Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

No Sign of a Cease-Fire: the Gender Culture Wars Continue.

with 17 comments

Trans rights protest at the LGB Alliance conference | Dazed

There are rankles and rages crawling around the Internet. They may be called “”symbolic issues and questions of identity”. Politics has always been soaked in antipathies. Without something to hate, we would lose the very spring of thought and action. Debate would turn to a stagnant pool, were it not ruffled by the” jarring interests and unruly passions”.

For Dominic Sandbrook culture wars have always been around. But “What is certainly true,” he says, “is there are moments in history when disputes about history, identity, symbols, images and so on loom very large. Think about so much of 17th-century politics, for example, when people would die over the wording of a prayer book.” The same applies, he believes, to any number of periods, including the arrival of the permissive society in the 1960s, in which there is an attempt to establish new mores.” (Everything you wanted to know about the culture wars – but were afraid to ask. Andrew Anthony. June 2021)

This excellent ‘long read’ gives a glimpse into a overhanging feature, “if we look at America, where the modern incarnation of the culture wars was first identified, the conflicts over abortion and gay marriage have been fought, at least by one side, from an explicitly religious perspective.” In this respect nobody needs Carl Schmitt’s philosophy of the distinction between Friend and Enemy to explain the springs that exist in people and politics that seem to reoccur in multiple disputes. Seeing this through the faith dimension lets us peer inside more clearly

The Essayist and free-thinker William Hazlitt (1778 – 1830), a warrior in the cause of revolutionary liberty, had the measure of those rowing about the details of these moral codes, “They fortify themselves within the narrow circle of their new-fangled prejudices; the whole exercise of their right of private judgment is after a time reduced to the repetition of a set of watchwords, which have been adopted as the Shibboleth of the party; and their extremest points of faith pass as current as the beadroll and legends of the Catholics, or St. Athanasius’s Creed, and the Thirty-nine Articles. ” (On The Tendency Of Sects. 1815)

Culture wars do not need a direct religious infusion to resemble this structure of feeling. The godless and god-fearing “heirs of Puritanism”, the matrix of sectarianism in the English speaking world, are both now rampant, and nowhere more so than in the skirmishes and pitched battles over Gender. Above all “between trans activists and gender-critical feminists.” As Anthony continues, ” At almost the same time last week that Maya Forstater was winning her appeal against an employment tribunal, after saying that people cannot change their biological sex, the Labour leader Keir Starmer was reaffirming the party’s commitment to introducing self-identification for trans people.”

Some engaged in this fight do not just believe in a set of laws extending gender recognition, gender fluidity, rights at work and elsewhere, or, for their critics, that such legislation (either in principle or in its present form) is flawed. It is that their are many who stand as judgemental Deities, out to punish their rivals, and that they expect others to live by their scriptures. Or get cast out as fascists by Judith Butler. Or, should the other side have the upper hand, as misogynists. To add one more ‘Or’, as one of the worst articles ever written on the whole issue says – “negated by trans dogma, democracy itself is in peril.” (Frank Furedi)

“Nature seems (the more we look into it) made up of antipathies” wrote Hazlitt:” without something to hate, we should lose the very spring of thought and action. Life would turn to a stagnant pool, were it not ruffled by the jarring interests, the unruly passion… (On the Pleasure of Hating. 1826) Yet…..”They would gain proselytes by proscribing all those who do not take their Shibboleth, and advance a cause by shutting out all that can adorn or strengthen it. (On Jealousy and Spleen of Party. 1826)

Can one also interpret this aspect of the culture war in the way Engels compared the rival chapels and sects of the early socialists to the founding Christians?

Everybody who has known by experience the European working-class movement in its beginnings will remember dozens of similar examples. Today such extreme cases, at least in the large centres, have become impossible; but in remote districts where the movement has won new ground a small Peregrinus of this kind can still count on a temporary limited success. And just as all those who have nothing to look forward to from the official world or have come to the end of their tether with it – opponents of inoculation, supporters of abstemiousness, vegetarians, anti-vivisectionists, nature-healers, free-community preachers whose communities have fallen to pieces, authors of new theories on the origin of the universe, unsuccessful or unfortunate inventors, victims of real or imaginary injustice who are termed “good-for-nothing pettifoggers” by all bureaucracy, honest fools and dishonest swindlers – all throng to the working-class parties in all countries – so it was with the first Christians.

On the History of Early Christianity Frederick Engels 1894.

This suggestion can be left standing...

And, oh yes, it’s not just in the English speaking world that this is happening:

Entre “TERF” et “transactivistes”, féministes et militants LGBT se déchirent sur la question trans Marianne 2020.

Today’s reports from the Front Line:

Written by Andrew Coates

October 26, 2021 at 1:39 pm

17 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. To make something truly positive out of all this we need to take it all much farther. Superficial, single-issue, or narrow politics just won’t get us anywhere good. Instead, we must forge a broad unity in favor of a radical, post-patriarchal, socialist, queer-positive politics that unites us all: our interests truly are shared and amongst the various categories allegedly in competition we may share a great many things in common. This is the most important thing and this is the foundation of the radical praxis we can build together. Our very survival depends on this.

    American Dream

    October 26, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    • Perhaps one could at least end the pronoun gender wars by adopting the Persian pronoun system (used in emphatic statements):

      Third Person.


      u او (human)
      ān آن (non-human),
      vey وِى* (human only, literary)


      ānhā آنـها (non-human/human),
      išān ایـشان (human only and formal)

      Iran is well known for its progressive policies on gender.

      Andrew Coates

      October 26, 2021 at 2:39 pm

  2. Finnish is a better bet. It has two forms for the third person in both the singular and plural: hän (he or she) and se (it), and he (they, humans) and ne (they, everything else). To make it better still, colloquial Finnish tends to use the ‘it’ form for humans too. There has to be a downside, though, doesn’t there? In the case of Finnish, it’s the grammar – sixteen or so cases. Still, it would be good to see the pronoun people signing off their e-mails (hän, hänen, häntä, hänet, hänessä, hänestä, häneen, hänellä, häneltä, hänelle, hänenä, häneksi, hänettä)…


    October 26, 2021 at 3:01 pm

  3. I always believed it was the right of a woman to decide who she engaged in sexual activity with, that’s how it qualifies as ‘consensual’ . Anything else is rape.

    Sue r

    October 26, 2021 at 3:10 pm

  4. In my neighborhood we have a very simple way of avoiding pronoun gender conflicts- we strive to respect people’s personal preferences. We don’t always succeed perfectly but in yoga studios and theatre groups that I attend it is quite common to include pronoun preferences as people introduce themselves. In my daily life, I often use “they/them” or “y’all” as my defaults since I am sometimes forgetful or don’t know. This to me, is a matter of basic respect and the least I can do.

    American Dream

    October 26, 2021 at 3:33 pm

  5. I wonder if the blessed St.Orwell had read Engels ? There’s certainly an early echo of the 1930’s attack by GO on ‘Quakers, sandal wearers and fruit juice drinkers” (if I recall his targets). Mind, if Fred was writing that now there’d probably be quite a bit of uproar amongst some members of Withington CLP assuming he was in their ranks……

    David Walsh

    October 26, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    • There’s a number of books about the weird mixture of ideas around on the left in the *late* 19th century, including theosophy,
      “This article will discuss two major aspects of these discourses. First, French esotericists polemically distanced themselves from the “Eastern” esotericism of the Theosophical Society by constructing an ésotérisme occidental. It will be shown that this separation of “East” and “West” occurred as a reaction to the T.S., and should thus be seen as a “nationalist” response to a global phenomenon. Second, another major aspect of occultist identity formations will be highlighted: socialism. It will be shown that fin-de-siècle occultists were deeply involved with socialist theories in the July Monarchy vein but ambiguously distanced themselves from contemporary “materialist” socialisms. An analysis of this context will further help to understand the construction of an esoteric tradition.”

      Then, “Theosophy and Modern Socialism
      by J. Brailsford-Bright
      Reprinted from “Theosophical Siftings” Volume 2
      The Theosophical Publishing Society, England

      Click to access Siftings_V2_A7a.pdf

      The best known case in the UK was of course, Annie Besant,
      “Annie Besant, the most significant of the socialist theosophists, eventually became a worldwide leader of the Theosophical Society after abandoning the scientific secularism with which she had long been associated. ” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Besant

      I bet it would not hard to find present day parallels to that, and to Orwell’s celebrated remarks – I can think of more than a few over the years.

      Andrew Coates

      October 26, 2021 at 8:51 pm

  6. One of the big problems with culture wars is tribalism – it’s assumed both by ‘your’ side and ‘their’ side that if you take a certain position on one issue, you ought to take an ‘analogous’ position on another, separate, issue, because that is what ‘your’ side thinks. Another problem is the air of righteousness adopted by culture warriors on all sides…


    October 26, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    • Absolutely! It’s becoming a zero-sum business and the idea of any degree of tolerance or compromise has gone out the window.

      Jim Denham

      October 26, 2021 at 8:15 pm

  7. I have just received an email from ‘Change.org’ asking me to sign a petition against discrimination in the cervical cancer screening service. Non-females are not being invited for screening and this is bad. Have you been invited for cervical screening, Andy?

    Sue r

    October 27, 2021 at 1:44 pm

    • I should point out that lots of trans people have cervixes- so many people I know self-describe as non-binary, a smaller number are trans-masculine. Oddly, it is the trans-feminine that catch the worst of the self-described radical feminist’s demonization, though the campaigning to limit and remove rights affects all such gender non-conformists. This is the dirty little secret that they don’t really want to talk about, as it affects many, many people who have been- and will be- a natural constituency for “women’s” bookstores, coffeeshops, bars, music festivals and etc. Where I live, it is a fundamentally generational issue- and one that threatens to make the transphobes completely obsolete…

      American Dream

      October 27, 2021 at 2:12 pm

  8. Eppur se mouve.

    Sue r

    October 27, 2021 at 3:23 pm

  9. Despite these seemingly overwhelming challenges, it seems the tide is turning. People in queer communities are demanding that the silencing of trans women be addressed. Cisgender feminists are speaking out about Brennan’s activism. Radical feminists like Julie Bindel are distancing themselves from trans-exclusionary groups. Healthcare is becoming more accessible for trans people, including the removal of health exclusions. Workplace discrimination bills are being expanded to encompass gender identity and as discussed previously, gender-neutral bathrooms are becoming law. “Transphobic” is now in the Oxford English Dictionary and even Facebook now has the option to set your gender to “custom.”

    Though change has been far too slow and painful, trans pioneer Autumn Sandeen, who was the first to be officially recognized by the Pentagon as a transgender service member, expresses hope that transphobia is becoming less acceptable.

    “Every major gay-rights organization includes trans people in their mission statements. Trans people are more public than ever before and the media is moving beyond telling transition stories. Even though we’ve experienced so much hate from certain feminists, the real support is coming from feminist and queer circles,” Sandeen said. “Transphobia is no longer acceptable in the name of feminism, so while people like Brennan are free to express their anti-trans sentiments and meet with like-minded feminists while excluding trans women, there is now a cost for expressing those viewpoints.”

    A recent piece written by feminist icon Gloria Steinem reflects this slow progress. Steinem was long considered transphobic because of the stance she took in writing about professional tennis player Renée Richards, who transitioned in the 1970’s. Steinem’s 1983 book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellion cited Janice Raymond’s work and discussed how transsexuals “mutilate their own bodies.”

    In October 2013, Steinem penned a mea culpa of sorts for The Advocate, writing:

    “I believe that transgender people, including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned. Their healthcare decisions should be theirs and theirs alone to make. And what I wrote decades ago does not reflect what we know today as we move away from only the binary boxes of ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ and begin to live along the full human continuum of identity and expression.”

    Trans women have been saddled with the responsibility of taking on trans-exclusionary feminists for far too long—but it’s not their issue to deal with alone. Cisgender feminists, such as myself, have to make it clear that our feminism loves and supports trans women and that we will fight against transphobia. As Williams said, it’s time to expose trans-exclusionary feminists for who they really are.

    “I’ve often wondered what their [radical feminists’] end game is. Do they really believe that they’re going to cause thousands of companies and hundreds of towns to roll back trans protections?” Williams asked. “TERFs were the first to politically weaponize the trans-bathroom meme back in 1973 and they pioneered the end of trans healthcare in the 1980s. It’s high time that 40 years of focused, unrelenting hate be pulled into the light of day.”

    It’s Time to End the Long History of Feminism Failing Transgender Women: https://www.bitchmedia.org/post/the-long-history-of-transgender-exclusion-from-feminism

    American Dream

    October 27, 2021 at 4:02 pm

  10. You are grossly misrepresenting the concerns, which are in good faith. Here is the text of the petition:

    If you have a cervix but do not identify as female you do not receive notification that you need a smear test at age 25, no reminder letters and the results are not posted to you once you have the test. All these things are done for you if you identify as female.

    Cervical screening levels of care should be based on if you have a cervix not your gender. This gender discrimination needs to be stopped. It is breaking the Equalities Act by basing levels of care on gender not on need. It is also putting lives at risk. A cervix is just as able to give you health problems and cancer regardless of your gender.

    The UK government has already said they won’t help. Please sign this petition to give a bigger voice to this campaign. Power to the people, united we can get the NHS bosses to change this process. Make smear test care the same for everyone with a cervix.


    American Dream

    October 27, 2021 at 5:44 pm

  11. Andrew Coates

    October 28, 2021 at 6:07 pm

  12. I’ve asked it before, and there was a deafening silence in response, what is gender and what is sex?

    Sue r

    October 29, 2021 at 7:49 am

  13. I should be clear, obviously healthcare is the right of everyone regardless of their embodied self, but I think it a bit rich to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. You can’t claim the ‘benefits’ of one sex, while denying you are that sex.

    Sue r

    October 29, 2021 at 9:27 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: