Identity politics is killing the left. Feminists can turn the tide

The other day I posted about how I thought it was time feminists abandoned their affiliation with the left, seeing as the left has abandoned all but the thinnest pretense of affiliation with feminism.

But on reflection, that seems the wrong way up. To walk feminism away from the left is to identify the left with the faction that has taken it over, namely the jihadis of identitarian ‘social justice’ – to say that yes, this is the left and the whole of the left, and that Owen Jones is right to accuse those who diverge from its catechism of being ‘centrists’¬†or even – gasp – right-wing. But it’s not true. There are many sensible, thoughtful, idealistic people on the left who don’t buy into the crazy. Who don’t even buy into identity politics, who are still with Martin Luther King rather than Ta-Nehisi Coates, who see this narcissistic, atomising arms race of special pleading for what it is: the graveyard of solidarity and the end of the left as a tool for real change. As, in fact, a capitulation of leftism to radical individualism, a pampered whingefest for those far enough up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to be able to put aside more visceral concerns such as obtaining food, shelter, or safety from violence and focus instead on fine-tuning their exquisitely unique and special identities and the specific oppressions they imagine to obtain from being the uniquely suffering creature they are.

Identity politics could perhaps be characterised as a post-Christian spasm, a 21st century search for meaning in pain. But the competition it engenders between its believers, as they jockey for position as most-oppressed, taking selfies of their own martyrdom, mean that far from being a basis for the kind of solidarity that could change the world, it is deeply inimical to any kind of solidarity. No group must speak for any other; each group fractures ever further into sub-groups, sub-identities; the final result is a universe of lonely sufferers, screaming into the internet void for someone to acknowledge the special intensity of their pain.

It’s hard to effect meaningful political change if no-one can agree on what the change should be, and when everyone is more concerned with their feelings anyway. So instead of left-wing politics you have a thin layer of eternal cultural revolution designed progressively to atomise what’s left of our culture ever further to appease the whingebags. Under that thin layer of revolution lie the same commercial systems and power structures as ever. Pretty shit revolution if you ask me.

I should add at this point that I’m not really in favour of radically transforming anything these days. But if I were a leftist I would be, and in that case I would be getting increasingly concerned about the paralysing effect of identity politics on the ability of idealists to organise, rally others to their cause and effect political change in relation to that cause. As is often the way, feminists have been the canary in the mine, and a growing number of female voices have begun to push back against the stultifying impact of identitarian self-absorption on women’s ability to argue clearly and coherently for those feminist issues (and they are legion) that still need addressing.

The brutality of the vitriol and threats of excommunication feminists have faced from the majority of the left now in thrall to identitarian ideas is a testament to what is at stake here: two mutually exclusive ways of thinking. Identitarian narcissism and class analysis cannot coexist. Where the left has traditionally campaigned based on the power in collective solidarity, identity politics is a movement of radical individualism, whose logical endpoint is a world where each individual identity is defined by its differences from each other identity, and as such class solidarity of any kind is impossible. This is the death of the left. (This is also why the Morning Star is the only periodical that regularly challenges trans ideology – communists sense the danger to their worldview in submitting to it).

As an aside, if you’re reading this as a conservative and thinking great, the left can fuck off and die then, don’t be so complacent. Identitarianism is coming for all the forms of collective identity you hold dear as well. Faith, nation, the family, you name it: the snowflakes want it all to burn on the altar of ‘inclusivity’.

But I digress. Though I’m not really of the left any more it saddens me to watch this tsunami of self-absorption-masquerading-as-radicalism devour, splinter and paralyse a movement that was about social solidarity and transformation for the better. So, as the radical feminists are at the forefront of the fight-back against the apotheosis of SJW madness in the form of transgender rights, I call on them to repudiate identity politics and begin the process of expelling this virus from the left. Take the movement back.

It will mean letting go of the temptation to get into ‘more oppressed than thou’ competitions, fighting the urge to tell people to check their privilege, and ditching the notion that there is any special and mystical about the experience of women that takes precedence over our potential, all of us, to share common humanity. But it also brings a liberatory revival of the ability to talk about human universals, and maybe – just maybe – might offer fresh arguments that can help break the current deadlock between feminism and trans ideology, in favour of something saner, that provides space to be respectful of the distress experienced by trans people without the totalitarian desire to abolish feminism and women, not to mention biology, homosexuality, science and objective fact.

Radical feminists: time to abandon the left

Feminists are wasting their time trying to persuade the left’s revolutionary vanguard not to ostracise them.

Watching a brief Twitter interaction between babyfaced lefty weathervane Owen Jones and Jen Harvey, a gender critical feminist, crystallised this for me.

Jen protests at Owen’s characterisation of ‘transphobia’ as something perpetrated by ‘centrists’:

The splendidly angry Twitter thread that follows asks: how dare you try and purge feminists from the left-wing umbrella for defending our own interests?

It’s a good thread. But she’s wasting her time.

Jones’ claim that ‘centrists’ are ‘transphobic’ is a standard left-wing tactic, designed to push in two directions. Firstly, it speaks to anyone who already knows that ‘transphobia’ is a Bad Thing, to claim the fight against this Bad Thing as quintessentially left-wing; and not just the moderate left but the True Left.

Secondly, it speaks to anyone who has an emotional stake in others continuing to recognise them as part of the Lefty Gang, to let them know if they want to keep their designation as part of the Great Virtuous Tribe of Left Wing Goodies and not be kicked to the kerb as nasty, bigoted centrists, they’d better lay off the transphobia.

So, according to Jones, to be left-wing is to support trans people, and to question trans activism is to renounce membership of the left. If you do that, you might be a centrist, or even (shudder) On The Right.

I see a lot of feminists getting really upset about moves like this, which redefine the legitimate field of operations of radical leftism and demand acquiescence by threatening ostracism. Look, I get it – most feminists see themselves as left-wing, and for most left-wing people (including myself, when I was a lefty) being on the left is an important part of personal identity. Left-wing ideology is all about how the world should be, rather than how it currently is, and it’s frustrating and depressing to try and share one’s vision of a world transformed with people who just tell you exasperatedly ‘but that’s not how the world works’. So lefties tend to band together in groups where they can – to a greater or lesser extent – share visions for how the world ought to be.

The problem with this, though, is that how the world ought to be is a movable feast. As it’s grounded only in hopes, dreams, aspirations, rather than observable reality, there’s nothing to stop my lefty vision diverging from yours. At that point, if these two lefties are to continue feeling part of the same movement, there’s a competition for which vision wins out. It would be nice if this were always conducted as a straight competition for which ideal is the most inspiring, but in practice among radicals the main weapon in the battle of ideas is to accuse your ideological opponent of not really being left-wing, or not left-wing enough. Not pure enough.

Under Stalin the purging of visions of transformation that competed with Uncle Joe’s took a literal and brutal form: arrest, incarceration, execution. Fortunately, at least for the moment, we inhabit a world where Owen Jones has no power to send those he dislikes to the gulag, so he is confined to prattling in the Guardian or on Twitter; but trust me, when he warns his fans off centrism and transphobia thus, the mechanism is the same. If you don’t agree with me, you’re not in my gang. You’re a centrist. A Tory. Excommunicated!

Since the 1960s, the march of progressivism has taken on one cause after another, beginning with racism, sexism and homophobia. On these fronts it has indisputably made the world a better place in some respects: we should all treat one another equally and with equal courtesy. As significant gains have been chalked up on these fronts, new anti-discrimination fronts have opened up, of which the latest is transgender rights. Because progressivism works like the EU’s acquis communautaire, right-thinking leftists are expected to add each new progressive cause to those that preceded it. All must be espoused and vocally supported. And it’s one out, all out: to fail in espousing a single progressive cause celebre is to fail entirely as a leftist. (Outside the proper causes, it’s open season: you can support all the genocidal Soviets and IRA bombers you like. But woe betide you if you put a foot wrong on the progressive causes. Campaign all your life for trafficked women, the welfare state, whatever; if you said a bad thing about trans women once in 1992 we will picket you until you die, then dance on your grave.

The problem radical feminists face right now is that they must either abandon their radical feminism, or be abandoned by the left. Radical feminism holds that gender is not a binary but a hierarchy, one perpetuated by a patriarchal society with the intent of keeping women in a subordinate position. The trans activist position, that gender is a matter of inner feelings and identity, seen from this perspective, is an outrage: if gender is a matter of feelings and individual choice, how can anyone critique the unfair power relations perpetuated by social gender structures? Surely if you’re not comfortable with your designation you should just find an identity that’s more comfortable? Radical feminists argue that it just doesn’t work like that. Identifying as something other than female doesn’t change the fact that I’m female bodied, and being female bodied is where it all begins.

So, radical feminists cannot support the literalists of transgender activism, who put inner gender identity ahead of perceptible physiological materiality and state that to be a woman one must simply identify as one. In circular fashion, when asked to define ‘woman’, the answer is ‘someone who identifies as one’. Thus radical feminists have set themselves against transgenderism, which is the current darling of the left. One out, all out: if you question us on this front, you’re probably a bigot on all the others too. Hell, you might even be a centrist.

A lot of feminists are angry at the injustice ¬†of this, as in the thread I quoted earlier. We campaign all our lives for the world as we think it ought to be, and for the sake of a few men in dresses you want to take our leftist identities from us? Fuck you. But this is a waste of time. Why? Because the progressive ratchet is relentless. What started with obvious injustices such as racism seeks out ever more nebulous forms of injustice and discrimination to attack, and ever more authoritarian means of doing so. The revolutionary vanguard of the social justice movement is leaving a trail of bruised, angry former leftists in its wake – excommunicants barred from belonging for questioning – say – the impact of open-borders immigration on the indigenous working class, or whether a male-bodied individual with a bass voice, a receding hairline and a fully functioning penis can¬†truly be a woman. American standup comic Owen Benjamin recently stated in a podcast ‘I arrived in LA as a left-winger, and I’m leaving it with people calling me a conservative. My political views haven’t changed’.

Radical feminists, the left is moving under you. Has moved under you. Your political views may not have changed, but some of them now disqualify you for membership of the left. The next group to discover this will be LGB activists, from the days when it really was LGB and not today’s alphabet soup. Your choice is simple: give up radical feminism, or give up on the left.

Though of course it’s up to your personal conscience, in my view the radical feminist analysis of gender relations is an important one, so I hope you choose the latter. The upside is that if you do so, you no longer need to feel hurt and angry when people accuse you of things which are only a problem if you want people to see you as a lefty – such as being a transphobic centrist. You also don’t need to be in Owen Jones’ gang any more. What’s not to like?

Feminism vs trans-cis-demi-genderblah: why you should care

Very much enjoyed Sam Harris’podcasted discussion with Douglas Murray on topics ranging from transgenderism to leftist apologism for Islamic terrorists and the migrant crisis. Towards the end he said (I’m paraphrasing slightly) something to the effect that he’d given up on the left and its narcissism of small differences, could not bring himself to care about its internecine battles because sod them, there are more important matters at stake.

I do broadly agree with him that there are more important things going on in the world at present than the debate¬†about whether or not a penis can be female (of course it can’t, you idiot, it’s a penis). Nonetheless,¬†the quarrel between the feminists and the transgenderists is worth paying attention to, even if you’ve reached a general state of exasperation with the entire grievance-mongering, self-flagellating, virtue-signalling, political paralysis-inducing nonsense that is the post-Cold War leftism of identity.

It’s worth keeping an eye on because to my eye it is evidence of some (albeit tiny)¬†green shoots of hope. One of my core frustrations with identity politics, and more broadly with the speech code restrictions it imposes on society in general, is the way it insists on dealing only with the world as it should be. Any inconvenient facts about the world as it actually is are either ignored, denied, explained away or countered with shrill¬†accusations of bigotry.

Remaining with the feminists, for example, this can be seen in the rage that breaks out whenever somebody dares suggest that women who don’t want to get taken advantage of might want to consider not getting falling-down drunk in the company of oversexed men with dubious morals. Of course ‘She was drunk and I was horny and she didn’t say no’ is no excuse for¬†raping an unconscious woman, however she came to be unconscious. But some unpleasant scumbags will take advantage, and the best way to avoid being the victim is not to get shitfaced when surrounded by¬†dodgy pervs. And yet any attempt to point this out is met with furious accusations of ‘rape apology’ and ‘victim blaming’.¬†On the one hand here, we have¬†people who adhere rigidly to a vision of the world as they believe it should be (any sexual contact not preceded by explicit consent is assault) and wish to police all departures from that vision. On the other, we have those who observe the world as it is (most people are okay but there are some¬†predatory toerags out there) and wish to take pragmatic steps to¬†encourage¬†individuals to use their judgement to avoid unpleasant outcomes.

One¬†of the recurring themes of Murray and Harris’¬†podcast was the bad faith with which¬†the left has attempted to silence or toxify the real and necessary discussion around Islamism and integration¬†of migrants in Western societies. We could see this as another instance of one side insisting only on a discussion of the world as it should be (everyone is nice to everyone regardless of faith; white people are extra nice to brown people because colonialism) meeting and condemning in the shrillest possible terms others’ desire to discuss the world as it is (many Muslims have no desire to integrate in the West; further, some of these think the West is a sink of¬†moral squalor and are willing to blow themselves up in order to combat this iniquitous den of moral filth).

The strange insistence of this type of leftism on denying¬†any narrative but that of the world as the imaginer would like it to be¬†be finds¬†a natural common cause with the genderists. Here, the privileging of wishful thinking over observable reality becomes an individual’s emancipatory right: I am whatever gender¬†I say I am, because no-one else can dictate my identity but me. This sacralisation of solipsism as a human right further demands that any physiological facts that contradict the individual’s self-definition, such as possession of the wrong sex organs, are simply discounted.¬†Because I say I am a woman, my penis is a womanly penis. And because most of the arguing I do about this is on the internet, whether or not I actually have a penis seems, some of the time at least, less relevant. Therefore, I will claim that it is not relevant at all and in fact that mentioning said penis makes you an oppressive bigot.

Returning to the quarrel between the feminists and the genderists, my slender¬†green shoot of hope ¬†grows from the fact that feminism¬†may now be forced¬†to lead the charge¬†against the madness of identity politics. For if genderism is allowed to run riot, feminism stops being possible. I’m not talking about the whiny type¬†of virtue-signalling feminism that tries to get prominent scientists¬†sacked or protein shake¬†adverts banned; I’m talking about the very necessary type of feminism that¬†runs women’s refuges or rape helplines, and campaigns for abortion rights and against FGM. Because the world is still, in quite a few ways, a more difficult place to navigate safely if you’re the owner of tits and a uterus¬†than if you’re the owner of a penis. Most of the pragmatic, grass-roots, truly meaningful feminism aims to address problems that accrue to women because of their physiology. But if¬†the genderists win, and focusing on the physiological aspect¬†of these difficulties is erased because it conflicts between the genderists’ vision of the world as it should be, then feminism becomes conceptually impossible. Thankfully, numerous feminists have woken up to this and are insisting that no, your delicate feelings and desire for me not to rain on your parade does not take priority over certain immutable physiological facts and no, pointing that out doesn’t make me a bigot, it makes your protests¬†deluded and monumentally self-absorbed if not actually mentally ill. Because that’s what we’re talking about: a group of people who wish to rewrite reality in¬†the name of social justice. We need to call this what it is – madness – and pedal rapidly backwards from the conceptual framework that permits this madness to take hold.

I understand the reluctance of many to get involved in the internecine quarrels of the left. Nonetheless I would urge anyone who is concerned about the increasing fragmentation of Western culture, and particularly the inability of our intelligentsia to counter divisive grievance and oppression narratives with observable and accepted facts, to make common cause with those feminists currently in the front line of the fight to save the reality-based community.

SJWars: Trans ultras vs Radical Feminists, and why it matters even if you aren’t trans or a feminist

Most people who spend any time on the internets will by now be familiar with the strange spectacle of a vocal minority of transgender activists – usually male to female – seeking to further public acceptance of transgender people by shouting at feminists.

At the root of the argument is the feminists’ contention that many of the things that make being a woman a bit crap as compared to the average man are specifically contingent on 1) being born and raised with female primary and secondary sex characteristics and 2) having been raised in a way that recognises that fact and as a result assigns the bearer a load of societally-defined expectations clustered under the banner ‘being a woman’. Thus, to put it simply, you need to have had a cunt from the beginning to be on the team.

The transwomen’s contention, on the other hand, is that in fact being¬†a woman has nothing to do either with how you are formed physically or how you were treated during your childhood, but is instead a state-independent condition experienced inwardly in a ‘gender identity’. No-one really seems to have a clear explanation for how or why people obtain their ‘gender identity’¬†or how it may evolve separately from physiological sex in some cases.¬†But the notion that gender is experienced inwardly, independently of physiology,¬†is then supported by studies that purport¬†to show differences between men’s and women’s brains, which claim¬†that the brains of transgendered people are more like those of the opposite sex.

The brain scan studies are of dubious value. The argument fundamentally rests on a philosophical stance that privileges subjective experience over observable reality. Originating in a Marxian critique of Enlightenment universalism, post-modern critiques of such a concept as ‘observable reality’ contend that there is no such thing, as certain powerful groups get to decide what counts as ‘observable reality’ and shape the consensus on its nature to further their own interests. Observable reality is, thus, less of an agreed platform for social interaction than a suffocating fug of false consciousness imposed upon us all in order to perpetuate the status quo and all its oppressions. In that context, the only testimonies that matter are personal, individual ones; and the greater the payload of oppression the testifier has suffered, the more weight his or her¬†testimony should have.

This, then, is the context in which the Great Tranny Vs Feminazi Deathmatch is taking place. Paradoxically, feminists were one of the many groups who argued that for oppressed groups to make headway, the concept of ‘observable reality’ needed to be challenged. How, else, could one question the ‘observable reality’ that women are better at unpaid caretaking, while men are better at running the world? So it has been in women’s interests to question the concept of realities that just¬†are, unaffected by the operations of power or ideology.

This has, as they say, come back to bite the feminists on the bum. Among devotees of these theories, all reality is now tainted by the operations of power and ideology, none of it is consensual: reality is stolen from those weaker than us. And nowhere is this more so than our material, sexed bodies. And because no consensus can be formed any more about what a woman is, suddenly a woman is anyone who says they are one.

The trouble with this stance, in the context of transgendered people and women, is that their interests are mutually exclusive.¬†I won’t rehash in detail the feminist critique of transgender arguments as a quick Google should tell you everything you need to know (if you can bear it); but¬†Sheila Jeffries’ testimony to the Transgender Equality Enquiry¬†sums it up. Briefly, feminists argue¬†that gender (as opposed to sex) is a socially-created construct whatever your genitals and as such we should be working to get rid of it, while biological sex is the only reality we can stick to and hence this should form the basis of discussions about who ‘is’ or ‘is not’ a ‘woman’. Transgender activists, conversely, argue¬†that gender is a socially-created performance whatever your genitals, and therefore it is the only reality. And so we should stop talking about biological differences or we’re being oppressive.

Now, whether or not you think women are sufficiently oppressed, in this day and age, to need a feminist movement, this is madness. Because I have always been a woman, my penis is a woman’s penis? No it isn’t, you fool.¬†Observable reality says there is such a thing as a male sex and a female sex. But wait, observable reality is a politically suspect concept, and wasn’t it you who said that the pain and suffering of those marginalised by such universalist notions should be foregrounded? So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, feminists. And so it goes on.

My hope is that the experience of being hoist with their own Oppression Olympics petard will force at least one type of social-justice warrior (feminists) to see the logic of identity politics for what it is: a whining, corrosive and fundamentally politically useless doctrine that sets all against all in a competition for the mantle of Most Oppressed, while shooting any hope of common discursive ground out from under us in the process. The depressing alternative is the one exemplified by the frankly crackers online whinge-fest Everyday Feminism, whose USP is clickbait-style checklists of ways in which you and I can offend micro-subsets of different grievance categories through thoughtless actions such as showing photos of our children to colleagues in the workplace. In that world no solidarity is possible; all conversations take place on eggshells; the world is, for each of us, what we say it is and each of these worldviews is valid, beautiful and insulated from critique or indeed any burden of proof. Conflicts between personal realities are settled through reference to a pre-determined hierarchy of oppressions in which the more intersections you have on the Venn diagram the more people you are permitted to silence.

Much more is at stake here than the ability to have meaningful conversations about ways in which owning a vagina has downsides. This is about whether humans are able to have any kind of conversation that takes some real-world referents for granted, or whether the notion of ‘real world’ is considered so politically loaded that each of us is left isolated in a kind of miasmic solipsism disrupted only by the nudges and shoves of other ideological attempts to rain on our personal parade.

Arguably the hyper-individualist style of ‘social justice’ exemplified above is a luxury afforded us by a relatively affluent, peaceful and equal society. My hope is that the very cultural specificity of the social-justice movement as enacted by Tumblr proves to be its downfall, and that the practical obviousness of the continued need for a global women’s rights movement¬†succeeds in challenging our collective descent into ideologically atomised madness. But don’t be fooled: this is more than a¬†trivial spat between competing grievance-mongers.

Labour chucks women under the bus. Again

Guido Fawkes reports on yet another gender segregated rally in Oldham, attended by Labour MPs.

Remember, this is the party of the appalling pink campaign bus with the vaguely pornographic name, aimed at making women – those hair-and-makeup-obsessed idiots marginalised by all those nasty penis-owning politicians – engage more in politics because, er, pink. And Harriet Harman.

Newsflash, Harriet. If you showed an ounce of spine in challenging the sort of vacillating, self-interested equivocation that allows an Oldham by-election to be fought in campaign rallies where women sit off to one side – because it’s cultural discrimination, so that’s OK apparently – then perhaps a few women would take you more seriously when you try and pitch yourself as actually giving a shit about women’s rights. But the Left doesn’t give a shit about women’s rights. This fact is well documented.¬†Like all other types of minority rights, the Left is only interested in women’s rights insofar as they can be used as a platform for virtue-signalling and painting the opposition as nasty antediluvian bigots. But when it comes to actually making difficult decisions, involving actual moral principles rather than a wet sort of relativism allied to a ruthless craving for power, what do we see?

Sit over there, sisters, and welcome to the new champions of tolerance and gender equality.