Trans activism and the feminist discounting of womanhood
Transactivism has taken establishment feminism setting up ovaries and mammaries as being incidental to being a woman and made it irrelevant to being a woman.
It is rather startling how much of the public space is being driven by trans activism and trans issues. Trans folk are, after all, a very small proportion of the population whose individual cases are rife with various complexities.
Yet, we are being offered striking simplistic narratives that have to be adhered to if one is going to be of the morally meritorious.
In fact, trans issues in the public sphere provide an excellent example of the more general dynamics of narrative-driven sense of status based on prestige opinions.
Especially the attendant hostility to any discovery processes that might threaten said narratives and prestige opinions. This hostility to open enquiry so as to preserve the status value of the prestige opinions as unchallengeable means that comments or musings that do not conform have to be pathologised. Dissenting views even more so.
Hence the very strong tendency to misrepresent both. Having detected a failure to conform to prestige opinions and narratives, the material in question does not have to be seriously grappled with, it just has to be characterised in whatever conveniently pathologising way is at hand.
Misrepresentation becomes rife, with comments by the divergent being given implications that weren’t there, weren’t intended, or simply have minimal connection to what was actually said.
This is tied to catastrophising, whereby expressing divergent views is characterised in ways that invoke alleged catastrophe. The classic catastrophising in trans activism being “you are erasing my/our/their existence”.
This is, of course, a nonsense at so many levels. Words do not erase one’s existence. They can, however, damage a narrative and if one’s identity is tied to a particular narrative, then the “wrong” words can be very threatening.
Meanwhile, trans-activism seeks to separate the possession of a uterus, ovaries and functioning mammaries from the identity of being a woman.
Where establishment feminism went…
In this, they are pushing at a door that careerist feminism has already opened.
Lots of women do not identify as feminist. A 2015 poll by the UK’s most significant advocacy body for women, the Fawcett Society, found that only 9% of British women identified as feminist. Meanwhile, 81% of women supported equality of opportunity for women (and 86% of men did so).
Explaining the dramatic divergence between supporting equality for women and identifying as feminist is simple: feminism comes with a lot of baggage other than achieving equality. Especially as the most prominent and public version of feminism is dominated by highly-educated career women, who pursue the interests and concerns of highly-educated career women.
Such feminism has blown through seeking equality and is now after various forms of privilege. “Believe all women!” is not an equality claim, but one of privilege. That criticising men is feminism and fine, while criticising women is misogyny and not, is also not an equality claim, but one of privilege.
Careerist, establishment feminism has a clear set of concerns about motherhood. Which is (1) to maximise the ability to avoid motherhood, (2) to minimise the career costs of being a mother and otherwise (3) to mainly positively concern themselves with motherhood when it becomes a stick to beat fathers and fatherhood with.
In this view of women’s progress, the key markers of progress are all concerned to do with women’s participation in the workforce, particularly the professions. This means that women’s progress largely revolves around social markers that are explicitly separated from having a uterus and ovaries. Any attempt to make anything of this separation of women’s progress from having a uterus and ovaries is treated as an attempt to tie women to motherhood: to “force” them to be barefoot in the kitchen; to de-legitimise any other aspiration.
Trans-activism just takes this well-established pattern of separating key markers of being a woman from anything to do with having a uterus and ovaries one step further.
Trans-activists have become notorious for their hostile mobbing of anyone who is seen to dissent or diverge from their preferred narratives. But this hostile mobbing is not evenly distributed. Women who publicly dissent are typically treated much more viciously by trans activists than men who do so. It is not hard to infer why: they envy women whose identity as a woman goes “all the way down” and so is inherent, without expensive hormones and surgery.
But this particular hostility to women who do not go along with the preferred narratives and prestige opinions also has its counterpart in establishment feminism.
It has been a regular finding of honest surveys (those that do not tie feminism to believing in equality for women) that many women do not identify as feminist. Once one realises that feminism comes with all sorts of baggage, overwhelmingly tied to it being dominated by highly-educated career women, this is not surprising.
Nevertheless, a standard feminist response to the mass failure by women to identify as feminist has been the condescending notion that such failure to so identify is a failure of cognitive understanding on the part of non-identifying women. That for a women not to see themselves as a feminist is a sign that they do not understand their own interests and are too weak-willed or ignorant to embrace their “proper” feminist identity.
So, only feminists are “cognitively complete” women. This systematically discounts women — except for those that are so blessed they have achieved the status of feminist.
The flattery of false consciousness
It is also a derivation of the concept of false consciousness in Marxism. (Similar notions to false consciousness have a long history in mystical and occult thought. It is very attractive to see oneself as a member of a knowing, enlightened elite.)
The problem with the concept of false consciousness is not the idea that social circumstances and experience can systematically mislead us. Though it is reasonable to query how much this is compatible with adaptive pressures of biological and social evolution. Patterns of cognitive error arising from evolutionary adaption are much more plausible than assuming systematic error that would get in the way of reproductive survival.
The problem comes when the corollary is added that some particular group is somehow gifted with a superior capacity to apprehend reality. This sets one off on a path that makes it so much easier to discount contrary views. Even if held by folk who one is notionally seeking to champion. Notions of false consciousness were, after all, quite enthusiastically adopted to explain how the working class was so cognitively incompetent that it could not accurately judge its own interests.
Taking other people’s views and concerns seriously is a corrective humility and requires an openness to the discovery processes involved in interrogating, without protective arrogance, why they might have those views. Conversely, adopting a process of systematically discounting divergent views and concerns is conducive to collective arrogance while blocking discovery processes.
This interacts with the notion that activism represents the highest moral good. Not only are activists cognitively superior, in that they see what others do not. They are also morally superior, in that they are working to a better future.
This gives even more grounds to systematically discount divergent views while generating a collective identity based on mutual admiration of what is in their heads. (That is, mimetic moralising — ardently copying each other’s moral views — based on mimetic arrogance — agreeing to mutually worship some common factor they have: in this case, the splendour of what’s in their heads.)
It is very easy for this mutual admiration based around convergent views to be tied to contempt and anathematisation of divergent views. Anathematisation that both recruits (to the self-identified moral elite) and intimidates (by stigmatising and punishing those who dissent).
Prestige opinions only provide prestige if divergent opinions generate negative prestige.
Needless to say, discovery processes that threaten any of the tenets of this process of convergent admiration, of mimetic moralising, are not welcome. Casting such efforts at discovery as representing hostility to the ostentatious good intentions that generate the shared identity based on prestige opinions (and thereby being of the morally meritorious), can provide an easy line of rhetorical attack on those using such discovery processes.
Fear of divergence makes those who seek to be identified as one of the morally meritorious remarkably easy to manipulate. Hence the non-player-character (or NPC) meme, as those who seek to embrace narrative and opinion convergence so as to see themselves, and be seen as, one of the morally meritorious, sign up to accept, or at least acquiescence in, all the prestige opinions and narratives that go with being of the morally meritorious.
In such circumstances, any inconsistency between various prestige opinions marking membership of the morally meritorious is a feature not a bug, as embracing inconsistency becomes a signal of one’s wish to be one of the morally meritorious. Such as the wild inconsistency between the age of sexual consent (usually 16) and the sought age of gender-transition consent.
Establishment feminism increasingly accepts various betrayals of women. Since, under social justice ideology dynamics, the more marginal the group, the higher their moral rating, women, being half the population, are thereby less marginal than any other group except men. So, if it is women versus Muslims, women lose. And it it is women versus trans, women lose.
It is not hard to work out why so few British women identity as feminist. For about half of British women, motherhood is their most important identity. Establishment feminist treats motherhood as an impediment on the road to matching men in all (positive) things. Establishment feminists are highly educated, often from elite institutions, and their class is obvious in their voices and language. Establishment feminists have been conspicuously missing in action when it comes to problems of predatory sexual behaviour from within Muslim communities. Establishment feminists are also conspicuously missing in action when it comes to defending women’s sports and women’s spaces from invasion by people who do not have, and will never have, ovaries and mammaries.
Motherhood, class, Muslim, trans: that’s four strikes and you’re out.
There is a wider cultural consequence. If you don’t have children, or turn them into a career embarrassment and distraction from what really matters, then passage down the generations loses its moral and social force. The connected-to-the-past future of continuing tradition is so much more easily rejected in favour of the imagined future built on worshiping the splendour of what’s in one’s head(s).
We have lots of experience of what happens to societies when they are taken over by people who worship the splendour of what’s in their heads and so claim everything will be wonderful if they control everything. The results of such mimetic zealotry are, uniformly, disastrous.
So, to recap. Establishment feminism treats women who do not identity as feminist as cognitive failures. Establishment feminism measures female progress by how few women concentrate on being mothers. That is, by how well people who happen to have ovaries and mammaries match the social patterns of those that do not. The discounting of womanhood in this has opened the door to people who have never had ovaries or mammaries being declared to be women.
Transactivism has simply taken the notion, that establishment feminism has spent decades establishing, that having ovaries and mammaries is incidental to being a woman and made having ovaries and mammaries irrelevant to being a woman.
The line about reaping as you sow comes to mind.