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PHILBIN: Of gender, privilege and word games
Question of the Day
My privilege invalidates my perspective on how you identify.
If you had to read that sentence twice and maybe are still unsure what it means, you’re woefully unfamiliar with contemporary liberal-speak. You see, “identify” and “privilege” are terms with great currency on the left these days. They are also two sides of the same magic coin, minted to instantly quash dissent and silence argument.
This became abundantly clear recently when I made the mistake of commenting on Twitter about the latest 6-year-old “Princess Boy” news story. My crime, according to the liberals I offended, was declining to call a boy a girl. I’m rather a stickler for reality, and because the child was a biological boy, to my benighted thinking, the male pronouns still applied.
This was beyond the pale to lefties. In refusing to use the feminine pronouns, I was refusing to accept his identity, disrespecting his “autonomy” (yes, a first-grader’s autonomy) and, horrors, being trans-phobic. I was advised by one of my new Twitter friends to “check your privilege, dude.” Another helpfully amplified: “You are a straight, white male. Check your privilege, bigot.”
First, that matter of “identifying”: In 2013, you no longer need lady bits to be a lady. You need only “identify” as one — reality be darned. In modern America, you can’t earn a living the way you want to, or build on your own property if it impacts the habitat of the spotted slug. But call yourself a halibut, and you can self-righteously demand the world cover you in beurre blanc and serve you with a dry white.
How you identify is sovereign. If Bradley Manning says he’s Chelsea, then, by golly, the world is expected to send gender-warming gifts with a C embroidered on them. (Would his and hers hand towels be inappropriate?) We’re all expected to choose sides in Manning’s argument with biology, and make no mistake: Biology is in the wrong. Anyone with the temerity to point out the empress has no womb is a bigot.
Woe unto the pronoun refusenik who happens to be a straight, white guy. As my possibly straight and definitely white Twitter interlocutors so damningly pointed out, I am guilty as charged. Told to “check my privilege,” my instinctual response was to suggest they check their bong. In their eyes, I am a creature of privilege. My skin color and reproductive organs — and how I use them — have imparted it. White privilege makes my perspective invalid and my opinion unwelcome, as long as I’m disagreeing with liberals.
This charge of privilege amounts to a simple statement: You had your time, white guy. You built this civilization. You’re going to sit quietly while we dismantle it. So “check your privilege” and shut up.
This is the flip side of the left’s “identify” piety. Bradley is Chelsea, pronouns and all, because Bradley says so. But if Bradley quite likes being Bradley, and prefers to marry a Chelsea and produce little Bradleys and Chelseas, he’s a scion of privilege. It doesn’t matter if he’s worked his way through college, never took a dime from government, never benefited from racial or gender preferences, never had a test dumbed down for him and the Huffington Post never dedicated a page to his “lifestyle.” The left has identified for him.
That’s how they fight. Liberals understand the power of language and how to employ it in their politics of grievance and envy. They define and redefine the terms of the argument. “Privilege” has always been a reliable class-war cudgel. Why not press it into service in the left’s other campaigns, conflate pigmentation advantage and sexual advantage with material advantage?
Alternatively, they’ll create new terminology from scratch to validate the last thing they made up. Since your imagination is the only limit on how you identify, new terms are needed to describe that identity. That’s why the old “LGB” has been stringing new letters on the end of it at a clip of about one a fortnight.
Friendly journalists help put new terms into circulation (think “marriage equality”). Businesses eager to burnish their “diversity” credentials and earn goodies from the diversity industry pay people to keep up with them. Thus, Reuters recently surveyed its employees about sexual preference, asking them to choose from eight different options (including “Genderqueer/Androgynous” and “Intersex,” whatever that is.)
Pretty soon, the old language has lost objective meaning. Words mean what liberals say they do, and reality — inasmuch as it exists any longer — does, too.
We all must play the game. The existence of one dissenter serves to puncture the entire splendid fantasy and remind them that facts are stubborn things and that Bradley is just playing dress-up. That’s why dissent is intolerable. To decline to use their language is to hate. To cling to what was real and true last week, and for 5,000 years before that, is bigotry.
So take it from someone who found out the hard way. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll check your privilege, mind your pronouns and brush up on the ever-expanding alphabet soup of sexual identity.
Matt Philbin is managing editor of the Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute.
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