[guest post by JVW]
It’s getting so that the whiny crybully children are now taking advantage of every single opportunity for showy grandstanding. Here’s the latest:
Kathleen Stock’s essay in the latest issue of Law and Contemporary Problems was controversial before she even wrote it. Last summer eight student editors resigned from the journal, which is published by Duke University’s law school, rather than be associated with the essay. The remaining student editors elected not to work on the issue in protest, and they voiced their objections in a note appended to the journal’s masthead. The proposed topic, along with Stock’s reputation, was enough to prompt a staff revolt.
The essay, titled “The Importance of Referring to Human Sex in Language,” is part of the journal’s “Sex in Law” special issue, which is dedicated to the “high-stakes, highly polarized” debate surrounding how sex is defined by courts and legislatures. In it, Stock, who until last fall was a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, in England, argues against what she calls “sex-denialism.” The core of her case is the following: “Though it is normally polite and desirable to observe the preferred descriptors and pronouns of trans people in interpersonal contexts, there are times when literal and accurate reference to actual sex is important.” Among the times she cites: medical settings, sports teams, and prisons. Stock insists that “the concept woman does vital cognitive work that simply could not be done were the concept changed to refer to gender identity or social role.”
Here in full is the “note” appended to the essay by the woke budding legal eagles:
As a general matter, student staff members of the journal Law & Contemporary Problems (L&CP) do not select articles for the symposium issues in its volumes. As L&CP is organized and operates, issue proposals are approved by the journal’s faculty board and article selections are made by the special editors. The student role is typically to produce the issues once articles have been finalized by the authors and special editors. In the case of this issue, 85-1: Sex in Law, no articles have been read, edited, or reviewed by any L&CP student staff editors or executive board members acting in their official capacities as journal members. Over the summer of 2021, eight 3L students resigned from the journal and the remainder of the 3L membership voted not to have student members contribute to this symposium in their official capacities; these decisions were in response to the inclusion of Kathleen Stock’s essay and the faculty board’s rejection of the student executive board’s request for use of a style guide on uniform language for the issue which the student executive board’s membership considered necessary to avoid harm to the transgender community.
The unearned sanctimony, the denial of legitimacy of viewpoints outside of their own narrow parameters formed in the smallest of echo chambers, the snide little boycott of their assigned duties because their tender feelings were hurt, and the utterly ridiculous (but expected) invocation of the superstition that provocative ideas cause “harm” to various communities designated for hyper-vigilant protection is exactly the toxic stew we have come to expect from melting snowflakes like these students. And what sort of invitations to mayhem were hidden in Professor Stock’s otherwise dryly academic essay? Oh, I suppose the following:
For centuries, the English language concepts of woman and man have been understood as referring only to adult female and male humans respectively, whilst girl and boy have been understood as referring to the younger versions; and nearly all – perhaps all – other natural languages have had equivalent ways of systematically differentiating between male and female humans. Yet we live in a cultural moment when adjustments to the traditional understandings of womanhood, manhood, girlhood, and boyhood are being urged upon language users, sometimes by those with great institutional influence in Global North societies. We are told by progressive-styled organisations and leaders that, quite literally, transgender women (henceforth, “trans women”) are women, and transgender men (henceforth, “trans men”) are men. Since on ordinary understandings, trans women are by definition biologically male and trans men biologically female, this looks like a radical shift in usage.
Professor Stock seems to be willing to accept the definition of “woman” applying to one who was born male but has undergone the hormone therapy and cosmetic surgery necessary to align oneself with the sex one has chosen, yet she draws the line at allowing an individual to just willy-nilly declare themself to be a member of a group with which they share no defining characteristics and then forcing the rest of us to play along. And the most insidious (and effective) way for the crybullies to advance their argument is simply to redefine the language by denuding words of their millennia-long acknowledged meaning and then enforce mandatory acceptance (“. . . the student executive board’s request for use of a style guide on uniform language for the issue which the student executive board’s membership considered necessary. . .”) of the new contrived definition. For instance, it’s accomplished by conflating the established concept of “sex” which is determined by biology with the more trendy and post-modern notion of “gender” which in today’s inane parlance can be “fluid.” Foucault and Marcuse no doubt heartily approve of how far traditional standards have fallen in their old industry, but Professor Stock is having none of it.
Once upon a time, the whole point of higher education was thought to be to expose callow young minds to a world of ideas and opinions that exist outside of the narrow and insular bubbles in which they had previously existed, especially in a contentious discipline such as law. But somewhere along the way we got to the point where we grossly over-expanded our higher education industry to the degree that it became dedicated to babysitting and credentialing marginal students, some of whom will receive degrees of questionable employment value and many of whom will not receive any degree at all. It’s sad to contemplate that this sort of coddling now extends to prestigious law schools such as Duke, which once gave us the brilliant legal mind of Richard Milhouse Nixon. After years of seeing this percolating through the undergraduate body at our nation’s universities through outlandish student claims of abject fear triggered by provocative ideas, or in attempts to infantilize students by confining them to “safe spaces” of the sort you might see in a kindergarten, it is not surprising that our top professional schools — those which we are told are molding our future leaders — have gone all in with this bullshit. Frankly, I hope that future employers see these virtue signaling resignations as off-putting and a red flag, but given the way this nonsense has crept into the modern professional world I would imagine that they will not.