“Members of the gender critical movement are increasingly sharing anti-trans content from members of the far right. In addition, members of the far-right are showing growing appreciation for the gender critical movement. This growing accord between the far right and the gender critical movement over their anti-trans stances is a worrying trend that suggests both a mainstreaming of the far right, using transphobia as a ticket into other spaces, as well as a radicalization of people who would otherwise not praise open fascists.” (Meryl Links and Mallory Moore, for Trans Safety Network, January 2022: Gender Critical and Fascist social media increasingly promoting each other

“It’s a grim irony that, by insisting on a ‘feminism’ without any trans women in it, TERFs have wound up constructing the tool by which fascists aim to destroy feminism altogether.” (Jude Ellison S. Doyle | Xtra Magazine)

(N.B. I am writing this post as a historian and feminist, but I am cis. I hope readers will welcome my suggestion that you seek out trans voices on social media and trans writers. See, for a start, Christine Burns’s reading list).

I should have seen it coming. I may be a feminist, but I am also a historian and fully aware that feminism has, at various points in the past, failed to be an emancipatory project. Actually, it’s worse than that. Feminism has shown itself to be capable of collaboration with some very bad historical actors, movements, oppressions, racism, and exclusions. We can say, well, such collaborations are never feminism. And I have lost count of how many times I have expressed such a view in reaction to GC (gender-critical) or TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) statements. It’s an understandable response, and not without rhetorical effect, but the truth is more complicated than that. The danger in saying, “that’s not feminism” is that it posits feminism as an abstraction, as a pure, unified force for good rather than a multitude of feminisms, some of which demand our immediate critical attention. In other words, it lets feminism and all its exponents and iterations off the hook. It excuses us from asking crucial questions of ourselves. This is more than a semantic point and, here, I am drawing on the organizing framework of Transgender Studies Quarterly’s (TSQ) recent issue, Trans-Exclusionary Feminisms and the Global New Right:

“…to insist on the idea that feminism cannot accommodate oppressive politics is to commit to a kind of historical revisionism and present-day refusal of reality that bespeaks a will to ignore or even conceal the harm that is done in the name of feminism…This is simply to say that to deny the ambivalent character of feminism, in this particular moment, is also to voice a dangerous willingness to ignore how feminism… has been so successfully wielded in the service of racism, capital and labor exploitation, and imperialism, to name just a few of its harms – and of course, transphobia and transmisogyny.” (Serena Bassi & Greta Lafleur, “TERFS, Gender-Critical Movements, and Postfascist Feminisms”, Transgender Studies Quarterly, August 2022)

Bassi and Lafleur take particular note of the engagements that have “historically existed between fascisms and feminisms”, and argue further that we are currently experiencing what might be termed a “postfascist” moment precisely because “tropes and rhetorical fragments echoing pre-1945 fascist projects” regularly surface in TERF and gender-critical discourses. (See also, Sophie Lewis & Asa Seresin, “Fascist Feminism: A Dialogue” in TSQ)

Let’s take a brief historical look at those tropes.  

Pre-fascist indications

The first point to make is that we cannot ignore the longer-term, pre-fascist links between women, feminism, and the history of white supremacy. Ongoing research (since women’s history became part of the historian’s agenda) has shown, for instance, that women’s role in the history of slavery and empire is undeniable. Not only did women own slaves, but there were Ku Klux Klanswomen, with at least one historian, Kathleen Blee, finding that a racialized feminism played an active part in Klan thinking. The history of empire, most notably imperial Britain, laid the groundwork for a domestic (and white) feminism permanently shaped by racism and fundamentalist gender categories. See, for example, “How British Feminism Became Anti-trans,” in which Sophie Lewis notes the following:

“Imperial Britain imposed policies to enforce heterosexuality and the gender binary, while simultaneously constructing the racial ‘other’ as not only fundamentally different but freighted with sexual menace; from there, it’s not a big leap to see sexual menace in any sort of ‘other,’ and ‘biological realities’ as essential and immutable. (Significantly, many Irish feminists have rejected Britain’s TERF-ism, citing their experience of colonialism explicitly as part of the reason).”  (Lewis, New York Times, 2019)

Feminists were active in Social Darwinism (late 19th century) and the eugenics movements that followed (early 20th century) “in which privileged white women were encouraged to reproduce while women of other classes and racialized groupings were not… Marie Stopes was a committed eugenicist, and the name of her organization was the Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress.” (Alison Phipps, Me, Not You: The trouble with mainstream feminism, 2020).

Alongside this thinking, many women’s suffrage campaigners pursued the argument that ‘Votes for Women’ would prevent society from being ‘overrun’ by newly enfranchised black or working-class men. “Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the American League of Women Voters, said: ‘white supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.’” (Phipps, Me, Not You) A number of suffragettes would later join the interwar British Union of Fascists (BUF), including Mary Richardson, who became head of the BUF Women’s Section. (See Martin Pugh, “Why Former Suffragettes Flocked to British Fascism” in Slate, 2017.)  Pugh contends that one of the appeals of the BUF is that it offered women a relatively visible role compared to the mainstream political parties and Parliament.)

Insofar as these various late 19th and early 20th century movements anticipated fascist antisemitism, racism, and the rise of fascist parties and regimes during the 1930s, it is clear that the participation of women and feminists cannot be ignored. The social and political impact of the First World War would prove equally formative.

Most historians note the importance of the Great War as a factor in the subsequent rise of fascism. For our purposes, it is certainly true that there was a post-war gender backlash. In the fascist worldview, the War had upset the ‘natural’ order of things by overturning traditional gender roles. If men were consigned to the No Man’s Land of the trenches, women moved into the ‘man’s land’ of the public sphere.

“Just 2,000 [women] had been employed in government dockyards, factories and arsenals in July 2014, but by November 1918, this figure had risen to 247,000. The number employed in the transport industry expanded by 555% to roughly 100,000…At least one million women were formally added to the British workforce between 1914 and 1918.” National Archives, “Women and the First World War.”

In his early study of women and the War, David Mitchell noted that many women wept at demobilization, fearing an end to “the happiest and most purposeful days of their lives.” (Mitchell, Women on the Warpath, 1966). Moreover, it has been argued that men’s traumatic experience of the trenches as a world of confinement and powerlessness produced –  in shell shock – symptoms that were remarkably similar to those attributed to female hysteria before the War. (See Sandra Gilbert, “Soldier’s Heart: Literary Men, Literary Women, and the Great War” and Elaine Showalter’s feminist study of the Siegfried Sassoon case: “Rivers and Sassoon: The Inscription of Male Gender Anxieties”. Both essays can be found in Margaret R. Higonnet’s early, yet still powerful study of gender and war, Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars, 1989)

It is hardly surprising that such radically different male/female experiences produced some hostility between the front and the home front. The post-war years saw a resurgence of anti-feminism, a backlash against women’s (especially married women’s) employment, and some bitterness expressed by women as many of their wartime advances proved ephemeral. There was undoubted confusion experienced by both men and women about the meaning and future of gender roles.

Gender and Fascism

The fascist movements would promise a restoration of order, and in the case of gender, a return to what fascists repeatedly described as ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ notions of masculinity and femininity, regularly framing these as celebrations of ‘true manhood and true womanhood’. Such rigid binary terms provided the ideological shorthand for gender under fascism, one which attracted many women and feminists, yet behind which lurked the harsher realities of a deep anti-feminism.

The reality was that women were to be ‘celebrated’ through an idealized elevation of their role as wives, mothers, and keepers of the family and home. Arguably, this was a fascist reworking of the old Victorian figure of the ‘angel in the house’, a term derived from the Coventry Patmore poem of 1858. The angel was a white middle-class woman, too pure and virtuous for most areas of public life, hence an ideal figure for the Victorian language of ‘separate spheres’, public and private, for men and women respectively. It should be added that this could never be an accurate reflection of life for all Victorian women. Class, race, sexuality, and gender positionings either excluded women or altered their experience of separate-spheres thought and practice in important ways. And indeed, historians have increasingly questioned the efficacy of the model, not least because we risk perpetuating the same exclusions in our research. (For a helpful discussion, see Aniqah Khan, “The separate spheres model of Victorian gender roles has outlived its usefulness: discuss” in Queen Mary History Journal, 2021). If I continue to deploy the model here (with these caveats), it is because of the ideological shadow it cast on fascist thought and practice.

In Italy, Mussolini delivered mixed messages, declaring support for women’s right to vote alongside statements about the ‘incompatibility’ between women and industry – women workers degraded men and robbed them of jobs; they lowered the birthrate and ‘masculinized’ themselves. In the Italian fascist state, women would remain, primarily, “illustrious prolific mothers.” (cited in Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi, Feminist Review, 1979)

In Germany, the Nazis called for “more masculine men” and “more feminine women” or, as one of Hitler’s followers put it: “We believe that every genuine woman will, in her deepest feelings, pay homage to the masculine principle of National Socialism. Only then will she become a total woman.” (Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland, 1986 & 2014. Koonz’s detailed study is one of the first accounts of women’s participation in, and resistance to, the rise of German Nazism.)

Under Nazism, the focus was firmly on ‘Aryan’ motherhood, recruiting women to enact harsh eugenicist programmes. The 1933 Eugenics Law required social workers and nurses to report all “genetically defective” persons to the health authorities. A eugenics court system would “weed out” all lebensunwurdiges Leben) “life unworthy of life” for sterilization, and later for euthanasia. As appointed guardians of the domestic sphere, women were encouraged to apply racist principles in the selection of husbands. Birth control was outlawed; abortion was severely punished. (Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland)

Koonz argues that many German women saw the Nazi party as offering an end to ambiguity over male and female roles in exchange for a degree of influence over policies relating to motherhood and the family sphere. Here we see the cynicism behind the Nazi glorification of motherhood fully exposed. The mother image radiated love and harmony; behind the image, women were encouraged to behave ruthlessly toward excluded groups.

In the 1920s, Berlin had been the site of unprecedented progress for LGBTQ liberation, including the opening of the Institute for Sexual Research where medical care, research, and support were provided in relation to both sexuality and gender identity. The Nazi attack was not long in coming. In 1933, the Institute’s library was burned and its acting head, Magnus Hirschfeld (who was Jewish and gay) forced into exile. Hirschfeld died in France in 1935, but remained an ongoing target of Nazi propaganda. Mass arrests of gay men took place under the direction of an ‘anti-gay’ department of the Gestapo. These tactics would be deployed in the Nazi-occupied territories with, as we know, devastating consequences. (See Matt Fuller and Leah Owen, “Nazi Gender Ideology, Memoricide, and the Attack on the Berlin Institute for Sexual Research” in Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 2022).

The British Union of Fascists (BUF)

Italy and Germany represent fascism in power, whereas Britain produced (and continues to produce) various far-right movements, none of which has achieved power, although many of them have, directly or indirectly, shaped populist and Conservative discourses. And as we now know, some feminist discourses. Moreover, Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF, 1932-40) drew the kind of mass following typically associated with ‘successful’ fascist groups.

Mosley embraced the masculinist leader principle associated with European fascist ideologies and BUF discourses were replete with references to male virility and dominance. Such formulations of masculinity served to reinforce fascism’s biological determinism and its larger politics of gender and race. 

In what now reads like an anticipation of gender-critical rhetoric, Mosley wrote, “We want men who are men and women who are women.” (Mosley, The Greater Britain, 1932). He did not find it necessary to elaborate on the possible meanings of those categories. In keeping with continental fascisms, British fascism would ‘celebrate’ women but in hetero(and gender)-normative roles defined and demarcated by men. As Mosley put so clearly,

“the part of woman in our future organization will be important but different from that of men…Fascism will treat the normal wife and mother as one of the main pillars of the state.” (cited in Winifred Holtby, Women and a Changing Civilisation, 1935)

Indeed, the “normal wife and mother” was crucial to fascist pro-natalist and racist policies and ran alongside the BUF promise of a restoration of “natural” and “normal” relations between the sexes. Women took part in canvassing and appeared at party functions, but Mosley dismissed active female politicians who desired to “escape from the normal sphere of woman.” Although a handful of BUF women did run for office, the BUF viewed most women in Parliament as  “distressing types” and not equipped to represent the interests of “normal women”. (Holtby, Women and a Changing Civilisation, 1935 & “Shall I Order a Black Blouse?” News Chronicle, 1934)

In part due to the postwar gender backlash, the women’s movement was already in a partial state of disarray. Measures extending the franchise to women (1918 and 1928) and the Sex Disqualification Act (1919) temporarily took the steam out of organized feminism. Numerous interwar feminists turned to what historians have termed “welfare feminism”. Welfare feminists initiated struggles that centered on the ‘special needs’ of women and children. The family endowment campaign pursued a policy that would allocate specific resources to mothers. The campaign for protective legislation – which caused divisions between welfare and equal rights feminists – sought to address the needs of women within the traditional framework of women’s roles. Although the meanings and legacy of welfare feminism are still debated, there is a clear line of argument that it helped to assure the continuation of 19th-century separate spheres ideas and policies into the twentieth century.

Feminism and Fascism: then/now

There are key questions that emerge from this brief history: why did women and feminists join fascist movements and parties? What were the tropes that made such collaborations possible? And how have those tropes persisted, only to be found in current Terf and gender-critical movements?

In an early feminist analysis of interwar fascism, Jane Caplan remarked that “the originality of fascism is not in the content of its ideology, but the use it makes of pre-existent ideology.” (Jane Caplan, “Introduction to Female Sexuality in Fascist Ideology” in Feminist Review 1, 1979.)

We have already noted the historical language of separate spheres and the Victorian figure of the ‘angel in the house’. Interwar fascists, including female members, resurrected figures very like the angel insofar as these were highly idealized visions of white middle-class womanhood. Fascist assertions that ‘pure and virtuous’ women needed ‘protection’ (from manufactured threats posed by demonized groups) provided the ideological shorthand for both the recruitment of women and their simultaneous oppression. In truth, the angel in the house was an angel of death for women’s emancipation and for the marginalized groups that fascism would designate as a threat to women.

Virginia Woolf (whose own views make her a difficult figure for feminism) described the cultural persistence of these ideas, including her internalization of the Angel several years before the publication, in 1938, of her anti-fascist tract, Three Guineas:

“I will describe her as shortly as I can… Above all--I need not say it – she was pure. Her purity was supposed to be her chief beauty--her blushes, her great grace… And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page…she slipped behind me and whispered: ‘My dear, you are a young woman… Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure.’ And she made as if to guide my pen. I now record the one act for which I take some credit to myself. I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. (Woolf, Professions for Women, 1931)

If Woolf was pre-occupied with the threat to herself as a writer, decades later, Maria-Antonietta Macchiocchi saw the larger social threat in more explicit terms, calling upon women to

“strangle the angel in the house” and refuse to be both “the reproducers of life and the guardians of death without the two terms being contradictory.” (“Female Sexuality in Fascist Ideology” in Feminist Review 1, 1979.

And here, we have the crux of the problem. The fascist celebration of (cis)heteronormative womanhood, especially motherhood, relied upon women’s acceptance of and/or collaboration with white supremacist and repressive policies of hate that would result in the forced removal of identified groups: Jews, nonwhites, LGBTQ people, and others deemed ‘unfit’.

Two decades after the Holocaust, Hannah Arendt noted that it was the skillful manipulation of an insider/outsider ethos that transformed an already existing antisemitism into a Nazi “principle of self-definition.” (Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1968) And later, Koonz would examine how that cultural manipulation was augmented by discourses of gender and ‘Aryan’ motherhood that, sadly, appealed to many women. 

Lewis and Seresin bring such questions up to date in their discussion of what they describe as the current “process of repackaging gender as postfascist politics:”

“In fact, the gender-critical politicization of a true womanhood under threat by trans politics is not only genealogically coherent with multiple conservative moral panics and resilient fascist tropes but also with the longue duree of liberal, bourgeois, white feminist exclusions perpetrated along racial and class lines.” (Transgender Studies Quarterly)

Of the prominent gender-critical feminists in the UK today (here I am thinking of J.K. Rowling, Julie Bindel, and several newspaper columnists who regularly write gender-critical pieces), not one of them would claim the mantle of ‘fascist or postfascist feminism’ as an identity or project. But I argue that they are making a deliberate choice to ignore the dangerous parallels.

First, the gender-critical insistence on ‘sex-based rights’ as exclusive of trans women not only constitutes a denial of trans womanhood, setting the stage for human rights violations against trans people and other groups too, but it eerily echoes the biological determinism of historical fascism and racism:

“Just as scientific racism centred on supposed biological differences to classify humans in a rigid racial hierarchy, ‘gender critical’ feminists are propelling biological arguments that essentialise sex and its relation to gender identity…” (“Feminism, biological fundamentalism and the attack on trans rights”, Sophia Siddiqui, Institute of Race Relations, 2021)

The gender-critical feminist return to rigid categories of sex and gender (including an inability to differentiate between the two) denies the complexities of both categories and makes their feminism as regressive as its fascist forbears. It is to partake of the same binary fundamentalism (Mosley’s ‘men who are men and women who are women’) that drove earlier fascist iterations. The reveal here, of course, is that gender-critical feminism is an extension of liberal white feminism and its historical failure to address the intersectionality of power and resistance. To do so requires a willingness to critique the historical privileges of white (and cis) womanhood and the feminisms that have emanated from those privileges.

Moreover, the flawed thinking and dangerous implications of the gender-critical adherence to a rigid gender binary were recently examined in some detail by the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention in its important Statement on the Genocidal Nature of the Gender Critical Movement’s Ideology and Practice:

“The gender critical movement, though it often claims scientific accuracy, is in fact ignoring the most rigorous and up-to-date science of sex and gender. Scientific research on gender diversity aligns with what we know about biological diversity more generally and challenges the fundamentalist binary concept of sex and gender differentiation."
“The fundamentalist interpretation of gender and the obsession with the gender binary hurts all people who do not conform to traditional gender stereotypes, not just transgender people, by imposing strict norms on human expression and experience through the use of shame and stigma… All attempts to further marginalize and, indeed, to criminalize transgender identities contribute directly to the high level of societal violence that already exists against transgender people as well as to the high levels of mental and physical health challenges that exist within the transgender community, including suicide.” (Lemkin Institute, 2022)

As has been pointed out by the Lemkin Institute, the TransSafetyNetwork, Hope Not Hate and others, the refusal to recognize transgender people, transgender women in particular, leads to further ideas and actions that would not be out of place in a fully-fledged fascist movement. These include the vilification of a targeted ‘outsider’ group, gatekeeping, and ‘border’ policing of patriarchal gender norms.  So, in the gender-critical project, trans women are ‘not women’ but deceptive predators seeking entry into women’s spaces, and gender-critical feminists are the self-appointed patrollers of those spaces.

This constitutes a denial of trans existence and human rights with serious consequences in the form of anti-trans rhetoric and legislation, the regular misgendering of trans people, hate speech, and violence against an already marginalized group. Moreover, it is to use feminism, a supposedly emancipatory project, to deny the emancipation of others. And with trans rights now in serious crisis not only here in the UK, but in the US and other parts of the world, gender-critical feminism is increasingly being called out as “gender fascism.” (See, for example, “Roxane Gay: gender fascism is on the rise, Evening Standard, March 2023)

The media and social media

Follow any prominent gender-critical activists or groups on Twitter for a day or so and the first thing you might notice is (in yet another eerie echo of interwar fascism) this is a movement with powerful leaders who have a seemingly unquestioning mass following on social media. How often does “I Stand with JK Rowling” have to trend on Twitter before someone asks what kind of obedient crowd behaviour is in play?

The next thing you may note is the constant complaint by gender-critical feminists that they are being silenced despite their ubiquitous presence in British mainstream print and broadcast media. As Sarah Ahmed noted, “Whenever people keep being given a platform to say they have no platform, or whenever people speak endlessly about being silenced, you not only have a performative contradiction, you are witnessing a mechanism of power.” (See Sara Ahmed in Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility) And indeed, media mentions of trans people have not only skyrocketed, but most coverage is negative and either written or shared by a small number of highly vocal gender-critical or conservative activists:

Research by trans rights activist MimmyMum suggests that UK media has published an average of 154 articles on trans issues every single month over the past seven years. That’s a total of 13,500 articles focusing on a minority group that makes up just 0.1% of the population… Britain’s most-read newspaper, the Daily Mail, has certainly dramatically increased its coverage over the past few years. Comparing the first month of each year shows a rise from six articles in January 2013 to a jaw-dropping 115 articles in January 2023 (+1817%).”  (Novara Media, “Welcome to Terf Island: How Anti-trans hate skyrocketed by 156% in four years,” February 2023)

And most importantly, trans voices are shockingly absent from most media coverage. For a powerful account of one trans person’s interactions with the UK media, see Dr. Gina Gwenffrewi, “J.K. Rowling and the Echo Chamber of Secrets” in TSQ. Her larger research concerns “the impact of neoliberalism and media on trans bodies.”

Gender-critical activists have made effective use of Twitter for an endless circulation of scare stories, most of which when fact-checked, prove to be either untrue or radical distortions of content, context, or both. Stories typically feature the threat of men deliberately choosing transition to gain access to women’s spaces and commit rape and other harms to women and children. There is virtually no attention paid to the real threats to women, from cis men, but also in the forms of state violence, poverty, racism, attacks on reproductive rights, and more.

“Like other reactionary politics, trans-exclusionary feminism generates outrage through constructing all trans women as dangerous in response to isolated incidents. The effect of this is to repackage trans equality itself as predation: trans women’s demands to be recognised as women are reinterpreted as invasion and sexual threat.” (Alison Phipps, Me, Not You)

Writing for the Washington Post, Monica Hesse illustrates how transphobic views are effectively ‘laundered’ in some gender-critical discourse. In a detailed analysis of J.K. Rowling’s articles and tweets, Hesse notes the following:

“Reporters are discouraged from calling anyone transphobic, or homophobic, or racist, because doing so requires knowing what’s in their hearts when the only thing we can know with certainty is what comes out of their mouths. So what I can say is that what comes out of her mouth, or goes onto her Twitter account, has a fuzzy aura of harmful rhetoric… 
“Her communications have implicitly conflated being trans with being a predator. Her communications have made unsupported claims about transitioning, and detransitioning, and what demographics are transitioning, and why (referencing, for example, a heavily flawed 2018 study about “rapid-onset gender dysphoria”). The communications have implied that many trans men are confused, and that some trans women are actually just dangerous men in drag (referring to female prisoners ‘being terrified of being locked up with male rapists, murderers and domestic abusers’)...
“I do not know what is in Rowling’s heart. But reading her Twitter feed, this is the overall effect: Her Twitter feed does not ask its readers to think. It asks them to fear. It creates phobias. Of trans people. It creates trans phobias.” (Monica Hesse, “Listening to ‘The Witch Trials of JK Rowling’ is exhausting work” Washington Post, March 2023)

The worst effect of gender-critical scare tactics is that instead of empowering all women in the struggle against male violence, they seek to reduce ciswomen to outraged transphobes expecting to be raped by a trans woman in the next public bathroom. An irrational and highly dangerous feminism of fear is at work here, replicating the fear of those demonized ‘others’ targeted by interwar fascism and Nazism, and far-right groups ever since. (This is not to say that violence does not exist or that women are never vulnerable. But the main perpetrators of violence against women are cis men, while hate crimes and violence against trans people have increased drastically over the past few years (see Stop Hate UK).

Gender-critical feminism and the far right

Let us not forget the white supremacist impulses beneath all this. The links (both national and international) between the gender-critical movement, the right, and the far right, including the long history of fascist antisemitism and racism, are becoming clearer by the day.

(See, for example, Jude Ellison S. Doyle’s recent survey: “How the far right is turning feminists into fascists” in Xtra, 2022):

“I spoke to researchers in multiple countries for this piece and all of them agreed that anti-trans activists were becoming increasingly comfortable with presenting their arguments in a white supremacist framework, presenting transition care as an attack on white fertility and white birth rates specifically.
“They’re talking about Black Lives Matter [being] co-opted by the trans lobby,” she says. “Again, it’s very similar to Nazi propaganda. ‘This Jewish elite has captured this Black civil rights movement and it’s actually just an attack on white people.’ 
“...these ideas are reaching the mainstream, laundered through a sympathetic commentariat that scrubs off their far-right associations… Dig two inches down, and you’ll find the Nazis, but on the surface, it looks like reasonable “debate.” (Jude Ellison S. Doyle, Xtra)

Here in the UK, some of the same far-right activists currently targeting asylum seekers turn up at protests against trans rights. I would ask each GC feminist to look around when you attend anti-trans gatherings. You may well be standing side by side with a self-declared Nazi. A cursory glance at the website/blog for the far-right group, Patriotic Alternative, reveals a keen interest in making transphobia part of its platform, and the general danger the group poses to trans people as well as to asylum seekers. I will not provide a link to the highly offensive website, but it can be googled. For a general description of the group’s current activities, see Ben Quinn’s recent Guardian article.

An ending (for now)

As I write this, the UK government has announced its intention to break with basic human rights principles with a plan to criminalise, detain, and deport asylum seekers. The Tories are effectively politicising the human rights of asylum seekers and trans people. Make no mistake, the next election will be fought on these and other so-called ‘culture war’ issues. There is no guarantee that our Labour leadership will challenge the terms of the debate rather than play by them. It is up to us.

Today is also International Women’s Day. I expect to see many wonderful posts and hopes for feminist progress. But I also expect to see fundamentalist expressions of ‘true womanhood’ by Terfs and GC feminists. They will ring like Oswald Mosley in this historian’s ears: “We want men who are men and women who are women.” (Mosley, BUF, 1932)

I join my sisters and – at this time of crisis for trans people – most especially my trans sisters in standing up to gender fascism and racism, in seeing the connections and calling them out. In that spirit, the last word goes to Angela Davis:

“There was a backwardness in the early days of certain elements of feminism that refused to recognise the degree to which gender is historically and socially constructed. This is why I refused to consider myself a feminist for a while – the insistence that all of your loyalty has to be to women, and that tended to mean white women. I can remember being asked, ‘Are you Black or are you a woman?’”
“Yes. I was asked that. Even when we had no precedents for intersectional notions I made it very clear, and I’m not the only one, that for many Black women the issues were intertwined. We could not separate one from the other.”
“There are some feminist formations that are very opposed to the trans presence, and that is so backwards. Those of us who are more flexible argue that if you want to get rid of violence directed against individuals in the world, whether it’s racist violence or gender violence, you have to support Black trans women who are the target of more violence than any other group of people. And if we make advances in our struggle to defend Black trans women, those victories can be felt by all communities that suffer violence.” (Simon Hattenstone, “Angela Davis on the power of protest: ‘We can’t do anything without optimism’” Guardian, March 2022)

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