The Revolution Will Come For You Too | Jake Scott
How do you secure a revolution? It’s quite simple: the day after the revolution, kill the revolutionaries. It is an axiomatic truth that all revolutions come for those who began them in the end: ask Trotsky, Rohm, Robespierre – the silence is your answer. This is for two reasons, but they are fundamentally connected: either the revolution’s energy will excite itself too far and go beyond all boundaries, as Edmund Burke warned us; or the revolution will eat itself as the revolutionaries turn on one another, fearful of the very revolutionary nature that brought them together in the first instance.
It was not long ago that Eddie Redmayne was celebrated for his portrayal of a transsexual woman, Lili Elbe (born Einar Wagener) but, as is always the way, this revolutionary film was criticised for both its subject matter – for not being revolutionary enough – and for the actor depicting a transsexual woman when he himself was not one. Let’s not get into the irony of performativity here; what matters is, apparently, Elbe’s story should have been told by a transsexual actress.
Redmayne has since apologised, absurdly, for doing his job. But what is so extraordinary about Redmayne’s case is that it is becoming less extraordinary; increasingly we see calls for authentic portrayals of characters, all the while seeing black actresses take the place of Anne Bolyn. Regardless, this cultural issue has begun to run away from itself, and actors – once hidden behind the screen – are increasingly expected to provide public commentary on the topic of their performance, forgetting the first basic rule of the aesthetic experience that the object ought to speak for itself.
The most tragicomic instance of this in recent years is JK Rowling. I don’t need to recount what has become of this once-loved figure among the generations of people who – for absolutely no reason at all – latched onto her fantastical world as a source of both identity and morality. I can’t count the number of non-straight people I know who take such inspiration from Harry Potter, they have practically, and in some cases literally, tattooed it onto themselves. Of course, with it comes a childish, flattened out view of what is good and bad – and, naturally, the good guys always win. Such is the imperative view of revolution.
Rowling is hounded continuously these days for sticking to her guns, and reaffirming that which is basic biological fact – men are born as men, women are born as women, and the dressing up and acting of the other sex does not make you a member of it. As Redmayne now acknowledges. But whilst the online mob materialised quite literally outside of Ms. Rowling’s house, it cannot be forgotten that for a long time she was first a participant, and then an instigator, of the online mobs she has since fallen foul of. Why is the Right prepared to bring Rowling into our camp? She hates us – or, more realistically, our concession to the Left has gone on for so long that the Right is no longer on the Right.
Ms. Rowling used to use her considerable influence on Twitter to hold innocent and unassuming critics up to the mob, who would feed such criticism through the very worldview she helped construct, and decide they were one of the Bad Guys. Now, she is one of the Bad Guys. She is one of the first priests of the online witch hunts, and the Right should not forget this. Subsequent acts of contrition – defences of free speech, for instance – should not be mistaken for conversion. Rowling has never apologised, but sadly the Right doesn’t expect her to. Perhaps because it is so toothless.
Our other flavour of the season is British academic Kathleen Stock. ‘Canceled’, as the saying goes, for her resistance to the changes to the Gender Recognition Act (2004) on the basis that many transsexual women are ‘still males with male genitalia’ and are ‘attracted to women’, meaning they should be denied entry to women-only spaces, something which forced her from her position as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex. Except, of course, Stock denies she is ‘transphobic’, and has even described herself in her own work as ‘a sex-nonconforming woman’, whatever that means. Indeed, Stock is part of the wave of feminism that arose in the 1990s that ‘challenged notions of gender’ that has since been termed ‘radical feminism’, which has in turn spawned the phrase ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism’ (or, ‘terf’). Radical feminism is itself part of the origin of ‘women only spaces’, on the basis that sex is inherent and power imbalances require women to be given their own spaces.
Of course, conservatives have often agreed, but their reasons for thinking the same things as radical feminists are wildly incompatible, and such is obvious after even a brief observation of the issue. This is not a passing issue – it is fundamental. The reason for arriving at a conclusion reflects a wider belief system that does means any of yours conclusions that cohere with another’s by way of coincidence is exactly that – coincidence.
Agreement over the final point despite varying ontologies is not a sufficient basis for a political alliance – if you believe in concepts that are fundamentally at odds with your fellows, you cannot even have common ground. And you should be fearful of the revolutionaries you lead – because they will turn on you too.