Here’s the reality: it’s women, not people, who get pregnant. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Disputing theory, crashing into reality

By  Andrea Mrozek
  • January 19, 2023

The institutionalization of radically anti-scientific notions of sex and gender has been creeping into our world — and my life — at an astonishing pace for years. I’ve simply never gotten used to it. 

Take reading this statement, copied directly from a government of Canada web page: “Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits provide financial assistance to people who are away from work because they’re pregnant or have recently given birth.”

“People” do not get pregnant. Women do. Except we aren’t, apparently, supposed to say that anymore. This is jarring. And, on occasion, mildly amusing as with a recent call from a university for survey respondents amongst “pregnant people who breast/chest feed” that was translated into Tamil, Hindi, Gujarati and Punjabi. Just how many exclusive Tamil, Hindi, Gujarati and Punjabi-speaking chest-feeding people do they expect to find? I digress.  

Lest frustration overcome me, it is both necessary and comforting to find others doing valuable work on these themes., launched this January by Erika Bachiochi, a lawyer and director of the Wollstonecraft Project, is such a place. Their mission is to advance sex-realist feminism. 

“To really serve women and girls,” they say, “feminism has to correspond to who we are as human beings. Human beings are always and everywhere embodied, and our sex is an essential and unchangeable aspect of our bodies. In short, sex is real and it matters.” 

Embodied. Essential. Unchangeable. Yes. 

The question for each of eight panellists at a recent online event was to discuss how they came to embrace this view. More than a few came out of progressive university studies. Louise Perry, author of The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, took Women’s Studies at Oxford. Abigail Favale, author of The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory started out in gender studies. Mary Harrington (Feminism Against Progress, 2023) called herself a “card-carrying Butlerite” (after gender-is-a-social-construct theorist Judith Butler). 

Each had a turning point. To highlight just one, Harrington explains: “You smoke the ‘everybody is the same’ pipe until you have a baby and you realize that at a very visceral level, you are just not.” In pushing her baby in a pram around town, she thought about what men and women are and how we should relate to one another. (Recently, I too pushed a stroller around the neighbourhood, but I cried about the sleep I was not getting, and no book is the result.) Her forthcoming book frames the history of feminism as one of technological transitions. 

Catholics have long argued (mostly into the wind) that the birth control pill is a detriment to society and not in keeping with Christianity. Harrington, whose faith and positioning on the Pill I do not know, helps deepen understanding here, suggesting the birth control pill created a “radical discontinuity” with the past as the first transhumanist technology. She says, “In the sense that (the Pill) seeks to improve on normal, rather than being an ameliorative medical technology, it’s an effort to upgrade normal. Once you accept that premise, that it’s legitimate and appropriate to upgrade normal wherever you wish, it opens the door to theoretically limitless upgrades on human normal.” This is, to me, an entirely unique approach to the question of the Pill. Love it or hate it, it has been the technological shock of the 20th century and beyond, the ramifications of which are many, and often troubling.  

These are smart women. But intelligence would not be enough. Importantly, what these authors appear to have are alert consciences and an ability to go where the evidence leads. When theory crashes into reality, instead of the maddening attempt to bend reality toward the unfit theory, they changed theories. Not everyone needs to have experienced a conversion to preach with zeal, but those who do have added power. And whenever a rotten theory makes its way to public consumption, taking hold of our language and institutions, there is an academic root. That’s why the books these women have written are important; they till the field for new thinking in the decades to come.  

When faced with the language of chest-feeding and pregnant people, it’s all too easy to throw up one’s hands and mutter “this is crazy” or sit silently because cancel culture is real. But it seems to me with the appropriate vocabulary, there is a greater kindness in dialogue. 

Everyone knows someone struggling with gender identity and we must begin, compassionately, to ask the bigger question of who we are as human beings. This is what I hope we will find in Fairer Disputations. 

(Mrozek is Senior Fellow at Cardus Family.)

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