by Mary Harrington
Monday, 18
July 2022
Reaction
11:25

Why did the ACLU push for gender self-ID in prisons?

A change in prison policy towards trans inmates had a predictable result
by Mary Harrington
Credit: Getty

News that a women’s prison in New Jersey has recently moved a transgender prisoner to a male facility after impregnating two females highlights a grim fact: that the movement we once knew as the Left has been colonised by an elite campaign to abolish material reality to the detriment of everyone else.

Demi Minor, a male serving 30 years for manslaughter, was housed in a women’s prison. This followed prison policy changes resulting from a court case pursued by the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of a transgender prisoner who sued the New Jersey prison system in 2019 for being refused the right to be moved to a women’s prison.

The ACLU won a negotiated settlement in June 2021 on this case, forcing the New Jersey prison system to house inmates by gender identity. Since then, around 27 transgender inmates have been moved to Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, despite feminist protests pleading for prisons to remain single sex. And the wholly foreseeable consequence has been prisoners having heterosexual sex, an activity which (in the days before we began taking Humpty Dumptyism seriously as a political project) was widely understood to come with a risk of pregnancy.

The fact that the ACLU pursued the right of males to be housed in a female prison while disregarding this obvious outcome is itself an effect of a longstanding elite belief that humans can and should pursue ever greater freedom from material reality: a project that’s fundamentally about technology. The pursuit of ‘gender identity’ over biological sex, for example, is downstream of technology levelling many obvious asymmetries between the sexes: work is increasingly knowledge-based rather than manual, while contraception has flattened reproductive asymmetries.

This made it seem possible that we could discard as outdated and ‘patriarchal’ all those social norms oriented toward making sure everyone works as much as they can physically manage, or else minimising the risk of socially costly unwanted pregnancies. In turn, this allowed many to imagine that we could treat biological sex as politically irrelevant, even to the question of whether someone is a ‘woman’ or not.

But sex dimorphism has not, in fact, gone away. Pretending otherwise only works to the extent that your daily life involves limited contact with material reality. Far fewer farmers or scaffolders see the world this way than lawyers or academics. Outside knowledge-class filter bubbles on both sides of the pond, most people know that sex is salient as ever: the UK campaigning group Sex Matters, for example, launched a new study today that shows quite how extreme the ACLU’s approach is. The survey revealed that 98% of the British public want to be able to change, shower and use the toilet in private, away from members of the opposite sex, an option now off the table for female prisoners in New Jersey thanks to the ACLU’s ‘civil rights’ campaigning.

Viewed from a materialist angle, the campaign looks unnervingly like knowledge-class self-dealing. For if you’re a female lawyer or charity worker, it isn’t in your interests at all to acknowledge that sex might ever be an issue. You wouldn’t thank someone for suggesting that your ability to perform in the workplace alongside male colleagues is in any way affected by your sex. A knowledge-class organisation like the ACLU is full of lawyers and charity workers and around 60% female. You’d expect its staff to be enthusiastic about a policy that aligns with their class interests, and whose downsides they’re never likely to experience.

‘Progress’, then, is increasingly the name we give to the elite-driven war on reality, whose benefits accrue at the top of the social hierarchy and whose negative externalities cluster at the bottom. Rather than engaging in futile ideological arguments against this covert class war, those on the side of reality should use reality’s weapons, and explore ways of obstructing the financial support that allows this assault to continue.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
30 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
21 days ago

But sex dimorphism has not, in fact, gone away.

Neither has manual work: in my own country (a Western, developed one), official statistics show that 47% of GDP by sector is in “Industry, Construction, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry”. The rest is made up of “Information and Communication, Professional, Admin and Support Services, Public Administration, Real Estate, Finance, Education, Health, Arts, Entertainment…” A lot of the employment in the Health sector will be manual – porters, cleaners, carers.

So this article is spot-on: the NGOs, the activists, and their cheerleaders in “knowledge work” who seek to deny or minimize material reality really do need to be called out for what they are doing – they are committing a class war on working-class people and their interests.

Last edited 21 days ago by Lennon Ó Náraigh
Stuart Sutherland
Stuart Sutherland
21 days ago

Yup, withdraw their tax payer funded support and see how long their ideology lasts.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
21 days ago

Unfortunately, donations are asymmetrical: a million non-donations undone by one from Bill Gates or the like.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
21 days ago

And the entire media establishments with either their non-coverage or hyper -coverage of select stories to drive the narrative.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
21 days ago

Indeed, it requires politicians who are prepared to withstand unpopularity from the MSM writers and lobbyists by withdrawing taxpayer support from charities or quangos and the bbc that supports this anti-rational ideology and divert the funds to charities opposing the such ideology. The problem is that politicians fear noisy unpopularity from pressure groups even where they represent minority positions and they will always have wets in their own party arguing that the issues are not so important that they should risk such unpopularity.

Would Kemi Badenoch or Suelle Braveman be able to stand up to such pressures? I don’t see many politicians who would be prepared take the to risk.

Last edited 21 days ago by Jeremy Bray
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
20 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

We all need a Victor Orban. Here in America, we may have one in Ron DeSantis. In the UK, it doesn’t look like you do.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
21 days ago

Sadly our ‘Unis’ are recipients of funding from ‘Foundations’ dedicated to this very same class-war, and of course China, rubbing its hands in glee…

Last edited 21 days ago by Martin Smith
Arkadian X
Arkadian X
21 days ago

Excellent article. Thanks.

Last edited 21 days ago by Andrea X
William Simonds
William Simonds
21 days ago

Elitism is the formal, academic name for egocentricity and, in its most base form, selfishness. The idea that a select few know better than anyone/everyone is only ever promoted by the select few to force feed their own self interest as somehow good for everyone. But even if it’s not…well, tough. Sometimes that just how progress works.

Valerie Taplin
Valerie Taplin
21 days ago

What lunacy enabled this legislation? A crazy self-serving minority should never decide for the majority. Biologically the sexes cannot reverse, and it is erroneous to conflate physical and intellectual equality.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
21 days ago

This article hits the nail on the head but it leaves some on the right in a dilemma. Far from being the neo-Marxist movement they, and indeed those on the left claim to be, the progressive left are better understood as a reactionary bourgeois movement, acting in their own class interests to preserve their economic advantages.

In an ironic twist, Marxism has become a front for anti-Marxist ideologies. The question is, can the right get over its visceral aversion to all things pertaining to class based struggle and forge a new lasting economic and electoral coalition with those excluded from progressives “reality”?

Ian Alexander
Ian Alexander
21 days ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Yes. I was castigated as naiive a couple of weeks ago here for also making the point that wokeism is not some kind of neo-marxism, but an expression of professional-managerial class interest. Perhaps why this class interest seems invisible is that cleverly, the woke — cocooned in their comfortable high-status lifestyles — wear their “radicalism” ostentatiously much like a class-interest invisibility cloak. As in, they can’t possibly just be the bourgeoisie by another name, because they’re “radical”, “progressive” and “fighting for social justice” against “whiteness” (i.e. the despised peasantry).

Charles Moss
Charles Moss
20 days ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

I think that the irony is quite old: Maurice Brinton wrote in 1978 about the Bolsheviks being anti-Marxist but claiming to be Marxist in order to lie (among other atrocities) their away into power. (Maurice Brinton, The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control: The State and Counter-Revolution, https://www.marxists.org/archive/brinton/1970/workers-control/)

As far as “the right” being in a dilemma with respect to this misidentification of actual Marxism (I’m pretty sure it’s not a “no true Scotsman” if there is good, historical evidence!), if you are willing to give Chomsky a chance he wrote about the problem in 1986 that we in both the USA and the СССР are in a propaganda bubble that is quite difficult to escape because we both agreed on using the label “Socialism”. (Noam Chomsky, The Soviet Union Versus Socialism, https://chomsky.info/1986____/) (I learned of Hinton’s work from that short piece by Chomsky. I haven’t yet read the other piece (Peter Rachleff, Radical America, Nov. 1974) he cites.)

And, sorry to bury the lede, but I really appreciated your “Far from being …” sentence. Such a well-phrased, succinct, and to me accurate analysis!

Joann Robertson
Joann Robertson
21 days ago

The ACLU and other organizations receive funding from those wealthy men who transitioned into women in midlife. They are invested in big pharma and hospitals. The objective is to form society into, eventually, ‘post humans’. Sounds too out there to be true I know but as always money talks.

Dawn Muir
Dawn Muir
21 days ago

Excellent article. Yes, the culture war is in effect a class war; privileged self-flagellating elites propping up their social and financial capital by forcing their utopian agenda on the “deplorable” proletariat.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
21 days ago

… a longstanding elite belief that humans can and should pursue ever greater freedom from material reality: a project that’s fundamentally about technology. 
But was this not an idea from the febrile mind of the ‘radical feminist’ Shulameth Firestone, and consequently an up-take feature of so-called 2nd wave feminism?

… this allowed many to imagine that we could treat biological sex as politically irrelevant, even to the question of whether someone is a ‘woman’ or not.
And materially irrelevant.
… again, was this not an idea from the febrile minds of postmodern radical feminists who regarded ‘man’ and ‘woman’ only as socially constructed gender categories – categories to be linguistically deconstructed, disrupted and dismantled?
In my view, this discussion could have done with a nod to the inclusion of feminist ideology as a vector for this anti realism.

Last edited 21 days ago by michael stanwick
Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
20 days ago

This discussion could have done with a nod to the rise of women as power players over the last half century. Is it a coincidence that the advance of western cultural rot has occurred as society has become ever more feminized? Let’s discuss this nuclear bomb of a topic!

Last edited 20 days ago by Betsy Arehart
Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
21 days ago

I know lawyers aren’t popular, but I don’t think we’re to blame for this. These bizarre ideas are the product of the academy.

David Pogge
David Pogge
21 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

But lawyers are the ones that push these ideas from the academy into the real world, where they have real consequences.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
21 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Legal academics, rather than actual jobbing lawyers, are the ones involved in pushing this.

N Forster
N Forster
21 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

And are carried out by lawyers. They help draught legislation for lobby groups. They “sneak crazy ideas in with others more legitimate. The current round of anti conversion therapy laws being a perfect example. Those who do this are just as guilty as the academics who think this rubbish up in the first place.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
21 days ago

I sense it’s time to start being an order of magnitude less polite and patient when challenging people on these issues.
My youngest step daughter (13), who has learning difficulties and is several academic years behind her peers so needs as much education time as she can get, came home from school recently and said they’d spent a lesson that afternoon watching a video from the American Civil Rights period featuring a black man being beaten bloody in the street. Personally speaking, none of my children, extended family or friends are, or will grow up to be racist. The job is already done. My question is this: Is this suitable viewing material for 13 year olds? Is this relevant to their education? Will it help them function usefully in society and find employment that will give them a happy and comfortable life?
Sorry that its slightly off topic, but it also isn’t at all off topic.

Last edited 21 days ago by Stuart Bennett
William Hickey
William Hickey
21 days ago

Exactly.

Ideological arguments are “futile” because, as I’ve stated previously, those feminists and other progressives who try to make them are likewise at war with reality. Their concerns are seen as nit-picking and querulous by the vanguard of “Progress.”

Their fellow elites dismiss them as class traitors — which they are.

So-called TERFs and their arguments command the same sway in their own movement as Clarence Thomas and Shelby Steele do in the American Black movement.

That’s a shame in both instances, but it is the reality. Best to face it, to stop arguing and to start forcing folks to behave.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
21 days ago
Reply to  William Hickey

I think, unfortunately, you could be right; they (i.e. the “woke” elites) are the ones to have shut down discussion and debate therefore it should be accepted by them that the only recourse for those who disagree is compulsion, not physical force, but the use of the law and a kind of civil disobedience. But, my question is – how can they be forced to behave when most of those in the enforcing positions have signed up to their ideology?

William Hickey
William Hickey
21 days ago

Gain power.

Then use it.

For decades reality-based conservatives have acquired power and then frittered it away until, like Gail Wynand in the novel and film The Fountainhead, they discovered their institutions were honeycombed with traitors and enemies.

We are not going to persuade left-wing progressives. As the maxim goes, “Never argue with a drunk or a zealot.”

Gain power. Then reduce theirs.

Last edited 21 days ago by William Hickey
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
21 days ago
Reply to  William Hickey

Overwhelmingly this ideology is pushed by organisations funded, in whole or part, by governments.

Stop funding Stonewall, Mermaid, the BBC, get tough with the publicly funded education system, and the issues start to go away quite quickly.

I think that is Mary’s overriding point – don’t try to argue with them, fight them.

Only Kemi Badenoch seems to grasp that.

Last edited 21 days ago by Martin Bollis
J. Brelner
J. Brelner
21 days ago

If they want to be in women’s prisons — let them have surgery and female hormones. IF they can pay for the procedure and supplements. It should not be at taxpayer expense.

Cantab Man
Cantab Man
20 days ago

Another exceptional article by Mary. Well done.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
20 days ago

“the longstanding elite belief that humans can and should pursue ever greater freedom from material reality
I admire this sentence, except for the word elite, which should have instead been elitist, or better yet, progressive.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
20 days ago

“sex dimorphism has not, in fact, gone away”
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away.” – Philip K D**k. There is no better summary of our modern lunacy than this.
The fortunate thing is that societies built on false views of man eventually die (see USSR). The unfortunate thing is how much damage they inflict before they do (see USSR). We are still in the beginning stages of this postmodern insanity. We can still pull out of it, but it will require electing people willing to use the power of the state to push back (perhaps in fairly harsh ways) against it.

(BTW: I had to star-out the author’s name above because Unherd wouldn’t allow me to type that particular word. This is pretty absurd for a comment section that is private and paid for access. Please fix this, Unherd.)