By: Madeleine Kearns – nationalreview.com – April 16, 2023
In the 19th and 20th centuries, minstrel shows featuring white actors in blackface — dark makeup worn to make them look black — spread throughout the United States. This practice was laughed off as entertainment. Today, it’s considered to be racial appropriation and stereotyping. But aren’t men who impersonate women similarly guilty of appropriation and stereotyping? If blackface is racist, then surely “womanface” is sexist.
Theatrical cross-dressing has been around for centuries. On the stage, these performances were often ironic and humorous. But there is also a more sinister kind of female impersonation, one that serves to advance the anti-woman ideology of transgenderism.
It was not uncommon in minstrel shows for white people to portray African Americans as ignorant and criminal, reinforcing racist sentiments. And with transgenderism, it is not uncommon for men to portray women as hypersexualized and airheaded.
Perhaps the most prominent example is the Jim Crow of “womanface” — Dylan Mulvaney, the male TikTok influencer, currently on his tour celebrating “365 days of girlhood.” Mulvaney has enjoyed phenomenal success. He has been picked up by major brands from Bud Light to Kate Spade. But many women find his prancing around in dresses and carrying tampons to be deeply insulting. What does he know about female experiences?
On social media, some women have responded by celebrating their days of womanhood. One social-media user wrote that she has “been a woman for 27,088 days. I’ve given birth to two boys, miscarried once, survived breast cancer. A man can never be a woman.” Another wrote: “Today I celebrate 21,191 days being a woman. I have 3 beautiful children. I have also suffered 2 miscarriages.”
Another woman, celebrating “12,065 days of being a woman” wrote: “I’m a sister, aunt, daughter, granddaughter, and now a mother. I’ve endured 229 menstrual cycles. I’ve been pregnant one time & gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. My body grew a human child, and my body is now feeding a human child. No man can say he has done these things because you cannot change your gender.”
Another woman wrote: “I celebrate 20,756 days of being a woman. I’m a former women’s college athlete, a daughter, a sister and a lesbian [who has] survived breast cancer and been through early menopause.”
Obviously, there are challenges and sacrifices unique to being a woman. Being a woman, by definition, means having female anatomy. Having female anatomy affects everything from a woman’s fertility and sexuality to her physical vulnerabilities relative to men.
Men impersonate women for all sorts of reasons, not all of them ideological. Some are tormented by gender dysphoria and hate their bodies. Others are uncomfortable with their sexuality. Some get a sexual thrill out of putting on women’s clothing. Others are opportunistic and have figured out it’s easier to win sympathy or even sports competitions by impersonating a female.
With blackface, we don’t discriminate based on a person’s intentions. When Rachel Dolezal identified as black, despite having no black ancestry, going so far as to change her hair and darken her skin, she was widely condemned. She had no ill intent. She merely “identified” as black. Besides, race is arguably much more of a social construct than sex is. Yet for some reason with sex, it’s a different story. Female impersonators are not only tolerated, they’re glorified as representing the pinnacle of womanhood.
In the late 20th century, feminists argued against “biological essentialism,” the idea that a woman’s behavior, interests, and abilities are all predetermined by sex. Some made the mistake of conflating sex with sexism, and attacking both. What we need is a movement of biological realism. An acknowledgment that women and men are sexually distinct and complementary. That one sex cannot become the other, and that it is harmful to pretend otherwise.
Perhaps the greatest silver lining of the transgender movement has been how it exposes the follies of disregarding sex and sexual difference. “Womanface” is the new blackface. It’s time to get outraged.
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