Who is to blame for gender theory?

Apr 23, 2024 by

by Sarah Ditum, UnHerd:

Here’s a version of a story you might have heard before: first feminists got what they wanted, and then they got what they deserved. At some point in the Noughties, the idea that men and women were fundamentally alike in character and aptitude (if not in body) became the only acceptable thing to believe; and at some point shortly after that, the doctrine of transgenderism swept in and swept away every claim feminism had ever made. It’s a classic of the monkey’s paw genre: be careful what you wish for.

According to this account, feminist writers had devoted themselves to rooting out the scourge of “neurosexism”, and they had been all too successful. By rejecting the idea of inherent sex difference, writers such as Cordelia Fine (in Delusions of Gender) and Rebecca Jordan-Young (in Brain Storm) had effectively undone the very class they claimed to represent. The most appealing part of this story is, of course, that it takes a particularly virulent attack on women’s rights and pins the blame for it on women.

But it also has a germ of truth to it: there is a strand of feminism that has always seemed deeply uncomfortable with the idea of sex difference. “Born this way” might make strategic sense as a slogan for other civil rights movements, but for the women’s movement, it would have come close to an admission of defeat: born to be underpaid and sexually harassed. No wonder there was an insistent pull towards a form of blank slatism for some feminists.

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