The Emperor's New Gender

Frankfurt School

Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly insecure that he spent all his money and time on searching for others' affirmation. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to hear from others talking about him. He had a different thought about himself for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, "The King's in council," here they always said. "The Emperor's asking others about himself."

In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were critical theorists, and they said they could tweak the most magnificent ideas imaginable that were able to defy reality. Not only were their ideas uncommonly extravagant, but their tongues had a wonderful way of convincing anyone who did not seem to understand them that he was unusually stupid.

"Those would be just the ideas for me," thought the Emperor. "If I learned them I would be able to make all men in my empire think about me in magnificent terms. And I could tell those who love me from those who don't. Yes, I certainly must get some of those ideas taught to me right away." He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once, appointing them professors at the local university.

They set up a Department of Gender, Critical and Intersectional Studies, and pretended to teach and research, though there was nothing real being taught or researched. All the finest grants and the highest salaries which they demanded went into their pockets, while they worked the empty ideas of Marxism, infused with psychologism and a heavy dose of relativism, far into the night.

"I'd like to know how those critical theorists are getting on with the Department of Gender, Critical and Intersectional Studies," the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who did not understand the grandiloquent verbiage of the critical theorists was surely stupid. It couldn't have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the ideas' peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbors were.

"I'll send my honest old minister to the critical theorists," the Emperor decided. "He'll be the best one to tell me how the ideas sound like, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty better."

So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat spewing away about base and superstructure, oppression, whiteness, and non-binary narratives at their empty classrooms and humanities labs.

"Heaven help me," he thought as his eyes flew wide open, "I can't understand anything at all". But he did not say so.

Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent ideas, the beautiful papers they were publishing. They pointed to the pages and pages of nonsensical drivel, and the poor old minister listened and read as hard as he dared. He couldn't understand anything, because there was nothing to understand. "Heaven have mercy," he thought. "Can it be that I'm stupid? I'd have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can't make sense out of those ideas."

"Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it," said one of the critical theorists.

"Oh, it's pure wisdom -it's compelling argumentation against the oppression by the Western patriarchy." The old minister peered through his spectacles. "Such explanations, what ideas!" I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it."

"We're pleased to hear that," the critical theorists said. They proceeded to name all the terminology and to explain the intricate rationale behind it. The old minister paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the Emperor. And so he did.

The critical theorists at once asked for more money, more grants and subsidies, to get on with the teaching and researching. Scores of gullible and impressionable adolescents from the elite (or with dreams of being part of it) lined up to register as students! But it all went into their pockets. Not a single idea of worth went into journals or books, though they worked at their teaching and researching as hard as ever.

The Emperor presently sent another trustworthy official to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the minister. He listened and he read, but as there was nothing to be understood from the nonsensical explanations and writing by the critical theorists he couldn't figure out anything.

"Isn't it a beautiful piece of academia?" the critical theorists asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary reinvention of marxism.

"I know I'm not stupid," the man thought, "so it must be that I'm unworthy of my good office. That's strange. I mustn't let anyone find it out, though." So he praised the ideas he did not even comprehend for they were clumsily written. He declared he was delighted with the great success of the Department of Gender, Critical and Intersectional Studies at the Imperial University. To the Emperor he said, "It held me spellbound."

All the town was talking of this splendid ideology, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the making. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom were his two old trusted officials --the ones who had been to the critical theorists-- he set out to see the two critical theorists. He found them writing and talking with might and main, but without a single solid and real idea in their journals, books, course materials, or workshops.

"Magnificent," said the two officials already duped. "Just look, Your Majesty, what ideas! How innovative and daring!" They pointed to the empty discourses of the critical theorists, each supposing that the others could decipher the pseudo-intellectual drivel.

"What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't understand anything. This is terrible! Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! - Oh! It's very interesting," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded approbation at the empty results of the critical theorists. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't grasp anything.

His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, "Oh! It's very interesting," and they advised him to adopt ideas taken from this wonderful body of intellectual work, especially for the great procession he was soon to lead. "Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!" were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the critical theorists a huge pay rise, and the title of "Tenured Professor."

Before the procession the critical theorists sat up all night and spent more than half of their budget in social justice protests and anti-whiteness workshops, to show how busy they were finishing the Emperor's new ideas. They attended talkshows to spew their nonsense. They were interviewed by the finest newspapers and magazines. Everyone, worried about appearing stupid (or upsetting the Emperor!) praised worn off and silly ideas as daring and original instead. And at last they said, "Now the Emperor's new ideas are ready for him."

Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the critical theorists each held up high their finger, ready to pontificate, but there was nothing original or true in their ideas. They said, "You are oppressed by the white cis patriarchy, the West has repressed the expression of your true self, and since everything is socially constructed, you are, in reality, a woman of color with a physical handicap," naming each attribute as if it were a medal on the chest of the Emperor in a sort of Olympics of victimhood. "You may deny all of these sufferings you have been inflicted with just because you have to break through your imposed whiteness. One would almost think that what we just told you is not reality, but that's what makes it true."

"Exactly," all the noblemen agreed, though they could understand nothing, for there was nothing to understand.

"If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your symbols of oppressive patriarchy that you have been forced to wear," said the critical theorists, "we will help you on with symbols of your true liberation from the shackles of the western binaries and rotten capitalism."

The Emperor undressed, and the critical theorists put him a dress, lipstick, combed an afro on his head, and gave him a crutch to use while walking. They placed several pins on his blouse, one with an image of Che Guevara, another one with a gender unicorn, and a third one with a hammer and sickle, as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass and repeated to himself: I am a woman, an oppressed minority victim of patriarchal whiteness, and whoever denies it is also oppressing me, making all subjects of the empire, at least, obliged to condescend and love me.

"How well Your Majesty's new identity looks. Isn't it becoming!" He heard on all sides, "That identity, so perfect! That victimhood, so suitable! It is a magnificent lived experience." Then the minister of public processions announced: "Your Majesty's canopy is waiting outside."

"Well, I'm supposed to be ready," the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. "It is a remarkable fit, isn't it? So political! So daring!" He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.

The noblemen who were to accompany him raised a fist and cartels denouncing men as rapists, anyone who thought different as nazis, and guilt as the only thing the subjects of the kingdom should feel if they were to deny the Emperor's new identity. They didn't dare admit the Emperor was a man, beneficiary of capitalism, and that he wasn't handicapped.

So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh, how fine is the Emperor's new identity! Don't those ideas fit him to perfection? And see his hardened semblance from all those years of being denies his true gender!" Nobody would confess that he couldn't see the reality, for that would prove him either an oppressor, or a fool. No display of insecurity the Emperor had displayed before was ever such a complete success.

"But he's a rich white man and thus he has a penis," a little child said.

"Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?" said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "He's a rich white man. A child says he is actually white and what the cartels say is pure nonsense."

"But that's just regurgitated marxism reshuffled as identity politics! He is a bloody man!" the whole town cried out at last.

The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the cartels with stupid political messages that made absolutely no sense at all. Inside xer, though, she was ready to deplatform critics, shame them publicly, and get them permanently banned from Twitter.