Radical feminists “working with the right”
August 6, 2023
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In this post, as in all posts, I am speaking solely for myself. I am not speaking on behalf of any other individual or on behalf of any organization.
A friend sent me the following message this morning:
Hi, Kara... I hope you are well.... I returned from one of the weeklong events of [REDACTED], and I am digesting the aftermath of an intense post thread in their Facebook group, and [REDACTED] presentation at the event…. The gist of the presentation veered rather strongly toward criticizing women who "collude" with the rightwing, and I ended up sharing my usual POV, which is that we need all hands on deck, and that utilizing various conservative outlets doesn't mean we are in agreement with all rightwing methods & views. I hope I'm not disturbing you at an early hour on a Sunday, but I was wondering if you can link to any articles or posts that address this. I imagine that you yourself have probably been criticized for this, so I thought I would start with you to see if it has been discussed previously anywhere. I am certainly doing my own digging, but appreciate if you are able to share any places where this discussion has been held. As always, thank you for your excellent leadership & work on behalf of all of us.
I sent her a few things in response.
I thought it might be good to address this topic here. The issue of “radical feminists working with the right” continues to flare up, and there is a new development under discussion. For purposes of this post, I want to distinguish between two phenomena:
Radical feminists working across the aisle to accomplish shared legal and/or legislative objectives.
Women bringing in right wing male militia groups to protect them from other (antifa) male violence.
The friend who messaged me this morning imagined that I have probably been criticized for “colluding” with the religious right. Oh, how right she is! I will have a lot to say about this in my up-coming book “The Reckoning.”
In 2016, the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), of which I was then the board chair, received a $15,000 grant from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF does not hide its political agenda. Its website states that it wants to “ensure the law respects God’s created order for marriage, the family, and human sexuality.” It advocates “for laws and precedents that promote human flourishing by recognizing the important differences between men and women and honoring God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman.” By this it means that it is solidly against marriage equality for lesbians and gay men. Its website also states that it wants to ensure that “life is safeguarded” and that it wants to “guarantee the right to life from conception to natural death.” By this it means that it is solidly against abortion under all circumstances. None of this is mysterious.
WoLF has some profound disagreements with ADF on these topics, but that does not mean there was any reason not to accept this grant, which was used to cover some legal expenses associated with its lawsuit against the federal government’s attempt to redefine sex under Title IX. All of this is public knowledge. Someone (I didn’t know who at the time, but apparently it’s a woman named Beth Graham) wrote a piece called “Sheep in WoLF’s clothing: Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) and its Christian Theocrat Funders.” I was involved in the decision to receive the ADF grant, and it’s really difficult to take that headline seriously. WoLF received a one-time $15,000 grant back in 2016 to pay some legal fees. That’s literally it. As far as I know, WoLF has not received any other money from ADF (I could be wrong; I left the board in 2020 so I literally just do not know). Any serious person who has ever been involved in political organizing knows that in this context $15,000 is nothing.
“Colluding” is a ridiculous word to use under these circumstances. The word collude means to “cooperate in a secret or unlawful way in order to deceive or gain an advantage over others.” When WoLF received the grant from ADF, it did not do so in secret. It was completely transparent about it. It has been receiving flak from women who claim to be feminists ever since. Entire Facebook groups were created to criticize the organization.
Nothing about working across the political aisle constitutes collusion. That’s just dumb. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Senator Susan Collins worked for years to get a month formally designated as Women’s History Month and earlier this year, they got it. Last November, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Schumer got the Respect for Marriage Act passed and he did it in part by securing the support of 12 Senate Republicans (some of them among the most conservative Republicans in the nation). ADF and the ACLU could not possibly be more antagonistic toward each other when it comes to securing the material reality of sex in the law - ADF supports it and the ACLU thinks that sex isn’t even real (the ACLU’s Deputy Director for Transgender Justice has said publicly that the North Carolina state legislature invented biological sex in 2016, which is a pretty weird thing for a prominent attorney to say). Yet the ACLU and ADF have publicly supported each other on topics like prisoners’ rights and religious freedom. The ACLU has also joined forces with the conservative organization American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on the topic of criminal justice reform. I worked at the ACLU from 2012-2014 on criminal justice policy and I was literally in the room when the Executive Director of the ACLU told the Executive Director of ALEC that he was proud to work with them. In 2013, the director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office co-wrote a blog post with Grover Norquist from Americans for Tax Reform on the same topic. It’s hard to get more conservative than Grover Norquist.
The point of all of this is to say that there is nothing even slightly unusual about groups working together on some issues when they’re on opposite sides of other issues. Literally no one other than radical feminists is ever criticized for doing this.
In 2017 I went on Tucker Carlson Tonight and some feminists went nuts. Going on Tucker Carlson Tonight was a difficult decision. In the end, I did it because I wanted to get WoLF’s message out there. Something like three million people were exposed to the radical feminist critique of “gender identity” that night and the WoLF website got so many hits that it crashed. I have been on the show something like 10 times since then and I have no regrets about it. Two weeks ago, Tucker Carlson went cruising through Los Angeles with Ice Cube. Things are changing and the feminists who criticize groups like WoLF for things like this need to keep up.
Last year, the U.K. group WPUK published a free and shareable version of an opinion piece that had previously been published in the magazine Radical Notion by Jayne Egerton - a radio producer at the BBC. The piece is titled “Women and the Religious Right in the USA” and it’s basically a hit piece about me, WoLF, and my current organization, Women’s Declaration International USA (WDI USA). WDI USA wasn’t going to respond because this entire conservation has become a bit tedious, but it eventually did because someone came across a Facebook post by Egerton suggesting that WDI USA was somehow complicit in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. WDI USA found that insinuation to be so disgusting that it felt compelled to respond. I would encourage readers to read both Egerton’s hit piece and the WDI USA response and come to your own conclusions.
There is just nothing weird or unusual or bad about working across the political aisle to accomplish things. If no one ever did it, nothing would ever get done.
Part of the reason this is heating up now is that another development is brewing: some groups are starting to bring in what I would characterize as right wing militia groups with firearms to protect them during free speech rallies. I think this is entirely different from across-the-aisle political organizing and a terrible strategy.
I’m not naming names because the last thing I want to see is women who are on the same side when it comes to protecting women and girls from the assault of “gender identity” fighting with one another. But I do want to go on record as saying that I put my trust in women to fight this fight with skill, strategy, truth, and courage. This is, after all, a women’s movement.
In the fall of 2022, I spoke at a Let Women Speak event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. The event was part of a tour lead by U.K. women’s rights activist Kellie-Jay Keen. During my remarks, I said this:
“[T]here are certain elements of society with whom I want nothing to do at all. If anyone here is a Nazi, I do not want them in this fight. If anyone here is a member of the Proud Boys, I do not want them in this fight… I know that Kellie-Jay does not wish to impose any conditions on the women or men who attend her events and that is totally her right to do.”
I stand by that statement (though I would say it differently now, after events that took place in Australia and Kellie-Jay’s clarification of her position). Kellie-Jay wasn’t even a little bit mad at me for making it, even though she takes a slightly different view of the whole issue.
I understand why some women seek the protection of right wing men. So did Andrea Dworkin, who wrote, “Right-wing women have surveyed the world; they find it a dangerous place…They are not wrong.” Numerous women in our movement have been physically attacked, threatened, and intimidated by left-wing men–and all too often, let down by the law enforcement and justice systems that should protect all citizens equally.
But to invite armed right-wing men into the fray risks situating women’s events as contested territory in a greater war between opposing factions of violent men. It risks rendering women’s voices less than central to our own movement. I cannot support it.
While my long-time critics won’t agree, I assert that this is entirely different from women working as independent political operators using legitimate democratic means to achieve our goals.
Working with the right in the political realm has brought tangible benefits. For example, several years ago, Republicans in Congress, in state legislatures, and in legal briefs were using language that is abhorrent to radical feminists, including the idea that gender is innate. They no longer do so to the same extent. For example, the Republican-sponsored Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act is an incredibly simple, clean, elegant bill that would do two things: make it a violation of Title IX to permit a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls and define sex as based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth. WDI USA is on record supporting it and earlier this year I published an article making the case as to why I think progressives should support it. Do I like it that the bill is sponsored by a Republican? Of course not. But it’s hardly my fault that the Democrats in Congress have caved to the “gender identity” industry.
In December 2022, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in the matter of Adams v. St. Johns County. WoLF had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in that case. The ruling is a masterful decision that makes no compromises on language and it comes to the straightforward conclusion that schools may, consistent with Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, maintain single-sex bathrooms. I happen to know one of the judges on the 11th Circuit and it occurred to me to send him a copy of my book The Abolition of Sex. I wasn’t sure about the ethics of that, and I turned to someone I knew would be able to advise me - a lawyer at ADF. He advised me that it is perfectly ethical to send federal judges educational materials, so I did it. The judge sent me an email message thanking me and since then, I have made sure that he is aware of every friend-of-the-court brief that WDI USA has filed before the federal judiciary. That was only possible because of the relationships that I have built with groups like ADF over the years.
I have built similar relationships with women at Concerned Women for America and the Independent Women’s Forum. These are relationships that I am proud of, and which I have been able to rely on to achieve material gains in the fight to protect the sex-based rights of women and girls and to stop the abolition of sex.
None of that has anything to do with intentionally bringing in male right-wing militia groups to protect women at free-speech rallies, which I would never support.
This is a women’s movement, after all.