Culture

What’s Really Driving the Bathroom Wars

(Tommason/Dreamstime)
The human body is inherently imperfect and inegalitarian. This infuriates the Left.

Remember when bathroom humor used to be funny? For some of us, it’s probably been a while. Our old collections of fart jokes may be gathering dust on a shelf somewhere, but bodily emissions have been a staple of low-culture humor for centuries, and with four small sons, I still get an earful. Little boys have an energetic appreciation for the absurdities of the human form. They take a positively gleeful delight in the toilet’s power as a social leveler.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with mothers across history, I have normally pushed back against these comic forays into the urinal. Not at the dinner table, please! Now, as North Carolina’s bathroom wars intensify, my children’s bawdy humor takes on a new light. How natural and wholesome! It’s positively heartwarming. Come to think of it, who doesn’t love a good fart joke?

I have a newfound appreciation for toilet humor because, peering over the next hill, I can anticipate a time when my children’s mirth will be silenced, not because it is déclassé but because it is impious. No, you may not relish the absurdities of the human body. In fact, there shall be no spontaneous or untutored appreciation of the embodied human. Bodies are what our progressive masters decree they should be. We common folk must stand (or sit) ready to update our sensibilities as directed.

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That may sound paranoid. Regrettably, we live in an era when paranoia starts to look like common sense. When liberals are in a frenzy over the “rights” of biological men to use the ladies’ room, it’s obvious that the hard Left’s ideological insanity has progressed well beyond the tinfoil-hat stage. Nevertheless, like all madmen, they are following an inner logic. Progressives hate the human body. Their fervor comes from a desperate need to triumph over the reality of corporeality.

This war on embodiment is not precisely new. Liberals have for decades been in need of a no-nonsense birds-and-bees talk. Still, the nuttiness is accelerating. In recent years progressives have demanded that every imaginable form of human coupling (or throupling) be sanctioned and celebrated. (Mere toleration, of course, is not sufficient.) Physically healthy people have declared themselves “trans-abled” and destroyed their own eyes or limbs to conform to a subjective self-image. Nuns must now contribute to the suppression of female fertility, even as we are all expected to ignore overwhelming evidence of men’s superior fitness for military service. Even the traditional practice of announcing a newborn’s sex at birth has been unironically presented as barbaric and backwards.

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Again and again, progressives find the realities of the human body unbearable and demand that we collectively stick our heads in the sand rather than acknowledge truths that have been obvious for centuries. They seem desperate to free themselves from this mortal coil. Of course, they’d prefer to do it in a way that doesn’t involve dying.

#share#Why do liberals hate bodies so much? It’s understandable when we consider how ill-suited the body is to progressive ideology. In the first place, bodies are dreadfully inegalitarian. However energetically we promote genetic counseling and prenatal vitamins, the reality remains that some people are born healthy, strong, and beautiful, while others are sickly, weak, and unattractive. Men on balance are taller, stronger, and faster than women. White men can’t jump. Liberals might ardently desire a “level playing field,” but in their efforts to realize it, they continually butt heads with the warm, fleshy reality that is the human body.

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Wiser people might take this as an invitation to reflect on deeper moral truths that could help us make sense of nature’s inegalitarian distribution of burdens and blessings. We might, for instance, meditate on the solid Burkean principle that all men are equal in the sight of God but only thus. More proactively, we could consider the responsibilities and entitlements that would naturally follow on our physiological differences if we shared a broad social commitment to advancing the common good. What kinds of social norms would encourage the strong to protect the weak, the healthy to care for the sick, and young women to exercise their unique capacity to bear children? What sorts of life patterns would enable society to benefit from both the vigor of the young and the wisdom and experience of the old?

This is how reasonable people think. But to liberal progressives, these reflections serve only to strengthen the case against nature. Bodies stand in galling defiance of multiple progressive orthodoxies: that human autonomy should be absolute, that personal obligations must hinge on personal consent, and that human suffering simply ought not to be. Liberals are forever wanting to run toward that bright, beckoning eschaton of their envisioned Utopia. But must we really bring our feet?

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There’s the real rub. Corporeal intransigence is especially aggravating because, unlike the Western tradition or religious faith (which can of course just be bludgeoned into dust), bodies are a given of human life. If we can’t live with them, we certainly can’t live without.

Since bodies reek of odious, repugnant normativity (but are maddeningly inescapable), we must embrace the blessed relief of corporeal aberration. The transgendered represent less than half a percent of the population, and there are strong reasons to suppose that they are mentally unwell and in need of treatment. Never mind that. If it is true, progressives think, that men can be born in the bodies of women or vice versa, then there is a glimmer of hope. We may not have to submit to body-realism after all.

#related#This is why “transgender rights” are worth the fight. Though the North Carolina law is hardly one of the great social crises of our time, corporations and state legislatures have joined forces to cast Restroom Trutherism as an injustice akin to (yawn, this again?) racial segregation. Normal people might wonder why bathrooms have suddenly become so apocalyptically controversial, but they are missing the point. Transgenderism (along with other rare anomalies like hermaphroditism) offers a desperately desired excuse to eradicate social customs, smash cultural norms, and scoff at traditional anthropologies. You think human societies are composed of men and women? And that we can tell them apart by their bodies? Read a book, gender-binary simpleton!

Progressives think their triumph over the body will be glorious. Rational people know better. The human body is both remarkable and infuriating, inspiring Michelangelo’s David but also the epithets of St. Francis (who referred to his own body as “Brother Ass”). Our bodies have enabled us to build and create with a magnificence that no other creature even begins to approach. But is there any other creature whose feces smell so foul? Buried under the juvenile humor of little boys, there is a kernel of real insight. Sometimes humanity is just gross.

For good or ill, however, the body is an ineradicable part of the human experience. It’s an ominous sign that progressives have become deranged enough to take their fight to the ladies’ room. As they grow ever more ardent in their quest to conquer embodiment, their proposals are likely to grow ever more inhumane.

— Rachel Lu is a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.

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