Noted queer academic Judith Butler accused transphobic feminists of allying with fascists in a new interview with The Guardian.
Butler was talking about their seminal work, Gender Trouble, and how it has affected queer, trans, and leftist politics over three decades after it was published. Interviewer Jules Gleeson asked Butler about the recent protests at the Wi Spa in Los Angeles, where members of the fascist hate group Proud Boys and QAnon believers protested alongside evangelicals and other transphobes over the possibility that a trans woman used the spa.
“It is very appalling and sometimes quite frightening to see how trans-exclusionary feminists have allied with rightwing attacks on gender,” they said. “The anti-gender ideology movement is not opposing a specific account of gender, but seeking to eradicate ‘gender’ as a concept or discourse, a field of study, an approach to social power.”
“Sometimes they claim that ‘sex’ alone has scientific standing, but other times they appeal to divine mandates for masculine domination and difference. They don’t seem to mind contradicting themselves.”
Butler has long argued against the idea that biological sex is an objective truth, instead saying that it is gender applied to the body. Even the people who most emphatically say that biological sex is the only way to determine who is a man or a woman base their entire idea of biological sex on gender stereotypes.
(For example, in this story from earlier today trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) said that a woman simply had to be transgender – and, to them, not a real woman – because… she didn’t wear make-up for her mugshot and she was accused of a violent crime.)
“The anti-gender ideology is one of the dominant strains of fascism in our times,” Butler said, referring to everyone who believes that sex is “biological and real or that sex is divinely ordained,” including TERFs like J.K. Rowling, fascists like Tucker Carlson, and religious conservatives like Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL). Their definition of the “anti-gender ideology movement” also includes anti-gay activists like opponents of marriage equality and anti-feminists who want to force women to follow traditional gender roles.
“So the TERFs will not be part of the contemporary struggle against fascism, one that requires a coalition guided by struggles against racism, nationalism, xenophobia and carceral violence, one that is mindful of the high rates of femicide throughout the world, which include high rates of attacks on trans and genderqueer people.”
Butler stressed that things like the definition of “man” and “woman” change over time, and change isn’t something to be feared since it can lead to liberation and equality.
“What it means to be a woman does not remain the same from decade to decade,” they said. “The category of woman can and does change, and we need it to be that way.”
“Politically, securing greater freedoms for women requires that we rethink the category of ‘women’ to include those new possibilities. The historical meaning of gender can change as its norms are re-enacted, refused, or recreated.”
They also said that people should be “prepared and even joyous to see what trans men are doing with the category of ‘men.'”
About themself, Butler said that they are “surprised and impressed when people decide their own pronouns or even when they ask me what pronouns I prefer.”
“I am enjoying the world of ‘they,'” Butler said. “When I wrote Gender Trouble [in 1990], there was no category for ‘non-binary’ – but now I don’t see how I cannot be in that category.”