monolith bent on censoring anything that criticizes trans activism.  But we’re not monolithic; I’m on Shrier’s side and I’m on the Left.  Further, the Right itself is involved in anti-sexuality-information legislation that could ban conversion, or discussions of it, by people who honestly need to hear about it.

Click to read her piece:

Shrier goes after Child Protective Services (CPS) in Florida after Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said he might have CPS persecute parents who take their kids to drag shows. That’s a ridiculous threat, of course, and part of the Right’s fear of any sexuaity that isn’t “cis.”  But she also mentions this pending legislation from the Left:

In California, matters head from bad to worse: a new bill aspires to transform California into a “sanctuary state” for gender-swapping youth, making it possible for even a non-custodial parent to run to California to transition her child against her ex-spouse’s wishes.

The rectitude of that bill isn’t something I’ve pondered, but from these and other issues she raises a question:

Here, then, is the question: If our ultimate goal is returning to a normalcy in which government agencies and corporations treat all Americans fairly regardless of viewpoint, how are we to achieve this? At a minimum, we must acknowledge that these institutions are already weaponized and their artillery points only in one direction: against the opponents of the left. Acknowledge further that an ever-increasing tyranny is ratcheted upon those who dare criticize the encroachment of gender ideology into all spheres of public life. The playing field is about as level as San Francisco’s Filbert Street.

When I first read that, I read it as government and corporations weaponizing their artillery towards the “opponents of the Right”, which is the Left.  but then I realized that Shrier is indicting the Left here. And notice that she says “the left”, not “the extreme left” or the “progressive left”. I’m here to tell Ms. Shrier that there are still a lot of us who agree with her call for caution and are wary of affirmation therapy and other non-reversible incursions into young people’s biology.

Besides describing the demonization of her book and herself, she mentions several other cases of would-be censorship that you may not know about:

This week, conservative writers Ryan Anderson and Alexandra DeSanctis lost the ability to offer pre-orders of their new pro-life audiobook when the book’s distributor dropped them—on ideological grounds, of course. One year ago, Anderson’s critique of the transgender movement, When Harry Became Sally, was effectively vaporized—deleted by Amazon on the specious grounds that it “framed an LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” (It’s nearly impossible to speak of gender dysphoria without reference to its inclusion in the DSM-5, psychiatry’s most authoritative manual of mental illnesses; indeed, the word “disorder” is in the title of the DSM.) Even third-party sales of Anderson’s book were banned from Amazon and all sites they control. Given that well over half of all U.S. book sales flow through its channels, Amazon’s actions represent an issue entirely different from Masterpiece Cakeshop (the difference is scale), as I’ve written before. An Amazon deletion is a death sentence for a book.

Not to be outdone, this week, PayPal and Etsy shut down the accounts of biological realist and writer Colin Wright for his persistence in arguing that there are only two sexes. Etsy permanently disabled Wright’s account—where he sold his “Reality’s Last Stand” merch promoting his newsletter—on the grounds that Wright “glorif[ied] hatred or violence toward protected groups.”

That’s a lie. Wright never did.

Wright is a biologist who made the grievous error of knowing a thing or two about biology and refusing to genuflect before the Torquemadas who insist he parrot their phony gender science. But of course, while Wright pays this price for his harmless (and, honestly, inoffensive) t-shirts and mugs, Etsy continues to list for sale stickers and pins and other bric-a-brac emblazoned with messages like “Fuck TERFs,” “TERFs can choke,” and “Shut the Fuck up TERF” with an anime creature pointing a semiautomatic handgun at its presumably female interlocutor.

There’s clearly a bad double standard at Etsy and Amazon, and this needs to stop. “Fuck TERFS”? Really? Are J. K. Rowling and Martina Navratilova TERFS? This will stop only when liberals call out this nonsense.

What also needs to stop is the demonization of those who assert the biological truth that there are two sexes in humans, male and female, even if there are many genders. In this respect, we are no different from most vertebrates, and the clownfish be damned (it’s the recurring Woke symbol of sequential hermaphroditism, which proves nothing about humans). It’s a telling sign of the craziness of our times that even biologists are beginning to doubt whether H. sapiens comes in two sexes, and that there’s no “spectrum of sex” between those who can produce sperm and those who can produce eggs.

So while Shrier somewhat unfairly accuses the left as a pure trans-activist monolisth, she is also on the mark about the double standard of Cancel Culture—a standard that’s in place simply because those on the simple “Left” or center Left are afraid to open their mouths for fear of being called racists.

Shrier:

Here is the problem: Almost every liberal will be content to allow our institutions and corporations to punish conservatives as long as they themselves remain unscathed. They may feel a pang of discomfort watching books deleted from Amazon, but until it is a book of theirs, they will continue to show a remarkable disinclination to speak up. (Yes, with the important exception of brave souls like J.K. Rowling, Elon Musk and Joe Rogan. And the moment liberals speak out against such censorship, they are accused of being right-wing and lose the left’s protection.)

As long as Amazon never deletes books by Rachel Maddow, Bob Woodward, Ezra Klein, or Paul Krugman, America’s large and powerful center-left has proven itself all-too-willing to allow the censorship to proceed. As long as only the left weaponizes every available corporation and government agency, America will continue its decade-long shrug.

Well, that’s a bit exaggerated because there are institutions that punish liberals. They’re called “southern and western American states”. Unfortunately, Big Media and corporations like Amazon are largely controlled by the progressive Left, but were they controlled by the Right we’d be in even bigger trouble. Each political extreme has its own double standard, and each wants some education censored, but one can’t just pin everything on just “the left.”  As the old saying goes, “It’s okay when we do it.”

Shrier ends with a depressing conclusion that I reached earlier today with respect to the ACLU:

Those waiting on the mythical pendulum to “swing back,” should stop holding their breath. The gender activists are True Believers, akin to jihadists: no amount of reasoning diminishes their resolve, no appeal to data brings them pause, no urge to consider the sanctity of American liberties will convince them to cool it.

It’s not just the gender activists who are true believers akin to religionists, but Wokies in general. For that point of view, read John McWhorter’s book Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

“The kindergarten is already in charge”: Bill Maher on the liberal media

June 18, 2022 • 1:30 pm

Bill Maher, a liberal, is in bad odor among progressives, because he makes fun of their excesses. That’s what comedians do, for crying out loud, and it’s not like you have to look hard for those excesses, either. Here’s his new eight-minute monologue that takes off from the ridiculous shenanigans involving reporters Felicia Sonmez and David Weigel of the Washington Post. Sonmez was fired and Weigel suspended. She deserved what she got, while Weigel was treated excessively sternly.  But the whole social media kerfuffle, which should not be dominating stories about liberal media, bespeaks a juvenility of employees that was the subject of my last post about Sarah Haider.

After I heard this and thought about that episode, and similar episodes at the NYT, I realized that the employees of these papers really are acting like spoiled kids. Lukianoff and Haidt were right.

Have a listen. I love his comment about Watergate’s “Deep Throat” and safetyism!

h/t: Paul

Sarah Haider: The toxicity of progressive, nonprofit organizations

June 18, 2022 • 12:00 pm

If you haven’t looked at or subscribed to Sarah Haider’s Substack site “Hold That Thought”, you should consider it.  She regularly produces thoughtful and well written posts, and her experience as cofounder and director of development for Ex-Muslims of North America gives her insights into ideological infighting that you might not know about. And she’s definitely not afraid to say what she thinks, even if it flies in the face of “progressive” politics.

That infighting in facts informs her latest piece, one about the toxicity of progressive, nonprofit organizations.  Both the progressivism and nonprofit nature of these groups contribute to their dysfunctionality, conclusions she also draws from a related article by Ryan Grimm “The Elephant in the Zoom” at The Intercept.

The nonprofit nature of such an organization works synergistically with its progressivism to give a special entitlement to employees. According to Haider, the entitlement means that employees don’t feel the need to work as hard as those in “regular” organizations, demand special coddling, and, in the end, fracture exactly as other woke organizations fracture.

But I’m getting ahead of myself: click to read her piece:

I have to say, Sarah is courageous enough to say stuff like this, which, combined with her regular mission of helping apostate Muslims, makes her doubly “unsafe”:

I’ve been lucky that my explicit politics and nature of work have driven off many of the kinds of people who might create such a dysfunctional culture—but even I have not been entirely spared.

Meanwhile, I’ve witnessed other groups entirely overtaken—their work forgotten as internal reckonings routinely roil within the organization. I’ve watched their (already underserved) programs be abandoned for more fashionable, social justice oriented ones.

I’ve watched identitarianism creep into hiring and firing—white males dropping out of leadership positions like flies. Sometimes they are chased out, accused of some impropriety or other. Sometimes they “choose” to resign—claiming to step down to make way for someone more diverse. It kept happening, until it became genuinely rare to see a straight white male in a top leadership position. And of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with fewer white male leaders…so long as it is a natural consequence of a fair system that finds the best people for the jobs. But of course, that is not what is happening. Indeed, I’ve been called a “white supremacist” for insisting that leadership positions should be granted on the basis of qualifications and experience—regardless of the race/gender/sexuality of that person.

Instead, organizations around me have been pressured by activists to fill leadership positions with “women of color”, accepting the absurd identitarian logic that somehow this act would solve issues of disparity (just as the Obama presidency presumably fixed racism once and for all). Sometimes this has led to the appointments of leaders who are simply not qualified for their positions—causing harm to the stable functioning of the organizations and their ability to do good work.

But even if a “woman of color” is elected (many besieged leaders in the Intercept article above were, in fact, women of color)—nothing ends the incessant infighting except an outright rejection of the politics that support it.

It seems that Haider is against all forms of affirmative action, wanting to staff organizations like hers based completely on merit (“leadership positions should be granted on the basis of qualifications and experience—regardless of the race/gender/sexuality of that person.”). I’m not with her 100% on this, as I still cling to the idea of some affirmative action as a form of reparations, but Haider and I would agree that identitarianism and the idea of hiring based on race and gender have gone too far.

Further, as she points out, coddling the progressives doesn’t stop the “incessant infighting”.  We know that because other woke organizations, like the New York Times and Washington Post, are riven with dissent and accusations—something we’ll see in the next post. The meltdown at the Washington Post that led to the  suspension of reporter David Weigel and then the firing of Felicia Sonmez is one example. Weigel was suspended for making a tasteless joke on Twitter (which he retracted and apologized for), though he could have simply been chewed out and told not to do it again.  No, he had to be punished more severely, as woke politics demand. Sonmez, on the other hand, was the whole ball of Woke Wax: neurotic, accusatory, vicious, and self-aggrandizing: exactly those qualities that, says Haider, will kill progressive organizations. To quote another recent piece of hers (emphasis is also hers)

. . .the problem isn’t merely the fact that social justice issues are abused by disturbed personalities with the right identities, it is that social justice politics condition the average “nice liberal” to accept bad behavior and cancerous work dynamics, all in in the name of “justice” and “inclusion. . . It is a simple thing to re-cast untenably toxic and inexcusably hostile behavior as the price one pays for “justice” and “diversity”, and indeed, that is exactly what happens. The nice liberals are easily duped into accepting the unacceptable, capitulating to extremists again.

She ought to know, as she’s experienced this in her own organization.

I wonder if “progressive” universities may eventually fall apart for exactly the same reasons. We’ve already seen schools like Princeton and Harvard becoming ideologically toxic, chilling speech everywhere in the name of “social justice”, and if Wokeism doesn’t go away soon, we can say goodbye to our elite colleges as vessels to ferment ideas. There’s no sign of that yet. I see glimmers of light from time to time, but for every glimmer there’s a darkening of trust as schools strive to become ideologically acceptable and homogeneous.

And of course this kind of political dissolution describes today’s Democratic Party.

Finally, Haider outlines the only way she sees a progressive nonprofit organization is able to thrive: by following these rules:

1.) Creating an explicitly mission-oriented culture. Making it clear that all staff and volunteers are there to support the mission of the organization—that the mission is important, and deserves their full attention and commitment. This means that while they are at work, engaging in activism that is unrelated to the mission will not be tolerated. . .

2.) Creating an explicitly WORK oriented culture. I don’t know why this is a problem, but it is—especially in non-profit spaces that employ young people. Make it clear to volunteers and employees that they are here to work, to achieve an end. Nonprofits in particular are the space for you to GIVE TO OTHERS, not to take for your own ends. . .

3.) Zero-tolerance. This might sound harsh to outsiders who don’t know how bad bad can be, and charitable types in general have a very hard time taking on a management style that makes boundaries clear. However, there can be no tolerance for abusive behavior, or for breaking the above two rules, regardless of the reason.

Finally, Haider gives two pieces of advice about what to look for in organizations that you want to donate to. These involve how scattered their mission is and how strong the leadership is. I’ll let you read her summary yourself, but it mandates that you should not be giving money to either the ACLU or the Southern Poverty Law Center.(The ACLU is a pathetic case of how a once respected organization is circling the drain because it now gives most of its attention to the civil liberties of “progressives,” and has widened its mission unacceptably.)

I could recommend some organizations that do adhere to Haider’s standards and deserve your dosh, but I’m sure you know those yourself.

What’s happening to psychology?

June 16, 2022 • 11:45 am

One would expect that psychology, like all other academic and health-related professions, would be going woke, though I haven’t heard much about this area beyond the “affirmative care” controversy with respect to transgender people.

But this article below, whose title implies that wokeness is invading psychology, also implies that the influence of “politics” on psychology is pervasive, and is having unhealthy results on patients.  It’s from the journal Psychreg, which describes itself this way:

Founded in 2014, Psychreg is a free, award-winning digital publication dedicated to keeping everyone informed about psychology, mental health, and wellness. The publication, as well as the open-access Psychreg Journal of Psycholgy, are published by Psychreg Ltd, a media company based in London, United Kingdom.

Click to read:

I’m going to summarize the thesis in one sentence: psychology has adopted a “politicially correct” narrative, which is that nearly all mental illness or mental disturbance, including schizophrenia, can be traced back to “trauma and attachment narratives”: i.e.,  the sufferer must have experienced trauma and a loss of attachment some time in their lives.

Now this seems overly simplistic for several reasons. For one thing, it implicitly blames parents or friends for someone’s mental illness, which is not only hurtful when incorrect but can derail therapy. And, as Marshall says “Clearly people can develop psychosis with no trauma or threat in their lives.” He points out that the heritability of schizophrenia is about 80%, which doesn’t rule out environmental causes as contributors to the condition, but also implies that their role is relatively minor.

What I wonder is if this “trauma and attachment” narrative is somehow conditioned by psychologists becoming woke. We all know how loosely the term “traumatized” is thrown about, even used to one’s reaction at hearing “hate speech”. It is one of the three dicta of Lukianoff and Haidt that are said to explain the fragility of today’s youth:

 1) The Untruth of Fragility: aka “What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker,”

2) The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: aka “always trust your feelings,” and

3) The Untruth of Us vs. Them: aka “life is a battle between good people and evil people.”

If you are fragile, you can make sense of your illness as a result of trauma. And if you have a Manichean view of the world, as in #3, you can pin your problems on other people: a breaking of attachment.

Now I’m not trying to denigrate the mentally ill here, for Ceiling Cat only knows how many conditions can be unbearably painful. Rather, I’m trying to understand why the “attachment/trauma” explanation is, according to Marshall, taking over psychology. Just a few quotes:

As a clinical and forensic psychologist, I’ve always been interested in the causes – not correlates – of mental health, because associations, masquerading as causal mechanisms, bedevil psychology. Our profession is at a crossroads between science-based causal reasoning and knowledge versus politically biased narratives, where scientific evidence is irrelevant – and trauma is all that matters.

This part implies that it’s affecting diagnoses:

. . .Clinical culture is creaking under the weight of a blank slate trauma assumption. Even when it comes to the adversity to trauma pipeline, the position is unclear.  In outpatient psychiatric clinics in New York, a review of newly admitted patients found 82% with at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE), 68% with two, and a staggering 42% with four or more ACEs; these are correlational studies, telling us nothing about what causes what.

And a bit more:

My experience, and that of others, particularly of child mental health service, is constant reference to trauma and attachment which in turn can leave the impression that this is all that matters.  Imagine any other field of study or science that paints a two-dimensional picture of causal mechanisms in human well-being, ignoring decades of science on other factors? Physics without gravity; biology without natural selection. The over-focus on adversity then attachment/trauma, while well-intended, can lead to two-dimensional contaminated mindware, over-applied to every person’s emotional struggles.

. . . . Critical psychiatry approaches can highlight the presumed damaging effects of diagnosis. The problem is that deprived people are desperately seeking diagnoses for themselves, their children, and relatives in their droves. When a person can label pain and distressing emotions, this can alter positively such experiences and is relieving. An excellent diagnostic process should be collaborative and include a causal formulation. A diagnostic process should describe and classify problems, not the person.  An ideal diagnostic assessment can view issues on a spectrum and blur the line between normative and pain. What’s the alternative? Well-being descriptions based on poverty, attachment and trauma for profoundly psychotic or seriously depressed people?  The risk is that clinicians who overapply trauma/attachment models could explain autism, fetal alcohol spectrum, ADHD, and a raft of neurodevelopmental disorders from this blank slate standpoint.

Now the article isn’t written very well, but I did want to call your attention to what may be a misguided form of ideology creeping into psychology and psychiatry. Do weigh in if you have any experiences about the stuff above. And note that “diagnoses” are often tentative, sketchy, or weird in psychology, as evidenced by the continual changes of the DSM “diagnoses” in successive editions.

h/t: Ginger K.

Freddie deBoer enumerates the “Good White Men”

June 14, 2022 • 9:15 am

I like Freddie deBoer, and am pondering subscribing to his site, because more than anyone he writes good stuff in a relaxed, conversational style/ I like his anti-wokeness and especially his humor. You can read his column this week for free, but subscribe if you can. Click on the link below; it’s a hilarious piece that also rings true, and should get you thinking about the woke:

deBoer’s aim is to compile a list of “good white men” who are ALLIES to the marginalized but whose accomplishments are largely performative, calling attention to their own moral purity while telling other white men to shut up and listen to those who are marginalized. Of course, as deBoer points out, this means they’re telling themselves to shut up, and their self-promotion is over the top. They cannot resist telling us how good they are.

I have heard of only a few of the 12 men he singles out, but deBoer’s description of their self-aggrandizement is really funny. Nor does he except himself (he’s on his own list!), for by enumerating these big egos who act like “allies” but are really egocentric, deBoer recognizes that he’s putting himself above them, too.

I’ll give an example of his humor with his opening, which I love:

You could be forgiven for thinking that we’re witnessing the end of the era of the white man. Headlines saying such are not hard to come by, after all, and media and academia are captivated by the notion that we white men must soon give way to women and people of color and, like, gray ace demisexuals or some such. So funny, then, and so profoundly American, that some of the most successful self-marketers of the 21st century are white men. They are, in fact, Good White Men.

These are the guys who have carefully crafted personas as ALLIES, as the good ones, as the right kind of white guy. These are the dudes whose every engagement on social media functions to let you know how very sorry they are, but always seem to come out on top in doing so. These are the guys who always stand behind women, ready to catch them when they fall, which they will inevitably do because of fucking patriarchy, man, and if people would just read their bell hooks maybe we’d be getting somewhere!, please like share and subscribe. These are the guys who think all complaints about identity politics, political correctness, and cancel culture are just the dying gasp of reactionary old men, which is why they lie awake at night praying to god that they never get canceled. These are the guys who put their pronouns in their bios in hopes that doing so might get them a little pussy. These are the guys who will harangue you about how white dudes do this and white dudes do that, speaking to you from their blameless white dude mouths in their righteous white dude faces. These are the guys who look at the discourse about white supremacy and patriarchy and see market opportunity.

There’s nothing wrong with being a white man who wants to do good. I am one, after all. The trouble is that the Good White Men believe that white men in general have some sort of inherent badness, that at the very least white men bear a special burden of helping to end injustice and to “center” women, people of color, and other minority groups, to step back and let others speak. Good White Males think whiteness and maleness are problems to be solved. The trouble here is twofold. First, simply by nature of being Good White Men, by the very act of endlessly talking about the sinful nature of other white men, the Good White Men exonerate themselves from the very critique they advance. Constantly complaining about the evil done by white men inherently and invariably functions to contrast themselves with other, worse white men. Being the white man who talks about the poor character of most white men cannot help but shine your own character. No matter how reflexively you chant that you realize that you yourself are part of the problem, no matter how insistently you say that you’re included in your own critique, you aren’t. You can’t be. To be the one who makes the critique inevitably elevates you above it.

He who humbleth himself wishes to be exalted.

Second, standing up and demanding that everyone pay attention to someone else sure is a good way to monopolize attention for yourself. If you go on your podcast, blog, cable news show, or social network as a white man and tell other white men they need to shut up and listen, you are definitionally not shutting up and listening – and, of course, doing so in such a way as to receive credit for doing it. Put another way, Good White Men constantly tell other men and white people to step back and listen but absolutely never shut the fuck up themselves. Each of these guys could walk the talk by just unplugging and no longer filling the airwaves with their opinions, and in so doing cede space to POC and women and whoever else. That they don’t is the most damning indictment of their project.

And here’s a list of the Good White Men. Read deBoer’s descriptions, which don’t dox them but are about as snarky as you can get. Most on the list below are journalists, and I’ve heard only of Chris Hayes and Chase Strangio,

a.)  Adam Davidson

b.) Dan Froomkin

c.) Chris Hayes

d.) Eoin Higgins

e.) Michael Hobbes

f.) Angus Johnston

g.) Jonathan Katz

h.) Will Stancil

i.) Jason Stanley

j.) Chase Strangio

k.) Will Wilkinson

l.) Freddie de Boer. As I said, he doesn’t exempt himself.

And at the risk of overquoting, I’ll show you what deBoer says about Davidson, commenting on one of Davidson’s tweets:

deBoer:

I could give you the context to this tweet, but honestly… do I have to? Would it matter? This is it, here, this is the goods; this is the Good White Man in his Platonic form. Davidson here is engaged in an act of supposed self-criticism – it turns out that this is somehow about Jeffrey Epstein and thus also about rape culture, or whatever other abstraction is hot right now – that in fact functions to lionize Adam Davidson and advance his brand. He’s so very sorry, everybody, and it cannot escape your notice that he’s more sorry than everyone else; that’s what an advanced being he is. He apologizes, but only in the context of referring to some earlier, fallen self, and in doing so he inescapably valorizes his current self. Hey, you guys, you know who else is like that earlier Adam Davidson who didn’t care enough about child trafficking or whatever the fuck? You. That’s right. Adam Davidson is better than you, and he has the apologies to prove it. Such a strange quality, apologies have – the lower you stoop, the higher you climb. Useful, that. I bet Adam is crying in front of some waiter right now as he explains why he shouldn’t have to pay for his meal. Adam: if you’re receiving thousands of digital strokes for making an apology, it’s not a real apology.

He who humbleth himself wishes to be exalted. Adam Davison humbleth himself more relentlessly than any person in media that I know of, and for this he believes that he should be exalted.

The piece really is a hoot, but it has a serious purpose: to call attention to the purveyors of Performative Wokeness, whom I encounter constantly. These are the people (almost all white) who call attention to their purity, either directly or indirectly—with the latter coming through gestures that look good but accomplish nothing for social justice. In the end, it’s a way of showing off, for the admirable people who truly care about social progress put their shoulder to the wheel and ignore who gets the credit. I, for one, am tired of them, and I’ve renewed my vow to not genuflect or be cowed by such people, and to call attention when necessary to the uselessness of their self-promotion.

Another example. Chase Strangio is the gender rights lawyer for the ACLU, and how did he come to public attention? By calling for the banning of Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters.  Getting that book banned was a “hill he would die on.” Imagine—an ACLU lawyer favoring banning a book! He is a transman, but so what?  This is an example of someone urging censorship and violation of free speech because he doesn’t like the speech. (If you think Shrier’s book is “hate speech,” I urge you to read it.)

We should be made as hell and vowing not to take this any more. Social justice is great, but performative social justice is obnoxious and should rightly be reviled and mocked.

Hallelujah! Yet another anti-woke op-ed from the NYT, damning the Cancel Culture

June 13, 2022 • 1:15 pm

Is the NYT really starting to publish more and more material that could be considered anti-woke? It seems so.

I submit for your approval this op-ed by Pamela Paul, named as an opinion columnist just this year. But she has a long history at the paper:

Pamela Paul became an Opinion columnist for The New York Times in 2022. She was previously the editor of The New York Times Book Review for nine years, where she oversaw book coverage and hosted the Book Review podcast. She is the author of eight books: “100 Things We’ve Lost to the Internet” (named a best book of 2021 by The Chicago Tribune), “My Life With Bob,” “How to Raise a Reader,” “By the Book,” “Parenting, Inc.,” “Pornified” (a best book of 2005 by The San Francisco Chronicle), “The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony” (a best book of 2002 by The Washington Post) and “Rectangle Time,” a book for children.

Now, on to the fracas that Paul considers. She describes the usual Woke attempt to cancel a book on ideological grounds before it’s even out or has been read, and then recommends that you read the book and decide for yourself. It also damns the culture that promotes attempts to “deplatform” books before they reach the public. That in itself is anti-woke, for although you may not like the book, Paul recommends that you read it, which means thinking for yourself (not a trait associated with wokeness). Buying it also slightly enriches the author via royalties.

Click to read Paul’s short op-ed:

The book at hand is The Men, by Sandra Newman, which you can order by clicking on the screenshot at the bottom. It comes out just this week, and already the number of stars it’s gotten reflects I think, the attempt to “cancel” it, i.e., persuade people not to buy it. Did these people read the book?

The book’s premise (Paul’s prose):

Imagine a world in which all the men disappear from the planet in a single moment: Planes they were piloting are left unmanned (literally), their female passengers abandoned in midair; men in bed with their girlfriends mysteriously vanish; boys in the playground dematerialize before their mothers’ eyes. The girls and women left behind are given no apparent reason for the sudden absence of half the world’s population.

The result of publishing it:

Now imagine another world — one in which an author proudly announces her forthcoming novel only to be attacked online for its fantastical premise. Months before the book comes out, it is described on Goodreads as a “transphobic, racist, ableist, misogynist nightmare of a book.” On Twitter, people who have yet to read the novel declare that it’s their responsibility to “deplatform” it. When one of the author’s friends, herself a writer, defends the book, she is similarly attacked, and a prominent literary organization withdraws her nomination for a prize for her own book.

Only one of these nightmare scenarios is real.

The first describes the premise of a novel that comes out this week: “The Men” by Sandra Newman. The second is what actually happened when the premise of Newman’s book was revealed.

I was in fact surprised to learn why this book was so viciously attacked, especially because it involves the disappearance of men—the lowest group on the wokeish totem pole. But it’s not that idea that caused the trouble: it’s the idea that there is a real sex binary that allows men to disappear!

And Paul, to her immense credit, defends the book and the author’s right to imagine a world in which there is a sex binary!:

For all the outlandishness of its conceits, science fiction can allow writers and readers access to deeper truths about very real aspects of society, politics and power in creative ways. But apparently Newman got too creative — or too real — for some. That a fictional world would assert the salience of biological sex, however fanciful the context, was enough to upset a vocal number of transgender activists online. They would argue that “men” is a cultural category to which anyone can choose to belong, as opposed to “maleness,” which is defined by genetics and biology.

In this case, we can set aside contentious questions around gender identity and transgender politics. Even if you don’t believe the sex binary is as fundamental to human beings as it is to all other mammals, a fiction writer ought to be free to imagine her own universe, whether as utopian ideal, dystopian horror or some complicated vision in between.

Should the reader dare enter the fictional universe of “The Men,” one thing becomes immediately clear: This is in no way a transphobic novel. It neither denies the existence of transgender people, who are woven into the narrative in several places, nor maligns them. The world Newman creates is as scrupulously diverse as a Marvel franchise movie, populated by gay, lesbian and bisexual characters as well as by straight ones of various ethnicities.

In this fictional world, where the presence of a Y-chromosome dictates who disappears, a strictly biological definition of “man” is viewed as a moral wrong. The main characters are horrified by the fate of the transgender women who get swept up (“unjustly condemned”) and sympathetic to the plight of the transgender men who remain (one character is “paralyzed by the idea that transgender people were still here”).

Note that the book is woke in the sense that a transgender woman is regarded by The Transphobic Force—that which makes “men” disappear—as a biological man. That’s right in with trans-activist philosophy. But that still didn’t appease The Offended, because the Force saw the woman as a biological man.

I can’t help but reproduce a lot of Paul’s prose, as it’s so deliciously rare in the NYT to read stuff like this:

What a sour irony that a dystopian fantasy brought a dark reality one step closer. In this frightful new world, books are maligned in hasty tweets, without even having been read, because of perceived thought crimes on the part of the author. Small but determined interest groups can gather gale force online and unleash scurrilous attacks on ideas they disapprove of or fear, and condemn as too dangerous even to explore.

“I wanted to create a parable of exclusion,” Newman, who describes herself as nonbinary, said in a phone interview. “It’s a book about ‘othering,’ the human tendency to divide people into categories or groups and to think of our group as the real people and other groups as threats to the real people.”

Newman said she tends to favor fiction that explores difficult ideas in bold ways: “People shouldn’t always write nice books.” Where better than literature to examine ideas that may unsettle or challenge?

Most people don’t want to live in a world in which books are vilified without being read and their authors attacked ad hominem for the temerity of having written them.

There’s an answer to attacks like these: Read the book.

YES! READ THE DAMN BOOK! Perhaps under the new leadership at the paper it really is getting saner. The first paragraph above, which damns a Cancel Culture that tries to suppress ideas that aren’t ideologically correct, would have been unthinkable in the NYT two years ago.

If I met Paul I’d give her a big hug of appreciation, but that might be considered harassment.

No, Netflix did not make Leonard Bernstein look like a stereotypical and exaggerated Jew

June 1, 2022 • 12:00 pm

I think I have some credibility here, since some people have accused me of being too quick to call out people as anti-Semites. And yes, as a secular Jew I’m sensitive to anti-Semitism, which I think is both growing and unduly neglected.  So if anyone is to accuse a movie of making an actor look “stereotypically Jewish,” it would be me. And that’s what this Daily Beast piece is about (click to read). But I don’t agree with them—not at all! After all, I’m not one of those who demand that every character be played by someone of the identical gender, ethnicity, appearance, and so on.

First, it’s really a cheap shot to make a news story out of some people’s opinion when the people aren’t specified. It’s probably about five people on Twitter (the article notes exactly two critical tweets), but this gives the Beast a chance to publish something. (HuffPost does the same thing). Social media is the greatest thing to ever happen to hack journalists. But all I care about is the author’s opinion and argument, and here she’s just wrong.

First, I have no objection to a non-Jew playing Bernstein in a Netflix biopic, although there may be some woke Jews (they’re proportionately rare) who would raise a ruckus. What this ruckus is about, though, is the supposed heavy application of makeup to Bradley Cooper to the extent that the Netflix version makes Lennie looks like a caricature of Jew—like something from Der Stürmer.

From the Beast:

. . . But in the case of Bradley Cooper and the just-released first look photos of his Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro, the word “unrecognizable” is actually warranted. And, in many cases, it’s making people angry, arguing that it’s inappropriate to rely on such heavy prosthetics to make a non-Jewish actor appear more Jewish.

Photos released on Monday show the Hangover actor disguised by pounds of prosthetics to resemble the composer behind the music of West Side Story and On the Town. As an elderly Bernstein, Cooper wears an obviously fake nose and thinning white wig. His forehead wrinkles are deeper than the Grand Canyon and his synthetically weathered hands are knotted with prominent veins.

. . .But the polarizing photos have also been met with backlash, sparking a conversation about whether Cooper, a non-Jewish actor (donning a sizable fake nose, to boot), is an appropriate choice to portray a legendary Jewish cultural figure such as Bernstein.

I’ll show a few angry tweets below, but when I saw the two pictures accompanying the article, I thought, “Hey, that’s not a bad likeness of Bernstein”. (By the way, since when did thinning hair, wrinkles, and vein-y hands become stereotypical Jewish features?)

No, it’s the schnoz that’s important, and there’s no denying two things. First, many Jews do have big noses; it’s a result of genetic differentiation between populations. I have a relatively big one, and my father had a huge one. (He used to tell me, “Jerry, if I had a nose full of nickels, I’d be a millionaire.”)

And Bernstein had a larger than average proboscis, too, but looking at the pictures of Bradley, I don’t see that his protuberance is a caricature of a Jewish nose.

Here, from the Daily Beast, is a photo of Cooper made up as Lenny:

So of course I tried to find videos and photos of Bernstein at the same age, and here are some real ones. I did not pick out photos that emphasized his schnoz!

Another video of Bernstein conducting.

It also defies belief, even for a sensitive Jew-lover like me, to think that the Netflix makeup people thought, “Hey, let’s give him a really big nose to show that he’s Jewish!” I think they were trying to replicate the real Lenny in a man who doesn’t look much like Lenny, and I think they did a good job.

But of course there are the Pecksniffs who provide fodder for woke journalists. The Beast cites only two, which is apparently enough to create a “controversy”:

Give me a break!

The nose isn’t featured: Bernstein is not a Pinocchio here! These two are oversensitive people looking for a reason to get mad. I suggest they chill out and read a good book. Or, if they want to kvetch, they could do a scientific study: measure the length of the schnoz in Cooper’s Bernstein relative to some other body part (say, height of the actor’s head), and compare it to the ratio for the real Bernstein. If they find a giant disparity, then we’ll talk!

“The On Being Project is located on Dakota Land”

May 22, 2022 • 12:15 pm

I may have written on this topic a while back, but it came to mind again today. I do my grocery shopping a little after 7 a.m. on Sundays, as the store opens at 6 and they’ve had time to restock before I shop. The downside of this habit is that Krista Tippett‘s NPR show, “On Being”—formerly called “On Faith” until “faith” was no longer such a virtue—starts at 7 a.m.  Ergo, I have to listen to Tippett and her numinous/spiritual guests blather on, often with the host verging on tears about, well, “being”.

Fortunately, my drive back and forth to the store takes about 15 minutes total, so I’m not tortured too much. But as I was coming back, I heard the very last words of Tippett’s broadcast: “The ‘On Being’ Proect is located on Dakota land.” That was it.

Searching a bit online, I found that there’s a whole page on Tippett’s land acknowledgment.

The Dakota people comprise largely what were called the Sioux people, who actually include both Dakota and Lakota. But never mind, just remember that these were Native Americans.

Here’s most of the acknowledgment:

About 12 miles away from The On Being Project’s central office, the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi River at a place called Bdote.

In Dakota, one translation of “bdote” is “where two waters come together,” and the bdote where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers concur is an especially sacred site — the center of the world to the Dakota.

Bdote is a place that carries a complicated and layered history, in the thousands of years the Dakota people have been in relationship and kinship with the land here, and in the several hundred years since European settlers colonized the land that the state of Minnesota now occupies. The United States’ land seizures were a project of spiritual destruction that denied the Dakota free and unhindered access to the land that fundamentally shapes their identity and spirituality.

Today, 11 reservations are located within the state of Minnesota: four Dakota communities in the southern portion of the state and seven Ojibwe communities in the north. The On Being Project pays tribute to the Dakota and Ojibwe.

We invite you to consider the land on which you live and the confluence of legacies that bring you to stand where you are — particularly through critical reflection and conversation with your own community. We encourage you to use the resources below to assist in your exploration.

They then give a list of “resources” for investigating history, including “Honor Native Land: A Guide — a step-by-step guide for writing a land acknowledgment.”

We all know that there are some issues with land acknowledgments: some lands changed hands many times over history, “ownership” was not always considered the same thing as it is today, and so on. But we also know that Native Americans were pretty much the victims of settler displacement and generally got a raw deal.

Yet when I hear a land acknowledgment like Tippett’s, I hear this:

“Our people stole land from the Dakota, and that’s where our business is located. But aren’t I a good person for saying it?”

Somehow I think that the Dakota, if their land was indeed stolen, would prefer to get the damn land back, or some monetary reparations. Do you think that they care whether Tippett’s upper-class listeners “critcially reflect and explore”? They don’t want to be paid “tribute”; they want to be paid MONEY.

To me, “land acknowledgments” are the height of wokeness. They are addressed not to Native Americans, but to well-fed academics; they accomplish nothing save trumpeting the virtues of the speakers; and they don’t offer any reparations for a theft that is explicitly acknowledged. (I couldn’t find anything in the “On Being” page about giving reparations to the Dakota.)

If “wokeness” is in some sense equivalent to “making useless performative gestures that at the same time show what a good person you are,” then land acknowledgments are its apogee. They are performances not for Native Americans, but for others who were also complicit in the theft.

Put up or shut up. And if you really think you’re responsible for stealing land, give it back—or pay for it.

The annual evolution meeting raises some questions

May 12, 2022 • 1:45 pm

The annual “Evolution Meeting” is taking place next month in Cleveland, and each year it gets woker: there is less emphasis on science and more on “harm”, “safety” and the oppression narrative. This year the meeting is a tripartite gathering of members from three evolution-related societies: the American Society of Naturalists, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the Society of Systematic Biologists. You can see the website here, and try perusing it a bit. What you won’t see is the names of prizes that have been dropped because the famous scientists once being honored were found to be flawed.

Call me an old grouch, but in my view the organizers are consciously turning societies devoted to the promotion of science into organizations devoted to the promotion of social change. Yes, organizations should not discriminate against any class of people so long as they’re qualified to give talks or attend meetings, but it’s another thing entirely for a meeting to promote equity on the grounds that science is structurally racist. In fact, I think scientific societies should remain politically neutral while obeying any anti-discrimination laws. Effecting social change should be the purview of individual members of societies, as different members have different views (I know a lot of people who object to the fulminating wokeness of evolution societies.)

Whlle perusing the long list of diversity initiatives (14 of them), guaranteed to bring people together by separating them, I found this one:

Latines? What happened to “Latinx”, itself created to avoid gendering an ethnic group as well as not to offend LGBTQ Latinxes? Recall that “Latinx” was itself a term imposed on several (and diverse) ethnic groups by largely woke white people trying to demonstrate their compassion and virtue.  Most members of the Latina(o) community spurn the term:

Despite its increasingly frequent use, a Gallup poll claims only 5% of Hispanic Americans prefer the term “Latinx.” In contrast, 37% preferred the usage of “Latino,” and 57% preferred “Hispanic.”

Aren’t we supposed to call a group what they want to be called? So why not “Hispanic”? And where the deuce did “Latine” come from? The Tulane Hullabaloo explains:

These numbers beg the question, why can Hispanic not be used when referring to this specific ethnic subgroup?

Essentially, the two terms are not exactly synonyms. “Hispanic” typically refers to someone from a Spanish-speaking region, while “Latino” typically refers to people of Latin American descent. A Portuguese-speaking Brazilian man would not be Hispanic, but he would be Latino. A woman from Spain would be Hispanic, but not Latina. Despite the two terms describing large and often overlapping groups, the term “Latino” includes people that “Hispanic” does not — similar to how “African American” refers to fewer people than “Black person” does.

Got that? Now you can ignore it, because everybody knows that the regular use of “Hispanic” lumps these two groups together.

But what is this “Latine”? Get ready—it’s even woker than “Latinx”, and is again a term promoted by woke non-Hispanics to make up for the fact that they realized that the term “Latinx” could cause harm. 

The criticism “Latinx” faces is not for it being more inclusive, even harsh critics of the term acknowledge that it stems from good intent. Instead, some believe it is the anglicisation of a term that does not belong to English speakers — an effort to impose their ideals onto a language with entirely different rules.

While it was created with good intentions, “Latinx” is not made for Spanish speakers. Some people just see “Latinx” as a “White thing.” The kind of term that gets used in academics, but not at taqueriasIf that is the chief issue, then input from Spanish speakers, particularly under the Latino umbrella, would be the key to making a term that both satisfies Spanish speakers and includes marginalized groups. Fortunately, such a term exists: “Latine.”

You don’t hear “Latine” at taquerias, either! But I digress:

“Latine” offers a more organic alternative to “Latinx.” On the surface, Latine and Latinx may strike readers as synonyms. Both terms are designed to be more inclusive than their gendered parents, specifically in reference to nonbinary people, and both terms are relatively new. So what justifies the use of the younger, less popular “Latine?”

Latine fills the void in a way Latinx never could, mostly because it was designed to work with the Spanish language. It is not an insertion; it is an evolution. A natural progression from gendered terms to neutral ones. As such, Latine can be pronounced and conjugated in Spanish, while “Latinx” cannot.

Any bets whether Hispanic Americans are going to proudly proclaim themselves as “Latines”?

I also found the event below, apparently based on the title of a book by Joan Roughgarden that I reviewed (critically) in the Times Literary Supplement of 2004 (email me for a copy of the review as it’s no longer online). Roughgarden, who had recently become a trans woman, made the case in her book that the diversity of sexuality in nature justifies human sexuality other than the “cis” form, and at any rate should erase our opprobrium towards members of the LGBTQ+ community. But this is an example of the “naturalistic fallacy”: we needn’t—and shouldn’t—see how animals express sexuality to inform our own morality towards those with different sexual expression. Here’s a screenshot of one paragraph from my review:

The event below, bearing the title of Roughgarden’s book, looks to me like the same kind of stuff: a romp through the diverse sexuality of animal species with the express aim of “supporting and retaining our LGBTQ+ students and colleagues.”  But the diversity of sexuality in nature is completely irrelevant to that aim: people of different sexual preferences, genders, and so on, should be treated as moral equals on the simple grounds that they are fellow humans and such equality is a boon to society.  I find it bizarre that this event (which costs $5 extra) is being given, assuming its aim is what they say it  is: