A gender history professor from Canada, Christopher Dummitt, acknowledges that the belief that male-female differences are entirely “socially constructed” is a made-up idea.
That’s right, he admits that an ideology he built his career on – that sexual differences are completely detached from biology – is not true.
His article in the online journal Quillette is titled, “‘I Basically Just Made It Up’: Confessions of a Social Constructionist.” He explains that academic fields such as gender studies, women’s studies, cultural history and the history of race and sexuality are rooted in this invented theory: “Each of these fields shared the same worldview as I did—that just about every identity was a social construction. And, that identity was all about power.”
When he was first studying and promulgating these beliefs in the 1990s, Dummit says not everyone bought into them: “Back then, quite a few people disagreed with me. Almost nobody who hadn’t been exposed to such theories at a university could bring themselves to believe that sex was wholly a social construct, because such beliefs went against common sense.”
He continues, “That’s what makes it so amazing that the cultural turnaround on this issue has happened so quickly.”
Indeed. This “big idea,” that men and women are the same except for socially constructed differences, has become hugely influential. Just think about a few areas where gender ideology has changed our culture:
- Marriage: If men and women are virtually interchangeable, why not have male-male or female-female relationships and marriages?
- Parenting: Since men and women are no different, children don’t need a mother and a father; two women or two men can parent just as well.
- Sports: Why should we have sex-segregated sports if all differences between men and women are socially constructed?
- Education: Children should be taught that there are no differences between boys and girls and that they can be whatever gender they choose.
- Laws: Now that we know that gender is a social construct, we should revise all non-discrimination laws so that “sex” includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Entertainment: Clearly the “gender binary” is an arbitrary, constricting notion, so we must portray and celebrate a wide variety of identities and relationships.
Dummit explains how he justified and promoted the idea in his academic writing and teaching. First, he would describe how history and cultures were changeable; ideals and definitions of masculinity and femininity have been different in various times and places. To demonstrate this, he’d use an example from history, like the idea from the 1920s that infant boys should be dressed in pink and baby girls should wear blue. This would reveal, he writes: “What we thought of as the absolute certain truth of gender had actually changed over time. Gender wasn’t binary: It was variable and maybe infinite.”
Second, Dummit would argue that these differences weren’t just about identity, they were about so much more. They were about power and oppression. Anyone arguing against this, anyone who said that boys and girls were different and that pink and blue clothes were merely incidental, was arguing for a hierarchical power structure that oppressed others.
Finally, he’d dive into history to create an explanation about why, at that point in time, it was important for society to use these socially constructed male-female differences to maintain power, especially male power over oppressed women. It also helped, he says, to throw in some quotes from French philosophers and other academics who believed this social construction theory. Over time, social constructionism morphed into the myriad identity studies and politics we face today.
When Dummit was studying and writing about these issues, few academics challenged his beliefs. He says, “I never engaged—at least not seriously—with anyone who suggested otherwise. And no one, at any point of my graduate studies, or in peer review, ever did suggest otherwise—except in conversations, usually outside of academia.” The university world was an echo chamber where everyone heard the same repeated arguments.
While he offers an apology for having promulgated this false ideology, he acknowledges that social constructionism is deeply entrenched in the academic world. And, he admits, it continues to be used to influence culture and policy: “My flawed reasoning, and other scholarship using the same defective thinking, now is being taken up by activists and governments to legislate a new moral code of conduct. It was one thing when I was having drinks with fellow grad students and battling it out in the inconsequential world of our own egos. But now much more is at stake.”
He’s right. Truth matters, and gender ideology now adversely affects every area of our lives. Christians do well to acknowledge, teach and celebrate the God-designed, biological differences between men and women.