Changing language to change world

06/01/2021

Abigail Shrier writes that one of the first acts of the USA’s new House of Representatives could be to cancel mothers:

On Sunday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic majority proposed to eliminate “father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister” and all other language deemed insufficiently “gender-inclusive” from House rules. They would be ­replaced with terms like “parent, child, sibling, parent’s sibling” and so on.

“Mother” — among the most important concepts in human life — would be erased from the lexicon of the US House of Representatives. It’s important to recognize how radical this is. And no, it isn’t akin to updating federal law to replace “policeman” with “police officer,” a rational corrective sought by feminists for generations. . . 

Those changes were to reflect fact that jobs weren’t the preserve of one gender. That’s very different from trying to eliminate biological reality.

But “mother” is a fundamental biological, emotional, familial reality. It captures the irreplaceable bond between a baby and the woman who bore her in her womb. That others can be excellent guardians — a fact no one disputes — can’t justify extirpating Mom from our vocabulary. (For that matter, the political erasure of “dad” is also dehumanizing, because it ­entails the loss of our capacity to describe relationships that define what it means to be fully human.)

House Democrats don’t pretend to seek this change merely for the sake of “streamlining” congressional language. The explicit point is to advance “inclusion and diversity” and to “honor all gender identities.” Pelosi & Co. are desperate to accommodate an ­aggressive gender ideology that ­insists “man” and “woman” are fuzzy, subjective categories, rather than biological ones.

This desperation for acceptance and inclusion ironically doesn’t include and has no tolerance for those who maintain that there is an important difference between biological sex and what some people might choose for their gender.

Remember the trouble that J.K. Rowling got into when she tweeted ?

‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud? 

She was labeled a TERF (a trans-exclusionary radical feminist); people burned her books and called for her publisher to blacklist her.

And if you think that’s mad, what about this? (back to Abigail Shrier):

Lest you think this a harmless alteration, consider the ways California’s Democrats have run wild with Newspeak. As Quillette reported last week, California’s insurance commissioner has ­issued a directive to reclassify double mastectomies of healthy breasts from “cosmetic” procedures to “reconstructive,” necessary to “correct or repair the abnormal structures of the body caused by congenital defects.”

You read that right: The “congenital defect” is a young woman’s healthy breasts, provided that young woman subjectively identifies as “nonbinary” or anything other than “woman.”

It matters what we call things in the public space: Just ask the ­female prisoners now housed with violent biological men in California if our lawmakers’ words matter. This lie — that a girl’s breasts constitute “developmental abnormalities” depending on her subjective state of mind — carries the result that female patients of all ages would suddenly become eligible for insurance coverage for double mastectomies. A small change in language grants doctors the green light to remove the normal, developing breasts of an 11-year old girl. Still just words?

By all means, call people what they prefer. But language in the law, by definition, ushers words into action. Words grant rights or take them away. Words can enhance or diminish status, placing people and concepts beyond the bounds of legal protection. . .

If “mother” is now a useless concept under House rules, why shouldn’t it pose an equally offensive presence in federal law?

That’s where we’re headed, isn’t it? Erasing “mothers,” and “women,” because the concepts are insufficiently inclusive to gender ideologues. The rights women struggled to win become undone, paradoxically, in the name of ­inclusion.

The female body loses its significance in language and in law: no need for doctors to regard the healthy breasts of young girls as anything more than noxious lumps. The dystopian threat to individuality lies in this: Without mother and father, we all become atomized and fungible, losing our true individuality.

Those pressing for these changes do so precisely because they know there is no more effective means of upending society than by deleting the women and the natural bonds that make society possible. Congressional Democrats move us, by Orwellian fiat, one step closer to a sterile world with sterile words. We shapeless humans — fungible as pennies — are left to await further instruction.

The cancelling of gender specific terms for family members is an extension of the idea that those who have undergone puberty as males can compete equally and fairly in sports with those born female. Or as the proponents of this madness would say, that trans women are women.

In doing so they are blind to biological differences and the fact that whatever drugs and surgery do to change gender, nothing can make someone born a boy a natal woman, regardless of what he, she, or whatever other pronoun is chosen, identifies as and what words are used to denote that identity.

People who want a different gender from the sex assigned to them at birth face many hurdles and often are victims of discrimination. But accepting some people born boys can be trans women and some born girls can be trans men, that this isn’t always easy for them and they have rights, doesn’t mean we have to disregard biological facts, cancel family labels and undo progress that came from decades of activism to give women equality and safety.

Nor does it mean that those who speak out against this are transphobic.

As J.K. Rowling wrote in defending her tweet:

. . . It isn’t enough for women to be trans allies. Women must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves.

But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive. Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating. . .

I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of colour, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.

So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth. . . 

I have met only a couple of trans-women and enjoyed the company of both. I accept that some people aren’t comfortable with the sex assigned at their births, have the right to change their gender and not face discrimination because of that.

I don’t accept changing language to to deny biological reality.

People wanting social change use language to advance their agenda.

That can be sensible, for example changing gendered job titles to those that are gender neutral for occupations done by men and women. It can be good, for example changing offensive labels to ones that aren’t.

But it can also be political manipulation – changing the language to in a misguided attempt to change the world.

This linguistic trickery of cancelling family titles and denying biological reality is many radical and dangerous steps too far.


Which century is he in?

30/09/2013

Quote of the day:

“If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards,” he told Sabq.

“That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees,” he said.

No specific medical studies were cited to support his arguments. – Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan

He was reacting to a campaign by Saudi women who want to overturn the ban on them driving.


Ministry’s role not to narrow choice

18/12/2010

Among John Armstrong’s awards for the year is:

The Tammy Wynette “Stand by your Man” Award: Pansy Wong for demonstrating what she really thought of her former role as Minister of Women’s Affairs by putting her husband, Sammy, first, her career second

 Armstrong misunderstands the role of the Ministry. It’s not there to narrow choices for women but broaden them.

Its website says:

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is the Government’s source of advice on issues relevant to advancing the well-being of women. This encompasses women having real choices and using their strengths to maximise social and economic success.  

There is a perception, which I think Armstrong illustrates, that women who choose to put family before a career are somehow letting themselves, and other women down.

But if  the Ministry’s actions match its words it will not be prising open the door to new roles and opportunities for women with one hand while slamming shut the door to traditional ones with the other.

I regard the Ministry as one of the low hanging fruit which could be picked to reduce the red in the government’s books. But if it is successful in its aim to help women have real choices, the Ministry will acknowledge and be equally supportive of those who choose to put family before a career as those who don’t.


How free are they?

16/08/2009

We were wandering round Duomo Plaza in shorts and short-sleeved shirts appropriate to the mid summer temperatures when we noticed three women encased head to foot in black robes with only their eyes peeping out.

“How awful to have to dress like that,” one said.

“It’s their choice,” another replied.

But is it? Do the women who wear these all-enveloping clothes freely choose to do so?

Even if they do, what does it say about the attitude of their men, if a glimpse of flesh is regarded as obscene or an incitement to lust?

And what happens to women who choose to dress in less concealing clothes?

When the law follows the religious dogma, they risk punishment. Lubna Ahmed Al-Hussein, a Sudanese journalist faces 40 lashes because she wore trousers to a restaurant.

She could claim UN immunity but she wants to be tried in the hope of proving there is nothing in the Koran which makes it wrong to dress as she did.

She’s not alone. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information is backing her.

ANHRI calls on “all human rights NGOs interested in freedom of expression and women’s rights to back up Lubna and make efforts to stop this charade trial that violates all international treaties defending freedom of expression and women’s rights asserting that the Sudanese government persecutes antagonists in every possible way and would not refrain from using the worst laws and practices.”

The women of Vejer de la Frontera in southern Spain used to have to wear the cobijada.

 cobijada

It wasn’t a desire to give women more freedom which led to it being banned, it was security issues. During the Civil War in the late 1930s, men used the cobijada to disguise themselves and conceal weapons so it was outlawed.


Sacked for refusing to walk behind men & wear abaya

28/04/2009

A British stewardess, Lisa Ashton, was sacked when she refused to fly to Suadi Arabia after being told she’d have to walk behind her male colleagues and wear the traditional black robe, an abaya.

Saudi experts and companies that recruit women to work in the country say it is a “myth” that western women are required to walk behind men. There is no requirement for them to wear the abaya in public, though many do.

Earlier this year an employment tribunal in Manchester ruled that BMI was justified in imposing “rules of a different culture” on staff and cleared it of sexual discrimination. Ashton has consulted Liberty, the human rights organisation, and may seek a judicial review of the decision.

What you do when your beliefs clash with those which  are acceptable in another country isn’t always simple but if this is reported correctly it does appear the airline was asking more of its employees than would be expected in Saudi Arabia.

The idea of any individual or group of people being required to walk behind another offends me and I struggle with the whole concept of the cover-all clothing which some Muslim women are expected to wear.

Some say it’s their choice but I wonder if it’s a free choice.

Fears of terrorism have declined a bit, but if there was another mass attack such as the September 9th ones in the USA or the bus and underground bombings in London authorities might look again at the security implications of voluminous robes.

That’s what put an end to the women of Vejer de la Frontera wearing the cobijaba.

 

It was common of women of the village to wear this until the Civil War when suspicion that men were disguising themselves as women by wearing the all-concealing black robe and hiding arms under it led to it being banned.

P.S. Stargazer has a related post on religion and gender equality  at the Hand Mirror.


Equal rights vs equality

19/09/2008

The Research NZ survey  has generated debate at No Minister  and The Hand Mirror  over equal rights and equality and a post on the issue at No Right Turn.

The discussion reminded me of this Garrick Tremain cartoon which I cut out of the ODT several years ago.

My memory of what prompted the cartoon is a little vague but it had something to do with whether women would be admitted as members.

I don’t know what the upshot was then but am fairly certain membership is open to women now.


%d bloggers like this: