Paul: The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don’t Count

A plague on both their houses:

Perhaps it makes sense that women — those supposedly compliant and agreeable, self-sacrificing and everything-nice creatures — were the ones to finally bring our polarized country together.

Because the far right and the far left have found the one thing they can agree on: Women don’t count.

The right’s position here is the better known, the movement having aggressively dedicated itself to stripping women of fundamental rights for decades. Thanks in part to two Supreme Court justices who have been credibly accused of abusive behavior toward women, Roe v. Wade, nearly 50 years a target, has been ruthlessly overturned.

Far more bewildering has been the fringe left jumping in with its own perhaps unintentionally but effectively misogynist agenda. There was a time when campus groups and activist organizations advocated strenuously on behalf of women. Women’s rights were human rights and something to fight for. Though the Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified, legal scholars and advocacy groups spent years working to otherwise establish women as a protected class.

But today, a number of academics, uber-progressives, transgender activists, civil liberties organizations and medical organizations are working toward an opposite end: to deny women their humanity, reducing them to a mix of body parts and gender stereotypes.

As reported by my colleague Michael Powell, even the word “women” has become verboten. Previously a commonly understood term for half the world’s population, the word had a specific meaning tied to genetics, biology, history, politics and culture. No longer. In its place are unwieldy terms like “pregnant people,” “menstruators” and “bodies with vaginas.”

Planned Parenthood, once a stalwart defender of women’s rights, omits the word “women” from its home page. NARAL Pro-Choice America has used “birthing people” in lieu of “women.” The American Civil Liberties Union, a longtime defender of women’s rights, last month tweeted its outrage over the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade as a threat to several groups: “Black, Indigenous and other people of color, the L.G.B.T.Q. community, immigrants, young people.”

It left out those threatened most of all: women. Talk about a bitter way to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

The noble intent behind omitting the word “women” is to make room for the relatively tiny number of transgender men and people identifying as nonbinary who retain aspects of female biological function and can conceive, give birth or breastfeed. But despite a spirit of inclusion, the result has been to shove women to the side.

Women, of course, have been accommodating. They’ve welcomed transgender women into their organizations. They’ve learned that to propose any space just for biological women in situations where the presence of males can be threatening or unfair — rape crisis centers, domestic abuse shelters, competitive sports — is currently viewed by some as exclusionary. If there are other marginalized people to fight for, it’s assumed women will be the ones to serve other people’s agendas rather than promote their own.

But, but, but. Can you blame the sisterhood for feeling a little nervous? For wincing at the presumption of acquiescence? For worrying about the broader implications? For wondering what kind of message we are sending to young girls about feeling good in their bodies, pride in their sex and the prospects of womanhood? For essentially ceding to another backlash?

Women didn’t fight this long and this hard only to be told we couldn’t call ourselves women anymore. This isn’t just a semantic issue; it’s also a question of moral harm, an affront to our very sense of ourselves.

It wasn’t so long ago — and in some places the belief persists — that women were considered a mere rib to Adam’s whole. Seeing women as their own complete entities, not just a collection of derivative parts, was an important part of the struggle for sexual equality.

But here we go again, parsing women into organs. Last year the British medical journal The Lancet patted itself on the back for a cover article on menstruation. Yet instead of mentioning the human beings who get to enjoy this monthly biological activity, the cover referred to “bodies with vaginas.” It’s almost as if the other bits and bobs — uteruses, ovaries or even something relatively gender-neutral like brains — were inconsequential. That such things tend to be wrapped together in a human package with two X sex chromosomes is apparently unmentionable.

“What are we, chopped liver?” a woman might be tempted to joke, but in this organ-centric and largely humorless atmosphere, perhaps she would be wiser not to.

Those women who do publicly express mixed emotions or opposing views are often brutally denounced for asserting themselves. (Google the word “transgender” combined with the name Martina Navratilova, J.K. Rowling or Kathleen Stock to get a withering sense.) They risk their jobs and their personal safety. They are maligned as somehow transphobic or labeled TERFs, a pejorative that may be unfamiliar to those who don’t step onto this particular Twitter battlefield. Ostensibly shorthand for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” which originally referred to a subgroup of the British feminist movement, “TERF” has come to denote any woman, feminist or not, who persists in believing that while transgender women should be free to live their lives with dignity and respect, they are not identical to those who were born female and who have lived their entire lives as such, with all the biological trappings, societal and cultural expectations, economic realities and safety issues that involves.

But in a world of chosen gender identities, women as a biological category don’t exist. Some might even call this kind of thing erasure.

When not defining women by body parts, misogynists on both ideological poles seem determined to reduce women to rigid gender stereotypes. The formula on the right we know well: Women are maternal and domestic — the feelers and the givers and the “Don’t mind mes.” The unanticipated newcomers to such retrograde typecasting are the supposed progressives on the fringe left. In accordance with a newly embraced gender theory, they now propose that girls — gay or straight — who do not self-identify as feminine are somehow not fully girls. Gender identity workbooks created by transgender advocacy groups for use in schools offer children helpful diagrams suggesting that certain styles or behaviors are “masculine” and others “feminine.”

Didn’t we ditch those straitened categories in the ’70s?

The women’s movement and the gay rights movement, after all, tried to free the sexes from the construct of gender, with its antiquated notions of masculinity and femininity, to accept all women for who they are, whether tomboy, girly girl or butch dyke. To undo all this is to lose hard-won ground for women — and for men, too.

Those on the right who are threatened by women’s equality have always fought fiercely to put women back in their place. What has been disheartening is that some on the fringe left have been equally dismissive, resorting to bullying, threats of violence, public shaming and other scare tactics when women try to reassert that right. The effect is to curtail discussion of women’s issues in the public sphere.

But women are not the enemy here. Consider that in the real world, most violence against trans men and women is committed by men but, in the online world and in the academy, most of the ire at those who balk at this new gender ideology seems to be directed at women.

It’s heartbreaking. And it’s counterproductive.

Tolerance for one group need not mean intolerance for another. We can respect transgender women without castigating females who point out that biological women still constitute a category of their own — with their own specific needs and prerogatives.

If only women’s voices were routinely welcomed and respected on these issues. But whether Trumpist or traditionalist, fringe left activist or academic ideologue, misogynists from both extremes of the political spectrum relish equally the power to shut women up.

Source: The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don’t Count

Germany’s radical left is fueling anti-immigrant sentiment

Sigh….:

Sahra Wagenknecht, the leader of Germany’s far-left Die Linke party, has launched a new movement. It is called Aufstehen (literally translated, “stand up”). This in itself is not exceptional. Many other countries in Western Europe have left-wing parties of varying extremes.

Just think of the Dutch LinksGroen, the Danish Enhedslisten and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the United Kingdom. But there is a difference between the movement proposed by Frau Wagenknecht. While the other leftist parties are composed of remnants of the 1968 generation and progressive millennials, with a healthy skepticism toward authoritarianism, Aufstehen is something altogether different. The movement is unashamedly populist — and hostile toward immigration and other liberal causes.
Not surprisingly, such views have received praise from the far-right Alternative für Deutschland.

Wagenknecht is not — as some have said — seeking to build a movement like Momentum in Britain (the left-wing grassroots movement that brought Corbyn to power) or Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s equivalent La France Insoumise.

Her ambition is to create a realignment; to found a movement that appeals to disgruntled working-class voters who feel betrayed by big business, globalism and the low wages in the gig economy.

Her message is not one founded upon hope and solidarity. It is based on an ill-disguised opposition to foreigners. Her analysis is that a message of resentment chimes with low-wage workers.

That has been seen before. It is trite to cite examples of the darker chapters of Europe’s history. Suffice it to say that both Benito Mussolini in Italy and Oswald Moseley in the UK started their respective careers on the political left with a similar message. And further afield Juan Perón, used a combination of social justice and far-right attitudes to seize power in Argentina. Germany is unlikely to go the same way. But the precedents are not to be ignored.

Wagenknecht’s analysis is not entirely unique. In Denmark, the nominally center-left Social Democrats have rebranded themselves as a party that defends the welfare state, while it has lurched to the right on immigration issues.

But unlike the Danes, Wagenknecht has fused opposition to immigration with populist economics. That is a dangerous mix.

She cannot be accused of naïveté. Like Angela Merkel, she grew up in Communist East Germany. But unlike the current Chancellor of Germany, the far-left firebrand is unapologetic about her membership of the Communist Youth Movement FDJ.

She has described the East German communist dictatorship as “the most peaceful and most philanthropic polity that the Germans created in all of their previous history.”

Just for the record, the regime killed 327 people who tried to escape.

The private lives of politicians are not usually of political importance. Wagenknecht is an exception. She is married to Oscar Lafontaine — a former social democrat finance minister — who defected from Gerhard Schröder’s coalition Socialist-Green government and later founded Die Linke, with the members of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the successor to the East German Communist Party.

Her husband — 25 years her senior and now retired from politics — always stood for a more socially inclusive form of socialism. He even wrote a book titled “The Heart Beats on the Left.”

His wife does not subscribe to softer sentiments in politics. Her decision to establish Aufstehen should be viewed with concern across the whole of Europe.

Source: Germany’s radical left is fueling anti-immigrant sentiment

Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists @NYTOpinion

Interesting and somewhat counter-intuitive set of data (have just highlighted the first data set – Centrists most sceptical of democracy, other sets are: Least Likely to
Support Free and Fair Elections, Least Likely to Support Liberal Institutions, Most Supportive of Authoritarianism (Except for the Far Right), Percentage of Americans who support strongman leaders):

The warning signs are flashing red: Democracy is under threat. Across Europe and North America, candidates are more authoritarian, party systems are more volatile, and citizens are more hostile to the norms and institutions of liberal democracy.

These trends have prompted a major debate between those who view political discontent as economic, cultural or generational in origin. But all of these explanations share one basic assumption: The threat is coming from the political extremes.

On the right, ethno-nationalists and libertarians are accused of supporting fascist politics; on the left, campus radicals and the so-called antifa movement are accused of betraying liberal principles. Across the board, the assumption is that radical views go hand in hand with support for authoritarianism, while moderation suggests a more committed approach to the democratic process.

Is it true?

Maybe not. My research suggests that across Europe and North America, centrists are the least supportive of democracy, the least committed to its institutions and the most supportive of authoritarianism.

I examined the data from the most recent World Values Survey (2010 to 2014) and European Values Survey (2008), two of the most comprehensive studies of public opinion carried out in over 100 countries. The survey asks respondents to place themselves on a spectrum from far left to center to far right. I then plotted the proportion of each group’s support for key democratic institutions. (A copy of my working paper, with a more detailed analysis of the survey data, can be found here.)

….

What Does It Mean?

Across Europe and North America, support for democracy is in decline. To explain this trend, conventional wisdom points to the political extremes. Both the far left and the far right are, according to this view, willing to ride roughshod over democratic institutions to achieve radical change. Moderates, by contrast, are assumed to defend liberal democracy, its principles and institutions.

The numbers indicate that this isn’t the case. As Western democracies descend into dysfunction, no group is immune to the allure of authoritarianism — least of all centrists, who seem to prefer strong and efficient government over messy democratic politics.

Strongmen in the developing world have historically found support in the center: From Brazil and Argentina to Singapore and Indonesia, middle-class moderates have encouraged authoritarian transitions to bring stability and deliver growth. Could the same thing happen in mature democracies like Britain, France and the United States?

via Opinion | Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists – The New York Times