Who Owns the Playing Field?

A cultural debate is raging about whether women’s and girls’ rights should be subordinated to men’s rights whenever men identify as women.

Currently, our opponents have home field advantage because they built the field. They characterized us as “anti-trans” instead of pro-female. They sabotaged Michfest and then blamed the conflict on us.  They invented words centered on transgender interests and got us to legitimize them by using them. They convinced social media that we hold fringe views instead of common and reasonable views. They took our focus away from the rights of women and girls and refocused us on the concerns of trans people. We took the bait. We now talk about autogynephilia and pronouns more than we talk about reproductive rights and keeping girls in school.

The field they’ve built is made of circular reasoning, threats and jargon. We need to play on a different field–one in which we have the advantage. That field is honesty, bravery and plain language. Our home field advantage is truth and clarity.

To win this debate, we must first refuse the terms and conditions of the debate as it currently stands; these were set up by our oppressors. To that end, we should reject not only the words invented by “their side” (like “cis”) but also the words invented by “our side” in direct response to them (like “TRA”).

Here’s why: when we create our own words–words that no one else uses–specifically for the purpose of refuting absurd arguments, we grant validity to those absurd arguments–and we show our willingness to work within the framework in which they arose. But the framework is faulty and it needs to be discarded.

Imagine a group of respected geologists runs into a group of angry young-Earth creationists. In reality, the scientists would likely pay the creationists little attention, especially in the public sphere.

Imagine if instead of blowing off young-Earth creationists as irrational, geologists invented words for them like, I don’t know, GEDRAs (geology-denying religious activists), and then used these words in science documentaries and television shows. Bystanders would wonder, quite correctly, why the geologists would waste their time. Scientists have the upper hand against religious quacks. Scientists have truth on their side. Unless the scientists feel threatened, and they shouldn’t, they’ve no need for this “GEDRA” business. It exposes an insecurity on their part. It would be better if they spent their time advancing geology instead of getting in pissing matches with its detractors.

So it is when we create words like “TRA.”

A much better approach would be to speak in plain language and to insist on plain-language responses. This disarms the people who can’t explain themselves and strengthens those who can, which works in our favor.

We must reject jargon, even if it’s ours.

Jargon reinforces rumors that we belong to a fringe faction of feminism with murky values.

It makes it difficult for disinterested third parties (unfamiliar with these debates) to follow what we’re saying.

It allows both sides to sidestep meaningful debate and rely on semantic trickery and obfuscation instead.

It gives the power back to the oppressor, as he’s setting the terms of the debate and we are letting him.

And much it appears mean to bystanders. Being mean is against our best interests.

Think about whether you can defend the claims you wish to make with plain language. You can (especially since everyone already agrees with us). Now think about whether your opponents can defend their claims without relying on poorly-defined in-group language and repetitive mantras. They cannot. Their jargon serves to cover up, deflect and confuse. And it works.

Using plain language is the intelligent, professional and poised thing to do. Using in-group language obscures our message and makes us look petty and peripheral.

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