Regular readers of Cold Spring Shops recall "'Problematic' is a favorite term of the Perpetually Aggrieved, who generally use it to mean 'I don't exactly agree with what you just said, but I don't want to do the work of rebutting it.'" Now comes Lionel Shriver, in Harper's, no less, saying effectively the same thing.
Rare instances of left-wing understatement, “problematic” and “troubling” are coyly nonspecific red flags for political transgression that obviate spelling out exactly what sin has been committed (thereby eliding the argument). Similarly, the all-purpose adjectival workhorse “inappropriate” presumes a shared set of social norms that in the throes of the culture wars we conspicuously lack. This euphemistic tsk-tsk projects the prim censure of a mother alarmed that her daughter’s low-cut blouse is too revealing for church. “Inappropriate” is laced with disgust, while once again skipping the argument. By conceit, the appalling nature of the misbehavior at issue is glaringly obvious to everyone, so what’s wrong with it goes without saying.
That's not even the strongest reprimand in the essay.
The premier example of this linguistic skulduggery—that is, winning an argument without the bother of actually having one—is the left’s increasingly successful imposition of the disagreeable-sounding term “cisgender.” The logic of the 1990s contrivance—“cis” being Latin for “on this side of,” as opposed to “trans,” meaning “on the other side of”—feels forced and inorganic. More crucially, to employ the adjective is to endorse the view that sex is “assigned” at birth rather than recognized as a biological fact. The word no sooner raises thorny debates regarding sex and gender than shuts them down.
Put another way, it's question-begging.  Maybe another of my questions from years ago will be answered.  "So answer me this: why is higher education letting people like this set the tone for the enterprise, particularly at the higher tiers of the U.S. News pecking order?"

Mr Shriver suggests it's more about a profession of faith than a devotion to honest inquiry.
Assumption of the left’s prescriptive patois may indicate solidarity with fellow travelers, but it also betokens the insularity and closed-mindedness of any indiscriminate embrace of fundamentalist dogma. It instantly alienates people who don’t sign up for the same set menu of views—which may sometimes be the intention. Referencing the “cis-heteronormative patriarchy” in discussions with strangers suggests either that you presume these people already agree with you on virtually everything, or that you’re only interested in talking to them if they do. Even if speaking to moderates, much less conservatives (who have their own coded lingo, such as “snowflakes,” “virtue signaling,” and “grievance culture”), you have shut down conversation.
(Hat tip: College Fix.)


Dr. Tufte said...

Steve, you might be interested in this bit of trivia. I first saw "cis" about 20 years ago. It was used in a history book to show the internal split of Austria-Hungary after 1848: cis was the Austrian side, and trans was the Hungarian one. I've never seen it anywhere else until the gender usage popped up a few years ago.

Stephen Karlson said...

Obviously written from a privileged Austrian-supremacist perspective!!!

I remember the chemistry context for this term from high school, something to do with isomers.

No way, though, am I going to refer to the Soviet part of the model railroad as the Cis-Siberian. South Donetsk, perhaps, just as Kaganovich intended, dear comrades.