Salvo 03.16.2023 6 minutes

Undefine Masculinity

Chromat – Presentation – February 2020 – New York Fashion Week: The Shows

Wokeness’s war against sex and gender descends to clownish levels.

Recently, an organization on my campus put together an event entitled “Undefining Masculinity.” As recommended preparation for the event, it was suggested that attendees might profitably watch an episode of the “Man Enough” podcast, in which the hosts interview an individual named Alok Vaid-Menon. This person (I won’t be using pronouns to refer to Vaid-Menon, for the principled reason I’ve given elsewhere) is presented as an expert on gender and sexuality, though there is no evidence provided to support that status.

The hosts fawn in the most ludicrously exaggerated way over Vaid-Menon from the start: “Such a wonderful human being!” Five minutes in, after the guest has blurted out a series of unsupported claims about how viciously people who are confused about their gender identities are treated—“People don’t think we should exist…. They weaponize a criteria [sic] that would disappear [sic] me!”—the hosts proclaim, “We should just wrap it right there!…You made me tear up just now…It’s like a mic drop every time!…I’m getting emotional…You’re f###ing amazing!”

What is the actual content of what Vaid-Menon is saying that so powerfully impresses them?

Much of it is straightforward egoism. “I am divine,” Vaid-Menon unironically intones. “I come from people who were targeted and exterminated by colonists…the reason they targeted us is because of our power,” the wide-eyed and adoring hosts are informed. The task Vaid-Menon humbly accepts is to “emancipate men from the shackles of heteropatriarchy,” and to do that “you have to have trans people at the forefront because we are the most honest.”

Normal men are presented in the most ludicrous stereotypes as though such caricatures were representative of the species, with no evidence provided to substantiate any of these claims. We are told “heteropatriarchal” men “don’t know how to feel love like we can give…[they] don’t love themselves [and] they see our self-love,” which of course makes them hate and desire death for all transpeople.

The narrative is that everyone outside of traditional gender roles is pursuing their authentic selves, while all of those who adhere to those traditional roles are living a lie. The response from one of the hosts is remarkably honest in its gullible toadying: “Are we running a cult, because I will do whatever you want!”

Another host, engaging in what appears to be the normal practice of gushingly praising one another in the most superlative terms, says he thinks so highly of his colleague who made the cult comment that he “puts [her] on a pedestal.” The woke guru Vaid-Menon corrects him. There can be no pedestals, as no one is to be placed above anyone else. (This is after Vaid-Menon has just talked for several minutes about why transpeople are in fact morally superior to those who adhere to traditional gender roles.) The corrected host apologizes in gushing, humbled terms: “I’m so sorry for dehumanizing you!” and thanks Vaid-Menon for pointing out his egregious and potentially destructive mistake. He receives in return a hideously unctuous smile and a haughtily condescending “Of course!” in response. We are witness to a Maoist political reeducation session in all its contours.

Vaid-Menon then launches on a long and completely fictional rant that is presented as a history of sex and gender categories. The male-female binary, we are told, was only invented in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century “as part of a political project.” Prior to this, in Europe only one sex existed.

One has only to consult texts written before the period being described in which men and women are recognized and discussed as distinct entities to see what risible nonsense this is.

It turns out, Vaid-Menon goes on, that the sex difference was only “invented” because in the wake of the French Revolution, inalienable rights were established only for men. Women wanted them too, and so men devised a clever ideological way to prove they couldn’t have them. Men wanted to keep women at home, out of the workplace and the public sphere, because they saw the latter as clearly superior in value to the domestic sphere. In presenting this as a malicious truth of the evil patriarchs, Vaid-Menon de facto agrees that the sphere of domestic activity—childcare, homemaking, etc.—could not have any possible utility or value. Why else would men want to relegate women to such an unfree position? Fashion was then politicized as a way to keep women at home. All of this is presented in a prophetic manner, all transparently and obviously true by the mere virtue of the identity of the truthteller speaking it.

What does Vaid-Menon want, ultimately? Just the destruction of sex and gender categories. This will be good for everyone, because it will free us all from the slavery of categories in general: “What we’re saying is that man and woman are two of a potentially infinite number…. There are as many ways to be a man as there are men.” “Category culture kills us,” and so only killing the categories and descending into utter cultural anarchy will do as a solution. This, and only this, will constitute an embrace of “the power of authenticity.”

We are never told why and how it is authentic and true for people to escape gender and sex categories based in the natural world and human history. Where would claims to authenticity in an invented gender identity come from if not from some exposure to culture and socialization? Why should we assume that everyone who happily inhabits a traditional sex and gender identity is only engaging in self-deception?

The hosts of course need no such arguments: “What you’re saying is so valuable and so important because it’s true.” Transparently, evidently, just by virtue of being said.

As they move to close, one of the hosts confessionally laments his own failures on this matter: “It’s all of the shoulds [of masculinity] that have caused me pain and suffering…I shouldn’t have to understand you to love you.” He then turns to a fellow host, who is black: “I don’t want you as a black man to be afraid of being shot in the back for being pulled over for a taillight.” No cases of any black men being shot in the back for having a taillight out are presented to support this fear.

They lugubriously and repeatedly thank the guru Vaid-Menon for dispensing such invaluable wisdom.

I took the opportunity after watching the video to gather more information from Vaid-Menon’s personal webpage. There, I discovered a public attack Vaid-Menon leveled against someone who complimented the sex/gender guru, but in an unpreferred way; magnanimous in the way of cult leaders throughout history.

Elsewhere online, Vaid-Menon defends the claim that “little girls are…kinky” by interpreting The Exorcist as a story of a girl exploring her sexuality in a healthy way. This is the same book and film in which an emissary of Hell attempts to destroy human beings by morally corrupting a young girl to the point of having her commit two murders and nearly killing herself in the process.

Should you like a summary of where our elite culture is on all of this, the Twitter account on which Alok Vaid-Menon made this claim about the sexuality of little girls is still up and running (at least one conservative woman who called Vaid-Menon’s Exorcist tweet “demonic” was given a permanent suspension from the media platform, which was only lifted with the advent of Twitter 2.0 under Elon Musk).

Alok Vaid-Menon is representative of the view of sex and gender many in the woke academy adhere to today. Studying Vaid-Menon’s worldview is instructive, because it is something of a model for how the woke in higher education want us to think about sex, gender, and human interaction going forward.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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