Recently, in what appears to be a defence of trans-gender rights (a just cause) some people have tried to make a distinction between “sex” and “gender”. I think it’s a way of challenging old curmudgeons who mutter “If you’ve got a Y chromosome you’re a boy, dangnammit! Live with it!”
When asked to explain, the supporters of the Sex/Gender dichotomy tend to trail to a halt, because, while there may be some carefully defined distinction on Gender Studies courses, on the streets there is no difference at all. They are completely synonymous.
Similarly, “Cultural Appropriation” and all the “White-”s (White Privilege, Blindness, shame, solidarity, etc.) may be very useful labels in academic discourse and analysis, but in the streets, and on social media, they all just communicate the same sense of resentment and score settling. They are used to destroy individuals rather than critique society.
Activists know that words can encode power, and thus preserve it. They wish to wrest language from the vested interests by coining new terms that better reflect their values and ideas. But to do this, they are trying to impose their meanings on everyone else, top down. And, due to the power of the internet, not without success.
I sense the high-handed arrogance of academics in this. They can become too used to being experts, having their every word taken down by anxious undergraduates. But, really, what gives them the right to decide what words mean? Because they went to university? Because they have tenure? Who says “sex” and “gender” have different meanings? I never consented to that.
It is coercive. It enforces conformity to the cause of non-conformity with the threat of mass persecution and exclusion. And this is effective because everyone wants to belong.