Culture

The Gender Fluidity Industry’s Magical Thinking

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (a salutation that was gender neutral before gender neutral was cool),

I’m going to try to write this blogger-style, which is not a variant of Kung Fu whereby you distract your opponent with a cloud of Cheetos-dust and then pummel him with couch cushions. No, what I mean is that I think I need to get back to a more “news”lettery format with more items and fewer stream-of-consciousness essays. Don’t worry, I remain devoted to keeping this “news”letter news free.

#ad#Fowl Play

It was reported earlier this week that ISIS is morally opposed to raising pigeons. Among their problems with the practice is that it somehow exposes good Muslims to avian genitalia. Where to begin? First of all, bird junk is arguably the least offensive in the entire animal kingdom. They’re pretty much the only animals that can be drawn as cartoon characters without having their kibbles and bits bowdlerized. Foghorn Leghorn (the inspiration for Hillary Clinton’s Southern accent, I’m told), has not been castrated by an eraser. You can’t say the same about poor Porky Pig.

The point is, if you were a psychotic sex-phobic fanatic, you’d think pigeons would be one of the few acceptable animals precisely because they have the most G-rated crotches in the whole vertebrate phylum. I mean, have you seen the bait and tackle on a camel?

But there’s another problem. Banning pigeon coops isn’t the same as banning pigeons. It’s still going to be a world where, at any moment, you could see a pigeon undercarriage or, say, the backside of a bull. And for some reason Allah didn’t equip the beasts of the field and the forest with codpieces or trigger warnings.

Categorical Imperatives

All of this talk of erased dangly bits and trigger warnings has me thinking about Caitlyn Jenner for some reason.

I actually wrote today’s column on the subject, but frankly I didn’t want to. I’m a little off the reservation on this one. First, I really don’t care if Bruce Jenner wants to live as a woman. And if we were to meet, I would respect Jenner’s desire to be treated as a woman. One of the basic rules of good manners is to refer to people as they wish to be referred to. (My views on this are somewhat shaped by Deidre McCloskey, an intellectual hero of mine who used to be Donald McCloskey. I know Deidre a little and have enormous respect for her).

RELATED: Bruce ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner Needs Our Prayers, Not Our Applause

That said, I think the whole Gender Fluidity Industry is for the most part a clown show. I’d call it a campus circle jerk, but that’s too base for this refined epistle, so let’s call it an oval of onanism. (Also, the word “jerk” is gender-loaded if you think about it). The idea that there are 56 different genders (and counting!) is the sort of thing only someone paid to talk about gender theory could take seriously.

What I find fascinating is how much magical thinking is involved in all of this. It’s true that gender is a social construction. It’s also true that it’s a social construction built on a natural foundation. If you have a problem with that statement, take it up with the archeological record and the evolutionary psychologists. In other words, gender is an intersubjective cultural term, but culture is also an expression of human nature. There are no cultural institutions designed to deal with people who have laser vision and 14 heads. Why? Because such people don’t exist. Gender roles came about because they are cultural expressions of biological facts rooted in human nature. There has never been a human society where the men all stay home to raise the kids and the women go fight wars. There are plenty of individual exceptions, I’m sure, but they are exceptions that prove the rule.

RELATED: Who Won Bruce Jenner’s Olympic Medals?

Personally, as the husband of a brilliant working woman and the father of a girl who wants to be a Navy SEAL, I am delighted that gender roles evolve. But you know what doesn’t evolve (at least not on a schedule that is of any use to “gender activists”)? Sexual categories. You can play lots of word games with gender identities, and that’s fine. But to even come close to changing sexes you need more than a sharp metaphor — you need a really sharp knife. And even then you are only approximating a sex change. Yes, yes, there have been people born with mix-and-match plumbing. But while such examples might have incredible power in a Bryn Mawr seminar on Herculine Barbin, they amount to statistical noise for biologists — and sociologists, historians, and gynecologists.

It is one thing to have a cultural argument about cultural institutions, including language. But you venture into a kind of totalitarianism when you insist that facts be bent to, or erased by, ideology as well. (The use of abracadabra words to change reality was hardly created by gender activists. Remember when the editors of Social Text believed that quantum physics was just a social construction? Remember when Uther Pendragon had Merlin change his appearance so he could lie with another man’s wife?)

That only biologically female humans can get pregnant and give birth to babies is true no matter how inconvenient it may be. If that fact hurts someone’s feelings, that’s unfortunate. But that’s no reason to change the language to fuzz-up the facts.

We are tearing down cultural institutions, rewriting language, and demonizing religion for the benefit of a remarkably small number of people.

This points to one of the things that grates on me about all of this foofaraw. We are tearing down cultural institutions, rewriting language, and demonizing religion for the benefit of a remarkably small number of people. According to a recent CDC study, 1.6 percent of the population identifies as gay or lesbian. Less than 1 percent says it’s bisexual (.7 percent) and 1.1 percent identifies as something else.

I understand that activists dispute these numbers — I can’t imagine why! But Gallup says that only 3.8 percent of the population identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender. This suggests to me that the number of people who identify as “pangender” or “two-spirit” is vanishingly small. Obviously, being a minority doesn’t mean you are unequal in the eyes of the law or don’t have rights. “One with the law on his side is a majority” and all that. But we’re also talking about the culture. And can anyone really dispute that there’s some asymmetry here? Huge, vital, institutions — including the English language — are being assaulted intolerantly in the name of tolerance ostensibly for the benefit of a group of people who’d have a very hard time filling a decent-sized football stadium.

Aggressors for Progress

Todd Lindberg reviews a book about the culture war in the Wall Street Journal today. An excerpt:

Mr. Hartman’s book makes two main contributions. The first is his framing of the “culture wars” debate from its earliest days. It begins with what he calls “normative America,” which he describes as “an inchoate group of assumptions and aspirations shared by millions of Americans during the postwar years. Normative America prized hard work, personal responsibility, individual merit, delayed gratification, social mobility and other values that middle-class whites recognized as their own.” These values included a preference for men as breadwinners and women as homemakers, sexual discretion, and faith in God and American exceptionalism.

Beginning in the 1960s, this “normative America” was subject to a comprehensive challenge from people who felt excluded or alienated and who devoted themselves to the pursuit of “a nation more open to new peoples, new ideas, new norms.” The “culture wars” took shape when conservatives and neoconservatives rose to the defense of “normative America,” whose way of life they described as valuable in itself for its virtues as well as socially useful in producing prosperity and good outcomes for individuals ascribing to its ethic.

I’ll say it again: Liberals are the aggressors in the culture war. The only shocking thing about that statement is that it ever shocks liberals. On their own terms, they take pride in being “change agents” and “forces of progress.” But the moment anyone attempts to defend themselves against the social-justice warriors, they are treated as the aggressors in the culture war. “Don’t impose your values on me!” should be translated as, “Stop trying to defend yourself as we impose our values on you!”

The movable feast of celebration over Jenner cannot be fully understood unless you see it as part of a larger assault on “normative” America.

The movable feast of celebration over Jenner cannot be fully understood unless you see it as part of a larger assault on “normative” America.

Letters of Marque, Again

The Chinese hack-attack on the United States is only shocking in its scale. Last night on Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said we need to threaten the Chinese with reprisal attacks of a similar nature. I agree entirely. But I wish I’d been on the panel last night so I could once again make the case for Letters of Marque for cyber privateers. Cyberspace today is essentially like the oceans of the 18th century: full of bad actors and vast realms of lawlessness. We don’t have the ability or the technology to police it all, but we can create incentives for others to police the digital ocean in ways the United States can’t.

Now some of you will object that we signed some stupid treaty promising not to issue Letters of Marque anymore, to which I say “Nah, nah, nah I can’t hear you.” But I will add that we don’t have to call them Letters of Marque, even though I think that sounds so frick’n cool. The point is that we need to be getting a lot more creative in how we teach the Chinese and the Russians that cyber anarchy is not in their interests, either.

Various & Sundry

So today is my last day in Charleston. I’ve been bunkered away working on my book and making pretty good progress. Ideally, I would have skipped the G-File today (“That would have been ideal for us, too” — The Couch), but I figured I could use a break from all that and, besides, this is a good opportunity to remind you that receipt of this “news”letter creates an utterly non-binding and unenforceable obligation to buy my book when it comes out. I definitely want to come back to Charleston with the Fair Jessica when the weather is a bit less Barton Fink-y. It’s a very cool town, from what I’ve seen of it.

Zoë Update: It feels weird not having the Dingo with me given that this is her ancestral homeland. Also, because I don’t have her with me, I don’t have much to report save the fact that my wife tells me that Zoë is not waking her up nearly as early as she wakes me up for our morning patrols. I find this very frustrating, because when Zoë wakes me at dawn, she’s always insisted it’s because she’s gotta go to the bathroom, as it were. It turns out that was just a lie.

Welcome to the idiot club, Charles! Now Donald Trump is calling Charles Krauthammer a “dummy” and “clown” and all that. Charles joins me and Steve Hayes in one of the few clubs I really am proud to be a member of. My only regret is that I don’t think Trump saw my column earlier this week on George Pataki:

I am trying hard not rule out anyone in the GOP field prematurely. So far, only Donald Trump has been too heavy a lift. Trump sees the presidential race as self-marketing opportunity, a way to extend his run as a reality-TV star. He’s a more plausible candidate than, say, Honey Boo Boo, but that’s mostly because of constitutional age limits.

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