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Erasing ‘Woman’ From Public Life

Brendan O’Neill, in The Spectator, says that the word “woman” is being erased from British life. Excerpt:

If someone had told you 10 years ago that it would soon become tantamount to a speechcrime to say ‘Men cannot get pregnant’, you would have thought them mad. That would be like punishing someone for saying, ‘Humans need oxygen to survive’. And yet here we are, in 2017, where PC has spun so violently out of control, and the cult of gender-neutrality has become so unwieldily, that one of the most controversial things you can say these days is: ‘Only women can get pregnant.’ Apparently that’s offensive to transmen (women who identify as men). ‘Men can get pregnant, too’, trans activists cry. Which strikes me as a real-life version of ‘2 + 2 = 5’.

It isn’t only the usual suspects who want us to stop treating pregnancy as a woman thing. Yesterday the Sunday Times reported that in its submission on proposed amendments to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Foreign Office suggested the term ‘pregnant women’ might be offensive to ‘transgender people who have given birth’. The covenant, a UN treaty, says society must protect ‘pregnant women’ and never subject them to the death penalty. The Foreign Office wondered if ‘pregnant people’ might be a preferable term, to avoid offending the infinitesimally small number of women who identify as men who have given birth.

It is disturbing that now even stuffy mandarins at the FO promote reality-defying newspeak like ‘pregnant people’. Mortified at the media stink over its ‘pregnant people’ stance, the government has today come out to say it doesn’t actually have a problem with the phrase ‘pregnant women’. A spokesperson for Theresa May has clarified that ‘pregnant women’ is an ‘acceptable term’. Sorry, but when the seat of power must make clear to the populace that it is okay to say ‘pregnant women’, you know the plot has been lost; you know common sense, the very tool of language itself, is in crisis.

Read the whole thing here. This is the insane world media, academic, and governmental elites are bringing to bear on us. This world of lies, where words don’t mean anything, and our rulers will punish you severely for insisting that reality is real. The great Jordan Peterson, who fights for truth from behind the Maple Leaf Curtain of Canadian academia, writes about why Americans should care about the Canadian government’s attempt to police language. Excerpt:

People often defend freedom of speech on the grounds that citizens must retain the right to criticize their leaders. That’s true, but it’s not the fundamental truth.

Freedom of speech protects our societies from shipwreck on the Scylla of tyranny and the Charybdis of nihilism and despair. Freedom of speech allows us to identify the problems that beset us. Freedom of speech allows us to formulate solutions to those problems, and to reach consensus on the solutions.

There is nothing in the absence of freedom of speech but tyranny and slavery.

I’ve said this before in this space, but it’s worth saying again. Two years ago, a reader whose now-elderly mother once served prison time in a communist country for political dissent, told me that she feels that the West is taking a turn that reminds her of her youth spent under communism. I found that hard to understand, and asked friends of mine who defected to the UK from an East bloc nation in the 1960s if they agreed. My friends said absolutely, yes, it feels that way to them. I asked them to explain, and they replied that the way people will now try to destroy you professionally and personally for disagreeing with whatever the party line is — this reminds them of their youth.

Take a look at this USA Today column by law professor Glenn Reynolds, who talks about the judicial elites. Note this:

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, we heard a lot about America’s division into two mutually hostile camps: A largely coastal, urban party run by educated elites, and a largely rural and suburban “Flyover Country” party composed of people who did not attend elite schools and who do not see themselves as dependent on those who do. This divide is more fundamental than mere partisan identification, as there are Democrats and Republicans in both groups.

One of the best formulations of this division comes from photographer Chris Arnade, who has spent years documenting the lives of America’s forgotten classes. In his characterization, America is split between the “Front Row Kids,” who did well in school, moved to managerial or financial or political jobs and see themselves as the natural rulers of their fellow citizens, and the “Back Row Kids,” who placed less emphasis on school and who resent the pretensions and bossiness of the Front Row Kids.

While teaching constitutional law after the election, it occurred to me that while the Back Row Kids can elect whomever they want as president, senators or representatives, there is one branch of the federal government (and all state governments) that is, more or less by its nature, limited to Front Row Kids: the judiciary.

This reminded me of this much-discussed 2015 interview with “Professor Kingsfield,” my name for a deeply closeted Christian professor at one of America’s elite law schools. He contacted me after the Indiana RFRA debacle. Excerpt:

What prompted his reaching out to me? “I’m very worried,” he said, of events of the last week. “The constituency for religious liberty just isn’t there anymore.”

Like me, what unnerved Prof. Kingsfield is not so much the details of the Indiana law, but the way the overculture treated the law. “When a perfectly decent, pro-gay marriage religious liberty scholar like Doug Laycock, who is one of the best in the country — when what he says is distorted, you know how crazy it is.”

“Alasdair Macintyre is right,” he said. “It’s like a nuclear bomb went off, but in slow motion.” What he meant by this is that our culture has lost the ability to reason together, because too many of us want and believe radically incompatible things.

But only one side has the power. When I asked Kingsfield what most people outside elite legal and academic circles don’t understand about the way elites think, he said “there’s this radical incomprehension of religion.”

“They think religion is all about being happy-clappy and nice, or should be, so they don’t see any legitimate grounds for the clash,” he said. “They make so many errors, but they don’t want to listen.”

To elites in his circles, Kingsfield continued, “at best religion is something consenting adult should do behind closed doors. They don’t really understand that there’s a link between Sister Helen Prejean’s faith and the work she does on the death penalty. There’s a lot of looking down on flyover country, one middle America.

“The sad thing,” he said, “is that the old ways of aspiring to truth, seeing all knowledge as part of learning about the nature of reality, they don’t hold. It’s all about power. They’ve got cultural power, and think they should use it for good, but their idea of good is not anchored in anything. They’ve got a lot of power in courts and in politics and in education. Their job is to challenge people to think critically, but thinking critically means thinking like them. They really do think that they know so much more than anybody did before, and there is no point in listening to anybody else, because they have all the answers, and believe that they are good.”

On the conservative side, said Kingsfield, Republican politicians are abysmal at making a public case for why religious liberty is fundamental to American life.

“The fact that Mike Pence can’t articulate it, and Asa Hutchinson doesn’t care and can’t articulate it, is shocking,” Kingsfield said. “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it, but they’re marginal figures. Why can’t Republicans articulate this? We don’t have anybody who gets it and who can unite us. Barring that, the craven business community will drag the Republican Party along wherever the culture is leading, and lawyers, academics, and media will cheer because they can’t imagine that they might be wrong about any of it.”

This is where it comes from, in part:

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Hey readers, I’ll be traveling homeward for most of today, so please be patient with comments approval.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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