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I agree with your argument about feminism. There, of course, is a lot of nuance to this. But I see Dylan as not so much a villain but a victim of this ideology. The demand for his schtick was immediate. Millions of followers. And millions in cash. Praise from celebrities and the pseudo-intellectual elite. Who wouldn't be swayed by that type of love- and money-bombing? But he is no doubt the poster child for the regressiveness of gender identity ideology and, sadly, its marriage to the medical industry. (Those post-op surgery pics with thousands of "so happy for you!" comments is quite dystopian.) He is a gay drag queen, a camp performer of femininity. The message he perpetuates about what it means to be a woman will set young girls and women back, specifically because he is a male claiming that these traits are what make him a woman. But he is a symptom of this madness, not a cause.

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May 4, 2023Liked by Sarah Haider

On Feminism: I couldn’t agree more. While I was exactly the kid that would’ve gotten swept up in this 20 years ago, I wonder if the hedge for me would’ve been sports. I was such a physical, muscular female athlete that when puberty hit, I was devastated to learn that No, Women CanNOT Do Everything Men Can Do.

At the time, it sent me into a depressive spiral, but it also gave me a strong dose of reality.

I don’t understand how so many feminists can continue to insist that while some things about men in particular are immutable (strength vis a vis women; proclivity for violence and aggression) somehow this doesn’t translate to sex-typical behavior in other ways, like a nurturing disposition (relative to males) in women.

The whole project, I *thought*, was to open things up for individuals. A particularly strong woman ought to be able to be a combat soldier, if she qualifies. A man can be a stay at home dad. Anyone *can* be an engineer--*if* they possess the right talents and qualifications.

Instead, we’ve ended up in a society where too many people believe there are no salient differences between the sexes except aesthetic ones, or secondary sex characteristics. As if we are all the same doll with a few different parts for males and females, instead of holistic beings influenced by our bodies and hormones as well as culture and personality.

I think the reason this denial took hold so easily is two fold:

1. In the western world, especially in white collar work, there are precious few opportunities to see the massive sex differences in true form, leading many to believe it was all cultural. If you work in an office, as opposed to on a farm, it’s easy to think males and females are very similar.

2. Few women want to admit their limitations this way. It doesn’t feel “fair” that we can’t train ourselves to outcompete men, that biology constrains us in so many ways (even if it also opens doors available only for us, at the same time.)

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May 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023

I agree with you about religion (I commented on this on your previous post). I don't know that it's fully necessary to really believe, but it helps. Sometimes, though, going through the motions may be sufficient, as long as you believe strongly enough in the need to go through the motions. I think many secular or not-very-religious Jews do that these days. On the other hand, one might argue that this is a sign of impending decline, of a gradual disintegration of the Jewish community. It might take a long time for the culture to fall apart, but this may be a sign that it's going to happen eventually.

Regarding an earlier generation of feminists' tendency to deny differences between the sexes, this was an over-simplification on their part. The culture they grew up in told them that a woman's place is in the home, that due to some not-entirely-explained inherent differences between the sexes, women couldn't be lawyers or engineers or whatever they wanted to be. The feminists pushed back against that, rather crudely, by denying that there were any meaningful differences between the sexes at all. This was, of course, wrong, a sort of opposite and equal error to what they were rebelling against. It's as if the role of women in society were a pendulum stuck at one extreme of its range of motion. The feminists freed it with a strong shove, and naturally it swung all the way to the other side, rather than stopping in the center at the point of natural balance. For it to ever stop, people will have to stop shoving it and then wait (probably quite a while) for it to stop swinging. My guess is this will never happen because people will never stop pushing it.

More fundamentally, neither the feminists nor their antagonists seemed to really understand why "a woman's place is in the home" was the norm in the first place, or what changes in our environment might justify changing the role of women. The arguments of both sides were therefore lacking in understanding, and the controversy amounted to little more than both sides screaming slogans at each other and making up specious rationalizations in support of their social agendas.

As for you being (or not being) a TERF, the term lacks any real meaning beyond "a woman who refuses to accept every last detail of current progressive dogma on trans issues", so you may as well get used to the label. On a purely logical level, it's pretty silly, because in order to be a "trans-exclusionary radical feminist", you would have to be both "trans-exclusionary" and a "radical feminist", yet I've seen people (e.g. J.K. Rowling) labeled TERFs who clearly are not radical feminists. I once tried pointing this out to someone who called Rowling a TERF, but I don't think the point got through, possibly because the person didn't really understand what radical feminism was in the first place.

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May 5, 2023·edited May 5, 2023Liked by Sarah Haider

One thing I've been wondering about... you're looking at what blame feminism has. But I wonder if much of this is actually about men failing to play *their* social roles adequately.

Isn't a lot of the onus on men to stop worrying about women giving them nasty looks and start demanding strength, frankness, and accountability from people? This is a Jordan Peterson style point. He often complains about feminists. But I think at bottom the real wisdom of what he's saying isn't about feminism at all - it's that men have a role to play which many of them are either too afraid or too incompetent to play. Is it possible that when men fail to play that role, these sorts of runaway social constructionist and social justice type movements are the result?

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'TERF' is thrown around and meaningless, like saying 'fascist' or 'communist', so it's not an expression I would use. Most feminists who are gender critical take the view of JK Rowling: not against trans people, but against the ideology, the transing of children and the denial of women's single sex spaces, sports, prisons, opportunities etc. That's it. There are, of course, crazies on all sides, but best to keep a broad tent.

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Very interesting, especially your thoughts on feminism. The more I learn about gender identity ideology, the more I realise that conceptualising the roles and expectations of both sexes as "gender" and talking about these as separate concepts paved the way for where we are now.

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“I don’t feel religion is ‘needed’, but I do think that in a more general sense, we need a sense of community and duty towards one another, and the shared values and shared understanding of the world that religion brings are a useful ‘glue’ for in-group formation....

I also suspect that religion only functions well in this aspect if most in the faith community actually believe that it is the true word of god. In other words, the social benefits are dependent on the sacred beliefs, and if they are not held as true by a majority in some significant sense, they will not be sufficiently ‘sacred’ and the social benefits will fade away.”

The experience of American Jews would seem to dispute this.

Likewise Italian-American men are notorious for treating the life rituals and protocols of the Roman Catholic Church seriously and with great respect, without ever actually taking the actual “teachings”, rules or theology all that seriously, viewing them as something for children and women.

There are literally millions of people in the northeast US alone (from all different faiths) whose lives and families contradict this thesis.

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Two points: While I totally agree with the content of the second half article, I would go out of my way to avoid using the acronym TERF. It is not very well defined (what constitutes a feminist, let alone a «radical» one?), it is used mainly as a slur, and it is used broadly as an attack on women who disagree with the genderists, where many of these women don’t think that they are «feminist» at all! To use it as it is a valid and useful term, plays into the genderists’ ball park.

In the last but one paragraph you address the question of intentions. While there are no doubt about there being good intentions on both sides, failing to mention the utter madness of genderist activism, doxxing, blacklisting, cancelling, going after people’s jobs and also physically attacking speakers—failing to mention that all of this is done by one side only gives an impression of a false balance. There is a moral inequality here: Where both sides surely are thinking themselves as on «the good side», only one side regularly displays that it thinks its ends justify extreme, anti-democratic means.

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I don’t understand what a “TERF” is other than an attempt to vilify a reasonable and necessary concept of humans. Sex is real and it doesn’t change. No one thinks men are having babies. This is why little girls that hit puberty are covered up and married off in some cultures. Ahem. So not sure why it’s controversial to say humans aren’t sequential hermaphrodites. Feminism is a kind of gender ideology. The religious have their own gender ideology. Hollywood and the obsession with Dylan is just more American social cannibalism, maybe he is an attention whore, he’s boring. As for religion I think we create religious hierarchies if what’s available doesn’t suit us. Gender identity is filling that void. And religious communities are their own menace, each of them. Humans are insufferable creatures.

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There are no such things as non-religious societies. There are non-theistic ones, the West, but no such things as non-religious ones.

What drives the acrimony of public discourse is not White Rage, but White Guilt.

White Guilt and its need to find expiatory vessels which is what the "marginalized" are. Which is a disaster for the marginalized since to serve as expiatory vessel is to be seen by the central as having no agency.

In other words, it's why the newspaper of record, NYTimes, feels totally justified in running, what, a dozen stories about a white man in Kansas shooting, but not killing, a young Black man. But ignores the extraordinary amount of same race homicides among the marginalized, excepting Asians.

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Spot on with the socialization argument. The most irritating thing about it for me is when people question why women aren’t standing up to this stuff, radfems will go on about we can’t possibly expect them to do so because they’ve been socialized into silence. So you’re not allowed to call out women for their failures and complacency, despite women being able to speak basically wherever and whenever they want in America. It’s like this weird fantasy that women as a class are wilting flowers being told to shut up and sit pretty by their Steven Crowder husbands.

At the same time, men who stand up against it are accused of talking over feminists, so not only are women excuses from fighting the fight, men are criticized for stepping up and doing so. It seems to me the that only acceptable path for them to “win” is via some sort of utopia where radfems suddenly convert the world and win on their terms. It’s delusional.

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I have a similar feeling for some people in the various "heterodox" world; while we may share some conclusions, tendencies, etc, I think that many of them are too involved in sharpening that axe on their grindstone.

All of this is made more complicated by the varying degrees of 1) good intention (or authenticity, perhaps), 2) different fundamental values (things like being dedicated to a religion or to some tribe or another, for example), 3) audience capture/being sucked in by being idolized/desire to keep income coming in, and 4) good ol' tribalism.

I try, really hard, to not get too comfortable in any pocket of any bubbles, having been through both the bubbles of the early atheist community (I started being active in 2002) and the polyamorous community, which became largely woke/cancel-culture-ish/etc. That said, I like a lot of what you (and Meghan, where you two intersect) say.

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Hey, Sarah -

In thinking about the utility of religious faith, wouldn't it make sense that perhaps it is useful because it is factually true? I believe that God knows us and created us to act in certain ways, so the “utility“ is the outcome of holding to a psychological reality like gravity is in the physical world.

It seems clear that most people at most times know what is right to do - in this sense, God has created us with a particular moral compass. We just struggle to actually do it when circumstances make it difficult. That's at least why I think my own religion (Christianity) is true; it maps pretty well to what I see as beneficial or harmful for humans in the long run, and it explains why I want to do good and then, when push comes to shove, don't actually follow through. I haven't experienced other religions, so I don't know if they feel the same, but mine definitely makes sense of why people need things like community, purpose, etc. and struggle to maintain it if they don't believe the underlying religious ideas.

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Re needing religious belief: I really do think the genie you speak of is out of the bottle, and trying to put it back in would require a lot of repression. Smiling moderate theological acrobatics can - and has - helped to some extent for people who can't give up the Ghost, but the erosion will probably continue.

As lame as it sounds, people might have to develop a kind of "reconstructed religiosity", rally around notions like "yes, humans made up God, but going forward, let's slowly and humbly explore the best approximation of "divinity" and "the sublime" that we can in how we interact with each other and the world" - that sort of thing. It'll probably take a bunch of awkward and deeply embarrassing experimentation to get close enough to the effects of the real thing.

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May 9, 2023·edited May 10, 2023

You say: " What about the decades of campaigns by feminists downplaying the role of biological sex differences, casting all apparent dimorphism as a result of “socialization”?

I missed those decades apparently! I was a second wave feminist and you don't describe my feminism or those of the people I worked with at all (and that includes men, as well as women.) I just don't remember any "downplaying the role of biological sex differences" but I do remember that there were many that demonized men (though most did not.)

There were always two different camps in feminism - basically the radical feminists who thought of women as better than men - and us equality-of-opportunity feminists. We did none of the things you claimed and I worked with hundreds of feminists over the years. If anything, the radical feminists, particularly the lesbian separatists, were arguing that men are the oppressors due to their biological tendencies and we should develop female institutions and isolate from men to the degree possible. The reason feminists were called "man haters" was because there were groups who did, in fact, hate men. Most did not.

Now the equality of opportunity feminists argued two things. First, that each individual should have an opportunity to compete in male professions/ educational institutions and let the chips fall where they may. And secondly, that it was not clear what was socialization and what was nature - but only through getting rid of the laws holding women back, would that become clear what the mix was for women and men in general and as individuals. (Is this what you mean by downplaying the sex differences in that we believed - I still believe - there is a mix of nature/nurture and that individuals vary greatly?) We wanted equality under the law. Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the key figure to make that happen - mostly as an advocate, but ultimately on the court too as with the VMI case, there were no longer laws holding women back.

In terms of radical feminists like Firestone, I never read her but if her idea was that men and women were essentially the same - that sex differences were solely because of socialization - that idea didn't filter out of her book and to the movement. It just wasn't a thing.

So my question is - where do you get the idea that feminists were making these arguments? I know nothing about third wave feminism. Was it there? I don't know anyone who holds those views and, pretty much, all my friends are feminists - so something is off here.

(I keep editing as thoughts occur). Ok, what did happen is that the powers that be shutdown any talk about group differences in intelligence because it was considered dangerous. The Bell Curve argued among many things that - on the group level - Blacks scored less on IQ tests for both cultural and genetic reasons. This book came out in 1994 and the reaction to the book was enormous and, actually, a healthy debate about IQ and race ensued, but that debate no longer is allowed. The debate on Jews and their out-performance in Western culture has been shut-down (Wikipedia deleted, for instance, an article on Jews and Intelligence). And in 2009, Larry Summers gave a keynote in which he postulated - from evidence - that the dearth of women in STEM professions could relate to "the standard deviation and variability of a male and female population" re math skills. He lost his job at President of Harvard for this. James Damore at google went down the same route and lost his job at Google. So, yes, now it is considered heresy on the left to talk about intelligence differences between the sexes in aggregate. I actively defended James Damore and Larry Summers and the push-back was not coming from feminists per se - it was coming from the left as a whole. Now, you won't see people crusading to get 50% representation of women in the trades because, believe me, people accept that it is a job that males are more apt to do and better suited for when upper body strength is called for. So, it's not like the society has gone completely insane, but group intelligence is a third rail.

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Do we need religion ? Depends on how you view ‘religion’ - if it is about political control then definitely no . However if it is to understand the meaning of life then - maybe yes 😀

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