by Mary Harrington
Friday, 4
November 2022
Analysis
10:12

The Dundee flasher’s pronouns are driving us mad

The criminal is simultaneously described as a man and woman
by Mary Harrington
The defendant.

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.

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John Solomon
John Solomon
27 days ago

My goodness : simultaneously man and woman!
Does this make him Schroedinger’s pervert?

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
27 days ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Human sex is in fact an offshoot of particle/wave theory and quantum uncertainty. I now understand why I don’t understand it anymore.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
27 days ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Very good

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
26 days ago
Reply to  John Solomon

He is in a prison cell, which is kind of like a box.

D Glover
D Glover
26 days ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Yes. A quantum wave function collapses when you make an observation.
In this case, by pulling its pants down.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
25 days ago
Reply to  D Glover

Surely his pants are both up and down until the custody officer peeks through the hatch?

D Glover
D Glover
25 days ago

How dare you mis-gender her by using the pronoun ‘his’?
You are nothing but a hetero-normative bigot!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
26 days ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Funnily enough Schroedinger provides an excellent approach to addressing the dilemma of how to interpret people’s preferences today without causing offence – just view their sexuality as anything possible unless you choose to open their ‘box’.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
26 days ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I’m not opening ANYONE’s box, Ian!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
26 days ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Haha, nice one!

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
27 days ago

I suppose the quickest way to close down all those complaints about the patriarchy is for us men to collectively identify as women. We don’t actually have to dress or behave differently as any challenge to our status as women could be met by pointing out that that involves stereotyping what a women is by her clothes and behaviour which of course is against woke ideology as plenty of lesbians dress and behaviour in a stereotypical masculine manner.

I for one am heartily sick of being typecast as an oppressive male and this seems the clear way out. Jeremy is a unisex name as far as I am concerned so I am not going to change my name and as for my pronouns I have never demanded anyone refer to me by a male pronoun and don’t intend to change that. The only thing that changes is that I am now no longer a member of this supposed oppressive class of white male oppressive patriarchs. Didn’t I mention I had also decided to be a member of the colourless class. I trust everyone will respect my choices.

Pete Williams
Pete Williams
27 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I also consider myself to be a Transparent Omni Sexual being. We’re an emerging minority don’t you know.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
27 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Excellent idea! Thank you, ma’am.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
26 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

You’re just using your white privileged education to exploit diversity – there’s no escaping their damnation!

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
26 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

This would then be described as ‘the greatest crime the patriarchy ever committed’. There ain’t no pleasing those people.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
26 days ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Presumably as they simultaneously witter on about being kind.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
25 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

To every problem there are two solutions: One so convoluted and demanding that it has very little chance of being implemented, and the other so obvious and easy that it has absolutely NO chance of being implemented.
I would say that your solution fits into the first category; the second answer would be to accept that XY and external genitalia = male, and XX & internal gen. = female.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
27 days ago

 “…courts and police forces are now compelled to humour this claim…”
WHY?
Why are they “compelled”? They’re not. We’re not. It’s our country, our society, and our laws. If people choose to be misfits and lawbreakers, we can and should just lock them up until they grow up.

Last edited 27 days ago by Albireo Double
Glyn R
Glyn R
26 days ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

It’s not compulsion but rank cowardice that is the reason for institutional capitulation to such obvious nonsense.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
24 days ago
Reply to  Glyn R

Cowardice and anticipatory obedience.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
25 days ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

I’d settle for him keeping his trousers up.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
24 days ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

You’re right. They are not compelled, but fear of a so-called “sh•tstorm” on Twitter & Co. by a small, but very vocal and verbally (perhaps even physically?) violent minority, is enforcing compliance as a form of anticipatory obedience. We, the rational majority, remain mostly silent, giving the minority an even louder voice. It’s a mixture of cowardice and the Spiral of Silence Theory by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
26 days ago

Unable to fit into the world as a conventional boy (but not wanting to do so as a conventional girl), I spent many years believing that my ultimate enemy was “gender.” At first, feminism seemed to be a source of hope. If women could “reimagine” femininity, after all, why couldn’t men “reimagine” masculinity? Why make any distinction at all between men and women except for childbirth? But I was wrong. Like it or not, men and women are not identical, let alone free-floating fantasies that can mean either anything or nothing.
Harrington, however, is making a much larger and more important point, because gender is only one system of distinctions among many. We can’t continue to dismantle all cultural and natural distinctions, what she calls “cognitive shortcuts,” without paying a very heavy price. We can alter this one or that one, to be sure, but not the very idea of distinctions.
What she calls collective “insanity” amounts to collective suicide, the ultimate result of a rebellion against reason that originated (in modern times) with romanticism in the nineteenth century, continued with avant-garde movements in art, literature and music in the early twentieth century and postmodernism in the mid-twentieth century. Without the latter’s replacement of objectivity (including science) with subjectivity (including “deconstruction” and “identity politics”), ideological feminism and wokism would have been actually unthinkable.
The result is a celebration of upheaval (a.k.a. “change”) as an end in itself. The goal is not merely to make room in the public square for formerly marginalized groups but to destroy the public square–and with it a civilization that has cultivated thinking no less than feeling. Political activists today rely not on guns and tanks, to be sure, but on far more effective weapons. These include everything from clever word games and intellectual sophistry to journalistic bias and moral or legal double standards to what I call the “teaching of contempt” and the “mobilization of resentment” (let alone legal intimidation and censorship) in order to undermine every institution from within–in other words, to replace one civilization with an ill-defined utopian one.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
26 days ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

That’s an interesting analysis. I don’t agree with some of your points, but in reminding us of the greater problem to which Mary points us in the article, you’ll get my uptick.
Very briefly, the industrial and post-industrial worlds are very different from that which spawned the Enlightment – indeed, they’re a product of it. Romanticism can be seen as a very natural and human reaction against the removal of man from his hitherto natural habitat. What therefore follows as flowing from that hiatus can also be seen as entirely natural, and even necessary as a prelude to a new (for want of a better term) reformation. I remain optimistic whilst deeply questioning.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
26 days ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Very good analysis. What is labelled as distinctions, I call categories.
I would recommend James Lindsay’s recent “bullets” podcast called Totalitarianism and the Progressive Impulse, available at his new discourses YouTube channel.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
26 days ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

The problem is more basic, the universal faith in progress or in “the right side of history” or even in Enlightenment liberalism itself.
“We can’t continue to dismantle all cultural and natural distinctions”
Secular liberalism requires us to do exactly that though. If Mill is correct that “my rights only stop at your nose”, then cultural and natural distinctions must be eliminated, since they will inevitably interfere with my (or someone’s) individual autonomy. Liberalism seeks to liberate; it really can’t stop.

The Enlightenment thinkers were too busy waxing eloquently about “Natural Law” and “Inalienable Rights” to notice that the system they were building tended to undermine exactly the sort of natural and cultural norms and standards that were a precondition for its existence. 300 years later… it’s finally collapsing into an orgy of secular, radical individualism.

Helen E
Helen E
22 days ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Uptick

david waring
david waring
27 days ago

If something is neither : male, female, or even ‘Good Red Herring’ should it be referred to as ‘it’?

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
27 days ago

The Dundee flasher’s pronouns are driving us mad

But can Mary really assume that “our” pronouns really are “us”?

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
27 days ago

Mary is on a roll indeed.

I think this article should be read in conjunction with some passages of Kathleen Stock’s from earlier today.

Wilma Grant
Wilma Grant
25 days ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Kathleen Stock, while routinely lionised for her brave stand against the bullies and vandals intent on erasing our cognitive categories, was, and where it suits her book, remains a category denier and wrecker of the first order. What was it Mary said? Oh yes. “… 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.” We’re pretty blooming far downstream, as evidenced by the winsome Alan|Alannah, and Kathleen Stock just doesn’t like it, and now makes a career out of girning about it.

AC Harper
AC Harper
27 days ago

The individual may be deeply disturbed – fancy flinging around slices of pizza. What a waste.

Pete Williams
Pete Williams
27 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

To be fair, I ordered a Tops Pizza sometime ago and it was vile. Each slice was duly ‘flung around’, and until I read this article I wouldn’t consider myself disturbed.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
27 days ago
Reply to  Pete Williams

In northern parts, we have annual pie-throwing, black pudding-tossing and Yorkshire pudding flinging contests, albeit the latter in deepest Lancashire (Ramsbottom) which pretty much defines all us locals as deeply disturbed whilst we happily gurn away. Oh, and there’s a gurning championship too…

By the by, the succinctness of Mary’s woke-skewering abilities are in a league of their own.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
27 days ago

”He was carrying a knife, shouting incoherently, kicking bins and flinging around slices of pizza.” — reminds me of one of those teenaged turtles from the 80s

Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis
26 days ago

 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.’
Brilliant! Should be quoted widely and often.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
26 days ago

I would think a “flasher” would be particularly easy to pronoun correctly.
The whole reason she/he/it is in custody is because he/she/it was demonstrating its/hers/his biological pronouns in the most graphic way.

Last edited 26 days ago by Brian Villanueva
Juana Gaviota
Juana Gaviota
26 days ago

Edit again, Brian. It’s translates to “it is.”

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
26 days ago
Reply to  Juana Gaviota

See! Stupid made up pronouns are a pain in the butt. 🙂

I did. Thanks.

Jacqueline Walker
Jacqueline Walker
26 days ago

I actually think they are driving themselves insane as it’s mainly them driving this.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
26 days ago

“But what is the reason for all this pandering to obvious nonsense?”
It is a sign of the end times.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
26 days ago

I’ve now realised how easy it is for any organisation to eliminate its gender pay gap.

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
27 days ago

Thanks, Marie for being the voice of reason,
The trouble is, no one is listening. Polititions are
mererly appealing to th mob to gey their votes==all paoties.
I, simply. won’t voye anymore.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
26 days ago

Indeed, what is described by so called progressives as unconscious bias, *phobia and such postmodern terms as “comptemporary” or “ambient” racism/sexism is simply a heuristic behaviour.

Failure to recognise this is the typical ploy of bad faith actors

William Shaw
William Shaw
26 days ago

All this shows is that our public institutions are crazier, and more stupid, than he is.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
26 days ago

“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.”
The word for this is “heuristic”.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
25 days ago

We are today seeing the collision between two opposite theories of sex and gender. The feminists declare that gender is a social construct- there are no intrinsic differences between the sexes, every observed difference is a result of societal pressure. The trans ideologues claim the opposite – that there is a hard-wired immutable gender programmed into the brain, irrespective of biological sex. Neither extreme position is correct, and there are mountains of empirical evidence to demonstrate the falsity of both.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
24 days ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

“The trans ideologues claim the opposite – that there is a hard-wired immutable gender programmed into the brain”
In other words, we are back in the 19th century and a world of male and female brains. The supposed existence of such differences and the implied inferiority of the female brain based on its smaller size, a conflation of quality and quantity, was then used to keep women out of universities and to withhold voting rights — amongst other things. I believe in the equality of the sexes (there are only two not counting genuine chromosomal disorders), but I completely agree with you that both feminists and trans ideologues are simply wrong.

Iris C
Iris C
26 days ago

Are European countries obsessed with gender self-identification, altering their language to comply with the demands of small pressure groups and bringing in legislation to confuse the justice system. I doubt it!

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
26 days ago

… we should recognise that a progressive demand to rid culture of all stereotypes …
Ok. I’ll bite. What is a progressive?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
25 days ago

A fascist wolf in liberal sheep’s clothing.

Alain Proust
Alain Proust
8 hours ago

I wish that all these women would stop exposing their penises.

Luckily, however, incidences of men exposing themselves have reduced by a similar amount over the same period.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
27 days ago

Please, Unherd.. who cares?!!!

Phil Richardson
Phil Richardson
27 days ago

I suppose just the folks who have some care for basic, fundamental reality?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
25 days ago

Thanks for clearing up the woke poo.