by Mary Harrington
Friday, 10
December 2021
Debate
10:00

Feelings don’t care about your facts

Sporting achievement is now secondary to more subjective considerations
by Mary Harrington
Simone Biles has been named ‘Athlete of the Year’ by Time

The ‘post-truth’ era has come for the principle of open competition. More than 40 camels have been banned from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia after their owners were discovered to have used Botox, fillers and even facelifts to enhance their features. And if medical technology is complicating even the question of what constitutes a natural camel physiognomy, it’s creating worse ripples still in the field of elite sport.

At the University of Pennsylvania Lia Thomas, a college swimmer who competed for three seasons as male is causing uproar for since identifying as a woman and joining the women’s team.

Since making the switch, Thomas has smashed a series of all-time records for the UPenn team, prompting a teammate to speak out. This teammate, who insisted on anonymity for fear of repercussions, asserts that everyone feels obliged to pretend that the presence of a male on their swim team is fine: “When the whole team is together, we have to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, go Lia, that’s great, you’re amazing.’ It’s very fake,” she said.

In private, though, she reports that the whole team has complained to their coach. But he doesn’t care: “Our coach [Mike Schnur] just really likes winning.”

Winning, then, has induced a college swim coach to disregard the many decades of research that show males perform on average 8.9% better across all swim styles, a gap that hasn’t narrowed since 1983. And he’s been able to do so because Lia Thomas’ inner sense of femaleness is deemed to take precedence over all the physiological advantages conferred by having undergone male puberty.

But it’s not just in college sport that measurable competitive standards have now been deemed secondary to more subjective considerations. Yesterday, Simone Biles was revealed as Time magazine’s Athlete Of The Year. An exceptional gymnast, Biles withdrew from her last four performances at the Tokyo Olympics, citing mental health issues — despite being the favourite to win multiple gold medals. And it’s for this act not of sporting performance but sporting non-performance that she’s now lionised on the cover of Time magazine.

I make no judgement on Biles’ decision; withdrawing may well have been wise. But it’s been five years since Time reported ‘post-truth’ to be the OED’s ‘Word of the Year’. And it’s startling to see the same progressives that lament the overtaking of objective fact by emotive narratives simultaneously celebrate, in Biles, the primacy of emotive narrative over objective fact.

Biles, Time reports breathlessly, ‘made clear the importance of prioritising oneself and refusing to succumb to external expectations’. Who knows how the camels feel; but I dare say adherents of Q, as well as those males who assert their right to compete against females because of how they feel on the inside, would agree wholeheartedly that we should all prioritise our inner lives over ‘external expectations’.

A consensus is now evident, across both sides of the aisle, that reality is less important than how we feel on the inside. We’re mainly fighting over what constitutes the right way to feel. Never mind establishment murmurs aboutdisinformation’ and ‘fact-checking’. No one cares about facts any more. Expect things to get much, much weirder.

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George Glashan
George Glashan
5 months ago

These emperors new gender stories are hilarious, they are even funnier for the po-faced seriousness the guardianland types imbue them with. So stunning, so brave.
so the story is : Male swimmer beats female swimmers, in other news water in the pool confirmed to be wet. At a point in the future, hopefully not too far away, all these miraculous trans record breakers will have their records binned, just like athletes found to be doping.
I do have sympathy for the female swimmers, but they say it themselves they are publicly supporting this nonsense, if you don’t want a man in the woman’s pool, then they are going to have to say so. Like their coach admits, to some winning is more important than competing fairly or in the correct sex category, or cheating in other words.
but a great article gave me a real chuckle, especially the camel thing, what a time to be alive!!

Last edited 5 months ago by George Glashan
Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
5 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

“They are going to have to say so”. I mean, yes, but you’re missing out a huge subordinate clause: “…and face the consequences.” In a US university, today, I’d imagine those consequences could look fairly terrifying.

George Glashan
George Glashan
5 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

true Jonathan there will be consequences for them and name calling too. i think they’ll just need to go through that though, i think they’ll find a lot of support for their cause too.
Alternatively all the women can just leave the women’s sports teams and start a Menstruators sports teams, its completely inclusive to anyone who can / will / did menstruate, and the Trans will be welcome to have the women’s team all to themselves. I’m not sure id want to swim in the pool after the menstruators swim team though.

Last edited 5 months ago by George Glashan
Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
5 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

“Swim after…….” You must be some sort of squemish landlubber.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
5 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

Under the article link ‘speak out’, one of Thomas’s team mates said this “There are a bunch of comments on the Internet about how, ‘Oh, these girls are just letting this happen. They should just boycott or protest.’ At the end of the day, it’s an individual sport. If we protest it, we’re only hurting ourselves because we’re going to miss out on all that we’ve been working for,” …
At the end of the day, it may have to come to a complete boycott.

Janko M
Janko M
5 months ago

Always a joy to read Mary Harrington.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
5 months ago

I throughly enjoyed Mary’s article. Particularly the primped camels. Some people will always cheat if they can get away with it.
Having mental health problems is the new black. You get lauded for your failures more than your successes. The trans woman who represented New Zealand in the weightlifting recently got more column inches of publicity for her total failure to lift more than the real women than the actual winner of the competition.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Warren T
Warren T
5 months ago

If real women don’t stand up and simply refuse to compete in these rigged events nothing will change.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
5 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

They DO Not have to leave the team to be on the right side. The women should not have to give up their position, that is unreasonable.

Society is utterly degenerate – sad, but the case. This is just what Postmodernism having captured the education system means for the world. Utter degeneracy being the norm.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
5 months ago

Excellent point. Why is Qanon more barmy than a bloke who “feels” like he’s a woman?

Last edited 5 months ago by Francis MacGabhann
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
5 months ago

WWG1WGA, Q is very inclusive

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
5 months ago

In recent history I have heard over and over about male dominance in the past and how women have had to fight for equality.
It seems to me that allowing biological men to compete against women is a sign of men fighting back to dominate women again. Are women really this stupid?

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Stupid? I’d say not, but intimidated, cowed, bullied… plus ca change…

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
5 months ago

Ok if outrage won’t work then why not just mock them.
What have women athletes been doing all these years to have such crap times?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
5 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

The crowd should have booed him when he was given the win – I would have.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
5 months ago

Failure is the new success?

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

At last! I’m a world beater…

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
5 months ago

I can’t wait for the brazen average professional male tennis player who has the utter gaul to start scooping the big prize money in the womens’ events at Wimbledon, Flushing Meadow and so on…

Paul Sorrenti
Paul Sorrenti
5 months ago

clowns crown let-down

George Glashan
George Glashan
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Sorrenti

Biles, to be fair to her, was a great athlete with lots of accomplishments. she pulled out of those Olympic events for a good reason , gymnasts who have the disorientation that she was experiencing have broke their backs/necks by messing up those jumps and somersaults at those speeds. so i think its fair enough for her to pull out if she felt she could hurt herself.

What’s not fair is for her to be lauded for this over her teammates and competitors who did compete and have accomplishments. My impression is that certain media organisations had already decided she was going to be their face, product endorsements, appearing on Oprah, etc the whole blue church travelling circus was all set to go, and then she didn’t compete. rather than acknowledge reality the media organisation just pivoted, now she’s stunning and brave because she decided not to accomplish, too much money was already sunk into her being their next big thing. Its a shame for her but the reality for most athletes is their careers finish on a whimper rather than a bang.

Last edited 5 months ago by George Glashan
Paul Sorrenti
Paul Sorrenti
5 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

venerating failure is a standard clown move which the clown utilises to show the audience the inherent absurdity of such veneration, an age-old mystical effort to educate society as to why such insanity should be repressed, less the evil clown spirits eek out into greater world . . .
cursed be the canary-less coalmine . . . cursed be the community that muffles it’s clowns!
the slight bafflement in Simone Biles eyes on that front page hints at an understanding of our clownworld – one that may save her yet from the Britney-Spearsathon she’s being prepared for

Paul Sorrenti
Paul Sorrenti
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Sorrenti

24 hours for my message here to be approved – what on earth could have triggered it to require approval?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago

‘Oh my gosh, go Lia, that’s great, you’re amazing.’ It’s very fake,”
Is this not true of all female gatherings?

Eliza Mann
Eliza Mann
5 months ago

Once again I find an Unherd article about what’s basically a woman-hating movement (trans rights activism) riddled with comments made by men who also don’t seem to like or respect women much.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
5 months ago

 Bizarre. If feelings are important then maybe first prize should go to the person who would be most disappointed if they did not win!
In sport there should be an open competition that anyone can compete in and competitions that are restricted to particular classes of competitors based on biological factors that limit performance such as age and chromosomes.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

How about the person on the team, on their ‘Emotional Support Jet Ski’

“I have a letter from my doctor saying….’

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
5 months ago

And it’s startling to see the same progressives that lament the overtaking of objective fact by emotive narratives simultaneously celebrate, in Biles, the primacy of emotive narrative over objective fact.
Where to begin. This is the moralistic fallacy writ large. The question is when will this anti realism reach the threshold where government intervention is necessary?

James Joyce
James Joyce
5 months ago

This article does not really hold up. First, camels (performance enhancing drugs), then the pool (trans, performance enhancing drugs, i.e. testerone), then Biles (the Olympics, the “twisties”).
It is interesting to continually see that the most strident opponents of trans (not as people, but in competition), are elite athletes. Nothing about female elite athletes suggests that they are, as a group, particularly heinous, but they are strident in their resistance to “trans women” competing with “them.” Understandable. They spend much of their lives struggling to be elite athletes without the benefit of male puberty, and then they lose to some person (dude? dudette?) who went through male puberty and seemingly has a huge advantage. The person who would be the 857th fastest swimmer in the world is the third fastest woman. The sprinter who would be ranked 1137 in the world is now the second fastest woman. Gee, wonder how that happened!
Biles simply did not deserve to be the Athlete of the Year–based on achievement in 2021. What did she do to deserve it? A bit like Naomi Osaka–perhaps there is no shame in crumbling under the pressure (did she give the $$$$$$ back?), but it’s nothing to be proud of either. The reality is that she wasn’t able to show up for “work,” so let’s not say she’s the best “worker” ever!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
5 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Nah it’s your understanding of the article that’s lacking. As ever your opening shot is to slag off the writer with the promise of better insight, and then fail to provide anything better than the writer except the bleedin’ obvious.

James Joyce
James Joyce
5 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Cheers, mate–still trying to do better. Kindly give me a bit more time…..