Let me start this by saying the following: I have nothing but respect for Madeline Perez. She’s a great writer, a talented artist, an amazing EIC, and a good friend. I also appreciate her leadership of Binghamton Review, as I know she’s currently maintaining it as a conservative-principled platform that allows the voices of all to be heard, whether the reader personally agrees with them or not. All these things are what I genuinely believe to be true, and I hope that you, the reader, could understand that. That being said, I recently read Madeline’s two-part “LEFTIST MEME ALERT,” a four-page article spanning two issues regarding her misgivings towards current trends in the conservative movement, particularly regarding the LGBT community, women, and immigrants.
The article itself does a good job at pointing out some of the more ridiculous elements of these trends; Madeline does hilariously point out the absurdity of certain laws, such as how the “Save Women’s Sports Act” passed in Ohio could force children to undergo genital exams, a clear overstep of government. However, despite doing a reasonable job highlighting these more bizarre proposals, there are several points in the article which I believe misunderstand the arguments many mainstream conservative figures make regarding some (not all) of the proposals. Therefore, I see it as necessary to provide clarifications as to what the conservative argument actually is or things that take away from the article’s main argument.
The first issue comes when the article brings up some of the recent legislation, specifically regarding trans women. Now, it is worth noting that the article’s whole argument is that conservatives apply a “victimhood model,” basically stating that because conservatives don’t approve of something in one’s personal life, they must point to how such a thing is harmful to society or children. Again, it is worth noting that there is truth to this; the recent “groomer” trend among some conservative figures such as James Lindsay is a good example of this type of fear-mongering, which the article appropriately points out as shifting the conversation away from what is actually being discussed. What the article fails on, however, is that it does ignore some of the legitimate concerns that some have regarding these complex issues. For instance, the controversy regarding trans women competing with cis women boils down to whether 1) this provides a level playing field for female althetes and 2) if allowing such competition takes away from cis women who could have had a spot in the competition.
I should clearly emphasize: I am not making these arguments myself, but these are what conservatives argue. It is also worth noting that women athletes could qualify for scholarships from various institutions based on their athletic performance in high school. Should trans women qualify for such scholarships or not? The point I am trying to make to you, the reader, is not to walk away saying yes or no to any of these proposals, but rather the fact that this leads to a cascade of other questions whose answers will prove difficult to satisfy everyone. The article seems to at least partially acknowledge this, stating that such matters should be judged on a case-by-case basis, which I respect. However, to simply dismiss these concerns—all of them—as being nothing more than “conservative transphobia” represents a partial inability to grasp the full scope of what some of these conservative figures are stating.
Another point where the article seems to get a little confused is when discussing the recent “Parental Rights in Education” bill. The article again starts by noting the clear controversy. I especially agree with the fact that such legislation could negatively impact teachers who consider themselves a part of the LGBT community, who now feel forced to hide their identities to their students (although it is worth noting that the bill’s language specifically bans discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation, not just discussion of the LBGT community, as the article claims. Still, a fairly horrendous bill regardless). These are serious concerns that the article notes will be a disaster in the making. I myself don’t particularly agree with the bill, either, as the implications for free speech are concerning.
Where she goes wrong, however, is the fact that this bill is primarily aimed at an especially young demographic of students, with the highest age being about 8 to 9 years old. What many conservatives and the parents who promoted this bill argue is that such ages are not even developmentally ready for such topics, considering that many haven’t even gone through puberty. Part of the problem with this legislation is the incredibly vague language; what specifically about discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation does this prohibit? After all, children are at least partially aware of topics of identity. I suspect that most conservatives would potentially suggest a cap on what is and isn’t appropriate for discussion for these ages. A teacher should not be fired for having an identity outside of heteronormativity (a reasonable concern given the legislation), but what is the line for what the teacher can discuss? Obviously, a common talking point is “Drag Queen Story Hour”, an often pointed to and exaggerated example of what many conservatives decry as too far. But what about other parts of gender identity? Where does this fit in this discussion? What should children learn about sexual identity, and, more specifically, to what extent?
The problem in the article is that it assumes children are used in this “victim narrative” to punish teachers (which, in all fairness, is a valid point) rather than where a line should be drawn that will satisfy most conservatives. Is it true that some conservatives, like Matt Walsh, want to go further, and ban such discussion at all education levels? Yes, and that is obviously wrong. There are very clear points where this bill is simply ridiculous. But again, the article does avoid the question of when such discussion is necessary and what should qualify, as many conservatives like to bring up, instead going with the victim narrative, which weakens her argument.
The article also seems to have a general misunderstanding regarding the conservative argument on abortion (an issue I am, once again, personally neutral on). This comes primarily in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade, which practically set off an explosion of renewed dialogue in the United States. A controversial decision bound to ignite fury in the hearts of many? Absolutely! A risky political move by conservatives that might prove to have lacked foresight, given the upcoming midterms? Almost certainly. An issue delicately intertwined with a woman’s bodily autonomy? Perhaps, depending on what side of the argument you find yourself on.
In this case, the article again applies the “conservative victimhood” model, correctly pointing out that certain conservative figures point to abortion as ending a life. However, she argues that this is simply to punish sexual autonomy, cloaked only by thin desire to save a human life (perhaps true with some figures), but she forgets to include an additional piece of information that many conservative voters apply to abortion: conservatives believe that life begins at conception, meaning that once the sperm and egg form a zygote, it becomes a human being which can eventually survive out the womb. When does this life, and by extent personhood, begin? Again, that depends on who you ask, but again there is a necessity for a zygote to be formed.
The article does suggest that frozen or discarded embryos from in-vivo fertilization (IVF) should qualify for this treatment, and that conservatives should care about this waste. While I do think there is some truth to this in that it does present hypocrisy on part of conservatives, I also believe the reason conservatives don’t care as much about wasted frozen embryos as opposed to abortion is likely a result of their designed purpose. IVF provides options to at least preserve the embryos for a period of time, as this is meant primarily for those with fertility issues, although options exist for donating these samples for research. Abortion’s primary goal, by contrast, is a termination of the pregnancy. The fact that these other options for IVF exist is likely why most conservatives don’t usually don’t usually focus on frozen embryos. Could one dismiss the idea that an embryo has at least some degree of personhood so easily, as conservatives would argue? Is it true that some conservatives try to ban contraception for certain reasons? Yes, and this is a valid point, but again there is a bit of hand-waving that does ignore what conservatives argue regarding embryos.
One last point of contention I have with the article is the way that the author portrays those that promote such ideas, to the point where it takes away from the overall piece. While I do agree that the people that propose some of the more radical, absurd legislation or take part in the “groomer” labeling are wrong, it is also important to maintain one’s humanity while doing so. We have already seen an increasing polarization within our society in which there is an increased contempt for those that don’t hold the same political views as ourselves. We have already seen that those that identify to the right of the political spectrum use such labels, such as “libtard”. In my view, such insults are wrong, as it avoids genuine discussion in favor of a quick, easy label. In the article’s case, the author does something similar, using terms like “conservatard” and “republicunt”, for instance. This is, of course, a free speech platform, and it may be tempting to use such terms, especially if you are discussing a subject you are passionate about or believe something to be severely wrong. However, as a writer, it is your job to persuade the audience with your arguments; using such labels while simultaneously discussing controversial topics to an audience you are trying to convince you are right makes one come off as childish. You are free to use such terms, but it was deeply distracting from what you are trying to say. Again, stick to the argument without the insults, as it makes for a much more restrained, convincing piece.
With this in mind, I must again emphasize that I mostly agree with Madeline throughout her two articles. There are clear oversteps in many of the things she discusses, and should almost certainly be taken seriously. Between some of the ridiculousness of the proposed laws and the degradative trends in the conservative movement, the article has very good points. However, I also believe that there are parts of the article that do miss, at least partially, of what conservatives do argue, instead substituted for a convenient “conservative victimhood” narrative that, while true in some cases, does take away from the actual points in others. This, combined with the portrayal of these figures, ultimately weakens what should be an otherwise strong piece. Again, this should not be taken as some kind of insult, but rather as clarifications and advice to a massive article produced by a friend that I mostly agree with.