On the night of October 29, 2019, Meghan Murphy, a freelance writer, spoke at a Toronto library to an audience of roughly 100 people, mostly women. Her topic, entirely unwarranted just a few years ago, was “Gender Identity: What Does It Mean for Society, The Law, and Women?” Her main point was that “allowing men to identify as women” endangers and undermines women’s rights. Murphy identifies herself as a feminist and her presentation was hosted by a group called, “Radical Feminists Unite.”
As we’ve come to expect with any speech that diverges even mildly from the latest politically-correct fashions, several hundred people (upwards to 1,000, according to the Toronto Star) protested vehemently outside the library, accusing Murphy of “transphobia,” and “misogyny,” among other things too indelicate to mention. A dozen police were brought to the scene and it was clear that members of the audience, upon exiting the library, felt unsafe. “I think it’s really unfortunate,” said one protestor, “that the Toronto Public Library felt it necessary to give a platform for hate speech.” An objective observer, however, might very well conclude that the real hatred was coming from the protestors, not from the speaker. Hate is not a synonym for speech.
Murphy expressed her concern that the trans-activist movement was bringing about “the erasure of women.” Her point is well taken. If a woman can become a man, then being a woman is no longer a permanent feature of her personality. If womanhood is a transitory phenomenon, something that changes according to one’s feelings, then it is not something that should be honored for itself. Avoiding the “erasure” of women, one would think, should be a concern for all women, and not regarded as a form of hatred that should be censored by force.
It is ironic that many women who call themselves feminists are in favor of “deconstructing” the notion of woman. Monique Wittig calls for “a political deconstruction of the term ‘woman’ in order to break free of the “myth” that has surrounded it. Julia Kristeva argues that there are no women, though we should keep the word since it provides them with political benefits. According to Judith Butler, “When the constructed status of gender is theorized as radically independent of sex, gender itself becomes a free-floating artifice.” Shulamith Firestone argues that “Humanity has begun to outgrow nature… We must get rid of it”—nature, that is.
In the wake of the protests at the Toronto library, Simon Fraser University canceled a talk by a Vancouver speaker, accused of being “transphobic.” The sold-out event, scheduled for November 2, was entitled, “How media bias shapes the gender identity debate.”
Feminism begins with “choice,” though it is not at all clear as to what the limits of choice might be. There is the choice for abortion and various forms of reproductive technology, the choice for sexual freedom and the choice for physician-assisted suicide. But should there also be the choice for the erasure of what it means to be a woman? In this regard, feminism has brought about its own extinction. By not placing limits on choice, choice can be self-destructive.
It is now well documented that men who identify as women have created serious problems for young girls in their restrooms. These problems have extended to the domain of sports and to in many other areas where tradition has seen fit to distinguish men from women.
This problem of the erasure of woman, as well as the death of feminism, is further complicated by the present tendency to mark any opinion that one does not agree with as a psychological aberration. This is logically the end of philosophy, as well as dialogue, free speech, and understanding another person’s point of view. Transphobia has joined homophobia as a barrier to any reasonable or even medical discussion of certain aspects of human sexuality. A dissenter from political correctness is no longer merely wrong, he is sick. Protest replaces philosophy. Demonstrations replace dialogue. Christophobia, Islamophobia, and logophobia are now part of our everyday vocabulary. Ideology, the arbitrary preference of one group that excludes other groups, displaces philosophy, the quest for truth that serves everyone.
Mary Ann Glendon was the Vatican representative to the 1995 Beijing International Conference on Woman sponsored by the United Nations. “What is clearly ‘old-fashioned’ today,” she remarked, “is the old feminism of the 1970s—with its negative attitudes toward men, marriage and motherhood, and its rigid party line on abortion.” Feminism has gone through many such “fashions”; each one has its own expiration date. Yet the eternal feminine endures as it has from time immemorial. Mary, the Mother of God, remains a role model for all women. She endures both as a mother and as a woman. Henry Brooks Adams once said of Our Lady: “In the bankruptcy of reason, she alone was real.” Mary remains a woman in the bankruptcy of reason that we are currently experiencing.
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