The inimitable Titania McGrath wonders on Twitter how Jeremy Corbyn could possibly have lost the election since he announced his pronouns in the proper intersectional fashion:
(Click on the link above to see the embedded four-second video of Corbyn’s Adventure in Pronoun Correctness.)
This brings me back to a point that Hugh Hewitt offered months ago: the “Freeport Question”* of the 2020 presidential campaign could be: “How many genders are there?” Trump will answer: Two. The Democratic nominee will tie himself/herself/theyself into knots of confusion trying to answer the question correctly.
If you want an example, look no further to how the question played out in the UK election last week. In the runup to election day, LibDem party leader Jo Swinson was asked about the whole scene on the BBC, with incoherent results. Here’s the complete transcript of the interview with the BBC’s Justin Webb (you can listen to an audio excerpt here if you like):
Justin Webb: You have entered the debate about trans rights, with great clarity actually, in recent days, you have said you are going to completely reform the GRA, you are going to remove the requirement for medical reports for people to undergo, you are going to scrap the fee, you are going to recognise non binary gender identities; can I ask you this, do you believe that biological sex exists?
Jo Swinson: Well not on a binary from what I have read, I am not going to pretend that I am an expert in the subject but I don’t think things are as binary as is often presented. I think though this is–
Webb: Hang on a minute you do not believe that biological sex exists, that there are men and women, males and females and a vanishingly small amount of people who possibly are indeterminate because of chromosomal abnormalities but actually most people are either male or female, you don’t believe that?
Swinson: I do believe that most people are, but as you just said there are differences in chromosomal abnormalities and you know different levels, I have read papers but as I say I am not a scientist. But this is not a scientific debate, this is a debate about people and their lives. This is a debate about people who are facing you know extreme prejudice and discrimination, I mean it takes us back to a very similar situation, to where we were on gay rights decades ago, where you know people were being told that they were somehow as a person wrong for you know being who they were, and the vitriol that was heaped on them by society drove people to huge mental health crises, in many cases to misery and sometimes to suicide
Webb: Isn’t there a big difference though……
Swinson: We see that amongst non binary and trans people today and I think we should be making sure that every individual is protected.
Webb: To which a lot of feminists would say absolutely, it is about the protection of everyone but for instance when it comes to safe spaces for women, whether its women refuges or whether it’s women’s places in prisons, that it should be possible to say and to say clearly, as the law suggests at the moment, someone who is anatomically, chromosomally male should not get into those spaces, is that something you will keep to or not?
Swinson: I think the most important thing is to keep people safe, and you know in the example that you give–
Webb: So you will keep to it?
Webb: No hang on a second just answer the question
Swinson: I am answering the question Justin if you will let me. So when somebody is admitted to a refuge obviously there has to be a degree of risk assessment about what risks that person faces, who there might be that might pose them a risk, and you know we already have this issue, it’s not as if there is not any women that abuse their partners, you know in same sex relationships abuse happens too and so you already have to have processes in place to make sure that if someone is in a refuge that they aren’t then you know having their abusive ex partner placed in the same refuge. So we need to be doing this but it’s on the basis of risks that an individual poses whether they are cis gendered or trans gendered that’s how it needs to be assessed.
Webb: I take that point but surely, we are talking down the line, you’re not in the studio here but if you were in the studio here together, you could be all sorts of things superior as it were to me in terms of brain power, in terms of courage and all the rest of it, but if we were face to face, a male and a female, the fact is that I could do you enormous damage because of my male body, the way I am, that is a fact isn’t it, and that is what feminists say, that because of those facts, it is really important that there are places where women are protected across the board not by some individual assessment but just across the board?
Swinson: Well I do think it’s important that people are protected and I don’t think that there should be some kind of hierarchy of equality, because trans women are some of the most vulnerable women in our society facing huge discrimination and all women who have been on the receiving end of violence deserve to have safe spaces whether they are gay straight or bi, whether they are trans, whether they are cis, whatever their race is whatever background they come from and they need to be protected on that individual basis, and I have to say that you know we are talking about a small, a very small part of the population, and implicit in some of this is an assumption that trans women are in some way more likely to beviolent and it just is not borne out. And I think that there is a demonisation of a community going on here and I often find the media is complicit in it. And I think we have to stand against it–
Webb: Well that’s not fair, 1 in 50 male offenders in prison self identifying as transgender, South Yorkshire police saying a rapist who calls themselves female will be allowed to have that recorded as female on their conviction. It’s not made up by the media is it, it happens?
Swinson: Look I’m not going to suggest that there aren’t individual cases of people trying to game the system but I am suggesting that there is a genuine group of people in our society who are very vulnerable, who are currently being demonised and I do not think that is right.
Swinson lost her seat last week.
Of course, the chances that one of our media grandees will ask this question in one of the debates during the primaries or in the general election next fall are below nil.
* The “Freeport Question” refers to the question Lincoln put to Stephen Douglas in one of their debates in 1858 whether a territory could ban slavery before it applied for statehood. Douglas said Yes. His answer split the Democratic Party in half in 1860, and assured Lincoln’s victory. Will history repeat itself?
P.S. Additional commentary on the Swinson interview at the end of this item from Medium.
Addendum: This spiffy article from UnHerd is also worth a read: Does Labour Understand Why It Lost?