Cynicism’s Big Splash

Lia Thomas finally may have exited the pool, but have no worries—this swimmer isn’t done taking laps. Thomas’ success in the pool delighted left-wing activists and pundits alike. He also dominated and benefited from conservative media coverage whenever he dove in. Towering over his double X chromone encumbered teammates, he was ready for his close-up much as fading star Norma Desmond was joyful at the crowd of detectives around her at the climax of “Sunset Boulevard.” No doubt movies, books, and speaker’s honoraria are already under consideration. 

We are such fools. Wokeism has become so profitable, it has and will continue to be exploited cynically by amoral and truly shameless actors such as Thomas and Ketanji Brown Jackson, whose nomination to the Supreme Court the U.S. Senate will almost certainly confirm. Thomas knows that’s not two pronouns or participles tucked in his bathing suit, and Jackson, having given birth, knows what a woman is. In Kid Rock’s 2001 song “Picture,” the female protagonist opines, “Everyone knows, but they won’t tell.” Thomas and Jackson’s public disowning of their sex is not about sparing others’ feelings. It is about denying their true existential selves.

Thomas will never be stripped of his NCAA women’s title, and Jackson will probably ascend to the highest court in the land. Cynicism used to be used to good purpose. Comedians and satirists have long made their living with it. In the hands of the skilled entertainer, it was thought-provoking and fun. Thomas and Jackson, however, are reaching the heights of their respective careers while playing us all for pecuniary and political gain. This is opportunism that capitalizes on our passivity toward obvious untruth. It is socially lethal to us all, not just women and girls. 

In the hands of Thomas and Jackson, their enablers at Penn, activist groups like the Sixteen Thirty Fund and Demand Justice, cognitive dissonance is a weapon. Thomas used it to gut United States Code Title IX. Jackson used it to subvert the judicial confirmation process to ensure a lawmaking judge is appointed to the high court. They know we know. They are banking on our cowardice. 

This exploitive cynicism is also found on the Right. Former Olympian Bruce Jenner’s gold medals weren’t attracting endorsements, but Caitlyn Jenner—with high heels, ESPN’s Courage Award, and a Glamour “Woman of the Year” award in 2015—is now officially the go-to LGBTQ diversity hire for right-leaning Fox News. Jenner’s conservative opinions are not particularly novel or groundbreaking, but the feminine identity he claims for himself still makes headlines—and money. At least Jenner votes Republican, right? (For now anyway.) But Jenner has hurt women, and it was stolen valor when he accepted those accolades. As a celebrity in his own right, the 1976 Olympic gold-medal decathalete could and should have achieved continuing success on his own merits without displacing legitimate female voices. Jenner is standing on the backs of women, just as Thomas is. 

Sadly, the young women who competed against Thomas were cowed into silence, threatened with removal from the team and loss of scholarship. Those who complained to the media did so anonymously, as did their angry parents. National women’s rights groups were also silent. After all, against the great enemy of the patriarchy, the muscle of men in dresses is appreciated—even as they take titles based on this assumed identity rather than true merit. A trophy or plaque sells a fundraiser table and attracts votes, does it not?

There is a way to guard and defend against those who profit from these social deceits. For these peddlers to succeed, there must be a market. So don’t buy into it with silence. The parents of Loudoun County, Virginia, were brave enough to reveal their names before taking down and removing the toxic leadership of their school board.

We need to give our names at public meetings, vote against wokeism at election time, and cease being afraid to engage in public and private discourse. It is not sustainable to live in the warped reality these bad actors are selling. They are starring in their own morality play, and we’re buying tickets. Liars thrive on passivity, and our self-censorship empowers them. A female teammate who dared to give her name to the press had reason to fear reprisal. There would have been strength in numbers if the whole team had dared to publish their grievances and then backed it up by refusing to swim. 

For truth to triumph, we must be brave enough to upstage the liars publicly and rewrite the script. The audience is out there. Break a leg.

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About Elizabeth Fortunato

Elizabeth Fortunato is a wife and mother from New York. She has a background in liberal arts and philosophy.

Photo: Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images