Five years ago, I thought social media would herald the democratisation of news, a timely challenge to the pale, male and stale voices of the establishment. Perhaps it’s childish, but I now miss the voice of authority- at least it was something tangible to kick against. It seems in today’s sea of fake news and alternative truths a new hierarchy has emerged; one in which feelings trump facts and opinions are violent.
Shaky, fractured selves are not anchored in material reality or tempered by debate, but demonstrated by ‘liking’ the right tweets, repeating virtuous phrases and following the correct accounts. Deviation from the approved social justice path often leads to rape and death threats, as J. K. Rowling recently discovered when she ‘liked’ the wrong tweet. In this febrile environment of feelings, inconvenient facts and unpopular opinion are deemed ‘phobic.’
In order not to ‘trigger’ the most vociferously vulnerable minority and their devoted army of social justice warriors, otherwise rational adults indulge in Orwellian newspeak. In a tweet last week, Huff Post Queer, who have 315K followers, stated ‘some lesbians have dicks.’ This ludicrous statement is perfectly illustrative of who matters in the brave new ‘woke’ world. Take for example Jane Fae, previous to transition and a career as a BBC stock opinion on both transgender and women’s issues, Fae was known as a defender of extreme pornography and self-styled sexual libertarian.
Perhaps some male-bodied people genuinely understand themselves to be lesbians, but that does not mean anyone else should pander to their delusion. The implication of the statement ‘some lesbians have dicks’ is that women exclusively attracted to their own sex should be open to intercourse with men who identify as women. That’s not progress for women, particularly not for those who still fight for men to recognise their sexual boundaries as lesbians. Arguably the battles faced by same-sex attracted women don’t make such good copy as transgender transformation stories.
For the most part, these are the same straight white men who appropriate the death and suffering of transsexuals in the sex trade in the Global South to push their agenda that because they wear fishnets at the weekend they’re a persecuted minority. Indeed, the aforementioned Jane Fae recently complained that the actions of feminist campaign group Man Friday were responsible for creating the climate in which men murder transsexual women. It is dizzying that in one generation we have moved from understanding the idea of men claiming to be ‘lesbians on the inside’ as a tiresome joke to a reality that must not be questioned.
The prioritisation of the feelings of individuals above material reality has seeped from social media into public consciousness. ‘Social listening’ by policy makers and legislators means even politicians now parrot nonsensical phrases such as ‘transwomen are women.’ Publicly funded bodies are changing language around birth and pregnancy so not as to upset those with female bodies who identify as men. The upshot of this is sometimes darkly amusing — in Ireland for example, where gender can be changed as a matter of self-declaration, ‘men’ can give birth but women still can’t have abortions.
It is chilling that the direction of change is being set by a government and media who bend to the feelings of vicious cry-bullies. Rather than collectively grow-up, the absence of an authoritative body of fact has turned us into panicking, grappling children. As we thrash around to prove our ‘woke’ credentials and demonstrate our higher feelz online, the implications for the real world are overlooked. It is alarming when people follow the herd, it is terrifying when governments do.
The thought-crushing mantra ‘transwomen are women’ reminds me of the scene in Peter Pan where the audience are told that Tinkerbell will die if we don’t all say ‘we believe in fairies.’ An audience full of wide-eyed kids frantically clap and shout their belief in mythical creatures. Outside the online pantomime is a world where one in three women are sexually assaulted by men — we cannot afford such magical thinking. We need to grow-up and ask who benefits when we base policy on feelings not facts?