The idea of cultural appropriation, that is to say when someone from a privileged group adopts the attributes of a subordinated one, is beloved by the bien pensant. Guardian columns on the ethics of white people with dreadlocks are shared by those desperate to display their right-on credentials. And yet, curiously, when men appropriate the clothes that women are culturally expected to wear, they are celebrated as brave.
There is no fanfare for the women, in particular those of a certain age, who ditch hair dyes, make-up and heels. Arguably women who don’t care to sport the uncomfortable trappings of femininity could be deemed “non-binary” and yet they remain resolutely unfashionable. It seems men are able to break gender stereotypes by embracing them, the likes of Eddie Izzard strutting in heels are just so much more progressive than boring old vulva-owners in flat shoes.
It might seem mean-spirited not to use the preferred pronouns of someone who identifies as transgender, but it should be remembered pronouns do not refer to masculine or feminine behaviour, they demark sex. And furthermore, they are chosen by the person referring to the subject. Such linguistic choices are no longer a matter of free expression; the threat of legal action and social sanction are used to compel speech. Nonetheless, we are expected to believe that it is the gender fascists who are on the right-side of history.
With exquisite concision, feminist scholar Professor Sheila Jeffreys dubbed transgenderism a “men’s sexual rights movement.” She posits that it is women’s subordinate social status that some men with masochistic tendencies find arousing. Far from being a progressive step toward breaking down sexist stereotypes, the thrill men gain from identifying as the other sex, whether by being in “girl mode” or having surgery, depends upon men maintaining their dominant status in society. In essence, male transgenderism is invested in the erotization of women’s subordinate social position; it is sexism on steroids.