Identity and Ellen Page
Do voices of dissent not matter? And is it a good idea to just change history to suit the moment?
(Pictured is Linda Hunt, a diminutive woman playing a small Chinese man in “The Year of Living Dangerously” in 1984, for which she received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress)
And yes, I believe I’m going to keep calling her Ellen for the foreseeable future. For one, because she is a public figure who has objectively less control over how people think of her and has a history which demands that attention be paid to her body of work as a woman, since that’s how she was born and how she presented herself for the last 15 years. Referring to her as a “they” is not only bad grammar, but it’s bordering on irrational.
The reason why this topic is so important is that, contrary to my assertions in the “lines” article, this is not an issue (yet. Thanks Canada.) in which the government is crossing lines and telling us how to think, but more how the zeitgeist is changing history. Now, of course, according to IMDB, Juno was starring “Elliot Page (as Ellen Page.”
Spiked is one of the few entertainment sites to come out and question the sanity of this sort of cleansing and double-thin. The author, Brendan O’Neill, has some important concerns (some of which we’ll get to a little later), including:
The strength of the trans ideology was confirmed by the swiftness with which media institutions turned Ellen into Elliot and started calling her ‘he’. They had to, I guess, given the fury that will be visited upon anyone who says ‘Ellen’ or ‘she’. How dare you mention that mere woman who we have all agreed to erase from the historical record? Trans campaign groups have instructed the media to stop ‘deadnaming’ Page. ‘Deadnaming’ is a neo-Orwellian word used to publicly shame anyone who utters names, or facts, that the woke elites have agreed to put in the memory hole. ‘Ellen Page’, ‘Bruce Jenner won gold’, ‘born a male’, ‘born a female’ – these are all now deadnaming thoughtcrimes.
O’Neill’s conclusion is one in which we all need to read carefully and think hard about, and we’ll include it towards the end here.
One of my students and I had a brief conversation the other day about the subject/object distinction. There are actually different ways in which a subject/object phenomenon can play out, but one common one is the idea of where best you place “ultimate truth.” Is it where the objective reality of the thing lies, or is it where the perception or belief about that thing lies? If we know for a fact that Bruce Jenner is a male and was a male when he fathered children and won a gold medal, then is that truth more important or less important than the opinion of many and even of the opinion of Caitlyn herself that it was a woman that did those things? To be honest, I don’t rightly know if Bruce/Caitlyn actually believes that a female impregnated someone or jumped as far as Bruce jumped. But if enough people believe it and promote the idea as… proper, is that how we define truth now? (This reminds me of a friend who responded to a quote attributed to Aristotle the other day that the quote probably did NOT come from Aristotle. The original attributor responded, “Well… a LOT of people attribute this quote to Aristotle!” …to which my friend responded, “Hey we could vote and make it Plato… or Einstein!”)
To be clear, the concern here is not about simply the feelings of trans people, whether they are the subject of the discussion, specifically, or simply relate to it based on their own struggles and experiences. That concern is, of course, a real one. We should show compassion and care for anyone who has reached a point where this kind of drastic measure (a sex change and/or a gender “transition”) is deemed necessary. It really doesn’t matter whether we consider it a casual decision, a disease, a sin, a mental disorder, a fad, or in come cases even (quite cynically) shameless commercialism. We have to treat everyone we associate with or even discuss as human beings, first and foremost, with souls and spirits and a spark of the divine; secondly we must treat them as individuals, with minds and wills of their own, as opposed to a package of checkboxes of identities or groups to be categorized or lumped in with.
So none of this is an excuse to treat anyone — even Ellen/Elliot — with any disrespect; it’s really two major things that is connected only tangentially and through happenstance with the trans issue (an issue which should not even be lumped in any more with the “alphabet people”, for many reasons, but should be treated discretely and separately):
First, it’s a matter of whether our opinion matters… subjectively and objectively. Meaning, does it matter what my opinions are, or what anyone’s opinions are about whether Caitlyn is a girl or not or whether Ellen Page is still a girl? And does it matter what the objective definition of a “woman” is (or a “man” for that matter)? Or is it most critical that we just SAY the right thing so that we a) continue to get approval from the Keepers of the Flame of Woke Truth and Justice (KFWTJ or “Keepers for short), and b) we don’t offend the sensibilities of those who are struggling with identity and gender dysphoria (or other) issues?
Secondly, it’s a matter of whether there is a risk in seeking to change history to accommodate present-day opinion and assertions about someone’s identity. What is truth anyway? Is it dependent on time now as well? Not only WHOSE opinion matters but WHEN? If Elliot/Ellen changes her mind and decides to be a female lesbian again and then the IMDB links are changed back to just Ellen starring in Juno, was it TRUE that Elliot, a male, starred in it in 2007…. as of right now, but UNTRUE a few weeks ago, or a year or two from now? Plus…what if someone close to Ellen believes that she’s making the change back simply because it’s too hard, and continues to call her Elliot…. is this person “dead naming” her now or just encouraging her to stick to the truth as we are all supposed to see it … today?
Here’s O’Neill’s conclusion:
But what about us, the people who also inhabit this world? What about our recognition, springing from millennia of observation, that if you give birth you are a mother, not a father? What about our understanding that if you produce sperm and impregnate someone – as Bruce Jenner did – then you are a man, not a woman? What about our belief that using the word ‘he’ to refer to someone who is clearly a woman is odd? And our recognition that even if we agree to do it, we still don’t believe it; we still know it’s a dishonest performance we have been pressured into?
Do we matter? It seems not. The elitism of identitarianism is exposed in its commitment to overriding what society at large understands and believes, all those facts and customs we adhere to, and in its demand that we lie – that we say Caitlyn Jenner won a gold medal and that Ellen Page is male. Surely it’s time more of us stood up and said that, in their private lives, people can refer to themselves however they please, but in our public world, in the space we all share as citizens guided by knowledge, beliefs and traditions, truth matters; we matter. The cult of transgenderism isn’t liberation. All it does is allow individuals to ‘liberate’ themselves from reality while heaping pressure on the rest of us to deny the truth, to silence our own knowledge, to lie to ourselves and to others. That is the opposite of freedom. Sorry, Ellen.
Or to connect my two points above… really we are left with THREE choices of what is REAL or TRUE: What we believe to be true (because the person at hand and/or the Keepers of the torch have decided it is, what is objectively true based on science (remember, science is real), or perhaps most disturbingly what we (and the Keepers) SAY is true, whether we really believe it or not… right now, and only for the moment.
How. Many. Lights. Do. You. See.?
(a little tribute to not only probably one of the most prolific and successful science fiction actors of all time (not Stewart- the other guy), but also a little Alex Trebek reference (RIP))