Trans Activism Disproves Patriarchy

In the space of only a few years, trans activists have had a visibly disruptive effect on our society. If their claims were true — gender isn’t binary, people can be born in the “wrong” body (more like a body with the wrong sex), and in matters of romance and attraction the sex of the beloved should be irrelevant — would their political positions have been met with resistance and disbelief? If the number of fertile sexes exceeded two (even only rarely), would a vocabulary as extensive as modern English be limited to only two categories of pronouns?  Would activists be reaching for examples to cite from the social roles and obscure practices of distant cultures? Would a Supreme Court decision have been necessary to expand the definition of marriage beyond one man and one woman?

While claims and demands about definitions, self-identification, and grammar have been highly visible, trans ideology also rests on another, older set of claims — claims created and promoted by feminists. It was Simone de Beauvoir who famously said, “One is not born a woman, but becomes a woman.” This statement encapsulates the feminist view that typically feminine behaviors by women are social constructions imposed upon the individual woman by society. Completely discounted is the idea that there could be any biological impulses or instincts with the power to shape activities, beliefs, or preferences. Feminists see their role as resisting an unwanted imposition by the larger social structure, which they labeled as “gender roles.”

Suppose, for the sake of argument, we accept the assumption that it is pre-assembled social constructions that women act out in our social practices, clothing preferences, and career paths. Why does that matter? Supposing the women in a society enjoy hosting tea parties, wearing elaborate hairstyles, and doing jobs focused on contact with people. Why would it be ok only if these activities, fashions, and employment options were not passed down, but created by the present generation de novo? Human lives are short. Is the only path to fulfillment reinventing from scratch every pastime, social arrangement, or profession? Just because other women did something before you, does that mean it’s necessarily oppressive for you to do the same?

In addition to decrying the imposition of social constructs on individuals, feminists also blame men and patriarchy for what they call the “wage gap,” which is women’s earnings averaged together being somewhat lower than men’s averaged together. This is difference between the sexes in earnings is not caused by men purposely refusing to create enough 30-hour-a-week CEO positions, it’s the aggregate of all of the employment choices made by women. Women work fewer hours, prefer being at the house when the kids get home, choose jobs with more interactions and less fiddling with mechanisms, and avoid work that requires heavy exertion, dirty and dangerous conditions, and long hours. One other thing feminists never acknowledge is that while men bring home larger paychecks, 85% of consumer purchases are chosen by women.

Feminists also claim that the two categories, boys’ toys and girls’ toys, are not just existing social constructs. Toy designs are entirely creations of the corporate imagination, imposed on children by binary aisles in toy stores to enforce gender stereotypes. It’s actually not a trade secret that toy designers and manufacturers invest massively into researching the toy characteristics most attractive to children, striving to produce playthings that children will enjoy. The Barbies I played with as a child were manufactured between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s. Over those years, Barbie’s clothing, makeup, and hair evolved from high fashion to exhibit more neoteny. Eyes got larger and rounder, hair got a lot longer, and pink became the dominant color for clothing and accessories, a trend that continued for many years. I can’t imagine that California’s ban on separate sections for boys’ and girls’ toys will lead to boys dressing baby dolls and girls playing with lightsabers.

The idea of freeing children from the reality of binary sex was floated briefly in the early 1970s. The fictional Baby X was an experiment shielding the child from the reality of binary sex, raised as neither boy nor girl. The baby’s sex was known only by the parents and researchers. Baby X wore baggy overalls and a bowl cut and was given only toys not strongly preferred by one sex — blocks, bubbles, and crayons, fine, but no dolls or child-sized plastic carpenter tools. To my little girl's view, it was sad to think of life without long hair, skirts, baby dolls, and Barbies.

Now there are men who want their imaginary womanhood not only tolerated, not only celebrated by the public, but codified into law. They want access to spaces where women, the smaller and weaker sex, are uniquely vulnerable. In restrooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms, women are not only partly un-dressed, but these spaces are divided into tight enclosures. Shelters for abused or homeless women and prisons leave women even more vulnerable, because of hours spent asleep. Women’s sports teams, which are not moneymakers, do provide athletic young women opportunities to engage in sports and acquire scholarships to support their education.

Yet there are still feminists who truly believe that the men in our society -- our fathers, brothers, husbands, boyfriends, and friends -- actually created and maintain a multigenerational misogynist patriarchy rooted in hatred for women. But it was men — almost all of them straight men — and the society that they did the heavy work to build, that made possible all of those private women-only spaces (restrooms, shelters, spa retreats, even separate prisons), as well as educational and sports opportunities. Would a culture that hates women have built all-women's colleges? What about women's athletics like the WNBA and women's soccer that even women don’t watch? If anything, women in our society have a history of being indulged like — I don’t know — someone who is loved.

None of the facilities or opportunities that trans activists demand to access would have been possible if the misogynist patriarchy of fevered feminist imaginations actually existed. So now, it’s time for women to put on our big girl panties, and admit a couple of things to ourselves. We need to take on the defense of the spaces necessary for our comfortable and safe engagement in public life. We also need to acknowledge that the best allies we could ask for are the people who are already disposed to come to our aid — ordinary straight working men.

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