Coercive progressivism

Stephen Daisley at the Spectator notes that trans ideology is more religion than it is political activism.

The censoring of Adult Human Female dramatises a tension between how progressives see themselves and the material reality of their ideology. By progressive, I don’t mean left-wing or radical in the traditional sense, but a political inclination that crosses party lines and places inordinate emphasis on identity, language, subjectivity and emotional fragility.

Especially emotional fragility. Trans people – especially trans women, i.e. men – are framed as crystal-like in their fragility. Maudlin anguish flows everywhere at the possibility that a trans woman might have to hear the word “No.”

These impulses are sometimes conflated with wokeness but I prefer the term ‘coercive progressivism’, because it leans into the tension I am talking about. While progressives believe themselves to be in the vanguard of modernity, advancing equity and autonomy, both their ideology and their methods are reactionary and authoritarian. They represent the loudest and most influential moral crusade Britain has seen since the days of Mary Whitehouse and her campaign to ‘Clean up TV’. 

The new progressive orthodoxy on gender is really an old orthodoxy repackaged. Womanhood is reduced from material fact to emotional feeling — plus dresses and hair and make-up. Men who identify into womanhood not only get to rewrite the boundaries of that sex-determined class but are sometimes said to be ‘more of a woman’ than women who reject gender ideology. Female sex-based rights are undermined by redefining ‘sex’ to mean a legal fiction that is conflated with sex. Women’s legal advancements are a threat to men and children once again, with gender dysphoria replacing marriage and family as the victim. 

The methods used to advance this ideology are familiar: revealed truth, historical revisionism, institutional power, regulation of speech and conscience, and the shaming of heretics. Coercive progressivism is a forwards-facing reversion and nowhere more so than in the politics of sex and gender.

I would add to that list of methods extreme frantic histrionic rage and grief, hatred and contempt for women, and relentless lying.

Having confronted the sins and hypocrisies of organised religion, and partly dismantled the culture it shaped, we are now erecting a new culture shaped by faith. The new moral code has its own catechism, saints and unquestionable priests. Its gospel is taught in schools and its doctrines enforced by law and social convention. It preaches the supernatural as inerrant truth, assails empirical inquiry as blasphemy, demands deference to unfalsifiable claims, and, of course, has a major problem with women who don’t behave themselves. 

The new moralists use different language – demanding affirmation rather than virtue, damning hatred instead of obscenity – but the impulses and the effects are not dissimilar. Where the Society for the Suppression of Vice seized ‘obscene’ books, the Society for the Suppression of Terfs tries to prevent ‘hate’ books being published in the first place. Where the National Legion of Decency got American Catholics to pledge to boycott ‘all indecent and immoral motion pictures’ and the cinemas that screened them, the National Legion of #Kindness blocks the entrances to theatres showing hateful and phobic flicks. Mary Whitehouse never died, she just got younger and coloured her hair pink. 

He’s right.

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