Published February 15, 2019
She tweeted that “men are not women,” and for that, Meghan Murphy, feminist journalist, was banned from Twitter. An anodyne statement of biological reality qualifies as “hate speech” for some of the gnomes at Twitter HQ. Murphy received a rote notification that “you may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”
Excuse me, but that sound you heard was me spitting my coffee across the desk. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been harassed on Twitter on some of the above grounds. Twitter has benefits, but let’s face it, threats, vile abuse, and harassment have become a key part of Twitter’s brand. Louis Farrakhan has an account. Terrorists romp through its pixels with ease, and the Russians deploy bots like biological agents. Only a select few offenders are punished or banned.
When founder Jack Dorsey was asked on Sam Harris’s podcast why suspensions and other disciplinary actions always seem to go in a PC direction, Dorsey was phlegmatic, “I don’t believe we should optimize for neutrality.” That was Silicon Valley–speak for “We are not fair.”
That is his right. It’s a free country, and, though hailed as the national cyber townhall, Twitter is a private company. It has declined to engage Murphy directly (Dorsey: “We don’t have a robust appeals process”) but has churned out agitprop about “hateful conduct” with metronomic regularity. This is not to say that Twitter applies even its own vague and shifting standards evenly. I and others have tweeted concerns about the trans movement — particularly with regard to children — without repercussions. But that must have been sheer luck. In Murphy’s case, the company targeted her for violating a policy that it had changed without any public notice. This is the new ban on so-called “deadnaming” — using the former name of a person who transitioned to the other sex. If Murphy’s lawsuit gains any traction, the company may have to explain itself. Until then, we are left to consider the Orwellian dystopia that travels under the name progressivism.
One of Meghan Murphy’s thoughtcrimes consisted of asking, in response to someone else, “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” That is what is known as a challenge, not an epithet. It earned her a warning. She also referred to a trans-identified male as “he” — that is the forbidden practice of “misgendering.”
Murphy, along with many feminists and some conservatives, resists the trans movement’s efforts to permit people who are born male to enter women’s restrooms, locker rooms, prisons, and other environments where, as Murphy puts it, “women feel uncomfortable seeing a penis.” This is a live issue. In Washington D.C., women at a downtown health club have retreated to toilet stalls to change clothes, since the club now refrains from stopping men who enter the women’s changing room. Who’s to say who belongs where? Wouldn’t want to put a foot wrong in the new gender-neutral utopia. One trans person Murphy identified in print as male was seeking to counsel women at a rape crisis center in Vancouver, though the center hires only women.
Murphy’s website, Feminist Current, has questioned the science and ideology behind transgenderism, and Murphy is indignant that people with XY chromosomes can compete in women’s sports. Personally, I might have taken a softer tone, adding some acknowledgement that people with gender dysphoria deserve compassion. But Murphy is expressing a point of view, dammit, and way too many opinion arbiters here in Oceania won’t have it.
Twitter is hardly alone. Many a mandatory diversity workshop, college orientation, and hotel policy does the same. Three female undergraduates are suing Yale for a fraternity culture that they say enables harassment. Fraternity parties, they claim, place men in positions of power. Ok, but notice the language in the lawsuit: “Simply put, fraternities elevate men to social gatekeepers and relegate women and non-binary students to sexual objects.” Non-binary students?
Murphy’s objection is that this sudden reimagining of what it means to be human has been imposed, not agreed upon, and certainly not discovered by science. Many women, concerned about hurting someone’s feelings, especially — as Murphy phrases it, someone from “a marginalized group” — are shy about standing up for themselves and their own comfort. Above all, these matters need frank discussion, not authoritarian diktats issuing from our Twitter overlords.
— Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.