Presentation of the Gentleman of Distinction Award

as accepted by

Mark Steyn

at the

Independent Women's Forum 2017 Annual Awards Dinner

November 15, 2017

Mark Steyn:

Thank you, Abby.  Thank you very much, Abby. 

Actually, before I say anything else, I want to say, about Gracie, who sang the National Anthem, that I’ve been to a lot of awards nights and that’s about the best version of the National Anthem that I’ve heard.  And Tammy, I feared – who – Tammy was quoting somebody who said Gracie had an innate sense of swing, which I don’t think is really much help when you are doing The Star-Spangled Banner.  But, in fact, it turned out to be because she did it very legato, connected up all the words, which makes it easier to follow the story, which is important for us foreigners, and so I thought it was a terrific, absolutely terrific – you can chop up the words if you are doing God Save the Queen, or O Canada, but it’s very important – just a little National Anthem insight here – it’s very important when you are doing the Star-Spangled Banner to connect it up.  I thought she did it absolutely beautifully. 

And it’s a great honor to be here and to accept this award with the two ladies we are honoring tonight.  I was very moved by Diane’s story and I hope that what Diane did is still possible in today’s America, because I think you should be able to have a high school education, have a roofing business, and wind up at a big gala celebrity dinner in the heart of the Capitol City.  And I hope – and I would add one other thing about Diane that people didn’t bring up – she’s also taken a lot of, she hasn’t just built a business, she has also spent some of that money on what you might call cultural ventures in television, and motion pictures, and that kind of thing.  And that’s actually a critical battleground and that I wish more successful businesspeople would do what Diane has done and understand that this is where the big battles are to be fought. 

It’s also a great honor to be here with Kellyanne, who shattered the glass ceiling in the last election.  A tremendous – and got absolutely no credit for it from her fellow women by and large. 

I was on Fox & Friends, on the Saturday morning show, a few weeks ago and Kellyanne happened to be on that show and Clayton Morris asked her,  "when you were on this show two weeks ago, you said that Reince Priebus wasn’t leaving the White House.  When you were on this show one week ago, you said Anthony Scaramucci wouldn’t be leaving the White House.  Who is not leaving the White House this week?"  And Kellyanne said, "Well, given my prediction record, I’m not going to say me."  And we are all grateful for that.  She is the great survivor of the last year.  And I hope she’s still there in the second half. 

And it is a particular honor, too, to be here on the 25th anniversary of the Independent Women's Forum. I love that word, independent women. 

One of the things I hate about identity group politics is that the Left tells us there is only one way to be a woman, there is only one way to be black, there is only one way to be gay.  They breakdown everybody into identity groups and then they say if you are a member of an identity group you have to behave in a certain way.  

I like the idea of independent women, in their full variety, as celebrated in this event. 

I was talking about the glass ceiling, and it is odd to me, someone – Tammy mentioned Mrs. Thatcher a couple of minutes ago, and I’ve had the good fortune to watch Mrs. Thatcher kick around a roomful of useless male cabinet ministers late in the evening and leave what is left of them to be picked out of the carpet and the wainscoting.  And it’s a very impressive sight.  

I’ve known somewhat less impressive figures.  Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and New Zealand’s Helen Clark, and Canada’s Kim Campbell, and Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt, whom you may remember was doing selfies with Barack Obama and David Cameron at Nelson Mandela’s funeral because there’s nothing that indicates your respect for the dead like having selfies in the backrow in Nelson Mandela’s funeral.  

I hope one day there will be an American woman who joins those ranks, but it has to be an independent woman.  

I don’t wish to be unpleasant, but I did think it was ridiculous that you are expected to shatter the glass ceiling with the wife of the previous guy, which was what the Democrat party offered us last year. 

That reminds me – Robert Mugabe, 93 years old, has just been toppled in Zimbabwe because they thought his wife, Grace, wanted to succeed him as the country’s strongman.  That’s basically what Hillary was offering last year.  And I don’t want the Grace Mugabe model here. 

I was down in Australia a couple of years ago for Prime Minister’s Question time, and the then prime minister – and it was between the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Julie Bishop.  I’m a great fan of Julie Bishop and a very, very, very, very all but undetectable fan of the Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard, but it was terrific and inspiring to see two independent women who got there on their own merits going back and forth at it, at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Australian Parliament with the men reduced to jeering.  If you’ve ever seen Prime Minister’s Questions, you’ll know that everybody goes [jeers] and [jeers], and men can do that.  They are good at doing that.  It was inspiring to see, so I hope – I commend it, particularly to Speaker Ryan, because his legislature could use Prime Minister’s Questions, and it would improve things considerably.

I hope one day to see a genuine presidential debate between two strong, independent female candidates. 

I am honored to be a gentleman of distinction.  I believe I am the first foreigner to win this award and I hope that isn’t like George W. Bush used to say, we need foreigners to come here and do the jobs Americans won’t do.  I hope one of the jobs Americans will still do is gentlemanliness. 

At the reception beforehand, a guy came up to me, he was in the VIP reception so I don’t want to offend him or anything, but he said to me, you know, you look exactly like Harvey Weinstein, which isn’t exactly what you want to hear when you are accepting a gentleman of distinction award.

I think they used to say it takes three generations to make a gentleman, and when I was working at the BBC in London, they used to say it takes six generations to make a gentleman, and the guy said and in your case, eight.  I feel I’m off to a good start here.  I do worry about how many generations it takes to unmake a gentleman.  And I would like to reiterate the importance of fathers in children’s lives, in basic family formation, which was made earlier. 

I like the word gentleman.  I am a bit upset that the New York subway system has chosen this week to abolish the word gentlemen.  They no longer say ladies and gentlemen, because instead of two sexes we now have 57 different gender identities, and so the words ladies and gentlemen are forbidden on the New York subway.

Now, this has been going on a long time.  In my book, America Alone, I mention that the government of Spain, on its birth certificate, had replaced the words mother and father with progenitor one and progenitor two.  And I mentioned this at a speech somewhere and the current Australian Prime Minister said to me you are making that up.  That’s not true.  And I said no, it is true.  It’s progenitor one and progenitor two. 

If you are in a singles bar in Washington and you see someone that you like, go say would you like to come back to my place and play progenitor one and progenitor two tonight?  Well, okay, but only if I can be progenitor two this time, you know.  It’s progenitor one and progenitor two. 

Last year at Wellesley College we had a female student who identifies as – I want to make sure I get this right – as a “masculine of center” person named Timothy and prefers to be referred to by male pronouns, was told she could no longer run for coordinator of the school office of multicultural affairs because she was now a white male and therefore insufficiently diverse to be a diversity officer, which is a tough on a masculine of center genderqueer.  She diversified a wee bit too far and diversified herself all the way around and right out of the diversity business, and back into the white male business. 

You know, don’t you hate it when that happens?  We are witnessing the complete demolition of the sexes as part of the new social radicalism, and I think that will put us in a very brave new world, and not one that it’s a good idea to – not one that many of us will be happy living in. 

I would also like to refer to a couple of things that Abby said that I think are important. 

The battle for women’s rights is not done.  The battle for the basic rights of women to lead lives to their full potential is a critical question for millions of women in North American and Europe. Never mind the world beyond that. 

It was shocking to me to realize that too many American feminists have basically accepted the idea of a two-tier sisterhood.  A two-tier sisterhood whereby if you are born into one group of women you get to explore your economic potential, you get to make your own career choices, your own life choices.  If you are born into certain other cultural groups, you have nothing to look forward to but honor killing and genital mutilation, and all kinds of other things… arranged marriages, being forced to live in a body bag. 

This is the great women’s issue of our time and professional feminists are surrendering on it. I used to think this two-tier sisterhood was just between Western women of a certain traditional background and Western Muslim women.  But the two-tier sisterhood, the people who are on the wrong side of the divide, are growing. 

I spent a lot of last year in Europe talking to victims of sexual assault, sex slavery, and some of the worst aspects of social relations you have ever known.  I went to Rotherham and talked to young girls who had been taken as sex slaves and on which the British feminists had nothing to say because they had written off white working-class girls as one of the necessary sacrifices on the altar of multiculturalism.  I went to Sweden, I went to Germany.  I talked to young woman who had been brutalized, and victimized, and assaulted, and when they mentioned it – these were not Right-wing women, these were not Conservative women – when they mentioned it they were told to shut up by Liberal German feminists, by Liberal Scandinavian feminists, they were told to shut up because telling the truth about sexual assault was a crime against the new diversity and the new multiculturalism.  

I would leave you with a sobering thought.  I wonder, sometimes, if we are at the high point of women’s rights in the developed world.  I went to a murder trial in Sweden last year.  A refugee had killed another refugee in a very bloody and brutal murder in Stora, and I went to the courthouse.  The judges were women, the lawyers were women, the interpreters were women, everybody in the courtroom was a woman except for the murderer and his accomplices.  And you would think this was the triumph of the feminist state, in a country whose government calls itself the first feminist government in the world, and yet Swedish women are scared to walk around the streets at night, their pop concerts are canceled because of the rates of sexual assault there, the police chiefs advise them not to go out unaccompanied, and there is a contradiction between the success of professional women at the highest level and the lives of Swedish women walking home unaccompanied at twilight from the railway station to their apartment house.  

I worry that we are at the high-water point of women’s rights around the Western world.  As for that first feminist government in Sweden, when they went – they sent a delegation to Iran, all the cabinet ministers meekly put on head coverings so as not to offend the ayatollahs of Iran. 

Independent Women's Forum is not about that kind of poseur feminism.  It is about real women’s rights.  And it is immensely touching to me.  It is immensely touching to me when I hear my friend and colleague, Tammy Bruce, remind us that two decades ago she would have been speaking at a NOW dinner, and Tammy’s migration from NOW to IWF is stirring, and heartening, and I hope at the time of the 50th anniversary, there will be legions of women in America who will have done what Tammy did. 

Thank you very much.