WoLF, the Religious Right and stealth evangelism

I sometimes think how fortunate Australians are to have less of the extremist Christian Right influence, and then I read this: ‘[In 1991], in an interview with Norfolk, Virginia’s Virginian-Pilot, Reed talked about the organization’s stealth political strategy, a strategy aimed at having Religious Right candidates hide their social agenda, while talking about other issues more attractive to voters, such as lower taxes: “I want to be invisible. I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag. You don’t know until election night.”‘

Reminds me a lot of how former Prime Minister Tony Abbott got elected. He attracted a fair amount of ridicule before the Federal Election for his “lack of policies”, but his slash-and-burn agenda was quickly evident after the poll.

So we need to read about these rightwing stealth tactics – thanks to this blogger for raising this.

Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) is, as its name suggests, a feminist group based in the USA, with a few chapters elsewhere.

WoLF, Women’s Liberation Front has solicited and received $15,000 from Alliance Defending Freedom. Members were notified of this in 5 Nov 2016 via email, I got it as I was a member of WoLF. The email said that “WoLF Board member Kara Dansky applied for and received a $15,000 grant from the Alliance Defending Freedom, […]

via Stealth Evangelism 3.0: The Remarkable Resilience of the Religious Right — things I’ve read or intend to

Stop Trans Chauvinism Statement Against Feminists Collaborating with the Right Wing

Sharing this statement from the Stop Trans Chauvinism admins.  It draws out a number of tactical and strategic points relevant to these alliances which have lately become controversial in gender-abolitionist networks.

“It has become popular amongst some feminists to assert their support for coalitions with the Christian right on a single issue, as though they automatically advance women’s rights.

We cannot afford a blind faith in these coalitions, but need to put in the work necessary to figure out whether they do in fact benefit the oppressed at the time they’re undertaken. It is too tempting to simply assert that the feminists in these coalitions are retaining their independence, rather than looking at what’s really happening. For instance, if feminists simply happened to agree with a conservative group on one piece of legislation, that would be one thing. It’s quite another when feminists enter coalitions with far more powerful and resourced extremists and are pushed into further and further public alignment with them, and into making little public critique of them. That’s not a sign of political independence. When gender abolitionist feminists do this, it creates the impression that we believe gender identity legislation is a bigger threat to women than the right-wing attacks. That’s a fast way to appear extremely out of touch.

Feminists who have aligned with right-wing Christians have made the tasks of opening up discussion, and acceptance of gender-critical thought amongst the oppressed – our far more ‘natural’ allies – so much more difficult.”

As this statement remarks, in the USA, rightwing Christians:

“pass laws that result in women being arrested for having a miscarriage. They are the people who have doxxed names and addresses of abortion doctors and scientists who work with fetal tissue to anti-abortion groups – and such tactics have led to people being murdered. They are for replacing public schools with vouchers so religious schools can be federally funded. These are the people working for religious exemptions laws that allow pharmacists to refuse Plan B to rape victims. We could go on and on.”

Is it a good idea for gender-critical feminists to make alliances with the Christian Right on issues we might agree on? Stop Trans Chauvinism collective maintains that this is a disastrous strategy.

We understand that feminists who have chosen to work with right-wing Christians are sincerely trying to accomplish something positive for women. But we believe this is a terrible mistake and urge them to reconsider their actions. We hope to engage in a principled discussion of the implications of these alliances, which does affect how the public views all feminists, and all gender-critical feminists in particular. This is an important discussion we must have.

[…]

Read full statement here: Stop Trans Chauvinism Statement Against Feminists Collaborating with the Right Wing

Connecting the attacks on abortion access and the attacks on our bodies

Speech given at Reclaim the Night Perth 2013

The connection between domestic violence and the attacks on women’s crisis services and on abortion access is something the organising committee wanted to draw out, and it’s linked to why we are having a women-only march tonight.

 

It’s become more forbidden for women to do anything by ourselves. (Have you noticed that even in feminism, any rare, female-only activities are seen as unfair to men?) And this has been accompanied by physical attacks on us, attacks on our legal rights to bodily autonomy, attacks on our crisis services, and fewer accessible abortion services. If we do anything by ourselves or press for rights for ourselves, this is increasingly treated as an imposition on others’ rights, even though a central part of our oppression is the denial of autonomy over our own bodies and lives. So the organising committee feels that standing up for women’s rights to be and act by ourselves is an important part of this event.

 

In New South Wales, politicians are trying to push through a law giving rights to foetuses of at least 20 weeks’ gestation. ‘Foetal personhood’ stands in opposition to women’s rights, because either a woman’s bodily integrity is all that matters, and women have rights over ourselves which aren’t contradicted by others’ so-called rights, or we don’t. The bill is ostensibly in response to a tragic case in which a woman in a road accident lost her pregnancy, although some legal experts say that the current laws already deal sufficiently with such cases. Certainly there are other ways in which women’s reproductive freedoms aren’t supported, but it’s possible to support women’s rights to not have our pregnancy interfered with by enhancing the rights of women – it’s the only way.

 

In fact what we need to do is continue the pro-choice battle so that no-one is considered to have the right to interfere with our pregnancy against our will, whether it be an abuser we know or the state which denies us either terminations or support with our pregnancies. That’s the framing we need – that no-one should interfere with our pregnancy against our will. Not that foetuses should have rights.

 

Right now we mostly lack the full legal or technical right to choose – a lot of Australians think that abortion has been fully decriminalised here and that it’s readily accessible. In fact, you’d be lucky to find anywhere in Australia where there aren’t impediments of some kind to accessing abortion – in some cases it’s the cost, but in many, there are simply no abortion services that women can access in their area.

 

Now we’re seeing this further attack, which arbitrarily declares that a foetus past 20 weeks’ gestation becomes a person. It’s unscientific and purely ideological – will certainly make life much harder for women, especially since New South Wales law still has abortion on the criminal code – but we’re being asked to swallow this as being for women’s benefit.

 

This move to open up the ‘foetal rights’ issue gives the green light to other reactionary elements to try policing women’s reproductive decisions. It reinforces misogyny and male control over women’s bodies generally, including the domestic violence and sexual abuse we’re protesting against, where most perpetrators are males (at least 93% of rapists are male), and most victims are women and girls.

 

What are some of the direct connections between domestic violence and the removal of women’s reproductive autonomy?

 

A California study done a few years ago on 16-29-year-old women, found that when women “experienced both reproductive coercion and male partner violence, the risk of unintended pregnancy doubled”. Other findings included:

  • “Approximately one in five young women said they experienced pregnancy coercion”
  • “More than a third of the women who reported partner violence — 35 percent — also reported either pregnancy coercion or birth control sabotage.”

 

In 31 states in the US, rapists can have custody rights over children that are a product of their rape. This means an additional way in which raping a woman gives that man power over her for life. Imagine the impact on a woman, of being forced to maintain ties, and engage in periodic negotiations, with your rapist, for the next few decades at least while your child matures.

 

US women have faced continual attacks on their rights and safety in most states, including the intimidation of having Tea Party representatives drumming up aggression against women by declaring that impregnated rape victims who abort should be jailed for as long as their rapists.

 

In Ecuador, the criminal sanctions on abortion make it so unsafe that abortion has become the leading cause of death or injury to women there. It is illegal for anyone without a mental disability to access it, even girls. As a demonstration of the link here between this prohibition and the enforced subjugation of women within the male-female sexual relations, President Rafael Correa has said he will veto any moves to allow even raped women to get abortions, and threatened to resign if his allies in the National Assembly decriminalised abortion.

 

Determining women’s reproductive and parenting decisions is a key way in which many women experience both our society, and our male partners, benefitting themselves at women’s expense.

 

There’s a reason why we’ve seen the recent increases in attacks on both funding for women’s crisis services – and these have been global attacks, not restricted to Australia – and on abortion access.

 

Wherever we are in the world, the stronger the systemic reliance on sex roles in which the woman is the chief domestic worker and child-rearer, the more we will be denied autonomy over our bodies, whether that be rape and other abuse by males close to us, or birth control sabotage, or the refusal of the state to provide affordable, legal and accessible abortion.

 

These issues are closely linked and we need to address both male entitlement to and control over our bodies, and the economic system of capitalism which relies on these gendered power structures. And the more crises capitalism experiences, the more it relies on the hierarchy of the sexes.

 

Capitalism has increasingly relied on the subjugation of women within the hetero family unit to ensure free provision of welfare, and free child-rearing – free reproduction of the next generation of workers. So it’s always in its interests to encourage male power over women, and to give only tokenistic support to addressing male-pattern violence against us.

 

When religious interests try boosting the idea of ‘foetal rights’, this ties in with the conservative view of motherhood as divine/natural. It casts women’s domestic drudgery as also being divine and natural, rather than a product of our oppression. It also creates an ahistorical view of abortion as a product of late capitalism and secularism, whereas late capitalism has in fact seen greater restrictions on abortion than used to exist in many countries, including those which were predominantly Christian.[1]

 

When looking at how we fight this, we need to remember these structural reasons for the continued attacks on our bodily autonomy, because it’s not just about fighting conservative views; it also needs to be about ending a system that props itself up by oppressing women. And political parties that represent the capitalist class can’t be looked to as a solution – the Australian Labor Party, for instance, has been in government so many times in its existence, but continually refuses to make abortion fully decriminalised and accessible. It’s important that we don’t let it off the hook by describing it as ‘gutless’ – the fact is that it’s just not designed to represent women, but instead the capitalist class. It’s not our saviour; we need to look to ourselves as an organised group. The oppressed, organising by ourselves on mass, are the only agents that have ever forced real change, and we’re the only ones that can create a new system.


Reclaim the Night! Reclaim our lives!

[1] ‘Scarlet Letters: Getting the History of Abortion and Contraception Right’, by Ranana Dine, is a fascinating account of abortion accessibility and attitudes in the USA in early and middle-capitalism. It indicates various factors as leading to the restrictions on abortion, citing:

changing social, class, and family dynamics in the early 19th century. Americans in the Victorian era thought abortion was a problem brought on by upper-class white women, who were choosing to start their families later and limit their size. Increased female independence was also perceived as a threat to male power and patriarchy, especially as Victorian women increasingly volunteered outside the home for religious and charitable causes.

During the mid-19th century, American physicians also began to battle “irregular” doctors, such as homeopaths and midwives, in an attempt to assert the authority and legitimacy of male-dominated scientific medicine. To tackle these irregular doctors, the “scientific” physicians attacked legal abortion because it was midwives and other “unscientific” medical practitioners who safely performed the procedure. White men were also concerned by shifting ethnic and racial dynamics in the United States, worrying that the low birthrate of the white upper class would lead to racial inferiors and un-American immigrants overrunning the country.

Together, a coalition of male doctors backed by the American Medical Association, the Catholic Church, and sensationalist newspapers began to campaign for the criminalization of abortion. By the turn of the century, this coalition had largely succeeded in limiting women’s medical choices.

How much does society accept sexism? the numbers

I was recently concerned to see Tad Tietze – an Australian socialist writer whose stuff I often enjoy reading – write at Overland that:

there is no clear indication that huge numbers of voters think that sexism in society is acceptable. Essential Research, for example, found earlier this month that 52 percent of voters polled thought that sexism was a large or moderate problem

That a slight majority of voters is troubled by the sexism they are aware of does not mean that there is not yet more sexism which they do not recognise as sexism, and do not oppose. Additional poll questions to distinguish concern for women from the growing concern about sexism against men by women (the increasingly believed-in ‘misandry’) might also have been illuminating.

But let’s look at some other recent research to see what the deal is:

Eliana Suarez and Tahany M. Gadalla report on a 2010 meta-analysis they did of 37 studies of rape-myths acceptance, where:

Overall, the findings indicated that men displayed a significantly higher endorsement of RMA than women. RMA was also strongly associated with hostile attitudes and behaviors toward women, thus supporting feminist premise that sexism perpetuates RMA. RMA was also found to be correlated with other “isms,” such as racism, heterosexism, classism, and ageism. …. a renewed awareness of how RMA shapes societal perceptions of rape victims, including perceptions of service providers, could also reduce victims’ re-victimization and enhance their coping mechanisms.

A 2010 report found that

56% of those surveyed ‘think that there are some circumstances where a person should accept responsibility’ for being raped:

Of those people the circumstances are:

Performing another sexual act on them (73%)

Getting into bed with a person (66%)

Drinking to excess / blackout (64%)

Going back to theirs for a drink (29%)

Dressing provocatively (28%)

Dancing in a sexy way with a man at a night club or bar (22%)

Acting flirtatiously (21%)

Kissing them (14%)

Accepting a drink and engaging in a conversation at a bar (13%)

In this Daily Mail article, an ICM opinion poll, commissioned by Amnesty International, found that

the vast majority of the British population has no idea how many women are raped every year in the UK.
Almost all, 96 per cent, of respondents said they either did not know the true extent of rape or thought it was far lower than the true figure.
Only 4 per cent even thought the number of women raped exceeded 10,000. The number of recorded rapes in 2004/5 was more than 12,000 and the 2001 British Crime Survey estimated that just 15 per cent of rapes come to the attention of the police.

The Conversation reports that academic scientists are biased against recruiting women into their profession. The article author, Helen Maynard-Casely, writes

The authors suggest the male bias is “unintentional” and is “generated from widespread cultural stereotypes rather than a conscious intention to harm women”.

So, there is no apparent reason to think the bias is particular to the field of science, which is unsurprising since what scientists tell us helps form our beliefs about society.

[Her caveat is: ‘The study specifically focused on positions before a PhD and so it would be wrong to assume the findings can be transposed further up the academic ladder. The implication of the paper was that this slight, societal effect could be having an undue influence on the number of women in science before doctoral level.’]

A 2012 study of 600 Victorians found that:

a third of the people surveyed witnessed sexism in the past 12 months, but fewer than half acted.
Of those who did not act, the majority thought it was not their place to step in.
Thirteen per cent wanted to, but did not know how.
The most tolerated forms of sexism were jokes in social settings.
VicHealth’s Renee Imbesi says those most willing to act were other women and people aged between 35 and 54.

The majority believing it was not their place to step in even when witnessing sexist behaviour shows that the attitude of sexism being ‘a private matter’ between a man and a woman is still strong.

A 2010 Socialism Today article, reviewing Natasha Walter’s ‘Living Dolls: the return of sexism’, comments that:

In the 1990s, only a handful of lap-dancing clubs existed in the UK. By 2008, there were around 300, and many of these are situated not in ‘seedy’ backstreets but in the high streets of towns and cities. Pole-dancing courses are on the rise, and the Tesco supermarket chain even had a lap-dancing pole in its toy section (later removed after protests). A survey carried out in 2006 reported that one in four girls were considering plastic surgery by the age of 16. An analysis of popular music videos found that sexual imagery appeared in 84% of them, with women wearing provocative clothes or no clothes in 71% compared to 35% of men.

And misogynist attitudes and victim-blaming predominate:

At the same time, sexist images of women in popular culture are not just a bit of harmless fun, they influence and impact on men’s attitudes and behaviour towards women, and on women’s own view of themselves. Tender, an educational charity working with 13-18 year olds in schools in greater London, surveyed 288 young people and found that 29% of male and female students felt it was sometimes OK for a man to hit a woman if she slept with someone else. Eighty per cent thought that girls and women sometimes encourage violence and abuse by the way they dress, and 76% thought that a woman encourages violence by not treating men with respect. Walter cites examples of sexual bullying (harassment) in schools which, according to Kidscape, is on the increase: from one to two calls a year four or five years ago, to two or three a week now.

A 2012 article by Rebecca Dana described:

a multiyear survey of business-school graduates by the nonprofit research group Catalyst, finds that women are far more likely to help women advance than men are. Debunking the queen bee stereotype, in which female bosses are especially hard on their female subordinates, the study found that 73 percent of women who mentored colleagues helped other women, while only 30 percent of men did. “The biggest surprise for me was that men are doing so little for women, says Catalyst chief Ilene Lang. “I really thought that there were more men speaking up.”

Dana also mentioned a ‘second study, conducted by social scientists at Harvard, NYU, and the University of North Carolina’:

It found that those whose home lives are most traditional—married men with stay-at-home wives—were more likely to have retrograde attitudes toward women at the office. These men were more likely than their peers to deny women promotions, to be distrustful of female leaders, and to have negative views of workplaces with many female employees. One of the study’s authors calls this attitude “benevolent sexism,” where men see women as delicate creatures to be cared for and protected, not fierce professionals to be respected and obeyed.

A 2010 care2 article reports on a survey released by Esquire Magazine on the attitudes of American men born in 1960 and 1990:

more 20 year-olds self-identified as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.” Only 19% consider themselves “prochoice, without qualification” while 38% consider themselves against the right to legal abortion, but with exceptions for rape and incest. Their father’s generation is more likely on all counts to support a woman’s right to abortion, an indication the backslide in political reproductive rights on the state and national level during the past two decades has seeped into the minds of the younger cohort.