November 4, 2022 - 10:12am

A Dundee flasher has appeared in court simultaneously as Alan and Alannah Morgan, on a series of charges in which Morgan is listed variously as a man and a woman. 

Based on reporting from the case, Morgan sounds like a deeply disturbed individual. He was carrying a knife, shouting incoherently, kicking bins and flinging around slices of pizza. Once apprehended, he shouted, swore, banged on the cell door, and pulled his trousers down to expose his buttocks and genitals, before urinating on the cell floor.

This is not behaviour we associate with a balanced person. Nor, bluntly, is claiming to be simultaneously a man and a woman, when this is clearly empirically false. And yet — thanks to concerted campaigns by activists — courts and police forces are now compelled to humour this claim, a claim that’s then repeated by news reporting. 

The Scottish Sun’s reporting veers back and forth between pronouns, leaving the reader to discern who is being referred to. 

Elsewhere, Scotland’s Daily Record opts for the increasingly common practice of reporting the crimes of obviously male individuals as perpetrated by a ‘woman’, referring to Morgan as such in its headline. Here the Daily Record seems to have adopted the Green Party approach, according to which ‘woman’ is now a wildly expansive term that encompasses everyone who can’t or won’t be straightforwardly categorised as a man.

But what is the reason for all this pandering to obvious nonsense? The most charitable explanation is that it’s downstream of a desire, that originates in liberal feminism, to rid the world of sex-based stereotypes believed to hold us all back from individual self-realisation. 

Other well-documented normative differences between men and women — physiological variation, career preferences or patterns in sexual behaviour — are now handled with extreme caution as political hot potatoes. In most cases, they are waved on as, obviously, entirely a consequence of social stereotypes. This is argued even in the case of sex differences as consistent and universal as male-offending patterns. The push to abolish sex stereotypes, in other words, forbids us to notice any sexed patterns at all, lest this impede the efforts of a handful of women to become oil-rig engineers or software developers.

The problem is that pattern recognition is how we make sense of the world. Think of well-understood patterns as mental habits, ones that enable us to recognise familiar situations and save us having to reason every situation out from first principles. Without such cognitive short-cuts, we would be overwhelmed at every point by a welter of confused stimuli coming at us, non-stop, from the world. This is a situation indistinguishable, in fact, from madness. 

Rather than asking why public servants and institutions are now giving in to this kind of idiocy, we should recognise that a progressive demand to rid culture of all stereotypes — which is to say, cognitive shortcuts — effectively compels them to do so. By demanding our public servants and institutions pretend even important, measurable and politically salient patterns don’t exist, we literally render those institutions unable to think. We are driving our own institutions insane.

Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.