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Feminism’s dangerous new allies The Left may have let women down, but be wary of false promises from the Right

No time for purity politics? Credit: Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

No time for purity politics? Credit: Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images


October 12, 2020   6 mins

What the hell is happening to feminism? It belongs on the Left, right? It is a movement for the liberation of all women and one which prioritises those at the bottom of the pile. And, yet a growing number of female activists have been rallying with the Right — sometimes even the hard Right.

Historically, feminists have done best within the Labour movement. The Equal Pay Act occurred in the 1970s when trades unions were strong. And it was a Labour government that passed the Abortion Act. But, according to Selina Todd, Professor of Modern History at Oxford and proud socialist: “That isn’t to say the organised Left has given women everything we need and want: women have had to self-organise within the left to win our rights. But feminists and socialists have found important points of shared interest since the 18th century.”

Arguing that this is no time for ‘purity politics’, though, there is an increasing number of women activists who are prepared to hold their noses and join sides with whoever it takes in the fight to defeat the demands of extreme transgender ideologues. Well, I’m sorry — and I’m no fan of self-identification for men who wish to identify as women — but it’s a major own goal to decide to work with people who would deny women their bodily autonomy, who are anti-gay, who consider trans people to be freaks, and who are more likely to show bigotry towards marginalised groups.

While I will happily debate men such as pro-porn campaigner Jerry Barnett and Right wing media troll Milo Yiannopoulos in order to expose and challenge their views, joining forces with groups that are virulently opposed to women’s human rights is another thing altogether.

The trouble is, the Left has let women down. Badly. Look at the attitudes of many Lefty blokes when it comes to prostitution and pornography. As I have previously argued here, such men like to condemn those of us who seek to end the sex trade as ‘whorephobic’. And are encouraging young women to believe that porn can be liberating, and even ‘feminist’. Some even argue that violent and abusive sex is an expression of female rights. When such attitudes become commonplace, it’s hard to achieve our goals as feminists.

Critics of the Left also like to point to the fact that the Tories elected a female leader back in 1975, while Labour has yet to do so. But here’s the rub: Margaret Thatcher disliked women and was no fan of feminism. With her in charge, the sexism inherent to the Conservative party remained in safe hands. She promoted only one woman to a cabinet position in 11 years. She was a female politician promulgating male politics. That’s hardly equality.

As Andrea Dworkin wrote in Right Wing Women (1983): “The political Right in the United States today makes certain metaphysical and material promises to women that both exploit and quiet some of women’s deepest fears.” This is still true today.

Woman’s Place UK, a British feminist organisation, recognises that women fighting for their rights come from across the political spectrum, but its vision of women’s liberation is rooted in a longstanding left-wing progressive tradition which fights for women’s political, economic and sexual autonomy. “We refuse to be pushed out by sexism on the left,” says its co-founder Kiri Tunks, “or to align ourselves with religious or far-right campaigns seeking to stoke racism and homophobia, or who wish to turn back the clock on issues such as abortion rights.”

But in the US, certain celebrity feminists are openly celebrating having moved to the Right. Arielle Scarcella is a lesbian and YouTube sensation who made a very loud journey towards the Right and declared on Twitter that, “The right builds things. The left tears them down, because they aren’t capable of building things themselves.” Until recently, Memoree Joelle was editor of the online magazine After Ellen, which promises to “provide a fun, feminist perspective on the way lesbian and bisexual women are portrayed in pop culture”. But Joelle, who previously defined as a women’s rights activist, has now come out firmly in favour of Trump.

This is particularly hard to stomach given the way the President inflames and normalises misogyny in all its guises. Yet as we approach the US elections, many so-called feminists are rallying for Trump. Trump’s racist, anti-immigration policies affect the most disenfranchised women, it is a betrayal of every one of these women to support him. Yet some have lent him their support for his disgraceful stance on trans issues alone, despite his administration’s hostility to women’s rights in general.

To be clear, I stand firmly against any form of prejudice and discrimination towards marginalised people, which includes trans people. As a lesbian, I know exactly what that prejudice feels like. But I will always fight against the ‘trans-women are women’ mantra and the demands from some extreme trans-activists that any man can self identify as a woman and invade our hard-won women-only spaces and, as a consequence, erase women’s sex-based rights. Trump’s views are repugnant regarding transgender people because those views are indivisible from how he feels about anyone lesbian, gay or gender nonconforming.

It takes a certain sort of distorted logic for feminists to support him on the trans issue because Trump has no desire to protect women’s sex-based rights — he’s bigoted against all minorities. But there are several such organisations who do.

Hands Across the Aisle Coalition (HATAC), for example, is a collection of US radical feminists and the Christian right. It was set up, “to challenge the notion that gender is the same as sex”. Yet its co-founders are Kaeley Triller Harver, who advocates for the criminalisation of abortion, and Emily Zinos, who campaigns to repeal gay rights. They aren’t everyday conservative women and mothers: they are highly skilled female operatives of the theocratic Right.

The Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), meanwhile, is a US radical feminist organisation “dedicated to the total liberation of women and girls”. But it has extensive ties to the religious Right in the states. WoLF filed a joint Amicus brief (legal documents filed in appellate court cases by non-litigants with a strong interest in the subject matter) with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in an attempt to curb trans rights, which would also lead to the dismantling of lesbian and gay anti-discrimination laws. (ADF is largest right-wing evangelical Christian non-profit law firm in the US.)

These organisations are now gaining a purchase on feminist movements in the UK. In 2019, a joint UK/US week of ‘gender critical’ action entitled, Women Stand Up! was organised by women’s rights activists in the UK, and by WoLF and HATAC in the US. It included an event at the Heritage Foundation (HF), an influential public policy research institute that promotes Christian Right policies and is opposed to women’s, lesbian and gay rights. The HF event included feminist speakers from WoLF.

In 2017, HATAC member Meg Kilgannon spoke at the Values Voter Summit (VVS), an annual gathering of the Christian Right which, earlier this year, compared the Black Lives Matter movement to Nazis. Only one US president has ever addressed it: Trump. At the Summit, Kilgannon outlined a strategy in relation to working with feminists that included avoiding religious terminology in favour of science: “If you separate the T from the alphabet soup, we’ll have more success.” In other words, this strategy would disguise the general attack on the rights of all LGBT people.

Even those women who have been most harmed by transgender ideology are alarmed by this new feminist/right-wing alliance. A number of de-transitioned women published a blog in which the authors appealed to others to reject any offer of support from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) because of its support for gay conversion therapy based on Christian fundamentalism. “We ask you to think critically about this,” they wrote, “and reject any ‘support’ that would allow the ADF to treat our painful histories and financial vulnerability as an opportunity to promote their anti-LGBT and anti-woman agenda.”

The women counter by saying they are not complicit in bolstering regressive values; they are, they say, forming “strategic alliances” in order to prevent legislation or policy to be adopted that could harm women, such as transgender self-identification.

I approached WoLF to ask about their work and was told: “We’ve brought feminist arguments to federal court, for the audience of the people who determine the implementation of our civil rights laws. This is an important venue from which we cannot be de-platformed by vigilante social media mobs, and in which the women we represent have a right to have their views represented.”

I understand only too well the effects of being silenced and de-platformed, but joining forces with those who wish to repeal the majority of women’s hard-won rights is a betrayal of the highest order. That’s why I think these alliances are strategically disastrous. Yes, it is a disgrace that Liberal and Left organisations have failed to support sex-based rights, but I do believe women lose out in the long term if we do not fight from a progressive base.

Beatrix Campbell, left-wing journalist, political activist and author of The Iron Ladies: Why Do Women Vote Tory? (1987), knew that in order to be an effective feminist campaigner it is necessary to have a critique of the wider social structures that sustain male power and women’s oppression or we are vulnerable to “odd alliances”. She tells me, “Issues of sexual oppression can arise in the right or the left, and if you don’t locate your women’s activism then you might find allies that are no friends to women at all and want to use us for their own agenda.”

While feminists may find limited common ground with right-wing groups over single issues, they are likely to have very different ideas about how their shared objectives should be achieved and their ultimate goals will be irreconcilable. “The global Right is not and never has been committed to equality,” says Selina Todd, “let alone liberation.”

I believe feminists must look to the movement’s success in the UK and understand that we can win this battle using strong feminist arguments rooted in experience, struggle and female solidarity. As the African American feminist writer Audrey Lorde said: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”


Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.

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polidoris ghost
polidoris ghost
3 years ago

“It is a movement for the liberation of all women and one which prioritises those at the bottom of the pile.”
But it never has prioritised those at the bottom of the pile.. It has always been a movement that is only interested in career advancement for middle class women.
Why “The Movement” should attract the attention of the genuine left, that is the working class left, is a puzzle.

Lydia R
Lydia R
3 years ago

I do recall some of those women turning up at the miner’s strike and being told to get lost by the miners wives.

Lydia R
Lydia R
3 years ago

A decade ago, feminists aligned themselves with hardline Islamist activists and gave Aayan Hirsi Ali the thumbs down. She had little choice but to align herself with Republicans to get a hearing. Now we see the same effect with Ms Bindel and her various sisters, Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill come crying to The Spectator as they are deplatformed by their Woke, progressive former comrades. Can’t think what she’s complaining about really.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
3 years ago

Liberalism has outgrown its usefulness to feminists.

The word “liberal” comes from the same root as “to liberate” — in other words, liberals believe in eliminating barriers, hierarchies, unchosen obligations… anything that conflicts with personal autonomy. In the hierarchical society of the Middle Ages “liberal” was actually an insult — see Much Ado About Nothing for an example.

Feminists needed liberalism to remove the legal and social barriers to women’s independence. It is liberalism that provides the philosophical muscle to tear down sexist voting laws, inheritance laws, dress codes, etc… However, most of those have now come down. Remaining glass ceilings are cathedral ceilings, so high most women will never meet them. When 56% of college graduates are women, it’s hard to claim significant barriers to the fairer sex’s general success.

But liberalism continues it’s march to “liberate”, tearing down pornography laws, abortion laws, sodomy laws, military service rules, sexual expectations, and now (courtesy the trans-craze) even basic biology. Women are harmed, not helped: by the broad availability of pornography; by men “expecting” that they will put out after a few dates; by competing against men in sports. And despite the left’s assertions to the contrary, women are not uniformly in favor of abortion either.

Hence, each woman in America is doing exactly what everyone does in politics: finding the side that agrees with her more. Liberalism was the home of women’s rights for decades. But many of its policies are now hostile to those very women the philosophy championed so recently. It’s hardly surprising that some (maybe many) of them are unhitching their car from the liberal bandwagon.

Brigitte Lechner
Brigitte Lechner
3 years ago

Julie is right to warn about the likely consequences of strategic alliances. There is no defence other than the abject betrayal of women’s rights by the left. Every day is therefore a new day of hope that this betrayal will be reversed.

ericaconrick
ericaconrick
3 years ago

Poor Ms. Bindel sounds conflicted. She would like to exclude trans women from both feminism and womanhood, but finds to her chagrin that doing so puts her in league with hate mongers, homophobes, and misogynists. Her tightrope walk between denying trans women their human dignity while attempting to pat herself on the back for standing up for “marginalized” people seems to have made her dizzy. Oh, why can’t a TERF just hate this one annoying demographic, kick them out of the ladies bathroom, and then celebrate her own liberality? I’ll tell you why Ms. Bindel: because that’s the way hate works. You start with the idea that trans women aren’t women, you end up with your new friends, bible bangers who consider you as much of an “abomination unto the Lord” as I am. You stabbed your own trans sisters in the back and now you want to call yourself a feminist. Cry me a river.

Lord Rochester
Lord Rochester
3 years ago

The first Prime Minister I remember was a woman, and she was in power unti I was a teenager. So I tend to switch off when I hear this now quite clichéd argument from some feminists:

“Margaret Thatcher disliked women and was no fan of feminism. With her in charge, the sexism inherent to the Conservative party remained in safe hands. She promoted only one woman to a cabinet position in 11 years. She was a female politician promulgating male politics. That’s hardly equality”

And in one twist of rhetoric the glass ceiling remains intact: she was the ‘wrong’ type of feminist. The ‘wrong’ type of woman. Thus ‘trans-women are women’ is a rejected “mantra” alongside ‘centre-right female leaders are women.’ Note the use of “female politician”: her womanhood has been deleted.

Is Angela Merkel the ‘right’ type of feminist? Or is she also too centre-right to be ‘right’? Ă°ĆžÂ€â€

R MS
R MS
1 year ago

Honestly Julie, you’re overcomplicating things.
With transgenderism you’ve been gifted an opportunity where the vast majority of the people in the country agree with you, and between you here and at the Mail, Sarah Ditum and Janice Turner at the Times, Suzanne Moore at the Telegraph etc etc you’re able to reach and speak to them at scale to drum up support through right wing papers that dominate the print media and still shape the national agenda, even if the Guardian won’t publish you.
Win trust on that issue and I dare say, even if most won’t support your agenda across the piste, you’ll be able if you play your cards right to build trust more broadly and get a hearing and maybe start to make progress on at least some of your wider agenda.
As for political parties the blunt fact is the more support you command in the country and through the press the more they will all listen to you.
At the moment the Tories are the only ones not captured by gender lunacy, and unfortunately for other reasons their prospects aren’t looking great. But if you want to change attitudes in Labour, the LibDems and SNP the best way is to move and cement broad popular support in the country so you can’t be ignored.
Now stop this self-defeating agonising and GET ON WITH IT!

Rich Garcia
Rich Garcia
1 year ago

The only women who benefit from a right-wing alliance are the types of women who are seen as the default: white, heterosexual, and/or middle-class. And that sounds like a “woke” virtue signal, but let’s learn from history and call a thing a thing.

Women making the argument that feminists should work with conservatives don’t care about intersectionality and will never be affected by systemic racism and homophobia. They’ll lose their rights to abortion and contraception if conservatives get their way. But that’s a price to pay if it means winning the (Trans)Gender Wars. A price that poorer and more marginalized women will have to pay.

Is it any wonder why white feminists in particular get so much guff from their lesbian and WoC contemporaries for being myopic and out of touch? This is it.

a.druggan
a.druggan
3 years ago

Poor Julie-entagngled in the many conbtradictions of Feminism IE support for porn etc.Well,when you tear down previous social taboos,demonise those who supported them,elimintae all restrictions etc it’s very difficult to propse any new ones.All red lines appear entirely arbitrary including,sadly for her,all those proposed by the bold Julie.To be fair to Julie I like her a lot.Her description of Hugh Hefner as “sexist scum of the lowest order” is a classic.It looks great on my T-shirt.Thanks Julie.

Scott Allan
Scott Allan
3 years ago

Seeing the majority of the leadership of the left is Feminists then Julie you should be mad at your little Neo-Marxist cult. I personally am just going to sit back with a drink and watch the snake eat its tail.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferer Julie Blindel should really reconsider her anti-Trump rhetoric, which seems to be uninformed by any consideration of the alternative. (This is no what-aboutism, when people are already voting in the US presidential election.) Here’s Joe Biden from the town hall on 15 October: “The idea that an 8-year-old child or a 10-year-old child decides, you know I decided I want to be transgender. That’s what I think I’d like to be. It would make my life a lot easier. There should be zero discrimination.” Got that? Biden wants an 8-year-old girl to be able to decide that she wants to transition to become a boy. It’s her decision, never mind her parents. And she accuses Trump of misogyny! Sleepy Joe, Trump’s nickname for Biden, is much too generous. Biden really is Creepy Joe, in so many ways.

mcsean2163
mcsean2163
3 years ago

Hmm. I find the Trump bashing a real turn off. He’s a pretty repugnant character but what’s the alternative?

A democrat party that seems to prioritize war.

Biden seems weak and Kamala is bringing the dangerous centre for new American security that supported her run. As far as I’m concerned republicans and democrats are the same with different policies on abortion and war.

The whole trans thing is weird. Trans people have a massively high rate of attempted suicide. Many are vulnerable people that need support. The anti trans movement just seems appalling.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  mcsean2163

The suicide business is regularly repeated, but it’s not particularly true. There are some mental health conditions more common in the trans population and rates of suicide are in line with those groups generally. Medical organisations that deal with minor trans patients don’t report elevated rates of suicide at all.

Jonathan Barker
Jonathan Barker
3 years ago

Men are angular and therefore inherently dangerous unless tempered by the gentling Feminine Principle. Angular men are inherently afraid of and hostile towards the Feminine Principle.
Women are spherical.If you paint women, you paint the whole universe.
Every woman is a particularization of one thing – the “She” or Shakti the universal power.
A woman’s body rotating expresses the unity of existence. It is all just “She”.

In 1970 the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective published a (then) revolutionary book titled Our Bodies Our Selves. Not surprisingly it was condemned with shock-horror-outrage by all of the usual right wing “moralists” The sort of “moralists” associated with Focus on the Family and that now infest the Alliance Defending “Freedom”.

Some of my favorite truth-telling feminists who go far beyond the reductionist anti-feminist diatribes that (mis)-inform most/all of the right wing bloviators.

Susan Griffin the author of A Chorus of Stones, Woman and Nature The Roaring Inside Her, and Pornography and Silence (patriarchal) Cultures Revenge Against Nature

Marilyn French the author of The War Against Women
Vandana Shiva the author Ecofeminism and Staying Alive.

Plus the little known Nor Hall the author of The Moon and the Virgin Reflections on the Archetypal Feminism