If you’ve enlisted in the Campus Conservative Revolutionary Forces (CCRF), you won’t be in the field long before you find yourself face-to-face with a Gender Theorist. They’re all over campus, striding self-righteously towards classes like “Queer Theory and Gender Performativity,” angrily shouting made-up words at perplexed passersby. You can recognize a Gender Theorist by his/her/zir/its/our/their/Wonderwoman’s shrill voice, with which he/she/ze/it/we/they/Wonderwoman will promptly upbraid you for existing. Gender Theorists are formidable intellectual foes, often capable of making several extremely loud points at once. Stand your ground, soldier! The Campus Conservative’s Field Manual is here to help. The first step is to know your enemy. So take a trip with me down the rabbit hole, into the wild and wacky world of Gender Theory.
The basic premise of Gender Theory is that sex and gender are two separate things. Sex, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.” Basically your sex is your naughty bits (plus all the other physical stuff that comes with them). Gender, says the WHO, “refers to the socially constructed behaviours . . . that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.” So gender includes all the non-physical aspects of what it means to be a man or a woman — things like playing football instead of playing with Barbie.
The Gender Theorist battle cry is that sex and gender aren’t connected — the body you were born with doesn’t determine who you are. On the small scale, that means boys can play with Barbies and girls can play football. On a slightly bigger scale, it means boys can wear dresses. On a really big scale, it means people born male can be “women” because they feel like it: gender is just “an oppressive social construct” anyway. So you can declare yourself to be any gender you want, including a made-up one (since they’re all made-up). Options include male, female, genderqueer, purple penguin, and so on. I am making zero of those up. My spell-check didn’t even bat an eye at “genderqueer.”
Then comes the big Gender Theory punchline: the assertion that There Is No Normal. “Society” makes up these bogus “norms” like “average height” or “normal blood pressure.” But in reality we’re all a little taller or shorter than average, or a little closer to the verge of cardiac arrest than most. So, too, with genders: “there is no ‘norm,’” says one Gender Theorist; “‘there are as many orientations and genders as there are people.’” All that really matters is who you are inside — and everyone should be able to decide that for him/her/zir/its/our/their/Karl Rove’s self.
Okay, time to make our way back to the real world. I know, it’s a long climb. Start small: yes, there is such a thing as normal. Duh. The word means “the usual, average, or typical state or condition.” In other words, the thing that happens most of the time. Despite what some extremely imaginative Gender Theorists would have you believe, most people are born with boy parts or girl parts. That’s what’s normal.
So then, this idea that “who you really are” has nothing to do with your physical body. At this point, when battling a Gender Theorist, politely point out that they are speaking utter gibberish. This idea could not possibly be more unscientific. In fact (obviously), physical things like our brain chemistry, our hormone levels, and our bodily structure have a profound effect on our emotions, experiences, and actions. Just one example: when breast cancer survivors get their adrenal glands removed, they become demonstrably less interested in getting it on. The way we behave has a lot to do with what chemicals are swimming around in our body. And by and large (normally), male and female chemicals are different.
By contrast, this fantasy that we’re all actually magical elven spirits with no relationship to our bodies sounds like something out of a bad anime cartoon. “Ahhh yes, we believe that the spark of the great spirit gender lives in each man. Or woman. Or Karl Rove.” Actually, of course, we’re embodied souls: our bodies are part of the language in which our personalities are written.
So stick with me here (you might tell your Gender Theorist friend), because I know it’s crazy: people are normally born male or female. That means they’re normally quite physically different. Physical makeup affects behavior. Which means — heresy of heresies — men and women normally behave differently. Be warned: this screamingly obvious piece of information may cause a Gender Theorist’s eyes to explode in shock (careful not to get your shirt messy).
The great danger to Gender Theory is that the gaping holes in its foundational logic might potentially be visible under acute scrutiny by advanced observational tools such as eyes or a brain. To prevent this, Gender Theorists relentlessly accuse everyone who challenges them of bigotry and oppression. From Kirsten Dunst to Kevin Williamson, folks who suggest that mayyyyybe men can’t just declare that they’re women get called backwards, hateful, and (gasp) transmisogynist. And may God have mercy on your soul if you use the wrong pronoun to describe someone’s imaginary gender. This sin of sins is called a microaggression: the subtly hostile imposition of oppressive cultural norms on a free-spirited gender unicorn. The fear is (literally) that by acknowledging the thunderously apparent fact that the person you’re talking to has dude junk, you’ll violently interrupt his fantasy that he’s a sparkly spirit animal with no relationship to his body. Cry me a river.
This stuff has got to go. So go forth and do intellectual battle, campus conservatives! Honestly, in a logical world, this would be almost too easy. Too bad we don’t live in a logical world. Be on the lookout for more tips and tricks for arguing with nonsense in the next installment of The Campus Conservative’s Field Manual. Until then, if you’ve got more battle scars or stories to share from times you’ve taken on Gender Theory, write ‘em all down in the comments!
See the previous installments in this series: