***long read for the weekend***
The enemy of your enemy is not your friend.
Nor is the friend of your friend necessarily on the same page as you, and just to make things even more complex, your friends and comrades just might not agree with you…
There’s been a noticeable change in the prevailing winds of sexism and women’s reactions to it in recent weeks. That’s why I wrote the blog called Prepare to Support Our Trans Comrades.
I don’t think anyone was over-excited by the fact that Boris Johnson said something vaguely supportive of the Sex Matters campaign a week or two back, nor did I shout hooray when a politician assured me that my MP (who’s so right-wing she’s frightening) would support me in my feminist work. Thing is, there are two ways of ‘supporting’ feminism. I know darned well that she will support me (carefully, so as not to disadvantage herself at all) in *some* aspects of my feminist work – but how much does she care for lesbian and gay refugees who are not safe in the ‘safe’ places in anti-LGBT parts of Africa? How much help would she be on our campaigns for Palestinian or Afghan women? – Or even the struggling women in her own constituency, who obviously, desperately need social housing and a decent health service?
It’s obvious why the women on the sex-based rights campaign are full of love for J K Rowling. Well, I love J K Rowling. I loved her *before* she stepped into the gender wars. I loved her because she wrote a book that kids who don’t read will read. I loved her because she got the better of Bloomsbury, and became one of the few British authors who actually managed to earn as much, if not more, from their work than their corporate publishers. I loved her because she was (as far as I know) the first ever billionaire to put her shoulder to the wheel and actually manage to stop being a billionaire, by doing enough useful stuff with enough of her money. And of course, I love her for very publicly taking some of our leading gender-critical feminists out to lunch, and helping the campaign go mainstream.
…but it is still true that both Rowling and Duffield were standing in the doorway and blocking up the hall during the Corbyn movement. Politically naïve rich people can be very dangerous. Those of us on the left stand with Rowling and Duffield when they’re bullied and abused over their feminism – of course we do – but don’t get carried away.
(Also, please don’t take my comments there as a criticism of those women in general. Everyone has their specialisms, and in a world ruled by media billionaires, no-one is in a situation to see through all their smoke and mirrors. I do not doubt there are areas where I am equally naïve, if I am careless enough to comment. I am full of admiration – in fact, joy – because women from so many different backgrounds and perspectives have come together on this campaign.)
It was clear that some middle-of-the-road MPs were coming round to our way of thinking and a lot of us were getting very hopeful. Me, I was suspicious. The whole trans thing is clearly (if you really look critically, it is clear) so clearly a corporate sponsored, individualist, solidarity-destroying philosophy, so to me, and anyone else on the left, it should also be clear that dismantling it is not going to be an easy task. One battle is not the whole war, as they say.
Then there was the hint of an explanation for the sea-change out there. When Dennis Kavanagh was banned from Twitter, he wrote a detailed appeal – to Elon Musk. I thought that was a story worth watching, so I wrote a blog called Where is Dennis?
Funnily enough, by the time I’d written it and got it out there, Dennis was back on Twitter – and within a day or so, several of the gay men, and some of the feminists we had missed keenly, were also back. I’m told that Musk has succeeded in getting hold of Twitter, and also that one of the reasons he thinks he supports freedom of speech is that he’s gender-critical. I’m pleased – but not euphoric.
As the Musk story got around, Caitlin Johnson said this…
If Musk does prove to be gender-critical, that does not make her wrong. He is a billionaire. He is a billionaire who thought his personal project to get into space more important than the entire world’s climate crisis. I expect every billionaire is on your side on one or two issues – the problem with billionaires is that they get to swing things according to their every whim.
There are two ways of disagreeing with queer theory
Those of us on the left who oppose the gender-identity cult do so because we recognise it as part of identity politics, part of a capitalist project to isolate and ensnare individuals into lifestyles where they only thrive by buying things (all the special trendy clothes, the hormones, the astronomically expensive medical treatments etc, which we call the ‘gender-woo’), and because one of the barriers to socialism is, and has always been, gender-prejudice. (Had you not noticed, gender identity theory, the idea that gender-woo is natural and innate, is pure sexism?) There are also people who oppose the gender-woo because they are straight-laced and fearful of difference. If Musk is one of those, Twitter has just become Trumpy heaven.
But even if Musk is ‘the right kind’ of gender-critical, he is going to carry the popularist, not-deep-thinking hordes along with him and that is going to go hard for trans people so, I’m saying this one more time – on this particular issue, we may have just been handed a huge advantage so
One of the more tragic and dangerous effects of the divide over the queer theory business is the splintering of the left. Yes, right-wingers are now battling for freedom of speech and if it gets anti-racist efforts back onto the streets instead of carping over words in old texts, that’s great but you know, the right want freedom to say terrible things. Tread carefully down the middle. It wasn’t actually Voltaire who said “I disapprove of what you say but I defend unto death your right to say it” but he meant it. Support freedom of speech, but challenge the nonsense words with your own words, not by colluding in oppression. No-one is inherently evil. ‘Evil’ is an idea of human minds, and ideas can change. Trans people *are* a minority and they *are* vulnerable. If right-wing people or prejudiced people try to support us by giving trans people a hard time, it is vital that we stand together and oppose those bullies, as well.
The splintering of the left
Trick one: Misogyny and sexism drive the gender-woo, of course they do – just look where the funding comes from for the trans crusade – have you looked? US-owned billionaires’ health care companies, that’s who. A wee bit of research about the size of the ‘sex change’ industry will lead you there.
Trick two: capitalist profiteers tap into the woo to pile on the misery felt by gay guys suffering from society’s intolerance of ‘the effeminate’, and young girls panicked by porn-soaked ideas of what it is to be a woman, and the profiteers use those issues to create a hierarchy in LGBT world, shaping it as they go to destroy women’s rights and break the left.
Result: a lot of people who should know better sign up to a sexist cult because they see the cruelties in trick two, and think lauding sex-change is the solution.
One of the more toe-cringing moments in my attempts to communicate with the left recently was watching a lefty interviewer put on her best primary-school teacher voice and explain to two intelligent materialist feminists that as a Marxist in the 21st century, you mustn’t pay too much attention to what Marx said. Can she really think well-read, trade unionist women need to be told that? We know that when Marx, and in particular Engels, wrote about how the beginnings of class-based oppression lay in the forming of the traditional family unit, it counted women and girls amongst the householder’s ‘possessions’. We know that times have changed somewhat since the property-owning classes laid claim to women’s bodies as the providers of the labour force and heirs for landowners.
We also managed to work out that whilst the details of the game change, the forces remain the same. Billionaires will rule the narrative in any way they can. In the 21st century, it’s surrogacy contracts, the sex industry and the gender clinics that are the weapons of women’s oppression. If Elon Musk is gender-critical, then either he is ‘the wrong kind’ (ie, anti-trans) gender-critical or else he’s the smartest of the billionaires, and has realised the wheels have come off the gender game, and he’s now going into battle with a newer weapon.
Beware the battle of the billionaires. Just like the rows the left are having over the situation in Ukraine (listen to Jeremy Corbyn – it is possible to react without supporting Russia, Ukraine or NATO). If you don’t like Jeremy Corbyn, try JRR Tolkien. (Giving the ring to your ally would not solve your problem. ) If we really do have a situation where the forces of evil are set against each other, one of them will win, and emerge as an even greater danger to ordinary folks.
It’s great that J K Rowling is gender-critical, and I’m delighted so many women defended her when the sillies tried to ‘cancel’ her books (the books actually went up the fastseller lists as a result, but anyway) even if Elon Musk turns out to be the ‘right kind of’ gender-critical, please stay capitalism-critical and neoliberalism-critical. That is, and always will be, the main battle. It is what you need to focus your activism on if you’re fighting for the right of ordinary people to have a decent life, and a decent environment in which to live it.
To my lefty friends I say, yes, we do know that you have to interpret old texts to read them in new times, but sexism and misogyny are, just like racism and classism, tools of the oppressor. They change, they come in ever-evolved disguises but they are there. I have not forgotten that Eleanor Marx died in extraordinary and very suspicious circumstances – why was she alone? Why did no-one see it coming? Why was there no more detailed investigation? Because the lefties around her, just like the lefties now, were as prone as everyone else to being blinded by the tricks of false consciousness.
A fair world will not have billionaires in it. If there are still billionaires then by definition, you are looking at an unfair and dangerous world.
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