Yet again, a woman has claimed a marginalized identity that does not belong to her. First, there was Rachel Dolezal, the former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter president who was outed as white, despite identifying as black. The then-instructor in Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University came from a childhood of trauma and abuse, outed by her parents as a means to prevent their daughter from testifying against her brother, Joshua, charged with sexual abuse of a child (the charges have since been dropped). The family outed Dolezal in order to discredit her, and it worked. Her life is ruined, she will likely always struggle to survive, and will always be tarnished as the devil white woman who insisted she was black.
Jessica Krug may be slightly less easy to sympathize with, as a white Jewish woman who grew up in a Kansas suburb who took on a black identity and a silly accent, along with a story of growing up in the ghetto, born to an addicted, prostituted mother, raped by a white man. Krug taught at George Washington University until resigning yesterday. Before she was erased from the university’s page, Krug was listed as a history professor with a focus on “politics, ideas, and cultural practices in Africa and the African Diaspora, with a particular interest in West Central Africa and maroon societies in the early modern period and Black transnational cultural studies.”
I say she is perhaps less easy to sympathize with only because she sounds incredibly irritating.
Krug’s colleagues complain she was enmeshed in cancel culture, over-woke, and constantly policing others around her on their politically correct bonafides. A Guardian article written by two academics, Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez and Yarimar Bonilla, says Krug “openly bullied, mocked, gaslit and antagonized Black and Latina women she encountered in academic and activist circles as a way to further authenticate and validate her imaginary struggle and holier-than-thou politics.” A recent video shows Krug demanding the police not only be defunded, but abolished entirely. Fugueroa-Vásquez and Bonilla say she “made a mockery of radical politics and activist organizing by tearing down those she deemed less ‘woke’ than herself.” Gasp.
I can’t help but be amused by the anger and condemnation expressed by the very woke, aghast that someone would take on an identity not their own in order to acquire status and leverage in a world that judges one’s words and actions based not on their value, but on their proclaimed identity. Today, a man who claims to be a woman is said to suffer infinitely more than an actual woman, on account of “cis privilege.” A white woman, of all people, how dare she, must sit down and shut up, as she is too high on the privilege ladder, as defined by the woke. If she is middle class, she may as well drop dead.
I am further amused when it comes to the obvious questions around why it is appalling for a white person to adopt the identity of a person of colour, but not for a male to insist he is female because he prefers a dress to pants or because he enjoys the sense of power he feels waltzing into the women’s change room, knowing that if any woman dare protest, he is completely within his rights to accuse her of a hate crime.
The very same people who believe women like Krug and Dolezal should be tarred and feathered, who complain that to identify as something you objectively are not constitutes “gaslighting” and “violence,” will, with a straight face, insist there is such a thing as a “female penis” and that “men menstruate too.” Not only that, but these very same people would not hesitate to cancel a friend or colleague who dare ask what the difference is between a white person who claims to be black and a man who claims to be female.
And what is the difference, pray tell? Well, for starters, race is much more complex than sex. Everyone in the world is born either male or female, and remains so for life. With the exception of a small number of people with intersex conditions, sex is easy to determine. Most of us don’t need to think about it at all. Race, on the other hand, can be very difficult to determine, simply by looking at a person, and many people of colour are mixed. Race is not, despite the way we often talk about it, black and white. Sex is.
There are those who would like to claim the opposite is true: that the experience of “gender dysphoria” is so powerful that it can literally alter one’s biological sex. In response to those who might dare question the inherent evilness of appropriated racial identity vs the inherent righteousness of appropriated sex identity, Dianna E Anderson tweeted:
“Trans people tend to experience forms of gender dysphoria. Their brains are built to map their bodies a certain way — e.g., a trans man’s brain will function as though the body has a penis, when it doesn’t, which can be very jarring. This is documented medical fact.”
It is not, of course, a “documented medical fact” that if one suffers from a form of mental illness that causes them to believe they are male when they are in fact female, they literally have a penis, not a vagina. One can believe all sorts of things, but things do not become so through belief.
Anderson goes on to explain that the “dysphoric reaction” trans-identified people may experience “doesn’t exist for people pretending to be a different race because race isn’t rooted in a physical reality in the way gender is.”
To clarify, as trans activists never will, “gender” and “sex” are not the same thing. Sex is simply about your physical body — whether you are male or female. “Gender” is about the roles and stereotypes imposed on or assumed about an individual based on their sex. While gender may well be connected to biology in some ways, on account of evolution, those roles and stereotypes are not all inherent or physical. A woman is not necessarily passive and irrational, nor is she born with an innate love of pink frilly dresses, and a man is not necessarily confident and rational, born with a love of trucks. We all have many different personality traits, likes and dislikes, some of which we may have been born with, others that exist on account of our upbringing or the culture that surrounds us. Certainly my confidence, and love for trucks and belching, do not erase my femaleness any more than a boy’s preference for dolls and long hair erase his maleness.
The concept of “gender dysphoria” itself is questionable, even, as, either you are struggling with your physical body (an overwhelming desire for a female body, instead of a male one, for example) or you are struggling with gender stereotypes, which is something we all do. A more apt term to describe the experience often labelled “gender dysphoria” might be “body dysmorphia,” a disorder that causes one to be preoccupied with the notion that some aspect of one’s body or appearance is “wrong.” If you simply do not relate to some aspects of femininity, but are female, you’re just a normal human being. Not liking high heels is not a disorder.
Putting aside the irrationality of claiming that a male can identify his way into femaleness, and that there is nothing sexist, regressive, or insulting about saying that enjoying objectification or silky underwear defines women, but that identifying as an ethnicity that is not one’s own is unforgivably hateful, another aspect of this conversation must be noted: this is a monster of the woke’s own making.
If you create a culture that measures validity and value based on whatever the identity du jour is, it is likely those identities will be desired by those who wish to have higher status. If a person should only be listened to or taken seriously if they are a non-binary, Latinx, polysexual, sex worker suffering from autism, inevitably people will glom on to those identities. Fetishizing certain identities and disparaging those who don’t fall into those categories (or who don’t choose to publicly identify as such — surely we don’t know the histories and sufferings of all those around us) is precisely what might lead someone like Krug to take on what is, today, in this particular Western culture, a more valuable identity, insofar as woke currency goes.
Needless to say, we cannot pick and choose our preferred narratives here. If we want to play the identity politics game, this result is obvious. We cannot insist that men who identify as women are brave warriors who mustn’t be questioned, but that a troubled white woman who believes she is black is a villain who deserves to be burned at the stake. Similarly, we can’t prop up certain voices due solely to their identity, and disparage the voices of others solely because they don’t fit into a certain marginalized category. We should be able to see how this makes us all vulnerable. Play fair, if you demand fair treatment. And be careful to not fall into the same traps those you criticize do. Rationality and consistency should be tools used by feminists, if we demand the same of others.