Ideological fitness tests are applied for political purposes

People tried hard to de-platform Caroline Norma but they didn’t quite get there.

Five days before I was scheduled to speak at a conference on Historical Materialism at the University of Sydney, I received an email from the organizers, explaining that they had refunded my registration fee and struck me from the conference program. They told me that comments I’d made in an online opinion piece three years earlier made my attendance inconsistent with “the commitment of the Historical Materialism Sydney conference organizers to creating an inclusive space for people with diverse gender identities.” In the greatest of ironies, my piece had criticized leftists for playing wedge politics in order to purge radical feminists from progressive circles. The conference was certainly a leftist one: its title, “Historical Materialism,” refers to a Marxist view of history as emerging out of social relations and their contradictions, rather than out of enlightened progress. In keeping with this politically structuralist theme, and as an historian who has written books from a similar standpoint, I’d proposed the talk, “Keeping alive the myth of property in the person: Prostitution in today’s capitalism.”

It’s almost funny that organizers of a conference on historical materialism tried to shoo away a scheduled speaker because she doesn’t genuflect to magical claims about “gender.”

Dr Norma did give her talk, but she was the only person on the panel, because the two other women skunked.

They might have been influenced by an “open letter” posted to social media demanding I be no-platformed from the event and encouraging attendees to boycott my presentation. Indeed, it was mostly boycotted. To date, I have received no word of apology from either the University of Sydney or conference organizers for this slight on my professional reputation, or for their breach of principles of academic good conduct…

Well, reputation, principles, academic good conduct…they’re not materialist enough. Gender, on the other hand…

We know from the history of left organizing that ideological fitness tests are applied deliberately for political purposes. They are applied for the benefit of the people whose interests a movement is seeking to advance. How they are applied clearly signals who is being prioritized.

As to whose interests the Australian left is pursuing, the antics over my attendance at the Historical Materialism Sydney conference gave the game away. Questioning the notion that gender is a matter of how we feel about ourselves, rather than a matter of how we have been systematically treated throughout our lives, was turned into a crime more serious than ignoring tens of thousands of Asian women in brothels on every street corner of Australia’s cities. But the comedic disproportion of this scenario wasn’t accidental. It was manufactured in service of male interests that are now coming under pressure from feminist challenge.

Over the last few years, the Australian left has seen the #MeToo and violence against women movements become entrenched causes of its constituents — young female ones in particular. This growing movement poses a threat to the interests of the male left, which have always ignored violence against women and been sexually libertarian in nature.

Gender bollocks as cover for male sexual violence…but then why do so many women sign up? Massive social pressure is one reason, but I’m not sure that’s all. The history remains to be written.

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