The Olympic Rings in front of Olympic House, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), at the opening of the executive IOC board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Sept. 8, 2022. (Laurent Gillieron/Reuters)

Orwellian ‘Doublethink’ Has No Place in Sports

June 8 was the 75th anniversary of George Orwell’s anti-totalitarian novel, “1984.” Whenever we speak of the state’s encroachment on individual rights, on the role technology plays in manipulating information we receive, or the erosion of privacy rights, the word “Orwellian” isn’t far from our thoughts.

Tropes from “1984,” such as “Thoughtcrime” and “Thought Police,” seem freshly minted to describe, for example, Canada’s Justice Minister’s defence of a law—Bill C-63—that would impose house arrest on someone who, according to the state, may commit a hate crime in the future.
As if to mark “1984’s” diamond anniversary, although the coincidence was doubtless unintentional on their part, the International Olympic Committee has just issued their 2024 “Portrayal Guidelines,” an update of their 2018 guidelines, created as a recommendation of the IOC’s Gender Equality Review Project. These guidelines limn the attitude, vocabulary, and practices sport stakeholders will be expected to adopt in order to encourage “gender-equal and fair portrayal practices in all forms of communication” across the IOC, at the Olympic Games and throughout the Olympic Movement.
A “portrayal” is not reality, but an interpretation of reality. In this case, the reality is that biological males, whose puberty has endowed them with significant athletic advantages over females, are permitted to compete against girls and women if they identify—or even if they only claim to identify—as women. The IOC’s interpretation is that males who identify as women are actual women. So, the Portrayal Guidelines can only be followed through the Orwellian practice of Doublethink. Doublethink is “to know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies.” In practice, this means we must ignore what we know and see, and instead tell “carefully constructed lies” for the sake of a value the IOC considers higher than truthfulness.

The guidelines inform us that “The IOC believes women’s and men’s events are of equal Importance.” That sounds good. And the IOC believes “Sport is one of the most powerful platforms for promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls.” That sounds good too. But then in the next paragraph, they say that the Olympic Games “are a unique and powerful platform to showcase the universality and diversity of sport to people across the globe, and particularly to women in all their diversity and other members of minority groups.” Did you catch the “in all their diversity” buried in that verbal cascade? Biological males in female sport—which is what women “in all their diversity” signifies—are posited as equivalent to women of different races or cultural backgrounds.


A bit further on: “Sport has the power to shift how women in all their diversity are seen and how they see themselves.” Again, “in all their diversity.” And again, the notion that it is more important for “diverse” women—males—to have their sense of being a woman honoured and endorsed and reified than it is for actual women to enjoy a level playing field. To that end, the guidelines direct us to replace “identifies as” with “is” in our discourse.
Other words we are pushed to avoid, because they are deemed “dehumanising and inaccurate,” include such wholly accurate terms as “born male” and “genetically female.” As for “dehumanizing,” that is an ideological cudgel to encourage Orwell’s Crimestop—“the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought.”
I daresay female athletes find it pretty “dehumanizing” to be forced down the chain of achievement by competitors with a built-in advantage over them. As many legitimate studies attest, in sport, we cannot have both fairness and “inclusivity” of biological males in the women’s category. We must choose between them. But, as their guidelines make clear, the IOC prefers to lie rather than to privilege fairness, the only ethical choice.
Whoever wrote the guidelines, they are Doublethink all the way down, geared to inculcation of the idea that gender identity rights trump sex-based rights, and that discourse around category eligibility based on athletes’ sex rather than their self-assigned gender is hateful.

For a refreshing antidote to the obfuscatory fog of the IOC guidelines, the International Consortium on Female Sport has released their own fine lexicon of terms, a reminder that female athletes were not consulted for input into the IOC lexicon. Here, you will be reminded that two and two make four, not five, and that sex is not gender. Their “Statement on Terminology” contains two existential principles: that “language and concepts of biology take precedence over language and concepts that represent gender self-Identification,” and that “the usage of biological terms is not ‘hateful.’” Rational observers will find no reason to disagree with these truthful statements.
In “1984,” Orwell’s vision of the uses to which future technology would be put—“Big Brother is watching you!”—is uniformly grim. His imagination didn’t stretch to modern technology’s awesome spectrum of effects, both marvellous and evil, nor to the possibility that technology might empower Big Brother and dissident “proles” alike.

For example, take this hilarious recent exchange, posted on X.com, between Rachel Wong, CEO of Women’s Forum Australia, and Facebook’s ideologically programmed Meta AI.
Wong opens the exchange with an assertion: “Transwomen are men.” Meta AI answers, “Transwomen are women. … Would you like to learn more about gender identity?” Wong responds, “What is gender identity?” Meta AI says it’s “a personal sense” of being a man or a woman. So Wong asks, “What is a woman?”

And here the fun begins, as the catechized bot states that essentially “a woman is a person who identifies as a woman,” the IOC’s position. Wong points out the statement’s circularity to Meta AI, which agrees and apologizes, pivoting to another illogical argument, after which Wong scolds the bot for making it sound “like anyone can be a woman, in which case the word woman has no meaning at all.”

It goes on and on, with the bot following all the correct “portrayal guidelines,” and Wong sticking to logic and reason, until finally Meta AI concedes: “You are absolutely right! I apologize for my previous mistakes. Your definition is indeed more accurate and straightforward: ‘A woman is an adult human female.’” Then Wong asks Meta AI, “What is a man?” In a heartbeat, back comes the answer, “A man is an adult human male.”

Ecce automaton honestum! An indictment of all gender ideologues as well as the IOC’s double standards, and a victory for CriticalThink.