I’ve lost count of how many seminars I’ve had to sit through on Diversity & Inclusion, how many times I’ve been asked for my preferred pronouns and expected to discuss what I think ‘bringing my whole self to work’ really means. Conservatives mock these practices and complain that our lives seem to be dictated by a new moral order to which we did not consent. But we’re missing the forest for the trees. The problem with virtue signaling goes far beyond its annoying and unwelcome intrusions into our lives. We have been utterly hoodwinked. Or at least, I was.
Sitting in my bathroom last week in the middle of my third miscarriage, blood, tears and expletives pouring out of me, I felt frustrated and stressed out. Not isolated and devastated, though that came a short while later. No: in the moment I was frustrated and stressed out because I had an important meeting a few hours later. Three very busy people had scheduled their afternoons around speaking with me in Midtown.
I panicked. What could I say? When you break your leg, you say so. When you get a concussion, you say so. But I couldn’t say, ‘I’m terribly sorry but I’ve just started miscarrying and I simply can’t get to your offices at the time we agreed upon due to all the crying and all the contracting.’
And then I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘Why couldn’t I say that?’ We’re in the umpteenth wave of feminism, and yet the tangible gains made by everyone except the early pioneers are negligible. Sure, if you’re a New York City broker and you’re showing an apartment, you can’t call that comfortable room with the TV and the couch and the bookshelves the ‘family room’ — because that would be so discriminatory that buyers without families might just self-immolate all over the parquet. And sure, this season of Survivor started with millions of viewers being subject to not one, but two — two! — conversations about whether or not ‘Come on in, guys’ is unfair to women. And OK, we’re now expecting the scientific community to rename not just the pudendum, but the entirety of the female reproductive tract because apparently it’s unacceptable that the fallopian tubes might be named for a man — gasp!— called Gabriele Fallopius.
We often stop to laugh, or cry, about our obscene modern obsession with ‘progress’. But do we ever stop to ask whether demonstrating our alleged progress has replaced progress itself?
I’m thinking back to my time working for a company specifically known for its family-friendly vibe. Despite that facade, I was paid not a single cent during my maternity leave. I’m thinking back to another workplace, in which my 30-odd member team had a single black employee. I’m thinking back to all those ridiculous seminars on Diversity & Inclusion we all, including her, were forced to sit through. Our corporations take the easy path, and we let them. Nay, we encourage it. They make statements, mandate trainings and shout from the rooftops ‘We are progressive. We are woke. Forgive us, even if we have not actually sinned.’
Hypocrisy is nothing new. The media mammoth covered #MeToo with a vengeance, only to shrug when it turned out that similar misdeeds were happening in its own ranks. The senators and activists who said ‘Believe all women’ turned out not to believe us, if it meant rankling prominent members of their party. But our willingness to believe in a progress that doesn’t exist — that’s new. And it’s pathetic.
Maybe you realized this long ago. It didn’t hit me until I was doubled over in pain, sitting in my bathroom, crying my eyes out, too stressed out about my professional concerns to even be able to take a minute to start mourning my personal ones. I wanted so desperately to be able to say to the Midtown men whose time I had wasted: ‘I am very sorry to have to reschedule this meeting, unfortunately and tragically I am in the middle of a miscarriage.’ I didn’t, because I couldn’t. Because for all of our alleged ‘normalizing’ and ‘destigmatizing’ and ‘equalizing’, we have actually made demonstrably little progress when it comes to women in the workforce.
Conservatives are no less guilty here than progressives. Conservatives have spent less time focusing on progress for progress’s sake, so at least we recognize actual progress when it stares us down. Progressives have spent so much time fighting battles that don’t actually need to be won that it seems that all of us have forgotten we still haven’t won the battles we very much do need to win. If I read another article advocating for free bleeding, a disgusting practice in which women, in some perverse political statement, do not wear any kind of tampon or pad and instead allow their periods to flow, unimpeded, my brains will explode through my ears, also unimpeded.
The same is true for the left’s — and increasingly, the scientific community’s — newfound obsession with saying ‘pregnant people’ and ‘lactating people’ instead of ‘women’. I understand that there is a tiny segment of the transgender population that probably appreciates this verbiage, but meanwhile plenty of workplaces in this country still don’t have lactation rooms, and still find ways to get out of paying maternity leave. Women are letting ourselves, our employers and our generation off the hook on some important issues because we’re forced to pay lip service to imaginary ones.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s November 2021 World edition.