On Courage and Cowardice

Posted on November 26, 2022

AUFKLÄRUNG ist der Ausgang des Menschen aus seiner selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit. Unmündigkeit ist das Unvermögen, sich seines Verstandes ohne Leitung eines anderen zu bedienen. Selbstverschuldet ist diese Unmündigkeit, wenn die Ursache derselben nicht am Mangel des Verstandes, sondern der Entschließung und des Mutes liegt, sich seiner ohne Leitung eines andern zu bedienen. Sapere aude! Habe Mut, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen! ist also der Wahlspruch der Aufklärung. – Immanuel Kant, Was ist Aufklärung?

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere aude.) “Have the courage to use your own understanding,” is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.

Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated. – George Bernard Shaw


If you are a woman with gender critical beliefs studying at the Institute for Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) in London you could, until a week or so ago, have been denounced as a witch. See the display above. After this picture attracted negative attention on social media, the authorities took it down and issued a lame excuse. But it still holds, in Great Britain and here in the Netherlands, that it takes a modicum of courage to stand with the ‘terfs’ and assert with them that trans women have no place in women’s spaces. And it takes no courage at all to side with the trans activists, assert that trans women are women, and denounce and report the ‘terfs’.

Courage is the extreme end of a spectrum that has cowardice as its other end. By studying one thing, one gains an understanding of the other thing as well, and our world in turmoil provides abundant evidence of both. Volodymyr Zelensky is a man of courage and Vladimir Putin is a coward. Nancy Pelosi displayed courage during the January 6 attack on the Capitol, as has become clear from recent footage. Donald Trump, who fired up the angry mob and directed it at her, is a coward. The Iranian women who are taking off their scarfs are the most courageous of all. And the men in the Iranian religious police who are lashing out at women with sticks are the greatest cowards.

Kathleen Stock, a philosopher who has been harassed for three years because of her views on gender and sex, showed great courage when she accepted an invitation issued by philosophy professor Arif Ahmed to debate the question `This house believes in the right to offend’, at the University of Cambridge. For her, it must have been like climbing aboard a fighter plane again after having been shot down, for last year she was downed by abuse, when the transactivist bullies chased her from her professor’s position at the University of Sussex. “Huge win for the Sussex LGBTQ+ community.” Kathleen Stock’s opponents in the Cambridge debate were all undergraduate students, because graduates and senior staff lacked the guts to engage with her. That’s what cowardice looks like in academia.

Kathleen Stock is not transphobic, by the way. Here is a literal quote from her book Material Girls: ‘Trans people are trans people. We should get over it. They deserve to be safe, to be visible throughout society without shame or stigma, and to have exactly the life opportunities non-trans people do.’ How is that transphobic?

Courage inspires and cowardice numbs. JK Rowling has courage. Her detractors are showing, again and again, that they are cowards. Nobody in the trans activist community has the courage to engage in honest debate with Rowling. The activists are all afraid of her, and their fear gets transmuted into hatred. Nobody in the trans activist community has the guts to debate Kathleen Stock (author of Material Girls) or Helen Joyce (author of Trans) either. Cowards, all of them. University staff in Great Britain, at the University of Sussex and the University of Cambridge, have shown themselves to be cowards. Cowardice galore among university administrators, journal and newspaper editors, and staff at publishing houses, but unfortunately also among the scientists, journalists and writers working for them. The journalists and staff who bullied Suzanne Moore and Hadley Freeman, both fine writers and women of courage, and chased them from The Guardian were cowards.

There is absolutely no need for sophisticated new and original philosophical thought to spot the absurdities in trans activism. What is needed, instead, is just a dash of moral courage, to defend the obvious against the onslaught of the ridiculous. Look at this picture of a trans woman taking first prize in a recent beauty pageant for girls, in the USA.

One would think that this picture puts the misogyny of transgenderism on full display, but I know there are gender ideologues who view the smiling girls as proof that they are “supporting a trans woman with love and compassion” (this is a literal quote). I believe that these people, if they are not flatout lying, are gravely mistaken. The smiling girls in the picture were duped and they were cowered into submission. But maybe you can only see this once you grasp that trans activism is an abusive cult.

You don’t need training in philosophy to notice the absurdity of gender ideology. You don’t need a degree in biology to be able to see that there are two sexes. You don’t need to be a doctor of medicine to know that women can give birth and men cannot. You don’t need any academic qualification at all to notice that biological sex is real. And the only thing it takes to deny all these facts is cowardice.

People who voted for the bloated and overweight trans woman who received first prize in the beauty pageant did not do so because they truly believed she was the most beautiful or accomplished lady. They did so because they did not dare not to. Instead of thinking and judging for themselves, as philosopher Immanuel Kant urges us to do, they engaged in virtue signaling, i.e., in saying “Please don’t cancel me, for I agree with the ideology”. Virtue signaling is the surest sign of moral cowardice. This kind of behaviour first leads to absurdities like the turnout of this beauty contest and eventually to the atrocities of absolutist regimes.

Speaking truth about gender ideology can easily lead to social ostracism, to online harassment and to death threats, as in the cases of J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Moore. Or it can cost you your job, when the pack of gender bullies starts filing complaints about you with your employer. And if your employer is a university board consisting of cowards, as it was in the case of Kathleen Stock, the result for you is absolute misery. Still not nearly as bad as ending up in jail in Russia or Iran, but scary enough in countries where job safety used to be the norm.

Here is another picture for you. In this case the women that were duped make it completely clear that they are not “supporting a trans woman with love and compassion”. The swimming victory of Lia Thomas was a grave injustice to them. It seems to me that any sane person would agree. I do not dare to speculate about the motive of Lia Thomas for playing this cruel game: a quite mediocre swimmer when competing against males, Thomas suddenly became a champion when (s)he started to identify as a woman and to demand access to swimming contests in her new gender. Why would anyone act like this? If this is not hatred of women, what is it?

It seems to me that one can support trans women without giving them access to women-only spaces, all-female sports, or beauty contests for women. Unfortunately, trans activists agitate against all women who are defending their sex-based rights. That’s the only way I can understand the vitriol thrown at people like J.K. Rowling. O wait, maybe the insight in the quote above from George Bernard Shaw is also part of the explanation.

David Hume was right when he observed that we cannot derive an ought from an is: morality cannot be grounded in fact. It is precisely for this reason that our moral sense of right and wrong is a very precious thing. I feel a wave of disgust and anger running through my spine if I look at the pictures of the beauty pageant and the swimming contest. It is the same feeling as when I see the dreadful footage from Iran. If other people cannot sense this, or suggest it is all `frames’, there is nothing more that I can say. We live in different universes.

Feelings and facts about feelings do matter. It is quite easy to find out how women (in the old fashioned sense) feel about the presence of trans women (i.e., biological males) in beauty contests, women-only spaces, competitive sports for women, women prisons, etcetera. A bit of research on twitter will make it abundantly clear to anyone who is interested that the women who are affected by this consider it a grave injustice. Those who are still denying this might ask themselves why they do not want to know.

Upon further reflection, maybe cowardice is not the only explanation of what is going on when people applaud the presence of trans women in women-only spaces. The girls in the beauty pageant were clearly duped when an outsized transgender took their first prize and their prize money. Then why are these girls laughing and smiling at the winner? Doesn’t that show they are pleased with the outcome? Well, it doesn’t, for there is a much better explanation. These girls were putting on a brave face because they knew that if they showed even the slightest sign of dissatisfaction, their lives would be made utterly miserable by trans activists. They were cowered into submission. And that’s precisely why this is abuse.

That this outcome was an outrage, insulting and humiliating for the other girls in the beauty contest, the real girls I mean, should be obvious to anyone with a functioning moral compass. So how can one not see this? I now have a choice of five explanations.

  1. You are lying about what you truly believe out of fear of the woke mob, because you are a coward.

  2. You are lying about what you truly believe because you personally know men who have come to believe they are women, and you don’t want to upset them.

  3. You are unable to perceive the abuse, because your moral awareness is blunted by your ideology. You have been brainwashed into believing this is a good thing.

  4. You are aware of the abuse, but you simply don’t care, because, hey, it is just a silly beauty contest for girls, and you hate women.

  5. You are aware of the abuse, but you pretend not to see it, because spiting an opponent in the gender debate is more important to you.

Any other possible explanations, anyone?