DiManno: Why can’t we say ‘woman’ anymore?

Some silliness going on that DiManno highlights:

“You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Person with a Vagina.”

“Man! I Feel Like a Person who Menstruates

“Oh, Pretty Person with a Cervix”

Apologies to Aretha Franklin, Shania Twain and Roy Orbison, but this appears to be where we’re heading if language radicals get their way.

And they’re getting it, tying everybody up in linguistic knots so as not to offend or get clobbered by the social media mob.

The inclusive objective is worthy.

The erasure of women is not.

“Woman” is in danger of becoming a dirty word … struck from the lexicon of officialdom, eradicated from medical vocabulary and expunged from conversation.

Which is a bitchy thing to do to half the world’s population.

It shouldn’t leave well-meaning people tongue-tied, lest they be attacked as transphobic or otherwise insensitive to the increasingly complex constructs of gender. 

“The Lancet,” the prestigious and highly influential British medical journal, put “Bodies with Vaginas” on the cover of its latest issue, referring to an article inside, entitled “Periods on Display,” a review of an exhibit about the history of menstruation at the Vagina Museum in London.

Maybe the editors, who tweeted the piece, were just looking for clickbait, with a pullquote on the cover teasing that “Historically, the anatomy and physiology of such bodies have been neglected” — this although the author had used the phrase “bodies with vaginas,” only once and “women” four times. 

A hell-storm broke out, quite rightly, with readers indignant over the wording. As one, an author of books on childbirth and women’s bodies, wrote: “You’re telling us that you’ve noticed that, for hundreds of years, you’ve neglected and overlooked women, and, then, in the same breath, you are unable to name those people you’ve been ignoring.”

The magazine’s editor-in-chief apologized hastily. 

This isn’t an argument against gender self-identification. Surely we’re well past that. It’s more about an infelicitous evolution of language, which is fundamentally about communicating clearly. Even if making the argument ends up aligning uncomfortably with reactionaries and regressives with whom I have no truck. 

In one fell swoop, “The Lancet” — remember, this is a medical publication! — reduced womanhood, biological or metaphysical, to purely anatomical parts, a gross reversal of the century-long campaign to, not only achieve equal rights, but for women to be seen as more than their biological and rampantly objectified, sexualized packaging. This is fundamental to feminism and humanism. Further, we are seeing, in, for example, legislation passed or coming down the pike in U.S. to severely restrict abortions, basically undoing Roe vs. Wade, how fragile these gains can be. 

“That Lancet” episode was not an over-woke outlier. 

The American Civil Liberties Union took detestable liberties by deliberately mauling the words of beloved and brilliant Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in marking the one-year anniversary of her death. Reaching back to comments Ginsburg made during her confirmation hearings in 1980, wherein she spoke about the right of women to obtain an abortion, the ACLU unilaterally removed “woman,” replacing it with “person.”

It came out thusly: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a (person’s) life, to (their) wellbeing and dignity …. When the government controls that decision for (people), (they are) being treated as less than a fully adult human and responsible for (their) own choices.” 

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, also subsequently issued a grovelling mea culpa, promising he’d never again drastically alter quotes in the future.

But is that really a lesson that needed to be pounded into his head? 

And still Romero tried to justify his interference by claiming that Ginsburg would have supported more inclusive language.

Maybe so. I would really like to know what she might have thought. But we don’t and can’t and it’s outrageous for anyone to mishmash the justice’s voice.

Women have abortions. Or, I suppose, in the tiniest of numbers, people born with female genitals who identify as male or fluid can terminate a pregnancy.

Women have babies. Or, in the tiniest of numbers, people born with female genitals who identify as male or fluid, can get pregnant. 

Yet in 2016, the British Medical Association recommended staff use “pregnant people,” instead of pregnant women. A British hospital now instructs staff on its maternity ward to use “birthing people,” instead of pregnant women. The Biden administration’s proposed 2022 budget substituted “birth people” for mothers. Rep. Cori Bush has used that term, while her Congressional Squad teammate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has talked of “menstruating people.”

These are women I admire but they’ve jumped the shark. 

All of this recalls the point bestselling author J.K. Rowling was trying to make, wryly, in a tweet that got her bludgeoned by the mob: “People who menstruate. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” 

Rowling was branded a TERF — activists do like their neologisms — meaning trans exclusionary radical feminist. As if she was hostile to the trans movement, which she assuredly is not. Some bookstores removed her work from their shelves. Were she not a gazillion-selling author, Rowling could have lost her publisher.

In Britain, where roughly 680,000 people do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, according to government figures, midwives at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals were told to start using terms such as “chest milk,” instead of breast milk. This, apparently, because some transgender men who give birth and nurse their babies were distressed at being reminded of what they were doing with those lactating female appendages. Although surely “breast” is a gender-neutral term, as both sexes have them and both can develop breast cancer. 

This is all directly a phenomenon resulting from trans activism run amok.

I get the passion for recasting language, to improve gender and LGBT equity, to minimize the “cognitive mental salience” of males. 

The movement has been spectacularly successful in the progressive West, although English isn’t as heavily gendered as, say, Italian or French. Truly, props for an undertaking that has given voice and power to a demographic historically oppressed, horribly shaped and disproportionately subjected to violence!

Merriam-Webster was the first dictionary to add gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “themself” to refer to a person whose “gender identity is non-binary.” 

But these examples go far beyond insistence on neutral pronouns, into an outer orbit of linguistics where both women, as a gender, and “woman” as a noun are being blotted out. 

There’s more than a whiff of misogyny to it. Why “woman” the no-speak word and not “man?” Why not “persons who urinate standing up” or “people who eject semen?” 

Certainly there are words — they are slurs mostly — that are no longer acceptable. “Woman” shouldn’t be one of them. 

The battleground of language has turned into a baffleground of agendas. 

I am woman and I am roaring.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2021/10/15/why-cant-we-say-woman-anymore.html

Shame on the Globe and Mail for running Chinese government propaganda

DiManno nails it. For a paper that justifiably calls out conflicts of interest by politicians and others, some deep self-reflection in order:

This is when the Globe and Mail got it right. From the paper’s July 30 lead editorial, headlined: “The continued imprisonment of the two Michaels is an act of pointless cruelty.”

“We keep hearing that Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are suffering in conditions ‘akin’ to torture, but there is no such thing. Their false arrest and unjustified incarceration amount to torture, period.”

This is when the Globe and Mail got it wrong. The double-truck spread, smack in the middle of the glorified Report on Business section, on Sept. 19 — last Saturday.

Headlines include: “Tree fellers turn into tree lovers.” “University’s admissions offer out of this world.” “A chain of celestial lights to celebrate inclusiveness.”

Which, inclusivity, doesn’t include the ethnic minority Uighurs, a million interned since 2017 in at least 87 camps surrounded by watch towers and barbed wire fences within Xinjiang region — camps the Chinese government denied existed until satellite imagery put the lie to those claims.

I won’t go into details about the content of the cheerful stories published in the Globe’s prime real estate pages — I’m not the one being paid to shill — under the “CHINA WATCH” banner. Suffice to say that “CHINA WATCH” is the international propaganda arm of state-run English-language newspaper China Daily.

Only in tiny letters at the bottom of each page does it state: Content produced by China Daily and distributed in the Globe and Mail.

I’m not in the habit of calling out other newspapers, particularly since the Star has a policy of not calling out our own selves when we deserve to be boxed about the ears. But the Globe brands itself “Canada’s National Newspaper” and fancies itself the paper of record.

Now, everybody knows these are trying times for the newspaper industry. But of all the papers in Canada, the Globe and Mail is least threatened by economic hardship, owned by the Thomson family — its chairman, David Thomson, wealthiest Canadian, as per Forbes, with a net worth of $32.5 billion, as of last year. If the Globe splashes around in the red, the Thomson clan can just sell off one of its Group of Seven paintings. Not that it would ever come to that.

Further, the Globe was the first signatory in this country to The Trust Project, a global coalition of media organizations with the intent of promoting truthful, accurate, fair and transparent journalism — because journalism is under siege everywhere, lacerated as purveyors of fake news.

China Daily is fake news. China Watch is fake news. At the very least, the Globe should have made that clearer. I put the matter to the Globe brain-trust in emailed queries.

“As you point out in your questions, the China Daily pages are indeed paid advertisements,” acknowledged Phillip Crawley, Globe publisher and CEO, in his emailed response. “The content is visually distinct and had been labelled as produced by a third party (China Daily). However, we believe the pages should have been more clearly marked to reflect that it was a paid advertisement for our readers. We will explore how to make this more clear in the future.”

Crawley added: “We have run these ads occasionally for years and like all advertising, they have no impact on our editorial coverage. You can see this in our daily reporting of China, our editorials” — he cited an opinion piece regarding the arrest of Jimmy Lai — “and the excellent investigative work put out by our Asia correspondent, Nathan VanderKlippe, who is based in Beijing.”

(Lai is a long-time champion of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.)

Indisputably, excellent coverage of China — the Globe was the first Western newspaper to open a bureau in what was then called Peking, more than six decades ago.

But readers won’t learn the truth about Tiananmen Square in the China Daily (or China Watch), won’t be told about the horrors inflicted and ethnic cleaning inflicted on the mostly Muslim Uighurs, won’t be enlightening on the regime’s crackdown throttling of Hong Kong and certainly won’t be provided with an accurate representation of why the two Michaels were thrown in prison.

That was the China version of tit-for-tat — the regime’s ham-fisted response two years ago, scooping up the Canadian businessmen shortly after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou on a warrant from the United States. America accuses Meng, chief financial officer of Huawei, of fraud, alleging she misled the bank HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran. Meng is under house arrest in Vancouver, fighting extradition to the U.S.

On Tuesday, China again urged Canada to immediately release Meng and let her return home so as to “safely bring bilateral relations back to the right track,” according to Chinese media reports. At the daily news briefing, a government spokesperson asserted: “Under the pretext of ‘at the request of the United States,’ Canada arbitrarily took compulsory measures on a Chinese citizen, which severely violated her legitimate rights and interests.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been able to do nothing — that we know of — to secure the release of the two Michaels, after nearly two years of detention. In June, Kovrig and Spavor were charged with espionage-related offences, which is bollocks.

A whole bunch of boldface Canadians have since signed a letter urging this country to knock off the extradition proceedings against Meng, so that the Michaels can be sprung. This is hostage diplomacy — a prisoner swap, the stuff of despots and unethical governments.

And we won’t even get into the further strong-arm squabbling between China and the U.S. over China-owned TikTok and China’s pressuring of Canada to integrate Huawei technology into our 5G network.

China has invested colossally and with sophistication in propaganda supplements that have appeared in respected publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, as well as opening scores of state TV satellite bureaus around the world — all pegged to “reporting the news from a Chinese perspective.” Which means gerrymandered and self-serving. All while literally ripping out international coverage within China: foreign magazines censored, the BBC flickering to black when carrying stories on such sensitive topics as Taiwan and Tibet and foreign correspondents booted out of the country.

Because the Red Dragon can. The Globe and Mail has, under the rubric of provided content, become a party to that.

China is a bully and the Globe, alas, is a pimp.

A thorny history of race-based statistics: DiManno

On the risks of not collecting race-based statistics:

Now it matters in a reverse context: Blacks killed by Toronto cops. How many? Who? Why? And so it’s the cops who dread disclosure. Yet those are facts we damn well should know.

We’ve put ourselves into a moral and intellectual bind. The reason: We don’t trust facts. More crucially, we don’t trust how facts can be manipulated. Or we don’t trust the potential for what’s known in court as an adverse inference — the reason why judges often kick out evidence deemed highly prejudicial with little probative value.

Surely, in a matter of such gravity — minorities killed in interactions with police — we can discard the extremes of compulsory blinkering. I’d say drop them entirely and live with the consequences. Because we can’t control how information will be computed by another person’s brain — whether they’ll misunderstand, whether they’ll take offense where none was intended, whether they’ll hurl accusations of racism (or sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, etc.) — we tread delicately, self-censoriously. So we end up with this: institutional timidity.

Among the numerous task forces into Toronto police and race relations was an audit released way back in 1992, which included the following recommendation: That the Toronto Police Services Board “reconsider its policy as to maintaining statistics which identify race and consider a policy which permits the maintenance of such statistics for the purpose of measuring or evaluating police activity… A civilian function should be created to maintain, compile and analyze such data. Statistics should be kept at a level of detail which allows for valid statistical conclusion.’’

The board rejected it.

A further recommendation suggested a formula for addressing racial subtexts — in policing, not the criminal constituency: “A series of indicators be developed using a statistical base to evaluate the level of bias, if any, in policing activities for the Force as a whole as well as to provide internal comparisons within the Force between differing operating units.’’

In essence, the audit pleaded for profiling — of police.

But profiling is such a dirty word. Just like “race-based” statistics. Except when they’re not.

A thorny history of race-based statistics | Toronto Star.