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Family Breakdown and the Rise of Identity Politics

With months of race riots continuing in the United States, identity politics is a phrase all too familiar to us in 2020.

Often credited to French philosopher Michel Foucault, identity politics is a window on the world that sees all social relationships as a power struggle. Black versus white, male versus female, gay versus straight, and on the list goes. Each group, according to this worldview, is battling it out to advance their particular political agenda.

With humour and precision, Michael Bird, a lecturer at Ridley College, explains that in the new social pyramid:

Your authority derives not so much from achievement or ability, but from your minority status and experiences of victimisation. So, that means in an argument, a white woman trumps a white man; a black woman trumps a white woman, a disabled woman trumps a black woman, and a disabled black transgendered Muslim refugee trumps pretty much everybody.

Late last year, Australians watching Q&A encountered a rather confronting example of this new creed. One of the visiting guests was Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy, whose writings have appeared in The Washington Post, the New York Times and beyond.

To viewers’ surprise, Eltahawy labelled Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison a “white supremacist” and a “patriarchal authoritarian”. She went on to explain that, “for me, as a feminist, the most important thing is to destroy patriarchy.” At one point, Eltahawy bypassed the panel to address the audience directly:

How long must we wait for men and boys to stop murdering us, to stop beating us, and to stop raping us? How many rapists must we kill — not by the state, because I disagree with the death penalty… until men stop raping us?

Behind her biting words, of course, Eltahawy had some genuine grievances. Domestic violence, for instance, affects women especially, and it’s an issue dealt with by police every two minutes in Australia. Sexual abuse remains a serious problem in our societies, and one that predominantly affects women, too.

There are many social ills in the modern world, and they should concern us all. But Eltahawy’s biting tone was unnerving, and it is becoming more commonplace.

Westerners are finding it increasingly difficult to sift social concerns from heated ideas like identity politics. The pressure is on now, not just to provide care to the disadvantaged, but to prove your sincerity by embracing politicised viewpoints. Resentment, victimhood and grievance are the new currency.

In the interests of equality, we are learning to assume the best about some people and the worst about others, even if we haven’t met them. This hardly feels like progress. How did it all come to this?

Essayist and author Mary Eberstadt recently addressed this question in her book Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics. It’s a title worth the price of entry.

Until the 1960s, Western sexual ethics were more or less Christian sexual ethics: a man married a woman; sex was reserved for that covenant; children were a natural result; and the family unit was the safe place for children to be raised.

The Sexual Revolution changed all that. As faith waned and morals loosened after the wars, personal happiness was one pursuit we could all agree on. Sexual fulfilment played a crucial role in this. Consequently, rates of infidelity, divorce, teenage sex and unmarried pregnancy began to soar from the 60s, and they have stayed high ever since.

Other forces were at play. Abortion and the pill turned sex into a childless exchange. This made marriage optional. IVF therapies took this a step further by enabling children to be born in the absence of either a father or a mother. So what the family unit looks like now is limited only to the imagination.

Many consider all of these benign trends of the modern world, but Eberstadt disagrees. Having researched and published widely in this field, Eberstadt credits the Sexual Revolution and its impact on the family unit with a “sharp rise in psychiatric trouble among the young… the explosion of loneliness on a scale never before recorded [and] the rise in so-called ‘deaths of despair’ that are plainly related to loss of love.”

She explains how the weakening of family ties and identity has led to a ‘longing for belonging’ among many in the West. She quotes Arthur Schlesinger Jr, who reasoned that:

“the more people feel themselves adrift in a vast, impersonal, anonymous sea, the more desperately they swim toward any familiar, intelligible, protective life-raft; the more they crave a politics of identity.”

In other words, says Eberstadt, the breakdown of loving, stable homes in the West has prompted us to look for family and loyalty elsewhere.

Enter identity politics.

Mary Eberstadt’s thesis is a compelling one — that the erosion of the family unit has led us to find our identity in fragmented groups. Whether or not hers is the best explanation for the social splintering we now see in the West, it is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down.

Having taken individualism to an extreme and tasted the loneliness it can cause, we now face a new kind of tribal warfare — a postmodern caste system. We are losing the ability to see each other as individuals, and instead as mere symbols of rival groups.

This is not progress. We will need something greater than the sum of our parts to pull us back together. Perhaps we can begin with the wise words of C.S. Lewis, who said:

We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.

COLUMN BY

Kurt Mahlburg

Kurt Mahlburg is a teacher, freelance writer, and the Features Editor of the Canberra Declaration. He contributes regularly at the Spectator Australia, Caldron Pool and The Good Sauce. He hosts his own… .

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EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

J.K. Rowling and the Cursed Woman

Breaking the transgender spell has cost the author a lot.


Did she impose the Unforgivable Curses? Did she condemn anyone to Azkaban? No; she claimed that a woman should not have forfeited her job for maintaining that men and women are different. And she followed that up by arguing that in fact they are different.

The position J.K. Rowling defended was one which, a few years ago, nearly everyone would have agreed with. In fact, I believe that today also nearly everyone would agree. But a violent and vocal minority not only believe otherwise but viciously attack anyone who disagrees with them. Ms Rowling has been the target of vicious verbal attacks and has even received death threats.

It is sad to see the three principal actors in the Harry Potter stories criticising the author without whom they would not be millionaires. Harry, Hermione and Ron would be ashamed of them.

It is an evident biological and psychological fact that men and women are different; a matter of science and of common sense: they complement each other. This is so obvious that no reasoned case can be made against it: which is why those who oppose it must resort to blind emotion and even physical threats.

Rowling’s statement in defence of her position is moderate and reasonable, yet it has provoked outrage. But the critics have not answered her arguments. Why? Because they can’t.

Through her personal experience and her study of the issues involved she has become deeply concerned about the detrimental effects the trans rights movement is having, and its push to erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender.

She points out that there is an explosion of young women wishing to transition, and increasing numbers are taking steps that have permanently altered their bodies and taken away their fertility. In those transitioning “autistic girls are hugely over represented in the numbers”.

Rowling refers to researcher Lisa Littman, who wrote a paper expressing concern about Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, and who “…had dared challenge one of the central tenets of trans activism, which is that a person’s gender identity is innate, like sexual orientation. Nobody, the activists insisted, could ever be persuaded into being trans”.

Littman was “subjected to a tsunami of abuse and a concerted campaign to discredit both her and her work”.

Rowling shows great sympathy for young people who want to transition, partly because of her own experience when young. She suffered severely with OCD, and her father said openly that he would have preferred a son. Had she been born 30 years later she might have tried to transition. “The lure of escaping womanhood would have been huge.”

Noting that we are living through the most misogynistic period she had experienced, she points out that it’s not considered enough for women to be trans allies. “Women must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves.”

That statement expresses the essence of the problem: women are expected to annihilate themselves. Instead of there being two complementary ways of being human, male and female, the trans activists would blur the distinctions and cancel out the distinct qualities of each sex.

This program has dire consequences for both men and women, but holds special dangers for women, as in the insistence that biological men (there’s really no other kind!) be free to use women’s bathrooms and showers.

As Rowling observes: “When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he is a woman – and as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones –then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside”

It should really be no surprise that Rowling takes the stand that she does, for it is in accord with the healthy outlook on human nature implicit in the Harry Potter stories. Women there are portrayed as equal to men, but expressing their humanity in a feminine way. Large families are implicitly defended, as in the Weasley family: seven children with a loving father and mother: a rather poor family but happy.

And when Harry and Ron become romantically interested in girls, it is a healthy attraction.

An underlying theme is the power of a mother’s love, exemplified by Harry’s mother sacrificing her life to save him from the evil Lord Voldemort.

In fact, the theme of a mother’s unique love for her children is manifested when Molly Weasley hurls herself into battle against the formidable Bellatrix Lestrange, in order to defend her daughter Ginny. It is shown too when Narcissa Malfoy, in gratitude to Harry for telling her that her son is alive, lies to Voldemort, thereby risking her own life.

The Potter stories show a contrast between a healthy world and the world of Voldemort and his Death Eaters. And in this vendetta against Joanne Rowling we see something of a parallel. She defends a healthy view of Woman against a sick view that implicitly annihilates Woman.

J.K Rowling deserves support for her courageous stand. And it is good to read in her letter that the overwhelming majority of responses she received were positive, grateful, and supportive.

Professor Dumbledore warned the students at Hogwarts that a time may come “when you have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy” (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, chapter 37) It is all too easy right now to buckle to a fashionable trend, against all reason.

COLUMN BY

John Young

John Young is a Melbourne based writer on theological, philosophical and social Issues. He is author of several hundred articles and three books: The Natural Economy, Catholic Thinking, and The Scope of… More by John Young

EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

The Counterfeit Courage of ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner by Alec Rooney

At one point in Laura Hillenbrand’s World War II book Unbroken, the top turret gunner of a B-24 bomber over the Pacific stays doggedly at his post and keeps on firing, trying to ward off an attacking Japanese fighter plane. Eventually he succeeds.

Staying focused on saving the lives of one’s comrades under such terrifying conditions is admirable enough.  Stanley Pillsbury did it after one of his feet had been practically blown off by a cannon shell from the enemy aircraft. When they got his boot off after the engagement, his foot was shredded. His big toe stayed inside the boot.

Yet he kept fighting, to save his comrades as well as himself. Imagine doing that while you are bleeding and in indescribable pain – or perhaps mercifully numb with terror – thousands of feet over a shark-filled Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from anything

WW II B-24 Liberator

familiar, in a metal machine that could fly into thousands of pieces at any moment. The book goes on to describe the men’s capture and two years of misery as prisoners of the Japanese empire.

It is a well-told story, only one of thousands of such tales arising from the Second World War, other wars, times of brutal hardship and deprivation, feats of sacrifice, endurance and brilliance — times when human courage enabled others to survive death and seemingly do the impossible.

Courage. Such a vital word. Yet like other words – gay, hero, tolerance, marriage, hate, even he and she – its meaning is falling victim to the tyranny of current media culture.

Early in July the former track and field star Bruce Jenner, who had a lot of expensive plastic surgery and hormone therapy and who now wants to be called Caitlyn and be treated as a female, accepted something called the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. 

The award is given by a sports television network to some notable figure, usually an athlete, for behavior that “transcends sports.” It is named for a great tennis player who unfortunately contracted HIV from a blood transfusion, and died from it.

Courageous?

One wonders if the award would have been named for him if he had died of cancer, rather than of a disease so closely linked to homosexuals, but that’s beside (if related to) the point. Let’s look at Jenner’s act of courage.

Jenner’s act of courage was to get the surgery, act like a woman, and get people to call him she and her.

Nor did he perform this heroic act in the comfortable safety of anonymity – you know, the world you and I live in every day. He did this while carrying all the added burdens and responsibilities of being a celebrity, a state of painful oppression that lesser people (like us) can never truly understand.

Yes, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

How did we go from courage meaning mental resilience in the face of death and terror, for the good of one’s fellow human beings, to it meaning getting everyone to play along with my personal fantasies?

There’s a difference there, between those two things.

And who got the Arthur Ashe Courage Award the previous year? Why, it was Michael Sam, the first gay guy to be drafted by the National Football League. Sam has since left the sport to focus on his mental health, although he got some consolation prizes: He was congratulated by President Barack Obama and got to be on Dancing with the Stars (not sure which one of those needed to go first).

Fortunately, the real world continues to provide real examples of real courage, not springing from fantasies, celebrity, or the media’s wishful thinking.

Heroism in France

In August three regular American guys, two of them military, were riding on a train in France when a Moroccan malcontent pulled out a rifle to start shooting people. Perhaps the malcontent was merely living out his own personal fantasy – some in the media probably had to ponder this – but the Americans weren’t about to indulge him. They rushed and tackled him and beat him unconscious, in spite of the fact that he had a loaded gun that could fire about ten bullets per second at 2,300 feet per second, and most likely saved the lives of many passengers.

A Brit and a Frenchman also helped in the takedown. Allies once again!

Courage.

The French train crew locked themselves into safe compartments when the trouble started, according to witnesses.

Not courage.

Don’t let the meaning of this vital word change. Don’t let it be expanded to include the frivolous, the freakish and the fake. The time will always come again when we need it, and the rare quality it describes, by the trainload.

ABOUT ALEC ROONEY

Alec Rooney serves as communications director for the Christian Action Network. He is a longtime journalist, with experience as a writer and editor at five daily newspapers over 25 years. An award-winning print copy editor and copy desk chief, he also works as a freelance academic book editor. He is a 1986 graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and holds an M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky.