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Why did Jacqueline Rose erase women? Her attack on biological sex is patriarchy in drag

Author Jacqueline Rose (Donald Maclellan/Getty Images)

Author Jacqueline Rose (Donald Maclellan/Getty Images)


July 31, 2023   5 mins

What is a woman? Hoping he might be able to answer this vexatious question, the New Statesman turned to Richard Dawkins. In the resulting piece, the biologist expresses sympathy with those with gender dysphoria, but is unequivocal that a woman “is an adult human female, free of Y chromosomes”. Sex, he writes, is “binary”.

In the interests of “balance”, an opposing view was deemed necessary. The counter-argument, published last week, was made by Jacqueline Rose, a professor at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. According to Dawkins, her response does not make any “coherent sense”, which he suggests may be a badge of honour among postmodernists.

I am a long-time admirer of Rose. Her insights on psychoanalysis have suffused my own writing and I loved her book Mothers, which, as it happens, I reviewed in the New Statesman. I described her as “one of our very best cultural critics”.

Yet even I was surprised at how poor her recent article was. I understand that, unless you are Zizek, you have to sign up to a lot of nonsense if you are to survive on the international academic circuit. Unlike Dawkins, though, I am weirdly steeped in postmodern theory. In the Eighties, I got an interview with Baudrillard and tried to sell it to The Guardian, but they had never heard of him.

From early on, I could see how much of this fashionable theory — rooted in a rejection of “grand narratives” about the truth — does not accommodate feminist politics. When I was teaching American students about postmodernism and Judith Butler, it became even more apparent that much of her argument was a response to Marxism; that postmodernism was born of the failure of revolutionary politics.

But there were good bits. And the Rose article reminds me strongly of something I wrote in 1988: “If the whole question of power cannot be tackled, it is because these new hysterics with their male bodies and optional female subjectivities cannot speak of a desiring subject who is actually a flesh and blood woman.” I was talking here about male theorists, rather than trans people. But I return to it in an attempt to understand how, in a call for “generosity”, Rose has written a piece that is so completely dismissive of women, our concerns, rights, bodies and fears.

She begins by claiming that a “central goal of feminism is to repudiate the idea of womanhood”. Is it? What is womanhood if there is no such thing as a woman? Does she mean “femininity”?

On the threat of sexual violence, she suggests that it is “the category of women as much as the safety of women that needs protection”. That category, she thinks, should include women who were once men. Let’s take this idea for a walk, shall we? Out of the academy and to Iran and Afghanistan, to places where women die in menstrual huts or undergo FGM, where women-only spaces are compelled. She complains that “the idea of female” is “some kind of primordial condition… as if it were the bedrock of all the limitations to follow”. She’s actually right here: this is the unfortunate reality in many parts of the world.

Of course, she uses the de Beauvoir quote — “One is not a woman, one becomes one” — but, predictably, chooses to ignore the rest of it: “No biological, psychological, or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female acquires in society; it is civilization as a whole that develops this product, intermediate between female and eunuch, which one calls feminine.” The second part of the quotation is key. The construction of gender is social and there is a difference between being female (sex) and femininity (gender) which is learnt.

Rose’s preference for referring to “females” as opposed to women, she says, is because Andrea Long Chu argues that “female” was developed in the 19th century as a way of referring to black slaves. As a result, it is “historically naive and racially blind” to assume it is a “neutral biological category”. Woah!

“Female” was in common usage long before the 19th century and I think Rose does Long Chu down here. Long Chu is a controversial, often witty, trans author who starts her book Females with: “Everyone is female, and everyone hates it.” For Long Chu, a female identity is one of self-negation and fuckable porn-addled passivity, which is precisely why she transitioned. If the answer to “What is a woman?” is this person, then the majority of the population — women — are tragic failures. Perhaps we are, but at least I know that male babies are not born “with spermatozoa”, as Rose asserts.

Rose goes on to argue that the act of transitioning challenges a binary which “reinforces the most regressive of gender stereotypes”. For her, it is an “imaginative leap”. Others might call it a fiction and listen to the accounts of detransitioners who can never experience parenthood or sexual pleasure. Others might say they are being sold a fantasy, that the sexed body has limitations whatever the imagination says, and that cynical drug companies and surgeons are cashing in on this.

Still, Rose insists there is no bedrock on which “sexual differentiation can securely ground itself”. Perhaps she has not read Dawkins or perhaps she knows more about biology than him. I couldn’t possibly say, but she goes into the familiar refrain that because some women don’t have a uterus, biology cannot be the gatekeeper of what she would call “femaleness”. This is true, but every one of us, however sexually interesting we may be, was born from someone who did have a uterus. There is no way of escaping this.

Transwomen, she says, have “a feeling that biology and a core, lived, sexual identity have been woefully misaligned”. What, pray, is “a core, lived sexual identity”? Is it a soul? Is it an orientation? Is it changeable? The issue with this Butlerian perception of gender is that, if it is nothing but performative, why is anyone compelled to repeat the performance repeatedly and permanently?

The dissonance between who you feel yourself to be and a sexed body is dysphoria, and I don’t know a single feminist who is not sympathetic to those who suffer from it. It’s just that, on the whole, we’re more worried about distressed, often gay, teenagers doing it.

The goal of transition is to simulate femininity, not femaleness because it cannot be done. The liberatory aspect of this, which Rose refers to as “discarding the straitjacket of masculinity”, is actually done by many men without them claiming to be women. But Rose doesn’t address the attendant power grab of women’s spaces and language. Instead, up comes Stuart Hall and his important work concerning moral panics in the Seventies, with a focus on “muggers” and young black men.

Trans people, she is right to say, have become political footballs when we should be thinking about other things. Yet no other “civil rights” movement has had the dominant group identify into the oppressed group and then tried to take away their rights. Rose doesn’t dirty herself with such issues.

“‘Reality’ for feminism”, she argues, is something that has to be negotiated, and to dictate on this matter is patriarchal. Rose, you have to understand, is coming from a place where discourse always trumps objective reality. Postmodern theory depends on us seeing ourselves as formed only in and through language. Meaning is never settled; it is always contested. This is a fine and interesting philosophical argument, but as a politics it stinks. Postmodernism is patriarchy in drag.

What is a woman? “In the end,” we’re told, “it is a matter of generosity and freedom.” Well yes, that will go down well with the Taliban. Where is the generosity towards women who have lost jobs and reputations because of this “debate”? Where is the freedom for women to define themselves? If oppression is not rooted in biology, where does it come from exactly?

One is not born a woman but becomes one. And then one becomes an angry woman — not because we are gatekeeping an essentialist position, but because we cannot individually identify our way out of trouble. Feminism is a collective struggle or it is merely cosmetic.

What is a woman? I suspect Rose knows. She just also knows which side her bread is buttered on: the side that holds the power in academia, publishing and literary circles. They have stopped dreaming big and kid themselves they are radical in their safe spaces. Yet most women don’t get to choose our safe spaces: we are too mean and unsophisticated. Thankfully, unlike Rose, some of us remain unkind, unpersuaded, unbound.


Suzanne Moore is an award-winning columnist and journalist. She won the Orwell Prize in 2019.

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Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago

I’m sorry, have UnHerd started publishing in a foreign language that I have never heard of? For me, this was like listening to a couple of aliens debating the esoteric inner-workings of their society. I could understand each individual letter and word – it’s the sentences I had the problem with. It seems, I have drifted so far from the mores of our current human culture, that I probably no longer identify as human.

Karen Fleming
Karen Fleming
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Prashant , you are not alone. Many articles of late have become so thoroughly academic I think, that I cannot understand the “foreign language” either. I thought I was just getting old. Glad to hear someone else is having the same reaction.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Karen Fleming

It’s getting a bit too ‘Quillette’ for me also.

mike otter
mike otter
9 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Yes but this is fake academic – a likeness, ersatz and a simulacrum. Whereas for the most part Quillette pieces satisfy the requirements for rigour associated with Western academia from the 50s to 90s when false papers were a tiny percent of all published work

Last edited 9 months ago by mike otter
David Goldsmith
David Goldsmith
9 months ago
Reply to  mike otter

Trust an otter to beaver away….

David Goldsmith
David Goldsmith
9 months ago
Reply to  mike otter

Trust an otter to beaver away….

mike otter
mike otter
9 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Yes but this is fake academic – a likeness, ersatz and a simulacrum. Whereas for the most part Quillette pieces satisfy the requirements for rigour associated with Western academia from the 50s to 90s when false papers were a tiny percent of all published work

Last edited 9 months ago by mike otter
Terry Davies
Terry Davies
9 months ago
Reply to  Karen Fleming

I also thought it was just me getting old, but then I decided it was the second large gin and tonic in sunny Cyprus that did it for me!

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  Terry Davies

Nah, if anything that adds clarity…the ability to pierce the jargon and sever the Gordian Knot of klutzy, angst-ridden, gender-studies academese to discover, beneath the bluster only a hollow emptiness, the sound of one hand clapping: the sounding brass, the tinkling cymbal.
Far better the sparkling G&T beneath the Cypriot sun!

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  Terry Davies

Nah, if anything that adds clarity…the ability to pierce the jargon and sever the Gordian Knot of klutzy, angst-ridden, gender-studies academese to discover, beneath the bluster only a hollow emptiness, the sound of one hand clapping: the sounding brass, the tinkling cymbal.
Far better the sparkling G&T beneath the Cypriot sun!

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Karen Fleming

It’s getting a bit too ‘Quillette’ for me also.

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
9 months ago
Reply to  Karen Fleming

I also thought it was just me getting old, but then I decided it was the second large gin and tonic in sunny Cyprus that did it for me!

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I also struggled. I was struck by this:

“The construction of gender is social and there is a difference between being female (sex) and femininity (gender) which is learnt.”

I think (but am not sure) that the author supports this statement. Apparently oestrogen, physical strength, child rearing capability etc play no part in the construction of gender identity.

Starting from an irrational position leads, unsurprisingly, to a contorted argument,

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Basically, she wants the bits of biology that prop up her already formed dogmatic ideas, but not the bits that threaten it.

Wal For
Wal For
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Try again. The traits you list are traits of being female (sex). Those traits don’t rationally lead to passivity, unpaid work at home, reduced pay in the workplace, being “deserving” of male violence, which is the realm of gender/femininity as defined and regulated by culture.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

None of those things define gender/femininity in my world. The ills you describe were fought by the Women’s Liberation movement and largely won.

This discussion relates to fundamental definitions of what constitutes a woman. To say that can be done without reference to biological sex.is nonsense.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Your point is well taken, Martin, but I think that the distinction between sex (maleness or femaleness) and gender (masculinity or femininity) can be drawn too sharply.
Gender is a cultural system, sure, not a biological one. But it’s not entirely arbitrary or unrelated to sex. Maleness and femaleness are givens of the natural order and therefore innate. Notions of masculinity and femininity are somewhat flexible givens of the cultural order and therefore not innate. These gender differences are symbolic interpretations of, or elaborations on, sex differences. This is one of the few universal patterns of human existence, both historically and cross-culturally. Even though all cultures acknowledge innate differences between men and women, some cultures exaggerate these differences in order to benefit from the distinctive contributions of both male and female bodies (which is relatively easy but sometimes comes at the cost of disharmony between men and women) and other cultures minimize these differences (which is relatively difficult but sometimes comes with the benefit of fostering harmony between men and women).
I made this comment in response to another article and received a vote of 1 for the effort (up after being voted -1). Maybe many readers don’t like to be reminded that some current ideologies tend to rely heavily on biological determinism (evolutionary psychology, say, or religious fundamentalism) and competing ideologies tend to rely heavily on cultural determinism (various forms of feminism, social constructionism and transgenderism). These ideologies are all mistaken, I think, because they fail to account for the complexity of being human.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Your last sentence covers it all. It’s complicated!

Bruni Schling
Bruni Schling
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Well put. I agree with everything you say. It is so obvious.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Another point for you on this one, Paul. Excellent analysis of the issue at hand, which happens to fit with a favorite little saying of mine: “Is it nature or nurture? Yes, it is.”

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Upvote from me. Very clear, very good post.

I’d just add that the conceptual distinction sex/gender is part of the problem as it leaves no conceptual space for average innate differences in personality and behaviour between the sexes. It basically eliminates their possibility through conceptual sleight of hand.
Also not sure about the reasons societies exaggerate/reduce the sex differences, though it’s obvious they do this. Can you point to evidence this about specialisation/ harmony.

Again great post.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I’m not sure of what you mean, David. Innate differences are by definition those of sex. Other differences are those of gender. What does this have to do with “conceptual space”?
Your question about why societies either exaggerate or minimize gender differences is a good one–especially now that many of our most influential authorities insist on the notion that men and women are almost interchangeable or even on the more cynical notion that there’s no such thing as a man or a woman at all but only insidious “social constructions” that promote the power of some groups over other groups. I suspect that the answer to your question has something to do with the environment in relation to both food and relations with neighbors. Here it is, stated very briefly and schematically.
If food is not only plentiful but also easy to gather, then gender differences would be of little importance (which means that they would amount to nothing more than a few symbolic distinctions). Both men and women, after all, can pick fruit off the trees, wield implements in vegetable gardens, tend to small animals, fish in local streams and so on.
But if food production requires lengthy, arduous and even dangerous hunting or fishing expeditions, then most men are better equipped than most women are. Societies must not only train men but also reward them for risks taken on behalf of everyone. Their training occurs primarily during adolescence, when boys are removed from the safety of home to be instructed by men on how to kill game animals and avoid being killed by them–or eaten by predatory animals. The training of initiates culminates in coming of age rituals that demonstrate the new skills that they have learned and formally acknowledge completion of the inherently difficult transition from boyhood to manhood. To varying degrees, societies must foster not only traditional knowledge of the natural world but also traditional virtues such as stoic endurance and self-sacrifice, or at least of bravado. Maleness per se is not enough to equip men for these activities, in short, so these activities are culturally coded as masculine and thus clearly differentiated from feminine ones.
The emphasis on supplementing male nature with masculine culture is heightened, of course, in societies that expect men to participate in raiding or warfare.
Every society depends also on women to gestate and lactate. Women, like men, must therefore face heavy risks and accept the need to sacrifice themselves for the common good. Until very recently, after all, death in childbirth was very common. To become women, therefore, means supplementing female nature with feminine culture. Girls must learn traditional skills for the gathering, production and consumption of food, administering medicinal products and so on. The cultural transition between girlhood and womanhood is often less dramatic than the transition from boyhood to manhood, however, because the first flow of menstrual blood is itself a very dramatic transition. Girls seldom leave home to become initiates, moreover, and do not need to switch the source of their identity from one parent to the other. This is why feminine coming of age rites are often less dramatic, let alone less dangerous, than masculine ones. In fact, weddings often function as coming of age rites for girls.
The greater the cultural differentiation between masculinity and femininity, of course, the greater the need to cultivate harmony–that is, (a) to encourage a positive source of identity for each sex (the sense of being needed) and (b) to discourage envy of one sex by the other (something that modern societies often forget, assuming that men have no inherent problems and therefore no reason to envy women). It’s a very hard balance to maintain, and I doubt that any society has ever attained enough balance to avoid at least some degree of rivalry, suspicion or envy between the sexes.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I’m not sure of what you mean, David. Innate differences are by definition those of sex. Other differences are those of gender. What does this have to do with “conceptual space”?
Your question about why societies either exaggerate or minimize gender differences is a good one–especially now that many of our most influential authorities insist on the notion that men and women are almost interchangeable or even on the more cynical notion that there’s no such thing as a man or a woman at all but only insidious “social constructions” that promote the power of some groups over other groups. I suspect that the answer to your question has something to do with the environment in relation to both food and relations with neighbors. Here it is, stated very briefly and schematically.
If food is not only plentiful but also easy to gather, then gender differences would be of little importance (which means that they would amount to nothing more than a few symbolic distinctions). Both men and women, after all, can pick fruit off the trees, wield implements in vegetable gardens, tend to small animals, fish in local streams and so on.
But if food production requires lengthy, arduous and even dangerous hunting or fishing expeditions, then most men are better equipped than most women are. Societies must not only train men but also reward them for risks taken on behalf of everyone. Their training occurs primarily during adolescence, when boys are removed from the safety of home to be instructed by men on how to kill game animals and avoid being killed by them–or eaten by predatory animals. The training of initiates culminates in coming of age rituals that demonstrate the new skills that they have learned and formally acknowledge completion of the inherently difficult transition from boyhood to manhood. To varying degrees, societies must foster not only traditional knowledge of the natural world but also traditional virtues such as stoic endurance and self-sacrifice, or at least of bravado. Maleness per se is not enough to equip men for these activities, in short, so these activities are culturally coded as masculine and thus clearly differentiated from feminine ones.
The emphasis on supplementing male nature with masculine culture is heightened, of course, in societies that expect men to participate in raiding or warfare.
Every society depends also on women to gestate and lactate. Women, like men, must therefore face heavy risks and accept the need to sacrifice themselves for the common good. Until very recently, after all, death in childbirth was very common. To become women, therefore, means supplementing female nature with feminine culture. Girls must learn traditional skills for the gathering, production and consumption of food, administering medicinal products and so on. The cultural transition between girlhood and womanhood is often less dramatic than the transition from boyhood to manhood, however, because the first flow of menstrual blood is itself a very dramatic transition. Girls seldom leave home to become initiates, moreover, and do not need to switch the source of their identity from one parent to the other. This is why feminine coming of age rites are often less dramatic, let alone less dangerous, than masculine ones. In fact, weddings often function as coming of age rites for girls.
The greater the cultural differentiation between masculinity and femininity, of course, the greater the need to cultivate harmony–that is, (a) to encourage a positive source of identity for each sex (the sense of being needed) and (b) to discourage envy of one sex by the other (something that modern societies often forget, assuming that men have no inherent problems and therefore no reason to envy women). It’s a very hard balance to maintain, and I doubt that any society has ever attained enough balance to avoid at least some degree of rivalry, suspicion or envy between the sexes.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Your last sentence covers it all. It’s complicated!

Bruni Schling
Bruni Schling
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Well put. I agree with everything you say. It is so obvious.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Another point for you on this one, Paul. Excellent analysis of the issue at hand, which happens to fit with a favorite little saying of mine: “Is it nature or nurture? Yes, it is.”

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Upvote from me. Very clear, very good post.

I’d just add that the conceptual distinction sex/gender is part of the problem as it leaves no conceptual space for average innate differences in personality and behaviour between the sexes. It basically eliminates their possibility through conceptual sleight of hand.
Also not sure about the reasons societies exaggerate/reduce the sex differences, though it’s obvious they do this. Can you point to evidence this about specialisation/ harmony.

Again great post.

Clare Gibb
Clare Gibb
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

And that’s the point. Suzanne Moore is pointing out that Gender Ideology seeks ot reverse all that has been won – because it essentially codifies a very specific, socially constructed, view of “feminitity” as all that it takes to be a woman, and therefore anyone that prances round doing that is de facto a woman. Which is, to put things in purely technical language, utter bollocks.
The whole of Gender Ideology starts from the assumption that sex (not gender) is the social construct. Again, utter bollocks.
The trouble is that it has a real world impact. I started the public sector this week and was made to sit through training that said that I had to accept men in the women’s loos because the man in the example, “felt like a woman”. Illegal, but as a locum I am keeping my mouth shut.

Last edited 9 months ago by Clare Gibb
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Your point is well taken, Martin, but I think that the distinction between sex (maleness or femaleness) and gender (masculinity or femininity) can be drawn too sharply.
Gender is a cultural system, sure, not a biological one. But it’s not entirely arbitrary or unrelated to sex. Maleness and femaleness are givens of the natural order and therefore innate. Notions of masculinity and femininity are somewhat flexible givens of the cultural order and therefore not innate. These gender differences are symbolic interpretations of, or elaborations on, sex differences. This is one of the few universal patterns of human existence, both historically and cross-culturally. Even though all cultures acknowledge innate differences between men and women, some cultures exaggerate these differences in order to benefit from the distinctive contributions of both male and female bodies (which is relatively easy but sometimes comes at the cost of disharmony between men and women) and other cultures minimize these differences (which is relatively difficult but sometimes comes with the benefit of fostering harmony between men and women).
I made this comment in response to another article and received a vote of 1 for the effort (up after being voted -1). Maybe many readers don’t like to be reminded that some current ideologies tend to rely heavily on biological determinism (evolutionary psychology, say, or religious fundamentalism) and competing ideologies tend to rely heavily on cultural determinism (various forms of feminism, social constructionism and transgenderism). These ideologies are all mistaken, I think, because they fail to account for the complexity of being human.

Clare Gibb
Clare Gibb
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

And that’s the point. Suzanne Moore is pointing out that Gender Ideology seeks ot reverse all that has been won – because it essentially codifies a very specific, socially constructed, view of “feminitity” as all that it takes to be a woman, and therefore anyone that prances round doing that is de facto a woman. Which is, to put things in purely technical language, utter bollocks.
The whole of Gender Ideology starts from the assumption that sex (not gender) is the social construct. Again, utter bollocks.
The trouble is that it has a real world impact. I started the public sector this week and was made to sit through training that said that I had to accept men in the women’s loos because the man in the example, “felt like a woman”. Illegal, but as a locum I am keeping my mouth shut.

Last edited 9 months ago by Clare Gibb
Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

How is housework ‘unpaid’? Work is something you’re employed to do in order to gain financial benefit. Keeping your home clean or washing your clothes, or those of your family, is maintaining a level of hygiene for your own benefit. I live by myself. I’ll do the hoovering after work. How much should I pay myself? And paying men and women different amounts for the same job is illegal, so you can forget that one.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
9 months ago

Oddly, no one pays me for repainting the house, putting up shelves or hanging pictures to order, building sheds, sweeping the path, de-moulding damp corners, assembling or shifting furniture, hanging blinds, cleaning the windows, doing the gardening, servicing the car, maintaining the bikes, or putting the bins out – all tasks I perform and my female partner does not.
I roll my eyes every time I see this ‘wages for housework’ BS canard in the BBC and other BS MSM. In my experience, women do little housework beyond laundry, shopping and cooking, and there’s a lot more to maintaining a home than that. Time for a campaign for Wages for DIY & Home Maintenance!

Last edited 9 months ago by Peter Joy
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Joy

You’ve got it easy, I don’t do the cooking either.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Joy

You’ve got it easy, I don’t do the cooking either.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
9 months ago

Oddly, no one pays me for repainting the house, putting up shelves or hanging pictures to order, building sheds, sweeping the path, de-moulding damp corners, assembling or shifting furniture, hanging blinds, cleaning the windows, doing the gardening, servicing the car, maintaining the bikes, or putting the bins out – all tasks I perform and my female partner does not.
I roll my eyes every time I see this ‘wages for housework’ BS canard in the BBC and other BS MSM. In my experience, women do little housework beyond laundry, shopping and cooking, and there’s a lot more to maintaining a home than that. Time for a campaign for Wages for DIY & Home Maintenance!

Last edited 9 months ago by Peter Joy
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

‘unpaid work at home, reduced pay in the workplace, being “deserving” of male violence, ”
I know, it’s pointless to point out the utter rubbish that’s the “gender pay gap” nonsense

But it’s interesting, the aversion towards “unpaid work” at home when a) it’s usually men who are breadwinners – work far harder, longer hours and under more stress outside home, with most of the pay spent on wife and family – and how few women agree to pick up that role.
b) No woman seems to mind “unpaid work” when sitting at home collecting alimony checks.

And around 50 people died in a year from domestic violence. One third men, incidentally.
Meanwhile, a few hundred thousand have died in the Ukraine war.
How many women?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I worked much longer, harder hours than my husband…. Too much generalisation here. This isn’t the 50s!

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
9 months ago

Good for you, and to see someone standing up for what they say, and if a lot more women had the same attitude as you, wouldn’t be as irritated by this cheap talk.

But on average, I have found far too many women happy to take the easy route and go part time or be at home while their husband slogs away.

To my mind, that’s fine, and probably preferable for the kids. But it’s extremely annoying to then hear phrases like “unpaid work”.
You think only paid work counts? Then go out and do that 60 hours a week job, instead of complaining how long it takes to run the washing machine.

Coralie Palmer
Coralie Palmer
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Any spouse, male or female, who chooses part-time paid employment in order to give the necessary care and attention to their children, is not ‘taking the easy route’. Your phrase ‘probably preferable for the kids’ shows just how much importance to attach to childcare and just how much you’ve thought about it.

Last edited 9 months ago by Coralie Palmer
Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
9 months ago
Reply to  Coralie Palmer

Caring for children is both hard work and the best fun available . If I had spent no time rearing my own children I would have only myself to blame if I did not like them as adults. I did work as well in order to remain professionally up to date.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
9 months ago
Reply to  Coralie Palmer

Caring for children is both hard work and the best fun available . If I had spent no time rearing my own children I would have only myself to blame if I did not like them as adults. I did work as well in order to remain professionally up to date.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

As a traditional, now elderly woman, I married had two children and two different careers as fisrtly, a Probation officer and secondly, an Anglican priest/prison Chaplain, over 44 years of paid work, p/t when the children were young. I have 3 university qualifications and a lot of practical gifts. I too worked longer hours than my husband, we each did what was needed at any given time from cooking to childcare solely on the basis of who was home and available, we shared time off and income and still do. We both did what we each wanted, and spent very little time debating our gender identity or roles. I do not feel deprived of these conversations, having lived a very interesting life with a like minded male companion doing what we wanted to.
PS my adult children are on balance happy and moderately happy andsucessful doing what they enjoy and working.

Last edited 9 months ago by Alison Tyler
Coralie Palmer
Coralie Palmer
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Any spouse, male or female, who chooses part-time paid employment in order to give the necessary care and attention to their children, is not ‘taking the easy route’. Your phrase ‘probably preferable for the kids’ shows just how much importance to attach to childcare and just how much you’ve thought about it.

Last edited 9 months ago by Coralie Palmer
Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

As a traditional, now elderly woman, I married had two children and two different careers as fisrtly, a Probation officer and secondly, an Anglican priest/prison Chaplain, over 44 years of paid work, p/t when the children were young. I have 3 university qualifications and a lot of practical gifts. I too worked longer hours than my husband, we each did what was needed at any given time from cooking to childcare solely on the basis of who was home and available, we shared time off and income and still do. We both did what we each wanted, and spent very little time debating our gender identity or roles. I do not feel deprived of these conversations, having lived a very interesting life with a like minded male companion doing what we wanted to.
PS my adult children are on balance happy and moderately happy andsucessful doing what they enjoy and working.

Last edited 9 months ago by Alison Tyler
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
9 months ago

Good for you, and to see someone standing up for what they say, and if a lot more women had the same attitude as you, wouldn’t be as irritated by this cheap talk.

But on average, I have found far too many women happy to take the easy route and go part time or be at home while their husband slogs away.

To my mind, that’s fine, and probably preferable for the kids. But it’s extremely annoying to then hear phrases like “unpaid work”.
You think only paid work counts? Then go out and do that 60 hours a week job, instead of complaining how long it takes to run the washing machine.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

More than 50 people, male and female, die each year from domestic violence. About three women a week are murdered by an intimate partner. Google is your friend.

Chris J
Chris J
9 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Three women a week is more than 50 in a year.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
9 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Wonder what it was back in the 30-40-50’s before “liberation”? Does our society encourage mental illness now? I once has a violent wife (ex) while I was taught men never hit women. Her rage was partly learned, I think, but she was not stable.

Chris J
Chris J
9 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Three women a week is more than 50 in a year.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
9 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Wonder what it was back in the 30-40-50’s before “liberation”? Does our society encourage mental illness now? I once has a violent wife (ex) while I was taught men never hit women. Her rage was partly learned, I think, but she was not stable.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I worked much longer, harder hours than my husband…. Too much generalisation here. This isn’t the 50s!

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

More than 50 people, male and female, die each year from domestic violence. About three women a week are murdered by an intimate partner. Google is your friend.

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

You use loaded terms, carrying loaded meanings. Yes, you’re right… estrogen, physical strength, child-rearing capability, nurturing, etc. do not necessarily lead to passivity (whatever that means)…or unpaid work at home, or reduced pay in the workplace…or victimization.
But, equally we can say that motherhood, and the conscious decisions to be a fulltime mother to one’s children can indeed lead to unpaid work at home and/or reduced pay in the workplace to accompany reduced time in the workplace or a reduced commitment to the workplace (which, of course, is what every ‘pay gap study’ consistently shows).
But the fact that motherhood is not a profession which is directly market-rewarded does not mean it is not highly valued. Indeed, it is myopic to measure human value only by what the labor market is willing to pay for it. How much does the market pay for fatherhood…or grandfatherhood? As a matter of fact, based purely upon market compensation rates, being a grandparent is valueless. But human value transcends the market; it always has.
As for the possibility of victimization…. heck the weak (or weaker) are always at the mercy of the strong (or stronger). That means that women, by nature, are more vulnerable. And yes, that reality does influence (and should influence) the nature of the ‘gender roles’ that women tend to play….just as they influence the gender roles that men tend to play.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

“unpaid work at home”? Before corporations discovered cheap labor by convincing females that working for them was better for them than raising children, running a household and being a partner? Did a fine job of reducing wages overall. The partnership involved in that unpaid work at home was successful for a very long time and rewarding for the couple. Now we have many women quite dissatisfied in both work and home. Progress.

Y Way
Y Way
9 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Thank you. I have often thought this. By joining the work force, women ensured two income families would be required. When the workforce doubles, wages drop. Obviously.

We should have fought for more equality in banking, credit, ownership based on our unique (and, I believe, necessary) contributions to home and society.

Now, neither men nor women have energy for volunteer groups, community organizations, nothing. Children spend more time on tablets than with family and friends. Why? We are all exhausted. We all work 40+ hours per week, and all have to help clean, cook, help kids with homework and all their sundry needs…who has time or energy left for anything?

Feminism did not help women gain freedom. And I say this as a child who watched my Mom break the glass ceiling. Watched her get her first “own” credit card. I was proud of her. But I was so lucky. My grandmother came to live with us so we had a Mom anyway.

Only as an adult can I see what the revolution may have gained us as individuals (and not most of us) but lost us as a society. As a family unit.

Today, I am the main breadwinner. I was fortunate enough to figure out a career path I do not hate and find satisfaction from. And that supports my home in the middle middle class. I am fortunate. But I never had kids. And when I come home, hurting everywhere, and pop a frozen meal in the oven, I am sad. But also relieved that I do not have to cook for my family and that my husband can do much of the cleaning slowly thru the week because he has more time than I do. What if I had even more on my plate?

I survive now. I think many people are merely surviving now. Life, with a full time Mom, honestly had some time and beauty in it. Meals were a beautiful thing to behold. As were holidays. I am glad I experienced it through my grandmother.

Y Way
Y Way
9 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Thank you. I have often thought this. By joining the work force, women ensured two income families would be required. When the workforce doubles, wages drop. Obviously.

We should have fought for more equality in banking, credit, ownership based on our unique (and, I believe, necessary) contributions to home and society.

Now, neither men nor women have energy for volunteer groups, community organizations, nothing. Children spend more time on tablets than with family and friends. Why? We are all exhausted. We all work 40+ hours per week, and all have to help clean, cook, help kids with homework and all their sundry needs…who has time or energy left for anything?

Feminism did not help women gain freedom. And I say this as a child who watched my Mom break the glass ceiling. Watched her get her first “own” credit card. I was proud of her. But I was so lucky. My grandmother came to live with us so we had a Mom anyway.

Only as an adult can I see what the revolution may have gained us as individuals (and not most of us) but lost us as a society. As a family unit.

Today, I am the main breadwinner. I was fortunate enough to figure out a career path I do not hate and find satisfaction from. And that supports my home in the middle middle class. I am fortunate. But I never had kids. And when I come home, hurting everywhere, and pop a frozen meal in the oven, I am sad. But also relieved that I do not have to cook for my family and that my husband can do much of the cleaning slowly thru the week because he has more time than I do. What if I had even more on my plate?

I survive now. I think many people are merely surviving now. Life, with a full time Mom, honestly had some time and beauty in it. Meals were a beautiful thing to behold. As were holidays. I am glad I experienced it through my grandmother.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

None of those things define gender/femininity in my world. The ills you describe were fought by the Women’s Liberation movement and largely won.

This discussion relates to fundamental definitions of what constitutes a woman. To say that can be done without reference to biological sex.is nonsense.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

How is housework ‘unpaid’? Work is something you’re employed to do in order to gain financial benefit. Keeping your home clean or washing your clothes, or those of your family, is maintaining a level of hygiene for your own benefit. I live by myself. I’ll do the hoovering after work. How much should I pay myself? And paying men and women different amounts for the same job is illegal, so you can forget that one.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

‘unpaid work at home, reduced pay in the workplace, being “deserving” of male violence, ”
I know, it’s pointless to point out the utter rubbish that’s the “gender pay gap” nonsense

But it’s interesting, the aversion towards “unpaid work” at home when a) it’s usually men who are breadwinners – work far harder, longer hours and under more stress outside home, with most of the pay spent on wife and family – and how few women agree to pick up that role.
b) No woman seems to mind “unpaid work” when sitting at home collecting alimony checks.

And around 50 people died in a year from domestic violence. One third men, incidentally.
Meanwhile, a few hundred thousand have died in the Ukraine war.
How many women?

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

You use loaded terms, carrying loaded meanings. Yes, you’re right… estrogen, physical strength, child-rearing capability, nurturing, etc. do not necessarily lead to passivity (whatever that means)…or unpaid work at home, or reduced pay in the workplace…or victimization.
But, equally we can say that motherhood, and the conscious decisions to be a fulltime mother to one’s children can indeed lead to unpaid work at home and/or reduced pay in the workplace to accompany reduced time in the workplace or a reduced commitment to the workplace (which, of course, is what every ‘pay gap study’ consistently shows).
But the fact that motherhood is not a profession which is directly market-rewarded does not mean it is not highly valued. Indeed, it is myopic to measure human value only by what the labor market is willing to pay for it. How much does the market pay for fatherhood…or grandfatherhood? As a matter of fact, based purely upon market compensation rates, being a grandparent is valueless. But human value transcends the market; it always has.
As for the possibility of victimization…. heck the weak (or weaker) are always at the mercy of the strong (or stronger). That means that women, by nature, are more vulnerable. And yes, that reality does influence (and should influence) the nature of the ‘gender roles’ that women tend to play….just as they influence the gender roles that men tend to play.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

“unpaid work at home”? Before corporations discovered cheap labor by convincing females that working for them was better for them than raising children, running a household and being a partner? Did a fine job of reducing wages overall. The partnership involved in that unpaid work at home was successful for a very long time and rewarding for the couple. Now we have many women quite dissatisfied in both work and home. Progress.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

You only have to google image ‘Long Chu’ to see how irrational it is – there is no possibility of ‘her’ ever being mistaken for a woman.
She also has a hetero female partner. She is quoted as saying ‘heterosexuality is so much better when there aren’t any men in the equation’. Hilarious!
This in turn reminds me of something Renton says in the film ‘Trainspotting’: ‘One day there won’t be any men or women, just wa*kers. Sounds great to me!’

mike otter
mike otter
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

We are nearly there IMO

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
9 months ago
Reply to  mike otter

Quite

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
9 months ago
Reply to  mike otter

Quite

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I think you meant ‘he’ in your 2nd paragraph..?

mike otter
mike otter
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

We are nearly there IMO

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I think you meant ‘he’ in your 2nd paragraph..?

John Baxendale
John Baxendale
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Did you actually read the article? She’s actually saying the opposite of that. Or do you believe that doing the ironing and wearing pink are encoded at conception in female DNA or something?

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
9 months ago
Reply to  John Baxendale

Straw-man argument.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  John Baxendale

I said, of the specific quote, I think she supports the statement but am not sure. I read that statement as hers, not something she was disagreeing with of Rose’s. As a standalone position it’s nonsense.

How you manage to draw the inferences you have is beyond me.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
9 months ago
Reply to  John Baxendale

Straw-man argument.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  John Baxendale

I said, of the specific quote, I think she supports the statement but am not sure. I read that statement as hers, not something she was disagreeing with of Rose’s. As a standalone position it’s nonsense.

How you manage to draw the inferences you have is beyond me.

Mary P Byrne-Halaszi
Mary P Byrne-Halaszi
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

“The construction of gender is social and there is a difference between being female (sex) and femininity (gender) which is learnt.” I think a Germaine Greer quote. And she’s not wrong in my view.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago

Female is biological, femininity is social. Ooh easy to understand, so binary. All that human complexity I was imagining, solved at a stroke.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
9 months ago

They don’t exist in isolation from one another though do they? Across time and space and in vastly different cultures there are concurrences between different societies’ conceptions of femininity and masculinity which suggests that at the very least these conceptions have some sort of connection with the underlying biological reality.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
9 months ago

“which is learnt”. Not sure that is quite true. Female and male thought patterns are distinct, even at birth it becomes obvious. Females are largely interested in faces, males in objects – in general. Maybe pink desire is learned, don’t know. my wife preferred purple, I blue or gray. Have no idea why.

Y Way
Y Way
9 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Pink preference is definitely societal. Men from the Ukraine like pink. So…that is one thing we definitely imposed. But femininity as a trait more likely in the female sex…no. That is real and much of what is considered feminine is cross cultural…though, obviously, not all.

Much of what is “feminine” results from us being the biologically weaker sex and from child bearing. That is all.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
9 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Hate pink, so do both my daughters and granddaughter

Y Way
Y Way
9 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Pink preference is definitely societal. Men from the Ukraine like pink. So…that is one thing we definitely imposed. But femininity as a trait more likely in the female sex…no. That is real and much of what is considered feminine is cross cultural…though, obviously, not all.

Much of what is “feminine” results from us being the biologically weaker sex and from child bearing. That is all.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
9 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Hate pink, so do both my daughters and granddaughter

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago

Female is biological, femininity is social. Ooh easy to understand, so binary. All that human complexity I was imagining, solved at a stroke.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
9 months ago

They don’t exist in isolation from one another though do they? Across time and space and in vastly different cultures there are concurrences between different societies’ conceptions of femininity and masculinity which suggests that at the very least these conceptions have some sort of connection with the underlying biological reality.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
9 months ago

“which is learnt”. Not sure that is quite true. Female and male thought patterns are distinct, even at birth it becomes obvious. Females are largely interested in faces, males in objects – in general. Maybe pink desire is learned, don’t know. my wife preferred purple, I blue or gray. Have no idea why.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

This is the reason a male dressed as a female is called effeminate. Not because of the construction of the body gender but because of the social construct of the fashion style. Therein lies the problem that is trying to be defined.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Men and women behave differently, dress differently, have different primary life focii, in every society in every age and in every primate species.

I believe that is so because there are very obvious and significant biological differences. Societal expectations grow out of these differences, accepted, but biology is at the root.

Effeminate, Tomboy are just words describing non stereotypical behaviour.

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Well, actually, ‘effeminate & Tomboy’ are stereotypical descriptions assigned to a different — but not uncommon — kind of stereotypical behavior which is different from the usual, ‘center of the bell-curve’ kind of behavior evinced by either sex.
What we see in any large population (of either sex) is a range of behaviors associated with differently sized population subsets (and a stereotype for each one). For men, as a for instance, at the far right we may find Conan the Barbarian types….next to Conan maybe professional football players….next to them maybe survivalists, hunters, fisherman….next to them construction workers…next to them office workers carrying briefcases fighting the good fight behind desks and computer screens…next to them stay-at-home dads….and on and on until we arrive at the far left which may be the man who likes to pretend he’s a woman. Each segment carries its own stereotypical description/phrase which may be more or less accurate.
And each of these stereotypical behavior types is, to your point, applied to the basic, unchangeable biological reality which makes each Man.

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Well, actually, ‘effeminate & Tomboy’ are stereotypical descriptions assigned to a different — but not uncommon — kind of stereotypical behavior which is different from the usual, ‘center of the bell-curve’ kind of behavior evinced by either sex.
What we see in any large population (of either sex) is a range of behaviors associated with differently sized population subsets (and a stereotype for each one). For men, as a for instance, at the far right we may find Conan the Barbarian types….next to Conan maybe professional football players….next to them maybe survivalists, hunters, fisherman….next to them construction workers…next to them office workers carrying briefcases fighting the good fight behind desks and computer screens…next to them stay-at-home dads….and on and on until we arrive at the far left which may be the man who likes to pretend he’s a woman. Each segment carries its own stereotypical description/phrase which may be more or less accurate.
And each of these stereotypical behavior types is, to your point, applied to the basic, unchangeable biological reality which makes each Man.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Men and women behave differently, dress differently, have different primary life focii, in every society in every age and in every primate species.

I believe that is so because there are very obvious and significant biological differences. Societal expectations grow out of these differences, accepted, but biology is at the root.

Effeminate, Tomboy are just words describing non stereotypical behaviour.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Basically, she wants the bits of biology that prop up her already formed dogmatic ideas, but not the bits that threaten it.

Wal For
Wal For
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Try again. The traits you list are traits of being female (sex). Those traits don’t rationally lead to passivity, unpaid work at home, reduced pay in the workplace, being “deserving” of male violence, which is the realm of gender/femininity as defined and regulated by culture.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

You only have to google image ‘Long Chu’ to see how irrational it is – there is no possibility of ‘her’ ever being mistaken for a woman.
She also has a hetero female partner. She is quoted as saying ‘heterosexuality is so much better when there aren’t any men in the equation’. Hilarious!
This in turn reminds me of something Renton says in the film ‘Trainspotting’: ‘One day there won’t be any men or women, just wa*kers. Sounds great to me!’

John Baxendale
John Baxendale
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Did you actually read the article? She’s actually saying the opposite of that. Or do you believe that doing the ironing and wearing pink are encoded at conception in female DNA or something?

Mary P Byrne-Halaszi
Mary P Byrne-Halaszi
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

“The construction of gender is social and there is a difference between being female (sex) and femininity (gender) which is learnt.” I think a Germaine Greer quote. And she’s not wrong in my view.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

This is the reason a male dressed as a female is called effeminate. Not because of the construction of the body gender but because of the social construct of the fashion style. Therein lies the problem that is trying to be defined.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

We have left the realm of science, where words describe reality, and have entered the world of wizards, where words are supposed to create reality.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Actually it’s a lot simpler than that. It’s just one person trying to rationalise inconsistent beliefs in public. If she spoke plainly it would be painfully obvious to all. Not sure why Unherd is providing a home to refugees from the Guardian. Or rather I do know – it’s because of the trans issue. But it doesn’t excuse poor writing.

Compare this with Kathleen Stock!

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I got the gist of the the article, I think, but I, too, found myself staring blankly at the page pretending (and for whom?) to read, only to skip a paragraph or two.

Douglas H
Douglas H
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

It’s a good article. If you’re going to argue with postmodernists, you need to become fluent in their weird language, and turn it against them.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

I’m less than convinced I should spend any time at all becoming fluent in postmodernism.

Hilda Healy
Hilda Healy
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Up your game Prashant. You’re being a bit lazy here. You don’t have to speak the language of Mordor, but you do have to understand it. If you want to reject the postmodern framing of sex and gender that’s all well and good, but why do so from a position of ignorance?

John Solomon
John Solomon
9 months ago
Reply to  Hilda Healy

Because there are some things which are so unimportant and inconsequential that it is sinful to waste brain cells trying to consider them. ‘Postmodern framing of sex and gender’ seems to me to be a prime example of this.

H H
H H
9 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Simply dismissing ideas without examining them is indicative of a lack of sitzfleisch, John and Prashant.

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  H H

Ah, but that’s the Semantic Trap which is, essentially, post-modernism.
One has to be a post-modern….thoroughly immersed in the arcana of post-modernism….willing and able to quote Foucault, Butler, Derrida, Lyotard, et al at the slightest provocation…capable of leaping any given reality-obstacle in a single bound with a glossary of post-modernese & off-hand references to Power, Resistance, & Meaning….in order to debate Post-Modernism. Which means, of course, you’ve already lost the debate because you’ve granted granted the nonsense a hearing and invested yourself in that nonsense-making in the process. You could spend an entire career chasing the Cheshire Cat’s fading grin.
“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.” Foucault!
Of course, as Foucault himself might have pointed out, this burgeoning nonsense successfully created an entire Academic Culture which effectively, critically, took the legs out from under every traditional discipline thereby creating a million new opportunities to be published in new journals…which gave to the Post-Modernists POWER.
It’s why Kings used to hire Wizards to defend themselves from other King’s Wizards who were always doing Wizardly Things that Kings could not understand (and were not intended to understand).
““Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.” Foucault again.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
9 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Quite – baffle them with bull3hit.

H H
H H
9 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

One can immerse oneself in postmodernism without becoming one of its disciples, as evidenced by Chomsky who argued that far from challenging existing power structures, postmodern thinkers are often the very ones who are most instrumental in bolstering oppressive institutions of power. Your emphasis on power relations though suggests that you have allowed postmodernism to contaminate your own thinking. Why have you given up? You can engage with the enemy without allowing it to dictate the terms of engagement as Chomsky demonstrated when he debated Foucault in 1971.

B Davis
B Davis
8 months ago
Reply to  H H

You’re right… but I would back up one additional step and ask, “Why engage?” Why ‘immerse’ one’s self in postmodernism when the postmodernism itself is so inherently worthless, hollow, and without meaning?
Your Chomsky point is particularly interesting…but perhaps (?) misleading. I ran across a text supposedly composed by Chomsky (link below) as he discussed Postmodernism. Here’s a quote which, I think, is rather telling, speaking of PM:
“It’s entirely possible that I’m simply missing something, or that I just lack the intellectual capacity to understand the profundities that have been unearthed in the past 20 years or so by Paris intellectuals and their followers. I’m perfectly open-minded about it, and have been for years, when similar charges have been made — but without any answer to my questions. Again, they are simple and should be easy to answer, if there is an answer: if I’m missing something, then show me what it is, in terms I can understand. Of course, if it’s all beyond my comprehension, which is possible, then I’m just a lost cause, and will be compelled to keep to things I do seem to be able to understand, and keep to association with the kinds of people who also seem to be interested in them and seem to understand them (which I’m perfectly happy to do, having no interest, now or ever, in the sectors of the intellectual culture that engage in these things, but apparently little else).”
In other words (and perhaps I, too, oversimplify), he’s saying: ‘Why bother?”
I agree.
Regardless, you are right — we need to at least take a stab at understanding the enemy if we are to defeat them, turn them back from the gates, chase them from the walls, and out of the public square.
Link: http://bactra.org/chomsky-on-postmodernism.html

B Davis
B Davis
8 months ago
Reply to  H H

You’re right… but I would back up one additional step and ask, “Why engage?” Why ‘immerse’ one’s self in postmodernism when the postmodernism itself is so inherently worthless, hollow, and without meaning?
Your Chomsky point is particularly interesting…but perhaps (?) misleading. I ran across a text supposedly composed by Chomsky (link below) as he discussed Postmodernism. Here’s a quote which, I think, is rather telling, speaking of PM:
“It’s entirely possible that I’m simply missing something, or that I just lack the intellectual capacity to understand the profundities that have been unearthed in the past 20 years or so by Paris intellectuals and their followers. I’m perfectly open-minded about it, and have been for years, when similar charges have been made — but without any answer to my questions. Again, they are simple and should be easy to answer, if there is an answer: if I’m missing something, then show me what it is, in terms I can understand. Of course, if it’s all beyond my comprehension, which is possible, then I’m just a lost cause, and will be compelled to keep to things I do seem to be able to understand, and keep to association with the kinds of people who also seem to be interested in them and seem to understand them (which I’m perfectly happy to do, having no interest, now or ever, in the sectors of the intellectual culture that engage in these things, but apparently little else).”
In other words (and perhaps I, too, oversimplify), he’s saying: ‘Why bother?”
I agree.
Regardless, you are right — we need to at least take a stab at understanding the enemy if we are to defeat them, turn them back from the gates, chase them from the walls, and out of the public square.
Link: http://bactra.org/chomsky-on-postmodernism.html

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
9 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Quite – baffle them with bull3hit.

H H
H H
9 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

One can immerse oneself in postmodernism without becoming one of its disciples, as evidenced by Chomsky who argued that far from challenging existing power structures, postmodern thinkers are often the very ones who are most instrumental in bolstering oppressive institutions of power. Your emphasis on power relations though suggests that you have allowed postmodernism to contaminate your own thinking. Why have you given up? You can engage with the enemy without allowing it to dictate the terms of engagement as Chomsky demonstrated when he debated Foucault in 1971.

B Davis
B Davis
9 months ago
Reply to  H H

Ah, but that’s the Semantic Trap which is, essentially, post-modernism.
One has to be a post-modern….thoroughly immersed in the arcana of post-modernism….willing and able to quote Foucault, Butler, Derrida, Lyotard, et al at the slightest provocation…capable of leaping any given reality-obstacle in a single bound with a glossary of post-modernese & off-hand references to Power, Resistance, & Meaning….in order to debate Post-Modernism. Which means, of course, you’ve already lost the debate because you’ve granted granted the nonsense a hearing and invested yourself in that nonsense-making in the process. You could spend an entire career chasing the Cheshire Cat’s fading grin.
“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.” Foucault!
Of course, as Foucault himself might have pointed out, this burgeoning nonsense successfully created an entire Academic Culture which effectively, critically, took the legs out from under every traditional discipline thereby creating a million new opportunities to be published in new journals…which gave to the Post-Modernists POWER.
It’s why Kings used to hire Wizards to defend themselves from other King’s Wizards who were always doing Wizardly Things that Kings could not understand (and were not intended to understand).
““Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.” Foucault again.

H H
H H
9 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Simply dismissing ideas without examining them is indicative of a lack of sitzfleisch, John and Prashant.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
9 months ago
Reply to  Hilda Healy

The problem is that the postmodern framing of sex and gender is incapable of stepping outside of its own terms of reference, which means that ‘having to understand it’ involves de facto acceptance of said terms.
Any disagreement is merely regarded as ‘not understanding it’ because the underlying assumption is that the postmodernist is self- evidently correct in their belief.

Their is no ‘game’ to ‘up’ because in the eyes of the postmodernist there is no discussion to be had.

H H
H H
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

If you want those who employ the weaponry of postmodernism to declare, “Touché, well played, Jeff,” then clearly you won’t receive any satisfaction when you tussle with them. If, on the other hand, you don’t need them to pat you on the back, you could launch a few truth bombs at them. For example, you could bring up Dawkins’ concept of “survival value.” The epiphenomenon of gender, or what we call sex roles in other animals, ensures the survival of a species. Without gender, which ensures a practical division of labour, humans would not have survived and thrived. I understand the refusal to engage with these dirty fighters, but to simply hide our heads in the sand and hope the marketplace of ideas will separate the wheat from the chaff seems naïve at best.

H H
H H
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

If you want those who employ the weaponry of postmodernism to declare, “Touché, well played, Jeff,” then clearly you won’t receive any satisfaction when you tussle with them. If, on the other hand, you don’t need them to pat you on the back, you could launch a few truth bombs at them. For example, you could bring up Dawkins’ concept of “survival value.” The epiphenomenon of gender, or what we call sex roles in other animals, ensures the survival of a species. Without gender, which ensures a practical division of labour, humans would not have survived and thrived. I understand the refusal to engage with these dirty fighters, but to simply hide our heads in the sand and hope the marketplace of ideas will separate the wheat from the chaff seems naïve at best.

John Solomon
John Solomon
9 months ago
Reply to  Hilda Healy

Because there are some things which are so unimportant and inconsequential that it is sinful to waste brain cells trying to consider them. ‘Postmodern framing of sex and gender’ seems to me to be a prime example of this.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
9 months ago
Reply to  Hilda Healy

The problem is that the postmodern framing of sex and gender is incapable of stepping outside of its own terms of reference, which means that ‘having to understand it’ involves de facto acceptance of said terms.
Any disagreement is merely regarded as ‘not understanding it’ because the underlying assumption is that the postmodernist is self- evidently correct in their belief.

Their is no ‘game’ to ‘up’ because in the eyes of the postmodernist there is no discussion to be had.

Hilda Healy
Hilda Healy
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Up your game Prashant. You’re being a bit lazy here. You don’t have to speak the language of Mordor, but you do have to understand it. If you want to reject the postmodern framing of sex and gender that’s all well and good, but why do so from a position of ignorance?

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
9 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

I liked it for perhaps no other reason than the line, “Lets take this idea out for a walk…”

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

I’m less than convinced I should spend any time at all becoming fluent in postmodernism.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
9 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

I liked it for perhaps no other reason than the line, “Lets take this idea out for a walk…”

Guy Aston
Guy Aston
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Yea gods, I thought it was just me. I had to reread several sentences to grasp the meaning. This is not the first article in Unherd that I have had to do this. You cannot get an argument across if it is nearly understandable. KISS.

Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
9 months ago
Reply to  Guy Aston

Upvoted just for KISS.

Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
9 months ago
Reply to  Guy Aston

Upvoted just for KISS.

Amanda Elliott
Amanda Elliott
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I was hugely gratified to open the comments on this article and read your response as I was starting to wonder if I had some sort of brain fog. And indeed more and more of the articles on Unherd seem to be unintelligible- I am really disappointed with my subscription.

Last edited 9 months ago by Amanda Elliott
Terry Davies
Terry Davies
9 months ago
Reply to  Amanda Elliott

That’s interesting Amanda. Recent articles seem to have lurched between those that are largely unintelligible and those that are trite or flippant. It ain’t a cheap sub.

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
9 months ago
Reply to  Amanda Elliott

That’s interesting Amanda. Recent articles seem to have lurched between those that are largely unintelligible and those that are trite or flippant. It ain’t a cheap sub.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Thanks for saying that. I think I nearly read each sentence twice and still didn‘t under stand most of it. There were about two or three statements which made sense. One was from Dawkins.

Last edited 9 months ago by Stephanie Surface
Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Well said! I would like to add that since your opening comment, I have never seen so many sensible responses to an Unherd article. Clear thinking is still appreciated and not dead.

Wal For
Wal For
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

It’s incredible how many commenters here are pretending this article is difficult to understand and how many are conflating the incoherence of J Rose’s piece with this response. Moore has experience in academia and is able to respond to the word salad posturings Rose leans on. Rose and her ilk depend on people’s incomprehension to avoid any challenge to their misogynist gobbledegook. Moore is equipped to challenge the nonsense with plain language.
There is an historic precedent familiar to many wherein women point to imperial evidence of their exploitation and the men who benefit from that exploitation fein incomprehension. Sorry to see the latter group in full regalia here.

Last edited 9 months ago by Wal For
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

I don’t think that’s accurate at all. There is no one denying I don’t think, that the vast bulk of dominance is (and always has been) perpetrated by males on females across the board, violence not least. There is equally no denying that the shoe has been steadily shifting to the other foot over the last half century to the point where women are winning out in aggregate over men (except right at the edges, of say STEM, or F1 racing etc.) – a consequence of technology driven shifts which now favour female biological traits over male ones. The fact that some men (and women) are grifting on to these trends, is no doubt inevitable and is neither here nor there. A straightforward application of Occam’s Razor tells you that all that is needed to explain this current cultural moment is a good honest look at biology and technology – the word-salad of ‘postmodern philosophy’ or whatever it’s called is superfluous. My issue specifically with this article is that Moore is attempting some sort of halfway house, seemingly buying into some bits of what looks to me like semantic nonsense, but rejecting others. I don’t think such a stance is stable, because the result as we can see, is incoherence.

Last edited 9 months ago by Prashant Kotak
John Baxendale
John Baxendale
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

Yes, I think ‘pretending’ is the word. Only one of the self-styled uncomprehenders actually cites a supposedly incomprehensible sentence, and he immediately goes on to argue against it, showing that it’s not incomprehensible at all, he just disagrees with it. They will have to go elsewhere to have their misogyny reflected back at them, I’m afraid.

Denise Ward
Denise Ward
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

Yes, I completely agree. I was amazed at the comments which don’t relate to the contents of the article, or to its style.

Bruni Schling
Bruni Schling
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

Very tactfully said. I couldn’t help noticing that most of the comments that claimed they couldn’t make head and tail of the article came from men. Since intelligence is equally distributed between the genders I wondered what the other factors might be that account for this disparity. Could it have something to do with the fact that women who feel threatened to have their status taken away by the post modern and transgender strategies are better informed about the than men? I for one find the article perfectly lucid.

S Gyngel
S Gyngel
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

This comment sums up what is happening here perfectly, thank you! There’s nothing ‘incomprehensible’ about Moore’s article.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

I don’t think that’s accurate at all. There is no one denying I don’t think, that the vast bulk of dominance is (and always has been) perpetrated by males on females across the board, violence not least. There is equally no denying that the shoe has been steadily shifting to the other foot over the last half century to the point where women are winning out in aggregate over men (except right at the edges, of say STEM, or F1 racing etc.) – a consequence of technology driven shifts which now favour female biological traits over male ones. The fact that some men (and women) are grifting on to these trends, is no doubt inevitable and is neither here nor there. A straightforward application of Occam’s Razor tells you that all that is needed to explain this current cultural moment is a good honest look at biology and technology – the word-salad of ‘postmodern philosophy’ or whatever it’s called is superfluous. My issue specifically with this article is that Moore is attempting some sort of halfway house, seemingly buying into some bits of what looks to me like semantic nonsense, but rejecting others. I don’t think such a stance is stable, because the result as we can see, is incoherence.

Last edited 9 months ago by Prashant Kotak
John Baxendale
John Baxendale
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

Yes, I think ‘pretending’ is the word. Only one of the self-styled uncomprehenders actually cites a supposedly incomprehensible sentence, and he immediately goes on to argue against it, showing that it’s not incomprehensible at all, he just disagrees with it. They will have to go elsewhere to have their misogyny reflected back at them, I’m afraid.

Denise Ward
Denise Ward
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

Yes, I completely agree. I was amazed at the comments which don’t relate to the contents of the article, or to its style.

Bruni Schling
Bruni Schling
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

Very tactfully said. I couldn’t help noticing that most of the comments that claimed they couldn’t make head and tail of the article came from men. Since intelligence is equally distributed between the genders I wondered what the other factors might be that account for this disparity. Could it have something to do with the fact that women who feel threatened to have their status taken away by the post modern and transgender strategies are better informed about the than men? I for one find the article perfectly lucid.

S Gyngel
S Gyngel
9 months ago
Reply to  Wal For

This comment sums up what is happening here perfectly, thank you! There’s nothing ‘incomprehensible’ about Moore’s article.

Helen E
Helen E
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Interesting commentary on the supposed opaqueness of this piece. Me, I understood every word, phrase, and sentence of it—perhaps because, as a woman myself, I have had to become fluent in “trans” theory, and the extent to which it threatens my rights and safety.

In California, where I live, this academic theory has actually become enacted into law. It is now illegal in this state to prevent men who “identify“ as women from using women’s bathrooms, spas, and changing areas. Or from competing against women in sports.

Thanks for nothing, Gov Gavin Newsom.

Last edited 9 months ago by Helen E
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
9 months ago
Reply to  Helen E

Newsom recall vote:
Men supporting him : less than half
Women: two thirds.

Don’t thank Newsom. Thank women.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
9 months ago
Reply to  Helen E

Newsom recall vote:
Men supporting him : less than half
Women: two thirds.

Don’t thank Newsom. Thank women.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

“, a professor at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.”
I think this might be a clue

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

You could go back to reading ‘The Guardian’.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Yes, that’s an option. But if you are offering chewing my own leg off with my bare teeth as an option as well, I’ll take that instead.

Last edited 9 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Yes, that’s an option. But if you are offering chewing my own leg off with my bare teeth as an option as well, I’ll take that instead.

Last edited 9 months ago by Prashant Kotak
MJ Reid
MJ Reid
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I gave up reading very close to the start. I can read very dry academic tomes but this was too much for my “small bear brain” at the end of an intense work day on Teams, which is impossible for anyone with a significant hearing loss. Captions. Pah!

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

This article especially. I understand a fair amount of Po-Mo and critical theory, but for me it seemed the author would barely touch on a tenet as expressed by Rose and then instead of a step-by-step explanation of why Rose is wrong/incoherent/illogical, the author finishes the sentence with some cryptic tossed-off phrases. Very frustrating; the community here at UnHerd can understand just about anything if it’s explained coherently without resort to insider-speak.

Last edited 9 months ago by Sheryl Rhodes
Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Oh thank God, I thought I had become truly stupid as so much of it went over my head. Suzanne can write so sharply and clearly normally.
Post modernism is a harmful movement whichever way one looks at it. Time to reject the whole thing, not just their views on gender.

Coralie Palmer
Coralie Palmer
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

You found it difficult to read – fair enough. It might have sounded like a foreign language to you because its subject matter is not something that’s a big part of your life, which is also fair enough. I didn’t find it difficult to read at all, and I’m not an academic. But I am very interested in the subject and I thought it was an excellent piece. As did the editor, which I think is also fair enough. The whole point about Unherd, after all, is that it’s a mixed bag. Jolly good thing too.

Coralie Palmer
Coralie Palmer
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I’m surprised, I wouldn’t have called it academic at all (I’m not an academic) and I was really enjoying it until the last third when she seemed to lose the thread a bit. There are definitely some articles Unherd articles I don’t enjoy or find impenetrably written at points. But then surely the point of Unherd is to be a mixed bag, which is precisely what I like about it.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

It’s really very simple. Ms More is telling you, very clearly I thought, that Ms Rose while seemingly off her head is simply petrified in case she might loose her job in academia. Academia sadly has sold out on reality and now operates in a post modern fantasy world. I thought it was very well unpicked and rolled out.

Karen Fleming
Karen Fleming
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Prashant , you are not alone. Many articles of late have become so thoroughly academic I think, that I cannot understand the “foreign language” either. I thought I was just getting old. Glad to hear someone else is having the same reaction.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I also struggled. I was struck by this:

“The construction of gender is social and there is a difference between being female (sex) and femininity (gender) which is learnt.”

I think (but am not sure) that the author supports this statement. Apparently oestrogen, physical strength, child rearing capability etc play no part in the construction of gender identity.

Starting from an irrational position leads, unsurprisingly, to a contorted argument,

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

We have left the realm of science, where words describe reality, and have entered the world of wizards, where words are supposed to create reality.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Actually it’s a lot simpler than that. It’s just one person trying to rationalise inconsistent beliefs in public. If she spoke plainly it would be painfully obvious to all. Not sure why Unherd is providing a home to refugees from the Guardian. Or rather I do know – it’s because of the trans issue. But it doesn’t excuse poor writing.

Compare this with Kathleen Stock!

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I got the gist of the the article, I think, but I, too, found myself staring blankly at the page pretending (and for whom?) to read, only to skip a paragraph or two.

Douglas H
Douglas H
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

It’s a good article. If you’re going to argue with postmodernists, you need to become fluent in their weird language, and turn it against them.

Guy Aston
Guy Aston
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Yea gods, I thought it was just me. I had to reread several sentences to grasp the meaning. This is not the first article in Unherd that I have had to do this. You cannot get an argument across if it is nearly understandable. KISS.

Amanda Elliott
Amanda Elliott
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I was hugely gratified to open the comments on this article and read your response as I was starting to wonder if I had some sort of brain fog. And indeed more and more of the articles on Unherd seem to be unintelligible- I am really disappointed with my subscription.

Last edited 9 months ago by Amanda Elliott
Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Thanks for saying that. I think I nearly read each sentence twice and still didn‘t under stand most of it. There were about two or three statements which made sense. One was from Dawkins.

Last edited 9 months ago by Stephanie Surface