The audacity to defend a view they think is right

Even in The Baffler

Certainly not all academic philosophers are politely liberal defenders of tolerance. Recently, a small but vocal minority of philosophers have taken it upon themselves to defend a view that, it seems, they strongly feel is right—and to hell with anyone who sees things differently.

What? Some people have “taken it upon themselves to defend a view that, it seems, they strongly feel is right”? Well what else are they supposed to do? Is there some social rule against defending views we think are right? Should we be defending views we think are wrong, instead? Or should be be keeping quiet? Or should we be asking for permission first? (But from whom?) I suspect it’s not an accident that most of the people doing this “taking it upon themselves” to defend views are women while the author, Tom Whyman, is not. (The aptness of the surname is no fault of mine.)

Anyway, clearly he has carefully cued us to find these views reprehensible before we even know what they are.

Faced with an alleged PC consensus that proclaims the right of trans women to identify as women, and trans men to identify as men, these scholars have adopted a position they call “gender critical feminism.”

No, that’s not accurate. Getting it wrong in the very first sentence; that’s not auspicious. The issue isn’t people’s right to “identify as” anything they like; the issue is forcing other people to treat the “identifying as” as dispositive. You can identify as the Pillsbury dough boy if you like, but that doesn’t mean you can force anyone else to believe in your identity.

They’ve become known to their detractors as “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” (TERFs). In short: they think that sex is a matter of biology, not a “social construction”; they also believe that the interests of cis and trans women can radically diverge—so much so, indeed, that they contend that giving trans women access to women’s spaces often, if not always, constitutes a physical threat. (Trans men, by contrast, are usually just “misguided” lesbians forced to transition by the woke mainstream.) For obvious reasons, people with gender critical views are often accused of being transphobic.

Note the complete failure to explain how and why giving trans women access to women’s spaces can not possibly ever constitute a physical threat, and even to admit that he’s not explaining – note the breezy, careless, confident skipping right past that point, without pausing to consider for instance how women can know who is a trans woman and who is faking in order to spy on or assault women. Note that and then marvel at the “for obvious reasons” that precedes the “transphobic” smear.

Meanwhile, a guest post on Daily Nous (the other big philosophy blog, alongside Leiter Reports) took umbrage at a piece written by trans woman philosopher Rachel McKinnon in which (during, as it happens, a symposium on Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works) she used the TERF acronym—a coinage that gender critical feminists often insist is a “slur.” This is largely because it has been employed—and forcefully so at times—by trans opponents of their views: people who, to be clear, comprise a marginalized group who might understandably feel threatened by the implications of gender critical arguments.

Unlike mere stupid commonplace women, who have no right at all to feel threatened by being called “TERFs” or bullied for saying anything about women’s rights.

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