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Gender Activists Don’t Want Reform, They Want a Revolution
Revolutionaries keep moving their goalposts and, in the process, they eat their children.
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On July 26, showering after her weekly swim at the YMCA-operated Mountain View Pool in Port Townsend, Washington, Julie Jaman heard a male voice. Looking past the shower curtain, Jaman saw, “very close to me,” a male in a female bathing suit who, she said, was “watching maybe four or five little girls pulling down their suits in order to use the toilet.”
The male-bodied individual was a YMCA staff member who identifies as a woman. Jaman asked him, “Do you have a penis?” He replied, “That’s none of your business.” Jaman told him, “Get out of here, right now.” Another YMCA staffer present then berated her for discrimination, and after a reportedly testy exchange, both parties called the police. The upshot was that Jaman was barred from the pool for life.
Jaman was naturally distressed on her own behalf, as the nearest other pool to her rural home is private and expensive, not to mention many miles away. But she was much more upset by the reflexive demonization of what in her own eyes was the perfectly normal response of any woman who, in a space designed for girls’ and women’s corporeal privacy, is confronted by an adult male presence amongst young girls in a state of undress.
I was curious to know more about this woman, in large part because she is 80, and I am slated to reach that milestone in just a few months. I could see that her incredulity regarding the twisted priorities she fell victim to sprang from values and principles shaped by a common cultural environment in our early adult years. Those were the buoyant early harvest years of the burgeoning women’s movement. Never in our wildest dreams did either of us foresee the day when a women’s cause we both supported would transmogrify from achieving full legal, social, and cultural rights parity with men to the frosty denial of women’s sex-based rights that played out in the Mountain View Pool changing room.
Neither Jaman nor I is a “transphobe.” As she made clear in a Quillette podcast interview a few days later, Jaman is a bona fide liberal who usually roots for the underdog and harbours no hostility to trans people in general. She was solely focused on the right of girls and women to feel safe and confident in their private spaces. I would have felt exactly the same in her circumstances. The only difference between us is that I—involuntarily but necessarily steeped in the woke gender catechism—would have known better than to voice my concern in Jaman’s unfiltered style (and if I’m honest, to voice it at all if I valued my YMCA swimming rights).
Jaman admitted to her podcast host, Jonathan Kay, that she is not savvy about politics. Tellingly, Jaman mentioned she had not even heard of the acronym “TERF” before. She has been inland for these crucial years since 2015, so to speak, and isn’t aware of the devastation to our culture wrought by the radical gender tsunami that has effectively disappeared the word sex, eviscerated the word “woman,” and replaced both with the gender spectrum in all our learning and health institutions. Jaman’s understanding that women are being “erased” is not, like mine, a deduction from paying close attention to the battle being waged on polemical and legislative fronts, but rather a feeling she has taken in by osmosis. Because of this, there is a sense of bewilderment in her tone when she speaks of her sudden outcast status.
Jaman says she was disconcerted when a “non-binary” child of nine approached her while she was protesting the trans-friendly locker room policy outside the Y and—apparently well-rehearsed by a hovering mother—asked her with an accusing stare, “Why are you hurting me?” Hurting children? She had been attempting to protect little girls from what appeared to her as a “gaze” marked by voyeurism from a man. (I obviously make no judgment about the staffer in the Mountain View Pool instance.)
This is what radical gender theory has done to what seems like a majority of so-called feminists today. Their nomenklatura and its media allies have abandoned the feminist principles that established feminism as the dominant ideology of the twentieth century. Not only have they looked benignly upon the cultural oil slick of “inclusion” over-spreading fairness and safety in women’s formerly private spaces, but they have enlisted children—too often their own children—as foot soldiers in the campaign to criminalize as hate speech the public defense of binary sex norms.
It’s bad enough that, under the spell of fear—first from the sort of public humiliation Jaman suffered, as well as from the prospect of becoming a social outcast—so many parents acquiesce to the early-indoctrination gender-fluidity programs public schools (and many private schools too) have adopted. Worse, rather than contradict an objectively meaningless mantra—“transwoman are women”—that is completely untethered from reality, parents permit their daughters to risk becoming fodder for unwholesome impulses, or worse.
It’s ironic that Julie Jaman and I started out and appear to be ending our adult lives on the same side in the gender wars. In between those temporal brackets, we were frenemies. She seems never to have deviated from her belief that feminism, through every incarnation that ended up in its present divided and incoherent form, was a force for good in women’s lives. I, on the other hand, learned pretty quickly that what had begun as a necessary reform movement to address certain disparities regarding women’s legal rights, as well as assumptions about “a woman’s place” in society, was devolving into a socially corrosive and misandric revolutionary movement that no longer sought “equality” but revenge against the inherent “patriarchy” that afflicted all men, reducing them to a morally inferior “other.”
When feminists derided as “social construction” normative womanly behaviors—high sexual selectivity, the desire to have and nurture children, respect for fatherhood, and acceptance without rancour of the practical divisions of labour that sort themselves organically in early parenthood—they completely lost me. Only an intellectual could believe that there are no innate, biology-driven differences between men and women.
Thus, the doctrine of social construction, with its corollary that both sexes can easily write their own gender script for even physical performance, opened the door to radical gender theory. (The radical gender theory holding that there is no significant difference between male and female athletic performance was, after all, preceded by the rarely disputed, but equally nonsensical feminist myth that women are value added to combat units.)
It's sad to see good-faith feminists like Julie Jaman hoisted by the petard her co-feminists unwittingly designed. Reform movements are often necessary to correct group injustices, but they usually have the good sense to dissolve when the reforms have been achieved. The hallmark of revolutions, though, is the lack of a hard stop, since utopias—the currency of all revolutions—are never fully achievable. Thus, the revolutionaries keep moving their goalposts and, in the process, they eat their children.
Today it is the gender critical feminists who are the “other,” whose rights may be scanted without censure. Also ignored are the rights of children, who don’t know what revolutions are, but who tend to be their first victims.
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