Home » Uncategorized » Are trans-critical feminists actually aiding the Right?

Are trans-critical feminists actually aiding the Right?


This is the third in a series of posts discussing why the Left does not criticise the conservative aspects of the transgender trend.


Criticising an oppressed group

Some leftists do privately acknowledge that certain transgender ideas are conservative. But they are wary of voicing these criticisms too loudly, for fear of harming an already oppressed group. This argument ignores the all-important context of neoliberal support for the transgender trend.

In some cases the elite, or sections of the elite, make cynical use of a group’s oppression to promote their own agenda. These cases require us to fight on two fronts. The transgender trend is one of these cases. Transgender people do defy the most traditional form of sex stereotypes and as a result face day to day discrimination and political attacks from the religious and alt Right. Of course we should help to defend them from these attacks. But to leave it at that, as the Left currently does, allows the slimy neoliberal elite and their propagandists to use the trans phenomenon as a cool way to promote sex stereotypes and bury the existence of oppressive female socialisation.


Taking “the same side” as the Right

Liberals and leftists sometimes also claim that critics of transgender ideology are actually allied to conservatives, or at least, end up supporting their agenda.

Whether we like it or not, sometimes progressive demands converge, at least superficially, with those of the Right, or sections of the Right. Some people who denounce Russia’s bestial bombardment of Aleppo are anti-imperialists, others support US imperialism. The Brexiteers included UKIP racists and Tory bigots, but they were sometimes “Lexiteers”: Leavers who opposed the EU due to its role in imposing neoliberal austerity.

Where this sort of superficial convergence occurs, it is critical – absolutely essential – to distinguish yourself from the Right and from the elite, eg in your articles and speeches and in your concrete slogans, and by taking care that the platforms you speak on do not give grist to the Right or make you its unwitting ally.

The biggest public issues of contention around transgender rights create a superficial convergence between progressive and conservative critics of the trans trend. You can be horrified by child sterilisation in gender clinics, or oppose male-to-female transitioners using women’s private spaces, whether you are a conservative traditionalist or a feminist who rejects all sex stereotyping. For this reason the Right is sometimes able to draw, selectively and to a limited extent, on the work of trans-critical thinkers such as radical feminist Sheila Jeffreys.

Is this convergence ever more than superficial? There are several reasons why some trans-critical feminists may make concessions to the Right. One reason is the sheer pressure of political isolation, that is, the utter refusal of almost all liberals and leftists to support them. Liberals and leftists need to remove the beam from their own eye and start opposing the sexist elements of transgenderism. Another reason, perhaps, is the dispersal of trans-critical feminists. Individuals and loose groupings may be more likely to be drawn rightwards than tight organisations. A third reason is that some feminists’ analysis of women’s oppression have permitted them to make limited but real alliances with conservatives around other issues, eg use of police powers and punitive legislation to combat the suffering women endure from porn and sex work. I think they are wrong to do so. No alliance with conservatives works to the ultimate advantage of working women. But the feminist critique of transgender politics is not founded on right wing ideas.

Feminist criticisms of the transgender trend are drawn from the core politics of women’s liberation, politics which the Left shares and should apply to the issue of transgender.

The western world is changing fast, nowhere faster than in the USA. The Right and the far Right is surging; women, Muslims, blacks, and Latinos, lesbians and gays and unionists are mobilising to defend themselves. While Trump’s views on transgender issues have wobbled, the forces at his back are filled with hardened sexist racist homophobes and transphobes. A movement will arise against the Right’s surge. It will fight to defend transgender people among many other targets of far Right abuse.

However, as that movement draws new people into politics, and gives them confidence to challenge the oppression they face in their own lives, conservative and sexist elements of transgender thinking will come under new scrutiny. The Left will find itself left behind if it doesn’t address those issues now.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Arilando says:

    >use of police powers and punitive legislation to combat the suffering women endure from porn
    You mean impose censorship?

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    • freerlives says:

      I’m not aware of any attempt by feminists to censor porn. Wikipedia says “Many anti-pornography feminists—Dworkin and MacKinnon in particular—advocated laws which defined pornography as a civil rights harm and allowed women to sue pornographers in civil court” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_views_of_pornography#Legislative_and_judicial_efforts
      In Marxism and Women’s Liberation, Judith Orr states that “radical feminist Julie Bindel has allied with right wing groups around a campaign to ban lap dancing clubs.” (178) There have been moves to criminalise men who seek to buy sex.
      Apologies for the late response to your comment, I have been away.

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    • Nina says:

      It is so weird to me that an industry with real and documented harms to women is considered “free speech”, to the point where pushing for health and safety standards is considered “censorship”, as is combating revenge porn, prosecuting creators of porn with underage girls in them, etc.

      Like, you do understand that you can depict all sorts of things in a film without actually doing those things, right? Every other format of media seems to have figured out that you don’t need to, e.g., actually shoot a real person in the chest in order to exercise your free speech rights to depict someone getting shot in the chest, and nobody would be so stupid as to apply that line of reasoning to a non-pornographic movie. Porn is no different. Condom use laws aren’t censorship, they just mean the porn industry would have to invest in a cheap method of CG-ing the condoms out en masse, which honestly, would not be that difficult with today’s tech. The issue there isn’t censorship, it’s that porn companies care more about saving a couple bucks than meeting reasonable basic safety standards.

      And even if it was censorship? It would be an issue of competing rights. “Free speech” is already restricted when it threatens other people’s safety. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, and you can’t threaten people with bodily harm. If your “freedom of speech” requires exposing other people to bodily harm, too bad. You don’t have a constitutional right to that, nor should you.

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      • freerlives says:

        Hi Nina, my point was that no alliance with conservatives works to the ultimate advantage of working women, including any alliances to oppose porn or sex work. The larger point, however, was that feminist criticism of the trans trend cannot be explained away as the result of right wing politics. Porn and sex work are huge issues but not the focus of this blog, which is to confront the right wing and sexist aspects of transgender thinking, to highlight the way the neoliberal elite media has popularised these ideas, and to challenge the line on transgender currently taken by the Left.

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  2. “Transgender people do defy the most traditional form of sex stereotypes”

    A male who says he’s a woman because he identifies with femininity is doing nothing other than reinforcing sex-based stereotypes because this takes for granted that maleness is synonymous with masculinity and therefore that a man who isn’t masculine or doesn’t want to be perceived/identify that way isn’t really a man. Gender identity is founded on the most basic tenet of patriarchy, which is that gender is innate. Genderists and conservatives actually share this belief.

    I’m also a bit confused about what you mean by “most traditional”; all stereotypes are traditional – that’s why they’re so deeply ingrained in our culture.

    “the feminist critique of transgender politics is not founded on right wing ideas”

    Indeed. Nice to see someone address this question.

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  3. freerlives says:

    Lavender Blume, by “most traditional” I mean the type of sex stereotyping linked to your sex of birth, that says eg if you are born XX and your body generates ova you are destined to be feminine in behaviour and habits of mind, anything else is unnatural. This is still very widely adhered to in society and also fuels hostility to trans people from the religious Right. Trans people have a personal right to identify as being a member of the other sex and should be protected from attacks when they do.
    But it is also very true that trans people use sex stereotypes in a different way from the most traditional one, a way that still helps to reinforce women’s oppression, and is acceptable to and promoted by the neoliberal elite – as discussed throughout my blog. So trangender is a contradictory trend that requires a two sided response.
    Thanks for your feedback. Apologies for the late response to your comment, I have been away.

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  4. Karen says:

    Males should not have a “right” to “identify” as women, anymore than a white person should have a right to idenify as asian and be admitted into asian only groups etc. It is MRA ideology that suggests otherwise. Females also should not need to identify as male to escape female oppression. Sadly you do not seem to understand real feminism much at all. Postmodernism, sexual libertarianism and neoliberal individualism are at the heart of queer theory of which the concept of “transgenderism” comes from.

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