Sorry you’re in such a snit

Michelle Goldberg in the Times yesterday on the ACLU’s insult to RBG and women:

This was a mistake for two reasons, one that’s easy to talk about, and one that’s hard.

The easy one is the “it’s bad to re-write the past this way” reason.

What’s more difficult to discuss is how making Ginsburg’s words gender-neutral alters their meaning. That requires coming to terms with a contentious shift in how progressives think and talk about sex and reproduction. Changing Ginsburg’s words treats what was once a core feminist insight — that women are oppressed on the basis of their reproductive capacity — as an embarrassing anachronism. The question then becomes: Is it?

Of course, I don’t find that one difficult, except in the sense of endlessly beating one’s head against a wall of determined stupid AND misogynist. But difficult in the sense of difficult to explain or argue? No. Difficult morally? Oh hell no. Difficult politically? I don’t give a fuck. Difficult socially? Also no fuck given.

Goldberg then gives a much friendlier version of the trans dogma reasons for re-writing RBG’s words than I would, before politely dissenting.

Yet I think there’s a difference between acknowledging that there are men who have children or need abortions — and expecting the health care system to treat these men with respect — and speaking as if the burden of reproduction does not overwhelmingly fall on women. You can’t change the nature of reality through language alone. Trying to do so can seem, to employ a horribly overused word, like a form of gaslighting.

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” Simone de Beauvoir wrote. You can interpret this to support the contemporary notion of sex and gender as largely matters of self-identification. Or you can interpret it as many older feminists have, as a statement about how the world molds you into a woman, of how certain biological experiences reveal your place in the social order, and how your identity develops in response to gender’s constraints.

That is, you can interpret it the way Simone de Beauvoir meant it rather than the way callow young hipsters misinterpret it.

Seen this way, a gender-neutral version of Ginsburg’s quote is unintelligible, because she was talking not about the right of all people to pursue their own reproductive destiny, but about how male control of women’s reproductive lives makes women part of a subordinate class. The erasure of gendered language can feel like an insult, because it takes away the terms generations of feminists used to articulate their predicament.

It can feel like an insult because it is an insult. If it doesn’t feel like an insult you’re not paying attention.

On Monday, Anthony Romero, executive director of the A.C.L.U., told me he regrets the R.B.G. tweet, and that in the future the organization won’t substantively alter anyone’s quotes. Still, he said, “Having spent time with Justice Ginsburg, I would like to believe that if she were alive today, she would encourage us to evolve our language to encompass a broader vision of gender, identity and sexuality.”

I would hate to believe that. I hate it that Anthony Romero said it. I despise him for saying it.

Goldberg continues to be milder (catch more flies with honey etc).

This may very well be the case. It’s also the case that she spoke specifically about women for a reason.

Yes and the reason she did continues to be a reason. It continues to be the case that male control of women’s reproductive lives makes women part of a subordinate class. Until that changes (ha, very funny), we need to keep on talking about women, not “people.”

Also…if Romero regrets the tweet, WHY HASN’T HE SAID SO? To us, not just to Michelle Goldberg? Why hasn’t he said so publicly? Why hasn’t he responded? Why has he ignored us as if we’re so many whining children in a sandbox?

5 Responses to “Sorry you’re in such a snit”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting