Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pronoun Creep: The Left Keeps Finding New Ways To Extend Its Pronoun Diktats

I hope nobody thinks that the left is going to be happy with mere informal, social control over our language-use--pronouns in particular. The logic of the left--or so it now seems to me--is to push toward ever-more-radical positions. And that includes: toward more overt, direct, and effective means of enforcement, including the law. Here's Volokh on the ABA's new rule that seems to mandate incorrect pronoun use by lawyers even during non-professional social activities and Bar Association activities.

   There can't be any serious doubt that elements of the progressive left want to make politically incorrect (but linguistically correct) pronoun use illegal. After all, they consider it "hate speech," and they want to make hate speech illegal. QED.
   It's IMO extremely important to resist the left's insane efforts to enforce incorrect pronoun use on the rest of us, for reasons I've articulated before: mostly because it's important to draw the line at truth and falsehood. Caitlyn Jenner, to take a famous example, is not a woman. He's got every right to dress and act however he wants, and we should all be willing to defend those rights. He can (falsely) refer to himself as a woman if he likes. His friends are free to refer to him as 'she' if they like--no one, anywhere, thinks otherwise. Knock yourselves out, Jenner clan! But, as a matter of simple, straightforward fact, Jenner is not a woman. And no one can justly be compelled to speak falsehoods about this (or any other) matter--nor to say things that presuppose falsehoods. And, of course, referring to Jenner as 'she' presupposes that Jenner is female.
   These arguments don't need to be bolstered by gestures at practical consequences, but they can be. Sometimes people argue thusly: why not just say the words? They're just noises, and they make the other person feel better? The answer, of course, is that they aren't just noises, the truth matters, and you don't get to tell me what to say. Again: the line has to be drawn somewhere, and facts (and standard English usage) are the best place to do so. If the line isn't drawn there, there's no obvious other place to draw it. And, of course, this kind of misleading speech has real policy consequences. Consider the public restroom debate. Here's a form of argument that appears over and over again in Places like the Post and the Times commonly write like so: Smith is a girl, so Smith should be able to use the girl's restroom and locker rooms. But the inexplicably evil administrators at Central High won't let her! Why not??? You'd think that the transparent ploy of misusing the word 'girl' wouldn't help anybody much...but somehow they seem to get mileage out of it. Once you've agreed to pretend that Jones is a woman, you seem to have accepted the burden of explaining why Jones can't use the women's room, compete in women's sports, apply for women's scholarships, etc. There are rumblings in the far corners of the left to the effect that you should also have to explain why you don't want to have sex with such women--the refusal to do so is being analogized to racism. Why have you arbitrarily picked out this completely arbitrary subset of women arbitrarily, bigot? Must be *ism! It can't be the penis thing! After all, it is, we're told, a feminine penis! Straight dudes like sex with women and these are women and their penises are women's penises! It's practically gay not to want to have sex with them! And needless to say, it's totally racist or whatever.
   And, of course, the fantastical, not-even-vaguely sound arguments that support all this nonsense are applicable to anything: if feeling as if x makes you x, then all bets are off with respect to what people can be. Race, age, height, species...you name it, you can be it--and just by feeling that you are.
   Again, I'm kind of contemptuous of the practical arguments. What matters is: the propositions in question are false. That's an end on things, even if there are no bad, practical consequences. And: expression should be maximally free, and that means, among other things: it can't be compelled. Jenner isn't a woman. It's just a fact. That doesn't mean anything bad about Jenner--there's nothing wrong with being a man. But even if it did mean something bad, the rest of us can't be made to pretend that the facts aren't facts.
   But the cultural superstructure has already given in to informal social pressure on this score. Next will come an assault on professional rules of conduct, student codes of conduct, etc. Then laws. Of course there are already laws in CA, NY, and DC...and there will, inevitably, be more.

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