“Do better” is a conclusion without a debate, an argument without facts, the enforcement of an agreement that you never signed up to.
“Do better” is pomposity itself, astride its highest horse, telling you that your opinion is worthless.
“Do better” is “Be more like me” wrapped in a cliched ‘inspirational’ poster to hide that it’s blushing from the sheer fucking effrontery of claiming to be the arbiter of absolute moral truth.
“Do better” is “Right side of history” for right now, by people who think they get to decide which way history twists.
“Do better” is “You’re shitty” for people who will, at the end of the day, pat themselves on the back for building people up, instead of tearing them down, then lull themselves to sleep with the thought of what a good person they are. Don’t trust anyone who’ll flat-out lie to their own fucking face like that.
“Do better” is condescending, patronising, self-serving double-think for those who’ve learned to stop their train of thought before it leaves comfortville.
“Do better” is the “Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all just be nice?” where the speaker defines “nice”…and probably “all”.
“Do better” is what those who are doing nothing say to those who are doing something.
“Do better” is the motto of the dogmatic, the bête noire of reason.
“Do better” is the fucking worst.
If you can’t do better than “Do better” then just do one.
This is a response to this piece, by Luke Roelofs, which turned up in my TL this morning, hailed as “One of the best things I’ve read […] on why GCF arguments are both bogus and conservative”.
It’s certainly a lengthy work, running to more than 10,000 words. I’m not a professional philosopher, so I’m going to try to keep my reply under 1,000 words – in the hope that people will actually read it.
Roelofs’ novella has three threads of investigation:
Do trans-people reinforce gender stereotypes?
Are people being pressured to transition?
Does admitting trans women make women’s spaces less safe?
Roelofs helpfully tells us in the title of each of these sections that the answer is “No”.
I’m going to tackle the sections out of order, to suit my own, warped, gender-critical agenda.
Actually, I’m going to dismiss section 2 entirely, because it’s an area I freely admit to not knowing much about. As Roelofs spends most of this section talking about diagnosis of gender dysphoria and having to live for a period as your assumed gender, both barriers that GRA reformers seek to remove, then presumably he does know much about it either. Indeed, given his verbosity, spending a mere 1,500 words on the topic is presumably his version of “No comment”
Section 3 barely takes more dealing with, as he doesn’t even attempt to answer the question that he himself raises. Instead of proving his own assertion that, no, admitting trans-women to women-only spaces does not make them less safe, he instead argues that the topic is not worth debating because enforcement is impractical.
If there is no enforcement of sex segregated spaces then predatory men can freely enter them, and if there is any sort of official or unofficial enforcement then we enter some Orwellian nightmare, where people always have to carry their papers when they want to pee. Anyway, he argues, if there’s enforcement then women will feel that they have to present as feminine in order to use those spaces, and other women will force them to do so, by reporting anybody who isn’t girly enough and making them suffer the indignity of having their papers or pants checked (yes, he really does argue this).
I don’t know much about professional philosophy, but I’d always kind of assumed that the line between it and hand-waving lunacy was wider than appears to be the case.
Anyway, we end section 3 not with the conclusion that no women were harmed in the making of this self-identifying bathroom, but rather that there’s no solution, so we gain nothing from discussing it.
And so we reach section 1, and the argument that I enjoyed the most.
In summary, he battles against the idea that gender-identity is based on the boys-like-blue/girls-like-pink stereotypes. The bad feminists get the blame for this idea existing at all. They complain about trans-women radiating “male energy” (by which I assume he means observations that some men who claim trans-womanhood don’t even bother to shave their beards off), and they joke about the appearance of non-passing trans-women.
These hurtful comments drive trans-women to feminise their appearance, which then opens them to accusations that they see feminism only in terms of stereotypes.
The core of his argument is that if gender-critical feminists argue that women shouldn’t have to behave or appear in a manner which conforms to their gender then why should trans-women have to?
The only philosophy I know anything about is the kind that turns up towards the end of your sixth pint of Foster’s, but here Roelofs seems to have overlooked a huge philosophical point – if womanhood isn’t defined by biology, and isn’t defined by behaviour and dress, then what is womanhood?
The gender-critical view, that women are born into second-class citizenry, because of their biology makes logical sense, but I can also understand the logic (albeit regressive) in saying that if you look like a woman then you should be treated like a woman. What I can’t see is what womanhood means if it’s neither of these things.
The non-biological, non-gender stereotype kind of woman that Roelofs is arguing is the ‘natural’ state of trans-women does nothing other than render the term ‘woman’ meaningless.
In fact, all a man seems to gain by declaring themselves a woman is that access to women’s spaces…and apparently we couldn’t stop them doing that anyway.
OK, enough philosophy.
The title of the blog is, Dear Philosophers, You Can Trust the Feminist Consensus: Gender-Critical Radical Feminism is Bogus, and there are two final comments to make on this.
In the title, and in the body of the piece, Roelofs states that the majority of feminists are accepting of trans-women, but makes no effort to support this assertion. Given that he counts himself as a feminist perhaps he just has a particularly wide definition of the term.
Speaking of terms, ‘bogus’ is also worth a look. As he himself says:
I decided to believe what seemed like the consensus among feminists, that GCRF is bogus, even though I had trouble articulating why clearly to myself. I trusted the judgement that seemed to be held by the great majority of people I knew and respected for their views on this sort of topic.
And he even helpfully defines exactly what ‘bogus’ means:
‘Bogus’: both intellectually valueless and hateful. They’re saying that rather than gaining something from engaging with it critically, we’ll actually lose something: debates about gender are made worse by having this perspective represented.
In other words, underneath all of the philosophical highfalutin and engorged word-counts there’s just another woke man, pulling ideas out of his arse to justify his desire to tell women to shut up.
Great work, Luke Roelofs, take a seat with all the others.
Out in British Columbia a lone Twitter account, @goinglikeelsie, (account locked at time of writing) is covering three linked cases being considered by the province’s human rights tribunal.
The plaintiff in all three cases is ‘JY’, and the tribunal has ruled that coverage of the cases may not reveal JY’s identity, or provide enough information to allow JY to be identified.
The identity of JY is, nevertheless, widely known. They are male-born, but since starting to identify, at least part of the time, as female they have become infamous for bringing legal cases against 16 female beauticians who have refused to provide them with genital waxing services. It is JY’s contention that those who have refused to provide the service are guilty of discrimination on the grounds of gender identity, a protected characteristic with regards to the provision of services under Canadian law.
Elsie is tweeting her notes on three of these cases, that the tribunal are hearing as joined, with a single decision that the end.
With no disrespect to Elsie, she is not a journalist. Her notes are confusing, as she tries to navigate the restrictions around what can be made public, she has to back-track and correct herself and even complains that she has no notes at one point because her pen had run out.
Yet she is a hero.
She’s a hero because, without her, nobody would know what was happening, or probably even that the hearings were going on.
These hearings are a first step in determining if there is a hierarchy of human rights. Can a man’s right to say that he is now a woman override a woman’s objection to intimate handling of a male body? Does it override a woman’s right to assert that her religious or moral beliefs say that she shouldn’t be touching a man in that area? Does it override her professional concern that she is not trained to provide a potentially painful and injurious service to somebody who has male anatomy?
In short, Canadian law has said that everybody has the right to decide for themselves whether they are male or female, and it must now decide whether that also gives them the right to be universally believed, irrespective of the beliefs of others or evidence to the contrary.
And there’s nobody from the press covering the case.
What seems even stranger at first glance is that yesterday a trans-rights activist called on other activists to mass-report Elsie’s Twitter account, to try to get it closed down.
When she’s simply reporting – without editorial comment – the events of a tribunal which is fundamental to the rights of trans people in Canada, you might think that they’d want her voice amplified, so that the world can watch.
They don’t because they don’t want the world to hear about JY because, according to them, JY doesn’t exist.
JY doesn’t exist, because the cornerstones of their argument for an easier path to gender recognition in the UK are that it doesn’t cause any problems, men will not abuse easy self-identification of gender, that men choosing to transition aren’t motivated by fetishism, and that the rights of women are not diminished by trans rights.
My god, JY must be embarrassment to them.
Aside from the 3 cases being considered together, JY has brought numerous similar cases, either being paid off by beauticians worried about expensive legal cases, or backing down themselves if the defendants have obtained legal representation.
JY also has a well-document fetish related to tampons and has, in the three cases presented, asked if genital waxing will be possible while they have a tampon inserted. The tribunal has already ascertained that JY has male genitalia, and does not also have female genitalia. They appear not to have questioned too closely where JY is planning to insert the tampon. This may be for the best.
The tribunal has also establish JY’s pattern of approaching the female service providers initially from their social media account with a male photo, then asking for the same services from accounts with female profile pictures (not of JY).
In his view, JY is fighting for LGBTQI+ rights, a campaign they pat themselves on the back for even when composing fake threats to themselves.
In the cold light of a court it looks a lot more like JY is using the law for personal gain, both financial and reputational, and mainly to bully women, especially minority women. Fighting in court to push back their personal boundaries as to what they believe, what their religion permits, what they are qualified to do.
JY is standing there, living proof that self-identification is enormously problematic, and that the rights it affords aren’t a game where everyone can win and nobody loses. JY is a man playing the system for their own gratification and amusement, and the world needs to see the problems.
Instead, we’ve got a single, brave, woman, tweeting her imperfect notes while trans activists attempt to tear her down.
I recently did a Twitter thread having a bit of a go at Aaron Bastani’s forthcoming book, Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto,
Because it was Twitter thread I mainly poked fun, rather than look in depth at any of the futurology he was spouting. Some of it seemed iffy – his proof that “information wants to be free”, which is a cornerstone of his argument, is the growth, and reduction of price, in hard-disk storage and the ever increasing speed of Internet connections, for example.
Really, though, it was space I wanted to talk about.
I’m no expert. Hell, I’ve never even been there, but I am interested in it, and his argument that we could end scarcity of materials by mining Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) seemed to need a bit of work.
Bastani waffles on about rockets getting cheaper, 3D printing of rockets, private companies trialling their own rockets, etc., as if making rockets cheaper or reusable makes everything else about getting into space a technicality.
It doesn’t of course. Space isn’t very far away (if you live in, say, London then space is closer to you than Birmingham is), but it takes a huge amount of energy to lift off from our planet and, so far, we don’t have a better way of doing it than burning massive amounts of rocket fuel.
The reason that the fuel costs are so high is a bit like Zeno’s paradox of the tortoise, where Achilles can never overtake a tortoise in a race, because by the time he has run to where the tortoise was it has moved on a little further, and when he’s run to there the tortoise has moved further still, and so on.
So it is with rockets. If we want to launch a payload into space then we need a certain amount of fuel, but then we need extra fuel – to lift the fuel that we need to lift the payload. The we need more fuel, to lift the fuel that we need to lift the fuel that we need to lift the payload, and so on. This is called the tyranny of the rocket equation and, more than anything else, is why we haven’t found a cheap way to get into space yet.
To give you an idea of just how big a difficulty this is; if we were planning a mission to Mars, more than 30 million miles away (at its closest), then half of the fuel costs would be getting out of Earth’s gravity, less than 0.01% of the trip.
There are other ways to get there, in principle at least, ranging from the sane, but not yet possible (such as space elevators, which would work wonderfully, if we had an unbreakable rope, long enough to reach the Earth from a geostationary orbit – 26,000 miles up) to the downright crazy sounding (detonate a nuclear bomb, and ride the shockwave into space). Some of these may come to fruition but, for the moment, we’re stuck with burning lots and lots of fuel…which fits poorly with the heavily green policies in the rest of Bastani’s book.
Then you hit the problem that real space, and real physics, don’t work like science-fiction does. You can’t just point your rocket at a NEO, fire up the thrusters and fly there. Well, you can, but then you arrive at it way too fast and either sail straight by it and off into the darkness, or you crash into it at insanely high speeds, destroying all of the stuff that you wanted to send there in the first place.
Nor can you take up enough fuel to slow you down, because of the rocket equation, so you have to take an indirect path to your NEO. The lander, Philae, which touched down on a NEO in November 2014, took 10 years to reach its destination…and then didn’t deploy its landing anchors correctly, rolled into a patch of permanent shade and powered down forever.
Philae was one relatively small lander. To set up a full automated luxury mining operation on a NEO we’d be looking at multiple, much larger, craft, with each one being a roll of the dice as to whether it successfully reached its target, landed in the right place, or just smashed into all of the previous stuff you’d sent up, setting the project back to square one. The long lead-times, high start-up costs and enormous risks make this project even shakier than Labour Live.
Assuming we did get tonnes of autonomous, or semi-autonomous, machinery landed; drilling equipment, solar cells, processing equipment and got it all linked up and working, then what?
Let’s say it digs up 500 tonnes of iron ore, what does it do with it? Launching something from the micro-gravity of a NEO is much cheaper than launching something from Earth, but, again, we can’t just point our payload in the direction of the Earth and fire the rockets.
Anything heading towards Earth is accelerated by Earth’s gravity-well to escape velocity, which is around 30 times the speed of sound. A 500 tonne lump of iron ore hitting the Earth at that speed would impart the energy of a nuclear bomb exploding.
Incoming space-craft have heat-shields, to use the atmosphere as a brake, slowing them enough to deploy parachutes, so that they can splash-down at non-lethal speeds and be recovered. Potentially, our mining operation could have a supply of enormous heat-shields and parachutes, but we’re talking about a situation where an error made by an autonomous system, millions of miles away could see the equivalent of a nuclear strike at a random location anywhere on Earth.
Or, in theory, we could have a fuel-producing station on, say, the Moon. Mining water-ice and using solar power to split it into hydrogen and oxygen, to use as fuel. It’s conceivable that our incoming lump of iron ore could be intercepted, slowed down and dropped more gently into the Earth’s atmosphere…where it would sink to the bottom of the ocean, because iron ore doesn’t float.
That would also still leave the possibility of a lump of iron ore not being intercepted properly, which would put the whole world back on Russian-Roulette alert, or of it being intercepted and then something going wrong, potentially seeing the Earth being hit at high velocity by 500 tonnes of iron, loaded up with huge quantities of liquid hydrogen and oxygen.
These may be one-in-a-million risks, but to match current, Earthbound, iron ore extraction rates we’d have to receive more than 65,000,000 of these 500 tonne packages every year.
None of these problems are insurmountable, Mankind has proved itself to be an ingenious species, and off-world mining is almost certainly going to be essential if we’re to expand our species off Earth, and onto other planets, but the post-scarcity world isn’t imminent…no matter how cheap rockets get.
“It’s not my fight,” I told myself for a long time. I’m not a woman, I’m not a trans-woman, I’m not a feminist, or a lawyer, or a human rights campaigner, or a biologist, sociologist, politician or anything, really.
I’m just a bloke, and me, and the millions of others who are just blokes are a long way from the argument about what the definition of a woman is. We’ll remain a long way from it as well, because…well, ultimately because it will be a billion years before the top hit for “lesbian” on Pornhub delivers a video of two people with beards and penises going at it.
Last night I was lucky enough to attend a Woman’s Place UK meeting. I mainly sat quietly at the back, trying not to be too penis-ey, hoping that nobody would shout, “Sit down, this isn’t for you!” at me during the many standing ovations. It was an amazing event.
The solidarity, the sisterhood, the anger and frustration that what is being asked is not support for, or acceptance of, trans people, but a flat out denial of facts and reason and complicity in the trampling of women’s rights.
I arrived at the event with women who were worrying about protests, milkshakes, and violence and left with a crowd who would fight an army for women who don’t want to cause a fuss, or upset a powerful lobby, or seem un-progressive, women who don’t know they need feminism…yet.
As just a bloke this was the first time I’ve seen feminism up-close and visceral, and it’s incredible. The women who spoke were powerful and funny, sad and angry, strongly bound together, yet feeling isolated. They imparted to me – a man whose knowledge of the history of feminism can be summed up as, “Something, something, something, Page 3,” – a sense of just how long and hard the struggle has been to make women a class whose thoughts, beliefs, actions and very essence aren’t defined by men, and of how insidious and, frequently, effective the shaming and bullying of women for defining themselves has been.
And I found myself wondering how to stop men thinking, “This isn’t my fight”. We could sit by, nobody is ever going to make us actually act like trans-women are women. If we’re happy that our lesbian porn will always have multiple fannies and no willies then we could let everything else slide.
That would be easy…and an admission that the most man-hating, Page-3-bashing caricature of a feminist ever had pegged us exactly right. That we have no thoughts beyond those that begin and end with our dicks. If we’re going to make the effort to show that we’re also creatures with brains then inherent in that is we must defend ourselves from accepting nonsense and dogma because it’s easy and convenient, without worrying about who gets thrown under the bus.
If we can’t say that trans-women are not women, that it is physically impossible to change sex, that biology is not a fantasy and that gender-politics is harmful then we’ve lost something. We’ve lost what should be the most important 6 inches of our body – those between our ears.
I saw inspiring women last night, but I also saw plenty of empty seats, where men could have been. No to speak, not to lead, not to be woke feminists, but to show our support and show women that they don’t have to stand alone on this.
This isn’t my fight. I’m not a feminist…but I’ve seen those who are, and who are willing to risk everything to win their fight, and I want to be on their side because, fuck me, they’re the real women with balls.
There is a principle in systems of formal logic called the principle of explosion. Without getting all technical what it says is that if you introduce into your logic two contradictory statements, which are both assumed to be true, then you can use them to prove that any other statement is also true (or false, if your preference takes you that way).
While the principle of explosion has a fancy name, and a formal proof, and even italics, it’s basically saying something that anybody older than, say, 10 could work out; that if you assume something false is true then all of your logic from there on in is fucked into a tin hat (10 year-olds may not say it exactly like that, depends where they’re from, I guess).
Which brings us to 2019’s most controversial axiom, “Trans-women are women”
As a slogan it has a lot going for it. It sounds a lot like it means, “Trans-women should be treated as women” or “Trans-women have the same rights as women” or “It would be incredibly rude to point out that trans-women aren’t women”.
But it doesn’t mean any of those those defensible and rational points. It means, literally, that trans-women are women.
You can go onto social media and see people arguing that this is the case. There are hundreds of blogs you can read stating it as fact. It is already accepted as such in some of the mainstream media. More and more organisations are accepting it as an article of faith.
Thousands of words are poured into studiously ignoring a million years of human evolution, with one class of people who give birth and one class who do not, instead, advancing edge cases and unwillingly co-opt those with disorders of sexual development to prove that there is no meaningful biological difference between men and women.
All that is allowed to remain to separate the classes of ‘male’ and ‘female’ is a belief in an un-testable, un-falsifiable, un-scientific innate sense of gender, a gendered soul.
This is the principle of explosion in action. When it is axiomatic that males are female then biology must be irrelevant, so the relevant difference must be something outside of the realms of biology.
By assuming something contradictory we have proved that souls exist, ex contradictione sequitur quodlibet.
It doesn’t stop there, of course. As we’ve seen, the contradictory axiom drags the idea that homosexuality is a choice out of its last refuges in golf clubs and fundamentalist churches, provides a proof that it’s true, and then frames any voices raised in objection as those of bigots.
It makes it OK to prevent women from meeting and speaking, because the train of logic shows that you are doing so to protect the rights of women to meet and speak. Women must be willing to give up their spaces where men are not allowed so that women can continue to have men-free spaces.
And, of course, it allows you to draw parallels with the struggle for gay rights, or black civil rights. Because when you have constructed an increasingly tall tower of pure imagination you could draw parallels with the Apollo Moon missions, or the history of glass-making, or the story-arcs of the characters in Friends. When everything is based on a fundamental flaw then it can look and feel like whatever you want.
Most damaging of all, it legitimises of abuse towards, threatening of, and violence to women, because it allows those guilty of such actions to say that their ultimate goal is the protection of women.
You start with “A=B and A≠B” and end up with a man punching a women in the face, yelling, “This is for your own good!”
Trans-rights activists have proved fond of suggesting that “Trans-women are women” is no different to stating that “Black women are women”. Looking at it through the lens of the principle of explosion shows this to be false. Stating that black women are women does not require long threads about albinism or getting lesbians to renounce their sexual preferences, or for broad restructuring of the language, to make it inclusive.
What that lens also shows is that most of the arguments one sees are, sadly, pointless. Lord knows how many millions of words have been argued, from both side, about the biological difference and similarities between males and females, and chromosomal abnormalities, and other edge cases, in the mistaken belief that these are the pillars supporting the argument that trans-women are women. Rather, they are the logical consequences of it. They are the grappling hooks thrown out by those defending a fundamentally illogical position to shore up only their own refusal to abandon it, not to support the argument itself.
Which is a shame. There are undoubtedly men who suffer from genuine dysphoria, and others who desperately want to be female, and undoubtedly they need support, acceptance and allyship – and can be inspirational, brave and pioneering.
Those things cannot be at the expense of not only a willingness, but a demand, that facts are ignored, logic is trampled and reasonable dissent is seen as abuse, because the principle of explosion says that just one contradiction is enough to prove anything and everything, and women – actual natal women – have lengthy experience of where giving men the power to determine everything leads.
It’s been the best part of 25 years since I first started communicating via on-line groups. First it was Usenet, then web forums, Facebook and, now, Twitter. In that time one factor has been constant; people have disagreed with me.
Obviously this is pretty distressing for me, as I’ve never knowingly admitted to being wrong about anything. To reconcile my inability to process any opinion other than my own as being correct, and the willingness of countless people to tell me that I’m wrong, I’ve decided that everybody who disagrees with me is doing so for malicious reasons, borne out of fear and hatred for me.
I’m going to call this Andrewphobia. Androphobia sounds better, but it turns out that’s already a real, and entirely rational, thing – making it doubly unsuitable for my purpose. So Andrewphobia it is.
Let me give you a trivial example. The greatest film ever made is Lair of the White Worm. Now, you may have some silly ideas about it being The Godfather, or Citizen Kane, or Police Academy, or whatever, but scientists can now prove that none of those films have Peter Capaldi playing the bagpipes, and therefore can’t be the greatest film ever. This means that your attempts to suggest that LotWW isn’t the best film were really examples of conscious or subconscious Andrewphobia.
Why do you hate me so?
And don’t let me hear you sniggering at this, because Andrewphobia is bigotry, and you know else who was bigoted, don’t you?
Not that Andrewphobics are as bad as Nazis, of course…they’re much worse. At least Nazis hated lots of different people, whereas I’m far more oppressed because there’s just one of me. There literally couldn’t be any less of me, unless I went on some sort of diet (and you’d better believe that suggesting that I desperately need to go on a diet is hideous Andrewphobia. Yes, Doctor S_____, you’ll be hearing from the GMTV. You bet on it!)
It’s because Andrewphobia is so bad that anything I do to defend myself is not only defensible, but basically absolutely fine. You criticise one of my tweets, I set fire to your house while you’re asleep, and we’re even. You ‘call me out’ on my ‘bullshit’ and I send you a video of your kids, and a note telling you where to leave the money if you want to see them again, and the universe is in balance. You tell me that Andrewphobia is just something I made up and I send an anonymous report to the police, saying that they need to check your hard-drive, and that’s a balanced and proportionate response.
I’ve had a long chat with Twitter support about this and, based on the fact that I’ve got a penis, they say it’s all pretty much fine. Hey, I don’t make the rules, I just ruthlessly exploit them to get my own way.
I hope, by now, you fully accept that Andrewphobia is, literally, the worst thing ever, and that you will help me fighting the bigots and Nazis who propagate it, whatever it takes, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be on the right side of history.
If you’re not woke enough to feel that way then comments are open.