Hell’s Canteen
Friday Ephemera

How Dare You Not Pretend

In the comments, Mr Muldoon steers us to the latest mental rumblings of Ms Laurie Penny:

You must be threatened by her ideas.

Ms Penny is, I think, referring to fellow feminist Julie Bindel, whose review of Laurie’s latest book is not entirely positive, and who chose not to refer to its author as a suddenly ungendered being. But the broader claim is perhaps worth exploring.

I can’t say that my own views on modish pronoun stipulation make me feel “cool and edgy.” If anything, they seem fairly self-evident and unremarkable, not the stuff of obvious scandal or sudden intakes of breath. And I doubt that anyone here is likely to feel “threatened… by the ideas of a more progressive generation.” Though Ms Penny’s tendency to self-flatter – her inevitable trajectory – does catch the eye.

Regarding rudeness, I’m generally polite by default, at least in person, and don’t go out of my way to needlessly put a kink in someone else’s day. I’ve had perfectly civil chats with people who regard themselves as transgender or gender-non-conforming or whatever. Nobody got upset. But what is often being asked – or demanded – is not a small thing, not in its implications.

Taken broadly, we are being asked to affirm, wholesale, a bundle of phenomena that includes not only actual gender dysphoria, whether the result of developmental anomalies or childhood molestation, but also autogynephilia, serious personality disorders, adolescent pretension, and assorted exhibitionist and unsavoury compulsions. The expectation seems to be that we should take these different phenomena, with very different moral connotations, as being one and the same thing, and then defer to them, habitually and uncritically. Which is asking rather more than can readily be agreed to.

We’ve previously noted the ways in which the activism of pronoun stipulators differs from that of other groups with which they are often equated. Someone being gay, for instance, doesn’t generally entail an expectation that the rest of us should pretend that the physical reality we can see is somehow not the case. And unsurprisingly, people may object to being told that they should disregard the obvious and become dishonest on demand, thereby leaving themselves open to any prankster, or bedlamite, or sadistic opportunist in search of leverage.

Some insist that not indulging modish pronouns, including animal pronouns and clown pronouns, and pronouns that can change randomly, several times a day - and being reluctant to indulge any other attendant psychodrama - is a violation of human rights and a basis for severe legal consequences. One might think that coercively eroding the probity of other people, demanding that they lie, and even hallucinate, is a pretty bad thing too. At best, a recipe for grim farce. But there we are. 

Laurie’s own adventures in competitive self-definition have dazzled us before and may reward a second visit.


Oh, and here’s a reminder that I now have a Gettr account.


Heavens, a button. I wonder what it does.