It is unfortunate that a feminist myth, that the biological difference between man and woman is notional, gets SC approval
Once upon a time, the woods were lovely, men were handsome, and women beautiful. Circa 2023, forests have been ravaged, men go to beauty parlours, and women drive SUVs. And, worse, if we believe two judges of the Supreme Court, even the biological differences between men and women are notional.
Last week, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud made this point, to which Solicitor General Tushar Mehta responded. “You are saying that the very notion of a biological man or a biological woman is absolute,” Chandrachud said during the argument. The SG retorted, “Biological man means a biological man. It is not a notion.”
The CJI, however, insisted, “It is a notion. There is no absolute concept of a man or absolute concept of a woman at all. Biological definition is not what your genitals are. It’s far more complex, that is the point… The very notion of a man or woman is not absolute based on what genitals you have.”
Mehta persisted, “Biological man means what genitals he has.” But Justice SK Kaul called Mehta’s statement just “a point of view.”
The opinion of the two SC judges’ is influenced by a basic tenet of contemporary feminism: biology does not define gender differences and, as a consequence, what constitutes a woman. This tenet had its origin in The Second Sex (1949) by Simone de Beauvoir. She wrote: “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman. No biological, psychic, or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female takes on in society.”
An important point to be made here is that biology is not an exact science like mathematics, geometry, and, to a large extent, physics. Two times two will always be four, any point on any circle will always be equidistant from its centre, and action and reaction are always opposite to each other.
But biology is a life science; and since exactness eludes life, it also eludes life sciences. Therefore, there are instances of people with unhealthy lifestyles living a long and healthy life, as well as people eating good food and doing regular exercise getting afflicted with, say, cancer. And of people driving very well even when drunk, and of teetotalers being bad drivers. Such examples, however, do not mean that an unhealthy lifestyle leads to a long, healthy life or that drunken driving is good for road safety. Exceptions do not invalidate the rule.
Contemporary feminism, just like contemporary liberalism, got corrupted by facts-defying doctrines and attitudes. Feminism began well though, as a child of the Enlightenment. As an ideology upholding equal political, economic, social, and religious rights, feminism played a salutary role in history. It is during the so-called second wave of feminism, during the 1960s and 1970s, that radicalism infected the movement and practically mutated it into a beast that is genetically collectivistic, illiberal, and counter-Enlightenment.
This was like cutting off the branch one was sitting on. For, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, “The feminist voices of the Renaissance never coalesced into a coherent philosophy or movement. This happened only with the Enlightenment, when women began to demand that the new reformist rhetoric about liberty, equality, and natural rights be applied to both sexes.”
Contemporary feminism, however, went rogue by imbibing dogmas (myths actually) like de Beauvoir’s “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.” This has resulted in the feminist movement setting a great store on ‘gender fluidity.’ Merriam-Webster describes gender fluidity as “of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is not fixed.”
Such people do exist, but they are in a microscopic minority all over the world. Their rights must be protected and dignity recognised systemically, but this should not obfuscate the facts that are acknowledged by all. Generally speaking, a man is a man and a woman is a woman. In fact, such a statement is tautological till a few decades ago, but in this postmodern world even uttering tautologies has become a dangerous exercise.
In an age when academics owing allegiance to contemporary feminism or some other New Left pathology—and most academics actually do that—stating something as obvious as the differences between man and woman could attract the charges of being misogynist, transphobe, etc. Many women, especially sportswomen, are suffering grievously because of the woman-is-made-not-born myth.
When a myth is accepted as a fact, it wreaks havoc in real life. If the difference between men and women is notional, there should not be men’s and women’s sports. If a person can choose their gender, they can also participate in whichever category they want to in a sports event. This is happening in the US; men and transgender persons are participating in the women’s category—and winning.
Transactivists malign anyone who questions this. Even the retired tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who is a lesbian championing liberal cause, has not been spared. Such is the tyranny of activists who are wedded to various New Left causes. These activists are delusionary, for they have cut themselves off from reality. They are also self-righteous and vicious when it comes to interaction with those who hold different views.
It is unfortunate that SC judges have countenanced a perfidious New Left ideology.
(The writer is Resident Editor, The Pioneer, Delhi. He is the author of There Is No Such Thing As Hate Speech, Bloomsbury, 2017)