Last Thursday, feminist writer and podcaster Meghan Murphy tweeted her observation that “men aren’t women.” Twitter promptly suspended Murphy's account for “hate speech.”
One pities Murphy, a self-proclaimed leftist and feminist, as she experiences the sort of targeting and censorship that conservatives undergo at the hands of Big Tech on a daily basis. And yet conservatives cannot help feel a tinge of schadenfreude as the Left’s ideological chickens come home to roost. Murphy maintains that transgender ideology, which considers gender to be fluid and socially constructed, undermines feminism, which advocates the advancement of women, a real and essential gender category. Yet the roots of this new censorious, anti-woman ideology lie in feminism itself.
While First Wave feminists of the 18th and 19th centuries such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Cady Stanton acknowledged and celebrated differences between the sexes, by the 1960s, radical feminists of the Second Wave like Shulamith Firestone rejected the complementarity of the sexes and sought instead to deconstruct gender altogether. In this extreme view, sexual difference necessarily impedes sexual parity, and therefore no distinction between men and women may be tolerated. Now that premise threatens to destroy the very feminist ideology that begot it.
The Left can have transgenderism or feminism, but it can’t have both. Either men cannot be women or there is not such thing as a woman. Either man and woman are distinct categories, or, to quote Planned Parenthood, “some men have a uterus.” If some men have a uterus — that is, if some men are women — then what exactly is a woman? If there is no categorical distinction between man and woman — that is, if there is no real difference between the sexes — then what precisely is “feminism”?
Even the targeting and censorship that Murphy now decries finds its roots in the Second Wave of the feminist movement, which adopted the slogan, “the personal is political,” taken from the title of an essay by feminist writer Carol Hanisch. That obliteration of the distinction between public and private action, essential to liberal society, coarsened the character of political activism and encouraged a politics of personal destruction. It also set leftism on its present course of radical subjectivism that prioritizes feeling over fact, “one’s truth” over the truth, and justifies the censorship of opinions deemed “triggering,” “unsafe,” or hateful by redefining speech as violence.
Meghan Murphy is right to acknowledge that men are not women. She's also right to fear the consequences of a politics this personal. Conservatives have long known these simple truths. Now leftist feminists such as Murphy face a hard choice: ally with conservatives, who support free speech and insist that “facts don’t care about your feelings,” or persist with a Left that would annihilate feminism altogether.