When Ron DeSantis signed a bill which banned the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity for third graders and below in Florida, the media and liberal activists quickly dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
This, of course, was exactly the sort of calculated, cynical disinformation that we have come to expect from the mainstream media. Such dishonesty is quite frustrating to ordinary conservatives; no reasonable person can be lied about and mocked for any great length of time without becoming angry.
A decade or so ago, in the Mitt Romney era of polite conservatism, Republicans might have folded under the weight of the lie. DeSantis and other Republicans might have been forced to retract the bill – or to pass it quietly and apologetically, mounting no fervent defense.
In the post-Trump era, Republicans are more willing to fight back on the enemy’s terms. DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, dubbed the law the “Anti-Grooming Bill,” and said that anyone who opposes it is “probably a groomer,” or complicit in the sexual grooming of children. Conservatives on social media have followed suit, throwing around the “groomer” smear with glee.
This is not an accurate description of the plain language of the Parental Rights in Education bill, which doesn’t mention “groomer” or “grooming” any more than it mentions “gay.” But it has been, for many, a deeply satisfying counterattack. At long last, conservatives are treating the left with a dose of their own medicine. Call us bigots? Okay, we’ll call you pedophiles. Fling mud at us, and we’ll fling it right back, and maybe our mud will stick.
All this groomer talk, though, misstates – in fact, understates – an already damning case against the Democrats’ educational agenda.
Grooming of children is commonly understood to occur when a predator gains the trust of a victim, in order to sexually abuse them later. This is not the goal of most leftist teachers, unless we are to significantly expand the definition of “grooming.” In doing so, we must beware of concept creep – the same phenomenon that has led to broadly expanded definitions of words like “racism” in recent years.
There are certainly some pedophile teachers out there, and they must be severely punished. The vast majority of Democrats who oppose the Florida law, however, do not want to have sex with children, but to brainwash them in left-wing ideology. This stems from the same motivation as the teaching of critical race theory: to turn children against the values of their parents and the United States, which these teachers see as a racist patriarchy in need of overthrowing.
Gender and sexuality ideology is only one facet of this larger agenda, although it is a key facet. In the gender feminist vision, men and women are born indistinguishable, and are semi-arbitrarily assigned gender roles at birth. (As Simone de Beauvoir wrote, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”) Transgender education is designed to remove sex as a means of human classification, so that children can shift between male or female at will.
A sexual predator may attempt to control the victim’s mind via grooming, but with the primary objective of controlling their body. An ideological indoctrinator, however, aims to establish complete control of the victim’s mind for its own sake, denying them the last small corner of mental freedom that may remain even to a victim of appalling physical abuse. Students will emerge from American educational facilities not with broken bodies, but with broken minds, their highest rational faculties irreparably destroyed.
Is this not already a sufficiently damning case? Must we top it off with speculative and ill-founded allegations of widespread sex abuse?
The sexual grooming of children is already a crime. If a teacher is engaging in such behavior, then they should be reported to the police. Short of this, conservatives should be careful when making such broad claims. In recent years, we have seen liberals on college campuses, and in the broader #MeToo movement, forgo norms of due process. We must not follow their lead.
The school curriculum issue is an unexpected political bonanza for Republicans, key to the unexpected victories in Virginia last year, and to the likely upcoming midterm victories. However satisfying it may be to treat Democrats as unfairly as they have treated conservatives, opponents of school indoctrination should not undercut their strongest arguments with ill-founded “groomer” rhetoric.
Jason Garshfield is a freelance writer.