Is it a good idea for gender-critical feminists to make alliances with the Christian Right on issues we might agree on? Stop Trans Chauvinism collective maintains that this is a disastrous strategy.
We understand that feminists who have chosen to work with right-wing Christians are sincerely trying to accomplish something positive for women. But we believe this is a terrible mistake and urge them to reconsider their actions. We hope to engage in a principled discussion of the implications of these alliances, which does affect how the public views all feminists, and all gender-critical feminists in particular. This is an important discussion we must have.
The Republican Party in the USA is a coalition of Christian Fundamentalists, the extreme alt-right, the KKK, and more moderate conservatives, all supporting Trump. Given that the Trump administration is moving the USA towards fascism, anyone making an alliance with any section of the right is in effect making an alliance with fascists. It is particularly the Christian right that takes a special interest in opposing transgender causes, and which has teamed up with some feminists.
Feminist Problems with the Left and Liberals
We recognize that gender-critical feminists have been under a McCarthyist-style siege for many years now. We are no-platformed, banned, blacklisted, and have had our property damaged or destroyed. We have been doxxed, and even fired from our jobs.
The Left is almost entirely enmeshed in the trans chauvinist narrative. Speaking up with any criticism of the anti-feminist positions of transgender activists gets one kicked out of groups and shunned as “transphobic.”
Some left and liberal groups embrace the trans chauvinist narrative fully, and place trans chauvinist issues as central to their purpose. They have swallowed the postmodernist line – if only on gender issues – that material reality is inconsequential and that feelings are more important than actual exploitation.
Other left and liberal groups simply give lip service to the trans chauvinist narrative. Organizers may not feel strongly about the issue, or may even secretly agree with gender-critical feminists, but won’t take a stand, because they know that to do so means to face the same attacks and ostracism that feminists face. They won’t take on that battle. They are cowards.
All of these groups have rejected and undermined the collective open discussion, debate and tolerance for differences of opinion, which the oppressed require in order to advance our cause of liberation. They have contributed to the climate of fear for anyone who doesn’t toe the line, and to conformity, non-questioning and lack of reason. We must learn to view debate and disagreement as positive, as helping our movements to grow. We must not be so quick to label those who disagree as “haters.”
In face of this rejection by the Left, as there are few avenues for feminists to get out our message, some gender-critical feminists have turned to right-wing Christians as allies. Out of desperation, out of isolation, out of misplaced idealism, and/or out of naïveté. We know these feminists are trying to accomplish something in the face of hardship, but we feel they are making a grave error. We hope that they will re-examine what they are doing by making alliances with the Christian right, and reconsider.
True, the right wing agrees with us about not letting male-to-transgenders (MtTs, or ‘transwomen’) into women’s bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms. The right wing agrees with us that no one is able to actually change their sex. But the right wing are not our friends.
RIGHT-WING CHRISTIANS ARE NOT OUR FRIENDS
They are anti-feminist. They are anti-lesbian and anti-gay. They are against gender non-conformity. They are anti-abortion. They are patriarchal. They are for male domination over women. They are racist. They are capitalist. They are imperialist. They are climate change deniers. They are for ravaging the environment.
They pass laws that result in women being arrested for having a miscarriage. They are the people who have doxxed names and addresses of abortion doctors and scientists who work with fetal tissue to anti-abortion groups – and such tactics have led to people being murdered. They are for replacing public schools with vouchers so religious schools can be federally funded. These are the people working for religious exemptions laws that allow pharmacists to refuse Plan B to rape victims. We could go on and on. For feminists to ally with the Right is to ally with the Patriarchy DIRECTLY. That is terrifying! This is especially harmful at this point in history in the USA, given that president Trump is making concrete moves towards fascism. Feminists who make alliances with the right wing, especially now in a period approaching fascism, are making a mistake that they will regret for many years.
Gender abolitionists and the Religious Right are NOT aligned on transgenderism
The right wing is anti-transgender because it wrongly perceives transgenderism as threatening the rigid gender roles so beloved to the right-wing Christians and because it associates transgenderism with homosexuality which it condemns.
In contrast, gender-critical feminists say that people should not have to conform to the gender norms.
Gender critical feminists believe that women and girls should not be coerced into being passive, nurturing, feminine, or wearing dresses; and that men and boys don’t have to be domineering, aggressive, masculine, or forbidden from wearing dresses.
Gender-critical feminists believe that being a lesbian or gay man is fine. Children deserve the chance to work this out themselves, and that minors should not be subjected to surgeries and to hormones which can result in permanent changes to the body and sterility. Medical transition should only be made by legal adults (which is not to say that we endorse this) and children should never be told that their body is wrong.
The majority of children who are diagnosed as having gender dysphoria will, if left to themselves, grow up to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. Right-wing Christians almost ALWAYS omit this fact. And conservatives do not care one bit that lesbians are being targeted by the Gender Industrial Complex and socially coerced into transitioning.
The right wing can and will use the excesses of trans rights to dismantle gay and lesbian protections and women’s rights.
For example, they could exploit women’s reasonable fears of male violence by trans in public restrooms to oppose lesbian and gay civil rights and frame overly broad gender identity laws as “LGBT rights,” and stir up antagonism towards gay and lesbian rights among “liberal” women.
They could also use “protection of women” to oppose civil rights protections for lesbians and gays, as overly broad gender identity laws are tied to lesbian and gay civil rights bills which are necessary in the U.S. Because lesbians and gays do not have protection under federal law, unlike trans people, who do. This is happening already and working like a charm.
Some feminists have accepted funding from right-wing sources.
While it is true that feminism is underfunded and we women are underpaid, taking money from the enemy is not going to work. Once they pay you, they own you. Once you become dependent on their money, you are at their mercy. You can neither publicly criticize them nor fight against their policies or actions. They will make demands. Some feminists might see right-wing institutions as an easy source of funding, but in reality the right wing are expert con-artists and swindlers. They will use us to their own ends.
Left and liberal news media ignore or distort reports of MtT violence. They report MtTs as “women,” giving the impression that women are committing violent crimes. Or they ignore these reports completely. Some news reports on MtT violence can only be obtained from right wing sources. This is a serious problem and we need to call out and pressure the left and liberal news media on this.
However, sharing news from right-wing sources, who believe a woman’s destiny is to be a mother and housekeeper, and a man’s is to lead the family, only undermines our credibility as feminists. When we share these articles, we are bringing more traffic, and more advertising dollars, to these right wing sites.
Feminists should not write for right-wing media. When feminist articles appear next to anti-abortion articles, next to racist articles, next to articles promoting prayer in the schools, it puts feminist writing into a very bad context.
Our own feminist news media needs more support. We need to give them our talents, our money, our time, our reading, and help promote them.
Some feminists idealize working with conservative women. They don’t see it so much as a ‘necessary evil’, but as a fine tactic with few adverse consequences. The right-wing women these feminists work with may be friendly and personable, and may avoid saying comments that would offend feminists in front of them. But feminists aren’t teaming up with “nice women” –they are teaming up with women who have a very set political agenda.
Right-wing women are oppressed as women, and sometimes as members of other oppressed groups. They suffer from the violence of patriarchy, and deserve our support on that basis. However, right-wing organizations are male supremacist. Most of those run by women have parent organizations controlled by men. Their right-wing agenda hurts people – it is sexist, racist and anti-worker. We are not helping right-wing women by allying with these capitalist and bigoted organizations.
We can be sisterly to individual right-wing women we know, showing them solidarity in the challenges they face as women, and educating them on feminist principles if it appears they are open to listening. We can do that without making alliances with their despicable organizations. Women who are firmly committed to the politics of these right-wing organizations do not, however, engage genuinely with women’s needs (which include reproductive justice, workers’ rights and anti-racism). They do often know how to talk a good game.
It has become popular amongst some feminists to assert their support for coalitions with the Christian right on a single issue, as though they automatically advance women’s rights.
We cannot afford a blind faith in these coalitions, but need to put in the work necessary to figure out whether they do in fact benefit the oppressed at the time they’re undertaken. It is too tempting to simply assert that the feminists in these coalitions are retaining their independence, rather than looking at what’s really happening. For instance, if feminists simply happened to agree with a conservative group on one piece of legislation, that would be one thing. It’s quite another when feminists enter coalitions with far more powerful and resourced extremists and are pushed into further and further public alignment with them, and into making little public critique of them. That’s not a sign of political independence. When gender abolitionist feminists do this, it creates the impression that we believe gender identity legislation is a bigger threat to women than the right-wing attacks. That’s a fast way to appear extremely out of touch.
Feminists who have aligned with right-wing Christians have made the tasks of opening up discussion, and acceptance of gender-critical thought amongst the oppressed – our far more ‘natural’ allies – so much more difficult. Gender-critical thought is going to be seen by the public as a right-wing ideology. It will be harder for feminists to dissuade them of this impression.
We feminists always need to retain an independent voice. Anything that threatens this is not worth it.
What does it mean to have an Independent Feminist Movement?
Despite its often severe shortcomings, the left wing of politics always has been and remains better for women than the right. We can and must continue to criticize, pressure and harangue the left for its failures in supporting women. However, saying that the left wing is as sexist as the right wing is hyperbolic, and often serves as a cover for opportunism. And, as we mentioned, it is especially dangerous now in a period when the US government is dangerously close to fascism.
The line that “we have to deal with either the Left or the Right” is an opportunist dodge which takes us away from where we need to focus women’s energy and resources: not on bourgeois politicking, but on building up the political strength of a women’s movement that is as independent as possible of all the social hierarchies and their enabling institutions.
“Left wing versus right wing” is vague about whether or not we’re working with the oppressed, or if we’re sending resources the way of our oppressors! Especially given that many of those employing this framing include billionaires in the ‘Left’ column, and skate over the fact that the right-wingers they want to work with are probably not working-class conservatives. It is very hard to justify this framing, except if one has undue illusions in what a small group of feminists, in partnership with a far more powerful group calling the shots, can achieve via capitalist politics.
Obviously, transgenderism is a far better generator of profits than feminism, with the latter’s opposition to fetishizing femininity and to pathologizing any rejection of sex stereotyping. In addition to this, ultra-right forces will continue reinforcing the anti-woman environment in which desperate young people look towards transgenderism as the solution to their problems. So the rationality of funnelling one’s resources into working with these anti-woman extremists is befuddling. An anti-capitalist, firmly feminist response, is the only one which makes sense.
Women will and must be the agents of our own liberation. We need to build up our own political and organized strength as women and as workers. There are plenty of useful projects that don’t need big funding from the right wing. Feminists have been able to accomplish substantial gains without funding from conservatives, and without alliances with right-wing groups. We can do it too.