The tyranny of woke: How it’s fashionable in modern Britain to believe there’s no difference between men and women
Imagine a group of time travellers transported from the 1950s to today. The way the world has changed would astonish them.
They would marvel at the technological innovations which have transformed our lives. And they would be amazed by the material prosperity enjoyed by so many.
But they would also be surprised at how much of the old moral framework they knew had disappeared.
For example, they would be startled to learn of the soaring divorce rate and the massive increase in every kind of crime.
Members of one group share a rigid mindset in respect of what is permissible for people to say, think or do. They seem only too eager to spot anyone or anything that could be seen as having given or likely to give offence. And they invariably express their tight-lipped disapproval in the same kind of all-too familiar cliches
They might also be taken aback to find out how obsessed with sex Western society has become.
But of all the changes, nothing would puzzle them more than the preoccupation with what is now known as ‘gender’.
On discovering it was now fashionable to believe that, psychologically and biologically, there is no difference between men and women, our time travellers would stare in open-mouthed disbelief.
Although they would see males and females looking as different from each other as ever – with most people pushing baby buggies being recognisably female and most construction workers recognisably male – were they really to believe these differences were not rooted in nature, but were all just a ‘social construct’, the result of ‘gender stereotyping’?
The whole tortured issue of gender has become one of the most extreme examples of Groupthink – namely the way a group of individuals become fixated on a particular view of the world, regardless of whether there is any evidence to support it, and cannot believe any sensible person would disagree.
For some years, pushing its way to the top of the politically correct agenda had been the new obsession with ‘transgender’ – namely, the enabling of people to switch from the sex they had been born with to the other, or even to choose not to belong to any gender at all
There could be no better illustration of the confusion and contradiction surrounding ‘gender’ than the sacking by Google of one of its senior software engineers, James Damore, in 2017.
His error was to have suggested in a thoughtful email sent to some colleagues that there might be both biological and psychological differences between men and women which had affected the failure of the company’s ‘diversity’ policy to increase the percentage of its employees who were female, particularly in ‘high-status’ positions and systems engineering.
He suggested Google’s difficulty in meeting its ‘gender targets’ might be because, biologically and psychologically, men and women tend in certain respects to be different.
Men, he wrote, quoting academic evidence, are more likely than most women to be concerned with ‘status’, and to be ruthlessly competitive and motivated to aim at top, high-stress, leadership positions.
Again, psychometric studies showed that women were, by and large, less likely than men to be drawn to the particular nature of computer coding and electronic systems work.
In another very different case, the former tennis star John McEnroe provoked a storm of protest by stating that although the American champion Serena Williams was ‘the best female player ever’, if she had to play on the men’s circuit, ‘she’d be, like, 700th in the world’
On the other hand, he suggested, such studies had shown that many women are more naturally ‘empathetic’ than men, preferring to work co-operatively with other people rather than aggressively competing with them. They also tend to be more creative, and more at home with ‘jobs in artistic or social areas’ than the nerdish intricacies of software coding.
Damore stressed he wasn’t suggesting that all men or all women were like one thing or the other. He emphasised that there was ‘significant overlap’ between them.
However, this notion was so obviously ‘offensive’ that Damore could no longer be kept on Google’s payroll. His views breached the company’s ‘basic values’, by ‘advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace’.
Such stories paint a picture of how society has become divided between two groups of people who seem to have wholly different and incompatible views of the world.
Members of one group share a rigid mindset in respect of what is permissible for people to say, think or do.
They seem only too eager to spot anyone or anything that could be seen as having given or likely to give offence. And they invariably express their tight-lipped disapproval in the same kind of all-too familiar cliches.
The other group stare at the first in amazement, puzzled above all by how anyone could be so obsessively blinkered and so humourlessly intolerant.
In another very different case, the former tennis star John McEnroe provoked a storm of protest by stating that although the American champion Serena Williams was ‘the best female player ever’, if she had to play on the men’s circuit, ‘she’d be, like, 700th in the world’.
There could be no better illustration of the confusion and contradiction surrounding ‘gender’ than the sacking by Google of one of its senior software engineers, James Damore, in 2017
She responded: ‘Dear John, I adore and respect you,’ but ‘please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based.’
But, of course, McEnroe had the facts on his side. He might not have been correct that Williams would lose to all the world’s top 700 men.
But even she had admitted she would be beaten by the then world No 1, Andy Murray – and she would certainly have lost to many more.
Similarly, before the 2017 BBC Proms season, the BBC announced that female composers would be ‘leading the charge’ to show they were the equal of their male counterparts. But this only prompted a feminist website, Women In Music, to observe that female composers were still contributing a mere eight per cent of that season’s concert programmes.
Such is the insidious nature of Groupthink, however, that no sooner has one position seemingly been established than it needs to advance yet further.
For some years, pushing its way to the top of the politically correct agenda had been the new obsession with ‘transgender’ – namely, the enabling of people to switch from the sex they had been born with to the other, or even to choose not to belong to any gender at all.
In its way, this was a logical extension of the belief that gender differences are a ‘social construct’, and that whether people believe themselves to be male or female is not decided by biology but only a product of ‘cultural conditioning’.
It had become fashionable to identify people as ‘gender-fluid’.
So quickly did this strand of Groupthink take hold that, within a short time, a whole new industry had sprung up to arrange hormone treatment, surgery and ‘conversion therapy’ for people unhappy with the gender they had been born with. At the same time, it was becoming politically correct to support people’s right to ‘self-identify’ with whichever gender they wished to be ‘re-assigned’ to.
The Church of England duly issued instructions to all its 4,700 primary schools that boys should be allowed to wear high heels and girls should not have to wear skirts, for fear of giving offence to other children who were themselves ‘transgender’.
As early as 2009, it was noted that Britain’s police, being as keen to appear politically correct as any public body in the land, already included not only a Gay Police Association, a Black Police Association, a National Muslim Police Association and even a Pagan Police Association, but also a National Trans Police Association.
This existed, according to its website, ‘primarily to provide support to serving and retired police officers, police staff and special constables with any gender identity issue, including, but not exclusively, Trans men, Trans women, people who identify as Transgender, androgyne or intersex, and people who cross dress’.
As ever, those who had any doubts were dismissed as bigoted or out of touch. And in an unforeseen twist, this drive for ‘diversity’ was producing its own bizarre contradictions, as one politically correct agenda collided with another.
A spectacular example occurred when Cardiff University students banned a lecture by the one-time feminist icon Germaine Greer.
Their charge was that she was guilty of ‘transphobia’, for saying that she couldn’t regard a man who wished to switch gender as really a woman, because he hadn’t grown up with the experience of being a woman from birth.
In another collision of Groupthink ideologies, few were more resentful of the new transgender obsession than the more radical feminists, who strongly objected to the idea of men who had ‘changed sex’ being allowed to use women’s changing rooms or being sent to female prisons.
Of particular concern was the case of Martin Ponting, someone then calling themselves a woman but retaining male genitalia, who had been found guilty of raping two women. After insisting on being sent to a female prison, Ponting promptly began to make sexual advances to other inmates.
Equally disconcerting was the experience of James Caspian, an academic and psychotherapist at Bath Spa University. Himself gay, he had become a respected expert on transgender issues
Meanwhile, in September 2017, when the chairman of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee was leading calls for an amendment to the 2010 Equality Act, to change the legal definitions of ‘man’ and ‘woman’, a group of feminists arranged a meeting to discuss ‘What is gender? ’
This so outraged the militant transgender activists, who classified them as ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists’ or TERFS (with such slogans as ‘TERFS must die’), that they determined to prevent the meeting taking place.
When the feminist group congregated at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park to be told the secret venue arranged for the debate, they were met by a chanting mob of ‘transgenders’.
While the two groups screamed abuse at each other, one 60-year-old bespectacled feminist photographing the scene was smacked in the face by a burly ‘hooded, male- bodied’ transgender, who smashed her camera to the ground. This was justified by other transgenders, who claimed that they were made to feel ‘unsafe’ by the ‘systemic violence’ of those who disagreed with them, and that physical retaliation was only ‘self-defence’.
Equally disconcerting was the experience of James Caspian, an academic and psychotherapist at Bath Spa University. Himself gay, he had become a respected expert on transgender issues.
However, he had been increasingly troubled by evidence that a rising number of people, particularly women, had, after ‘transitioning’ to the opposite sex, wanted to change back.
To pursue this idea, Caspian applied to his university for a grant to produce a study entitled ‘An examination of the experience of people who have undergone gender reassignment procedures and/or have reversed a gender transition’.
He said he was well aware that his findings would not be regarded as ‘politically correct’ but, with the issue being so one-sidedly promoted, he wanted to see the other side of the argument properly discussed.
In other words, he had shown the courage to step outside the Groupthink bubble and look at the evidence for himself.
Bath Spa rejected his grant application on the grounds that ‘the posting of unpleasant material on blogs or social media may be detrimental to the reputation of the university’.
As it turned out, when this was revealed, nothing could have been more detrimental to the university’s reputation than the reason it had given for rejecting a serious academic study on such an important subject.
Once again this reflected nothing more than the power of Groupthink not just to close people’s minds, but to shut them off from any human reality.
One of the most striking successes of the advancing tide of political correctness in recent decades has been the campaign to extend gay rights.
In Britain, as in America and other countries, it seemed a final victory when, in 2004, the right was won to form ‘civil partnerships’. But for some campaigners, this was not enough.
Although not in the Tory Party’s 2010 election manifesto, when in government, ministers worked to get the Council of Europe (allied to the European Court of Human Rights) to put gay marriage at the top of its agenda. It duly did so and legislation to make same-sex marriage legal was passed by parliament in 2013.
What makes this so relevant in terms of the power of Groupthink is that, ten years earlier, virtually no one had ever mentioned the idea of same-sex marriage.
As ever, those who had any doubts were dismissed as bigoted or out of touch. And in an unforeseen twist, this drive for ‘diversity’ was producing its own bizarre contradictions, as one politically correct agenda collided with another. A spectacular example occurred when Cardiff University students banned a lecture by the one-time feminist icon Germaine Greer
In Parliament, 133 Conservatives and others had, earlier in 2013, the same year the new act was passed, voted against it.
Meanwhile, if our time travellers wanted to know whether 21st Century society was happier than the world of the 1950s, they would have found the answer to be distinctly equivocal.
For many, life had undoubtedly become very much easier. Understanding between people of different races had in many respects improved. Social relations in general had become more informal and relaxed.
And one must not exaggerate the extent to which those old values which had held sway until the early 1950s had vanished.
It was certainly one measure of how social mores had changed that, by the early 21st Century, nearly half of all marriages in Britain and America ended in divorce.
But this still meant that more than half survived, and that many of those couples had come to recognise the age-old truth that men and women are indeed psychologically very different from one another, but that they also need each other – instinctively, biologically, socially and psychologically – to make a whole.
In other respects, however, life by the early 21st Century was not so happy. It had become edgier, more strained and certainly a great deal more confusing.
© The Estate of Christopher Booker, 2020 Editor © Richard North, 2020
Groupthink: A Study In Self Delusion, by Christopher Booker, is published by Bloomsbury Continuum on March 19 at £20.
Offer price £14.99 (25 per cent discount) until April 30. To pre-order go to mailshop.co.uk or call 01603 648155. Free delivery on all orders – no minimum spend.
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