Atheist feminist PZ Myers is now lashing out at atheist feminist Ophelia Benson. It all started when Fiona Longmuir tweeted that people who are confused about trans rights need to “shut up and listen.” Benson carefully dissected this tweet on her blog and this got the attention of PZ Myers, who responded by labeling Benson a dreaded TERF.
In all fairness, we should note that Myers doesn’t make a good faith effort to address Benson’s main points. So he loses big points there. Instead, he chooses to focus solely on the second paragraph of Benson’s blog post. She wrote:
Bad beginning, taking “cis” as 1) a meaningful and useful descriptive and 2) an obviously privileged and dominant group that needs to check itself. I don’t recognize “not thinking I’m the sex I’m not” as a form of privilege, any more than I recognize “not thinking I’m a bird” as a form of privilege. The word “cis” is pretty much designed to make people feel guilty and defensive simply for not having a bizarre delusion. Granted, it’s convenient not to have a bizarre delusion, but convenience isn’t exactly the same thing as privilege.
I don’t view the term “cis” as something that was designed “to make people feel guilty and defensive.” That would only work on people who have the psychological need to virtue signal about this issue. Instead, I think the term has a more widespread and mundane purpose – to simply facilitate the mainstreaming of transgenderism. In other words, just as there are heterosexuals and homosexuals, there are cis and trans.
Anyway, PZ replies:
1) Cis does have a sensible meaning. It refers to someone whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth. Even if you don’t like it, you have to acknowledge that there are people whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex, making this a meaningful and useful descriptor. Or do you think trans people are actually comfortable and identify with their assigned sex? Are they just making it all up? Why?
Y’gotta love how Myers’ post-modernist ideology has distorted his “pro-science” posturing. Pay careful attention to the three times he refers to one’s sex as something that is “assigned.” Really? One’s sex doesn’t have anything to do with meiosis and fertilization? This does raise a thorny question for the biologist. If sex is merely a social construct that is assigned at birth, does this mean the fetus is neither male nor female just prior to birth?
But it gets even more weird.
2) Our society favors people who conform to cisgender expectations, so of course if you don’t conform, you’re disadvantaged. Right here in this post the author is expressing scorn for people who don’t fit her expectations.
It’s annoying the way social justice activists impose a needless moral dimension on things. Here, Myers spins things as if society decided to impart favor to “cisgender” people and those who conform. In reality, it’s simply about the numbers. Given the vast, vast majority of people are “cisgender,” this super-majority simply creates a culture that services their needs. Nothing is intended as any “favor.”
I addressed this fundamental problem with the concept of privilege earlier, using the following analogy:
Stairs were not invented to oppress the disabled. They were not invented to give special favors to those who can use their legs. They were invented for the simple brute fact that 99.9% of us have the use of our legs. If you have a population of 325 million people, and 324+ million can use their legs, these 324+ million people will create an environment built around their ability to use their legs. That’s all that is happening here. There is nothing immoral or sinister about it. No one was trying to secure a privileged status. No one set out to exclude the disabled. It’s just a majority working together and coming up with a way of getting its needs met. In fact, if disabled people magically disappeared, stairs would continue to exist and be widely used as they have always been. If stairs had anything to do with oppression, shouldn’t their existence depend on the existence of the group that, by definition, is supposedly being oppressed by such a privilege? How can stairs be a sign of privilege/oppression when they would exist in the same way if there was no one to oppress or exclude?
Back to PZ:
I rather despise the “oh so you identify as an attack helicopter” criticism,
Here PZ is flailing away at a strawman, as Benson never brought up helicopters.
since birdness or helicopterness aren’t in the range of human behavior, but the “bird” argument doesn’t hold up either.
Oh, really? This should be interesting…
There are people who find social gratification in identifying as an animal — look up furries sometime — and yeah, they face mockery for it, and lacking those desires is a privilege.
Whoa. So the biologist has seriously raised the existence of “furries” to justify the trans self-identifying.
Benson writes “I don’t recognize “not thinking I’m the sex I’m not” as a form of privilege, any more than I recognize “not thinking I’m a bird” as a form of privilege.”
Myers counters this with furries, claiming that they are mocked, and all you non-furries are privileged because you don’t have the belief you are an wolf or cat, etc. Myers is more than half way to crazy town here. And yes, we’ll have to “look up furries” and explore this angle some more.
Finally, Myers writes: “Also, if you regard trans people as mentally ill as this person does (I don’t), that doesn’t get you out of the claim that you aren’t privileged for not being mentally ill.”
Just because Benson refers to the trans as having a delusion does not necessarily mean she is labeling them mentally ill. After all, an ex-New Atheist like Myers should know it was very common for atheists to label all religious people as having a delusion. In fact, when reviewing Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, Myers wrote:
The God Delusion is a guide for secular evangelization, one that makes a direct assault on the premises of religion. Freethinkers will welcome it; the dogmatic will likely damn it as devil’s catechism; and people of faith will read it as a thoughtful challenge……The God Delusion is a powerful argument for how to think about the place of religion in the modern world. It’s going to be a classic, fit to stand with Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot and The Demon-Haunted World as a call to reason and Enlightenment values.
My guess is that the atheist Benson is labeling trans as having a delusion in the same way Dawkins and Myers label religious people as having a delusion.
After all, take trans woman Karen White . White is a biological male, yet claims to be a woman. Thus, we could ask scientist PZ Myers one simple question – What is the evidence that White is a woman? Is it nothing more than White’s subjective feelings and intuition? If so, how’s that different from the religious person’s subjective feelings and intuition about the existence of God?
In the end, it is interesting to watch the atheist movement splinter into smaller and smaller groups as a consequence of incorporating more and more social justice causes into the mix. It would seem to me that reason + evidence + social justice = incompatible with consensus.