The Left and Its Problems with Language

The Left and Its Problems with Language

What our culture needs now more than ever is a recovery of a sure-footed and metaphysically certain anthropology. Such an anthropology cannot hide that a man and a woman are veritably different from each other all the while they are equal in dignity. Monism, moreover, cannot be the goal of cultural expression any more than it can be the goal of true divine worship. We flourish not under a forlorn sameness but under a zestful complementarity. 

Way back in my undergraduate days, I recall a course with the title Images of Man in Literature. It was team taught, with one professor from the Philosophy Department and the other professor from the English Department. It was the kind of course that fit in well in a liberal arts curriculum, not having to prove its value back then according to metrics which drive the constantly escalating cost of higher education today, things like the development of skills for the marketplace and acquiring employment readiness.

What really though is the likelihood that such a course could be offered today? It probably would be shot down early on by the Gender Studies Department as misogynist. The Ethnic and Cultural Studies Department would attack it as classicist for giving insufficient attention to the perspectives of the marginalized and the oppressed. The devaluation of the liberal arts has created a situation wherein there is an extreme bias against received wisdom as it pertains to how we understand ourselves. If it isn’t new, we should be suspicious of it. What is new should be automatically accepted even if it contravenes an inherited anthropology.

Examples of what I mean abound. Indeed, hardly a day passes without the news media reporting on some incident or other of linguistic nonsense. There was, for example, the refusal of a Supreme Court nominee to answer the question: “What is a woman?” The nominee—now a sworn Justice of the Supreme Court—feared that the gender-benders on the Left would be all over her if she took note of how a woman is different from a man. She claimed that a biologist was needed to answer the question. Since she was not a biologist, the question went unanswered. Seeing and accepting anthropological difference is akin to career suicide on the noisy Left.

Or, what about the senior United States senator from Massachusetts explaining that “pregnant people” are being denied constitutional protection by the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs? She and everyone else knows that only women can conceive and bear children. Nevertheless, she refused to distinguish men from women because of the demand on the Left that equality be understood only as sameness. Anything you can do, I can do. How juvenile and immature, anthropologically speaking.

Decades ago, gender inclusive language had gained a foothold in many parishes and other places where the Catholic liturgy was celebrated. Attempts were always being made to change texts from their supposed “gender exclusivity” to a more agreeable “gender inclusivity.” Sad to say, this silliness still abides in some places. Behind this foolish preoccupation is a desire to whittle away at any linguistic difference so as to suggest that any difference factually, and especially anatomically, is arbitrary and meaningless.

The liturgy itself suffered as an artistic expression, but that was not all; indeed, it was just the beginning of the loss we endured. Doubt was introduced regarding the very structure of reality. Perhaps the created world is not what our eyes tell us it is.

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