When Bad Ideas Get Loose: Identity Politics and the Ivory Tower

By John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris:

So far, in each of the movies in the “Jurassic Park” franchise, the genetically-resurrected dinosaurs that terrorize tourists, lawyers, and scientists mostly stay on the island. But in the newest movie, the dinosaurs escape and terrorize America, doing… what movie dinosaurs do best: victimize people in increasingly creative ways.

This is not unlike what happens when experimental ideas get loose in a culture, though the damage ideas do is more profound, subtle, and lasting. Plus, it happens in the real world and not on a Hollywood set.

That sort of describes a remarkable confession, offered in writing at the Quillette website recently. Christopher Dummitt, an historian of culture and politics, owns up to a particularly nasty idea he helped release into the wild: the notion that gender is socially constructed. He now says he can’t believe how quickly the idea took over and even wishes he could undo it. In his own words, and I quote: “I was making it all up.”

Of course, he didn’t think so at the time. Dummitt and other social constructionists who applied postmodern thought to the sexes truly believed they were uncovering hidden power structures that oppressed whole groups of people. They argued that everything—even the obvious differences between men and women—were social constructs designed to preserve white male power and keep marginalized groups down.

He now admits there was no proof for any of this. In fact, when he needed proof, he just cited other scholars who said what he was saying—especially, he writes, “if their names were French.”

Read more: Breakpoint