“Why are we seeing the worldwide emergence of highly authoritarian regimes?”

Here’s the February forum of “Ethical Issues in Our Times.” 

“Why are we seeing the worldwide emergence of highly authoritarian regimes?”

For more than a decade, representative governments have been under attack across the world: from Orban in Hungary to Modi in India from Putin in Russia to Xi in China, from Trump in the US to Bolsonaro in Brazil, from Duarte in the Philippines to the generals in Myanmar, and across most of Africa. Are the causes the same? Can we make sense of why this is happening? What, if anything, can we do about it? Let’s explore this together.        

Join us in discussing these pressing social issues, in a discussion led by Dr. David Sprintzen, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Long Island University. Please be advised: Because of recent unpleasant interruptions, our zoom will be closed at 7:10pm, and no one will be allowed to join thereafter.   

This is the February installment of “Ethical Issues in OurTimes”: a product of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. 

Thursday, February 2nd, from 7-9pm on zoom at:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/896985586Dr.

David Sprintzen
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
Long Island University
516-364-2178 
dsprintz@liu.edu
www.davidsprintzen.com
Blog: dsprintz.wordpress.com

Author: “Camus: A Critical Examination”
& “Critique of Western Philosophy and Social Theory”

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“What are the most pressing moral issues facing this country in 2023”

Here’s the January forum of “Ethical Issues in Our Times.”.  

“What are the most pressing moral issues facing this country in 2023”

Passionately engaged and often deeply divisive controversies embroil the nation, without there seeming to be any common ground or shared perspectives that might point the way to constructive resolutions. Which of these controversies seem most fundamental to you? And what values do you believe it is most essential that we defend and promote?tina     

Join us in discussing these pressing social issues, in a discussion led by Dr. David Sprintzen, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Long Island University

This is the January installment of “Ethical Issues in OurTimes”: a product of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. 

Thursday, January 5th, from 7-9pm on zoom at:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/896985586

“Freedom: what does it mean to you, and what are its limits?”

Here’s the December forum of “Ethical Issues in Our Times”. 

“Freedom: what does it mean to you, and what are its limits?”

Freedom seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. It’s practically the unquestioned universal value. But it is not always clear what people mean by it. What they are seeking to justify. By what, and to what extent, they feel constrained, limited, or even oppressed. And it can be difficult sometimes to find clear expressions of where and when it is acceptable, or even necessary, to provide limits to that freedom. It would seem important to obtain a better understanding of these and related issues. 

Join us in discussing these pressing social issues, in a discussion led by Dr. David Sprintzen, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Long Island University

This is the December installment of “Ethical Issues in OurTimes”: a product of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. 

Thursday, December 1st, from 7-9pm on zoom at:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/896985586

Is Our Democracy in Peril?

(I present a guest commentary by my Ethical Society colleague, and also nUnitarian clergy, Ben Bortin.)

If you’re like me, you hold a fervent belief in democracy. Democracy is a gift, a most cherished principle in human affairs. Again, if you’re like me, you also tend to take it for granted in this country.

But as an actress on the new Hulu season program, The Handmaid’s Tale, pointed out, democracy is not a given.  Democracy is something we choose, and something we must vigilantly uphold, protect, and defend. It can disappear faster than it appeared.  And increasingly we are hearing that democracy right now in the United States is in unprecedented danger, and that democracy itself is on the ballot next month. 

And just so we know what we’re talking about, what is democracy?  It’s government by consent of the governed, in John Locke’ words, meaning that every person of age in the society has a vote at election time, and everyone’s vote is faithfully counted.  It’s an approach to governance whereby people can speak and write freely without reprisal, where people are able to practice their religious faith freely, where people can peaceably assemble to express themselves without interference by the government.

And in electoral democracy, there’s something else, a phrase we’re hearing a lot in recent times — a peaceful transfer of power.  That means that the candidate who receives fewer votes than his or her opponent — guess what — concedes to the winner of the greatest number of votes. Some of our most admirable leaders have lost elections at one time or another in their careers, including two from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama.  Lincoln, in fact, in 1864, at the height of the Civil War, wrote that he would hand over power to his rival candidate, a candidate who wanted the Union to surrender, if Lincoln lost the election.

As we know, there was not a full democracy with the founding of this great nation. African Americans were enslaved and could not vote or be considered full citizens, women could not vote for nearly 150 years, men without property could not vote.  It has been a slow evolution to reach a truer sense of democracy, culminating with the 19th Amendment and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the latter, already subsequently weakened, and under further threat from a current Supreme Court case.  People face obstacles to their voting in this country, in the form of intimidation, a sheer lack of polling places leading to hours-long lines, sometimes without access to drinking water, or time-honored shenanigans like gerrymandering, making votes not count.

In Unitarian Universalism, a commitment to democracy is embedded in our religion.  In our Principles and Purposes, “We… Affirm and Promote…” according to the fifth Principle, “the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.”  

Should we, as religious people, Unitarian Universalist or not, feel free to speak out about the preservation of democracy in our country?   Emphatically yes.  We live with the brilliant principle of separation of church and state, protecting a pluralistic government from becoming a theocracy, and free worship from being suppressed by the government.   But that does not for a moment preclude religious individuals and institutions from using their free speech to witness to social and moral issues, which are also often political issues.  And one of those key issues now is the survival of democracy itself in this country.  

Many religious leaders and followers feel, as I do, that it is not only our right but our responsibility to speak out about abuses and injustices in the larger society and world.  

  Since the days of the Hebrew prophets, 2500 and more years ago, religion in its finest moments has been a conscience for society.  As we know, it was religious leaders and congregants who crusaded for voting rights for African Americans in the mid 1960s,– another struggle for democracy, including, of course, notable figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., along with numerous other  Protestant leaders, Catholic nuns, rabbis, and Unitarian Universalist ministers and laity.  That is again occurring today, in the form of  “Reclaim the Vote…”  and “UU the Vote,” not endorsing particular candidates, not supporting particular political parties, just working to safeguard everyone’s right to vote, which includes the right to have that vote counted.  

Before continuing, I feel moved to mention one other matter pertaining to democracy. We often hear of democracy as a European and American concept, one that others in the world will not necessarily understand or welcome.  I disagree.  I believe that democracy is appreciated by any and all who cherish freedom, from Japan, to the Ukraine, to Argentina, to northern African countries during the so called “Arab spring.”

It’s true that one of the earliest democracies of which we’re aware was in the west, namely ancient Greece, as we’re taught in our world history classes. “Democracy” is of course a Greek word.  I did not know the name, Cleisthenes until this year, but Cleisthenes presided over a democracy in Athens in 506 BCE.  Granted, the vote in ancient Athens was confined to propertied males, within a society that engaged in slavery, something like democracy when it started in this country.   

But democracy also appeared in Vaishali, India in the sixth century BCE.  Vaishali was where the Buddha allegedly gave his final sermon.

Some claim the oldest continuous democracy on the face of the earth is that of the Iroquois Confederation of Native Americans, whose constitution has many points in common with ours. Benjamin Franklin, in fact, invited representatives of the Iroquois to speak at the 1776 Continental Convention.  Democracy appeared in New Zealand in 1893, the first country of size in the world to allow women the right to vote.

And democracy is the heart and soul of our country and its vision, or at least it should be.  And I’m here to say that democracy is in peril in this country.  The unprecedented siege on our democratic governance dramatically came into focus on one day in particular.

It was a day on which you may recall exactly where you were and what you were doing. Like November 22d, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, or September 11th, 2001, or for those who were alive and conscious then, December 7th, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked.   The day of which I’m speaking, of course, was January 6th, 2021.  

We have seen videos of the siege on our nation’s capital month after month, for more than a year and a half, particularly those who watch MSNBC.  We have seen the footage on television of the individual pounding a window of the Capitol building, eventually smashing it, and the individual walking around the Capitol lobby, triumphantly displaying a confederate flag, or the other with a Camp Auschwitz shirt, and especially excruciating, the police officer trapped in the door by rioters, wincing in pain.  For me, however, the shock of that day was displayed with unprecedented vividness during the final hearing of the January 6th Commission a week and a half ago.

We saw for the first time Senatorial and House leaders, hiding in an underground then-secure location, frantically calling for additional law enforcement assistance. Congressional leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Stenny Hoyer, and Mitch O’Connell phoned for National Guard and police protection, phoned the Attorney General, phoned the mayor of Washington DC, phoned the governors of Maryland and Virginia, saying there needed to be re-enforcements, now, not in a little while.  The run-around response was audible.  Of course, the one person who could have halted the danger, the then-President, who had sole jurisdiction over numerous law enforcement entities, was not halting the danger, just watching it unfold on television.

The more I’ve learned about January 6th, the more stunned I’ve become.  But there’s something about the aftermath of that momentous day that to me is just as stunning, just as extraordinary, just as profoundly disturbing.

I had thought that violent uprising would shake the emotional foundations of the country, that people, irrespective of political party, would be deeply shocked and outraged.  Many were.  But many seemed to shrug their shoulders.  Even elected officials, who were in danger for their lives that day, not long thereafter seemed to love nothing more than to forget that day.   They were terrified that afternoon and evening- I’ve heard with my own ears Congresspersons who support Donald Trump say so.  But then those same people voted against a bipartisan investigation of that uprising, the worst domestic attack on the Capitol and our democracy in our history. 

The facts are irrefutable, and the whole world could see them.  An armed, angry crowd overpowered U.S. Capitol police, injured 130 of them, killed one, Brian Sicknick, who was pummeled with a fire extinguisher, caused millions of dollars of damage to the Capitol building, ransacked Congressional offices, and threatened to hang the then-Vice President, bringing an actual gallows to the outside steps of the Capitol building.

What happened was shameful enough, but what almost happened could have been so much worse.  

For example, but for the quick-wittedness and courage of one police officer, Eugene Goodman, who led a crowd of rioters up a staircase away from the Senate chambers, who knows how many Senators might have been harmed or killed, Senators who were only a few feet away when Goodman diverted the mob – yes, mob. Similar quick-wittedness caused someone to seize the official ballots for the Presidency, as senators frantically escaped their chambers.

We now know that firearms were carried by members of the insurrection – I’ll use that word too.  What if, heaven forefend, someone witn an AR 15 had made his or her way into where the Congresspeople were sequestered.

Yet some Congresspersons wanted not only to dismiss those events, but act as though they never occurred.  My late father spoke of how some people are “ignorant” in the sense that they deliberately ignore reality, even a reality that is right in front of them.  Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, for example, declared that the people who stormed the United States Capitol in order to overturn an election were actually left-leaning people, Antifa followers, disguised as Trump supporters, Proud Boys, and confederate flag wielding white supremacists. He seems to have retreated from that claim, but voted against investigating then event.

Congressman Andrew Clyde said, “You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you’d actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” said.  He went on to describe the armed and violent mob as “people (who) in an orderly fashion” stayed “between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures.”  

He conveniently omitted the fact that he, himself, Congressman Clyde, helped barricade a door to the chambers of the House of Representatives, when that area was about to be breached by an angry throng of these “normal tourists,” some of whom, by their own admission, were calling out that they were ready to take the lives of elected officials.  Again, when questioned later about the matter, he chose not to discuss it.

If we pretend something doesn’t exist, maybe it will go away.  Just as Covid was going to go away, like a miracle, then-President Trump said on February 27th, 2020, just before the pandemic began killing thousands, and eventually hundreds of thousands of people in this country. 

Another value of our free religious tradition, Unitarian Universalism is truth-seeking.  It is also a foundational premise of our educational system.  Truth for many has been drowned in this case in a sea of obfuscation and fabrication…and people are willing and ready to accept falsity, which they hear repeatedly on social media among other venues.

Blessings on leaders in both parties, Congressmen Bennie Thompson and Jaimie Raskin among others on the Democratic side, and Congresspersons Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger of the Republicans, for steadfastly pressing on nonetheless to get the facts of this momentous day before the American people.

Something false preceded and precipitated the uprising on January 6th.

As we know, Mr. Trump repeatedly said in the weeks after the election that the election abounded in voter fraud, that a victory had been stolen from him by, as he put it, “emboldened radical-left Democrats, …and … the fake news media.”   That’s despite the fact that by January 6th, over 50 court challenges, later 61 challenges, instigated by the Trump campaign concerning voter fraud, had been rejected by judges Democratic and Republican, some of those judges appointed by Donald Trump.  One of the courts to reject the claims of the Trump campaign was the United States Supreme Court.  Donald Trump’s formerly loyal Attorney General also denied such fraud, using a common pithy word starting with the letter “b” to describe such a claim.

Falsehoods, such as claims that briefcases full of false ballots in Georgia had been delivered, or that voting machines reverse people’s votes – and what kind of a voting machine is that, were said loudly and confidently, and many in this country fell for them and continue to fall for them, including nearly three hundred candidates for office.  The former President even asked, quite boldly and publically, for the Secretary of State of Georgia, to “find” 1178 votes.  If that’s not election tampering, I don’t know what is.  But people are committed enough to their beliefs and feelings as not to be distracted with facts, even ones that are out in the open.  

January 6th, traumatic as it was, was the proverbial tip of the iceberg.  What we now know led up to that attempted insurrection, and what has occurred ever since, and continues to occur, is also an insidious and deep-seated threat to democratic governance in this country.

There is a multi-pronged, deep seated campaign to that effect.

First of all, we now know that the siege against democracy on January 6th of last year was planned and orchestrated, and Secret Service and the President knew armed people were descending on Washington DC to undermine the election that had occurred.

Second, since then, more than 400 anti-voter bills have been introduced in 48 of the fifty states. Based on the disproven pretext of widespread voter fraud in the last election, early voting and mailbox voting have been radically curtailed, affecting working people, the elderly, the young, and people of color disproportionately.

Third, those who administer voting, charged with making sure a community’s or a state’s vote count is tabulated fairly are being replaced by partisan non-professionals, quite willing to report their candidate of preference as the victor, rather than the person who gained the most votes in the respective district or state.  The lives of current election officials, with track records of professionalism and fair-mindedness, have been threatened, along with their families’, and have understandably resigned their positions.

Candidates who believe, without evidence, or in contradiction of evidence, that the last election was stolen are running for Secretaries of State.  These are state officials who often are the final arbiters when it comes to administering elections.

There was no reason to doubt the outcome, and the former Vice President knew it.  The votes in close states had been re-counted, and re-counted again.  Mike Pence didn’t have the power as one person to countermand those certified votes, and to his great credit and glory, he realized it.  

My paramount concern is that we preserve democracy in this country. I realize we are at the proverbial eleventh hour, with the next election on November 8th.  But I urge us in the remaining days to be in touch with UU the Vote and Reclaim the Vote.

With Ukraine, the clear and present danger to democracy comes from outside the country, in the form of the dictator, Vladamir Putin.  In our country, the danger comes from within.

As one of my fellow UU ministers said, I never thought I’d say that we should be sure that fascism never takes over this country.  Sinclair Lewis’ ironic title to a novel was It Can’t Happen Here.  There were plenty of stirrings of fascism in this country when he wrote the booi.

And our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, had these words, which he uttered just before the Civil War…

“At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I would answer, if it ever reaches us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must, ourselves, be its author and its finisher.”

And to paraphrase him again, may we do whatever we can to ensure that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people not perish from the earth. 

“Patriotism: a virtue or a curse?”

Here’s the November forum of “Ethical Issues in Our Times”. 

“Patriotism: a virtue or a curse?”

Samuel Johnson famously called patriotism “the last refuge of a scoundrel.” While Nathan Hale famously is reported to have exclaimed “I only regret I have but one life to give for my country.” Quite recently, political analyst Ruy Teixeira has criticized Democrats for yielding the political terrain on patriotism to the Republicans by suggesting that the political left has shown more interest in focusing on America’s racial history that on its contribution to international human rights and domestic social improvement. Do you think that people’s group identity as a nationality, a religion, or a race, tends to enhance or to detract from human well being? How do you feel about the groups to which you belong?  

Join us in discussing this pressing social issue, in a discussion led by Dr. David Sprintzen, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Long Island University

This is the November installment of “Ethical Issues in OurTimes”: a product of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. 

Thursday, November 3rd, from 7-9pm on zoom at:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/896985586 

Celebrating the Life and Teaching of John McDermott

This is an invitation to join us in celebrating the life and teaching of Professor John J. McDermott on Friday October 21st. The session will be in person, with two hybrid zoom sessions. To attend either in person or on zoom you must register with Queens College. You can user this email address: rsvp.dev@qc.cuny.edu; or the phone number included on the flyer. (The zoom link will be provided at that time.) Feel free to distribute this invitation as widely as possible. And feel free to contact me if you have further questions. 

Dr. David Sprintzen
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
Long Island University

516-364-2178 
dsprintz@liu.edu
http://www.davidsprintzen.com
Blog: dsprintz.wordpress.com
Author: “Camus: A Critical Examination”
& “Critique of Western Philosophy and Social Theory”

“Ontological Emergence ad Human Freedom”

My article on “Ontological Emergence and Human Freedom” was just published by the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, (vol. 36, 3)

Abstract:This article develops the ontological doctrine of naturalistic emergence, detailing three distinct but related types of emergent structures. It thus provides a coherent framework for making sense of the reality of human freedom, consistent with the operative determinism of natural science. This possibility emerges from taking seriously the implications of the reality of non-separability and decoherence, the significance of conservation laws, and the causal significance of systemic properties. The metaphysics of ontological emergence that is thus suggested reveals the ontological limitations of Aristotelian logic, Cartesian reduction, and their modern epigoni. Specific attention is paid to the formulations of scientific reductionism by E. O. Wilson with his theory of “consilience,” and to Jaegwon Kim’s critique of the doctrine of emergence.

I would be glad to forward a copy of it to anyone who sends me their email address.

“How should we evaluate people and actions in the past?”

“How should we evaluate people and actions in the past?”

Is it appropriate to use contemporary values and beliefs to judge past people and their actions? Should we evaluate them according to modern standards? If not, then by what standards should we evaluate their actions and character? By the standards and values of their time? Of their culture? Wouldn’t that mean that we could find slavery, in some circumstances, justified? Or military conquest? And, should we hold them responsible for what they did and did not know? It would seem that however one understands their past has major significance for their present: its self-understanding and its on-going actions. 

Join us in discussing this pressing social issue, in a discussion led by Dr. David Sprintzen, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Long Island University

This is the October installment of “Ethical Issues in OurTimes”: a product of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. 

Thursday, October 6th, from 7-9pm on zoom at:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/896985586 

Ethical Issues in Our Times

The September public forum is the 31st consecutive edition of these monthly zoom-based forums, on the first Thursday of each month, from 7-9pm.

“What, if anything, is our moral obligation to nature? To animate beings?”

Our age is one of growing ecological awareness of our dependence upon, and our rootedness in, the natural world. And some have even argued that some animals, and even some trees, have natural rights that should be respected by the courts. Others have countered that values are human creations, and rights are only to be accorded to all, or to some, human beings. Let us hear your views on these issues.  

Join us in discussing this pressing social issue, in a discussion led by Dr. David Sprintzen, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Long Island University

This September installment of “Ethical Issues in OurTimes” is a product of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. 

Thursday, September 1st, from 7-9pm on zoom at:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/896985586 

For a little background, here are the last two public forum topics.

In August: “What Does “The American Dream” Mean To You?, And what to Most Americans?”

These days the very meaning of America seems to be highly contested. Many feel they are oppressed or exploited. Others feel they have been cheated of their rightful place and expectations. How do you feel about your life, its possibilities, benefits, discomforts, and disadvantages? And how do you evaluate the attitudes of your fellow citizens? 

In July: “Where are the permissible boundaries of legitimate group expression?, And what are beyond the limits?”

Recently the CEO of Kraken, a cryptocurrency exchange asked his employees. If you can identify as a sex, can you identitfy as a race or ethncity? Who can refer to another person as the N word?

He further said that he opposed employees choosing their own pronouns. Would we genuinely tolerate such questions or would they be rhetorical? What if a member used the N word when quoting a text such as “Huckleberry Finn”? Can a member take the position, without being judged or attacked, that he/she opposes people choosing their own pronouns?

The Abolition of ‘Women’?

A number of academics, uber-progressives, transgender activists, civil liberties organizations and medical organizations are working toward denying women their humanity, reducing them to a mix of body parts and gender stereotypes.

Even the word “women” has become verboten. Previously a commonly understood term for half the world’s population, the word had a specific meaning tied to genetics, biology, history, politics and culture. No longer. In its place are unwieldy terms like “pregnant people,” “menstruators” and “bodies with vaginas.”

Planned Parenthood, once a stalwart defender of women’s rights, omits the word “women” from its home page. NARAL Pro-Choice America has used “birthing people” in lieu of “women.” The American Civil Liberties Union, a longtime defender of women’s rights, last month tweeted its outrage over the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade as a threat to several groups: “Black, Indigenous and other people of color, the L.G.B.T.Q. community, immigrants, young people.” It left out those threatened most of all: women. Talk about a bitter way to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

The noble intent behind omitting the word “women” is to make room for the relatively tiny number of transgender men and people identifying as nonbinary who retain aspects of female biological function and can conceive, give birth or breastfeed. But despite a spirit of inclusion, the result has been to shove women to the side.

Women, of course, have been accommodating. They’ve welcomed transgender women into their organizations. They’ve learned that to propose any space just for biological women in situations where the presence of males can be threatening or unfair — rape crisis centers, domestic abuse shelters, competitive sports — is currently viewed by some as exclusionary. If there are other marginalized people to fight for, it’s assumed women will be the ones to serve other people’s agendas rather than promote their own.

But, can you blame the sisterhood for feeling a little nervous? For wincing at the presumption of acquiescence? For worrying about the broader implications? For wondering what kind of message we are sending to young girls about feeling good in their bodies, pride in their sex and the prospects of womanhood? For essentially ceding to another backlash?

Women didn’t fight this long and this hard only to be told we couldn’t call ourselves women anymore. This isn’t just a semantic issue; it’s also a question of moral harm, an affront to our very sense of ourselves.

It wasn’t so long ago — and in some places the belief persists — that women were considered a mere rib to Adam’s whole. Seeing women as their own complete entities, not just a collection of derivative parts, was an important part of the struggle for sexual equality.

But here we go again, parsing women into organs. Last year the British medical journal The Lancet patted itself on the back for a cover article on menstruation. Yet instead of mentioning the human beings who get to enjoy this monthly biological activity, the cover referred to “bodies with vaginas.” It’s almost as if the other bits and bobs — uteruses, ovaries or even something relatively gender-neutral like brains — were inconsequential. That such things tend to be wrapped together in a human package with two X sex chromosomes is apparently unmentionable.

“What are we, chopped liver?” a woman might be tempted to joke, but in this organ-centric and largely humorless atmosphere, perhaps she would be wiser not to.

Those women who do publicly express mixed emotions or opposing views are often brutally denounced for asserting themselves. (Google the word “transgender” combined with the name Martina Navratilova, J.K. Rowling or Kathleen Stock to get a withering sense.) They risk their jobs and their personal safety. They are maligned as somehow transphobic or labeled TERFs, a pejorative that may be unfamiliar to those who don’t step onto this particular Twitter battlefield. Ostensibly shorthand for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” which originally referred to a subgroup of the British feminist movement, “TERF” has come to denote any woman, feminist or not, who persists in believing that while transgender women should be free to live their lives with dignity and respect, they are not identical to those who were born female and who have lived their entire lives as such, with all the biological trappings, societal and cultural expectations, economic realities and safety issues that involves.

But in a world of chosen gender identities, women as a biological category don’t exist. Some might even call this kind of thing erasure.

When not defining women by body parts, misogynists on both ideological poles seem determined to reduce women to rigid gender stereotypes. The formula on the right we know well: Women are maternal and domestic — the feelers and the givers and the “Don’t mind mes.” The unanticipated newcomers to such retrograde typecasting are the supposed progressives on the fringe left. In accordance with a newly embraced gender theory, they now propose that girls — gay or straight — who do not self-identify as feminine are somehow not fully girls. Gender identity workbooks created by transgender advocacy groups for use in schools offer children helpful diagrams suggesting that certain styles or behaviors are “masculine” and others “feminine.”

Didn’t we ditch those straitened categories in the ’70s?

The women’s movement and the gay rights movement, after all, tried to free the sexes from the construct of gender, with its antiquated notions of masculinity and femininity, to accept all women for who they are, whether tomboy, girly girl or butch dyke. To undo all this is to lose hard-won ground for women — and for men, too.

Those on the right who are threatened by women’s equality have always fought fiercely to put women back in their place. What has been disheartening is that some on the fringe left have been equally dismissive, resorting to bullying, threats of violence, public shaming and other scare tactics when women try to reassert that right. The effect is to curtail discussion of women’s issues in the public sphere

But women are not the enemy here. Consider that in the real world, most violence against trans men and women is committed by men but, in the online world and in the academy, most of the ire at those who balk at this new gender ideology seems to be directed at women.

It’s heartbreaking. And it’s counterproductive.

excerpted from Pamela Paul’s article in NYT 7/3/22