Letter 6: I don't want the left, I want something new
This is my third letter in my exchange with Julie Bindel, in response to the question: “Can feminist causes be furthered by working with right wing or religious people and groups?”
This is part 6 in what was to be a 6-part correspondence, but will now be an 8-part correspondence series, on account of my and Julie Bindel’s big mouths. I have contributed parts 2, 4, and 6 here, at The Same Drugs, and journalist, Julie Bindel, has contributed parts 1, 3, and 5 on her Substack, Misogyny: What is it and why won't it die?
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In my last letter, I asked:
“Who is the “far right”? What defines them in terms of policy proposals and aims? What does it mean to “ally” with someone? Who in the women’s movement is doing this? And, most importantly, what is the harm or concern, in practical terms, with regard to these purported relationships?”
You responded that you did not wish to single out any individual women that have made the choice to ally with the hard/far Right — a completely reasonable or respectable choice. I would do the same, and avoid singling out women at all costs. My aim was not to point the finger at individuals, but to gain clarification and to better understand the specific concern, as it feels strange to have a debate over a thing that we cannot be specific about, and that, as far as I can tell, isn’t actually happening… What I am trying to ascertain is what “allying with the far right” means, in practice, what specific actions are causing concern in terms of what those actions could lead to. I felt some examples could be helpful, so I could respond to those specific situations, but maybe we can talk in theoreticals, rather than specifics, in order to better address the concerns held by some feminists, in our next letters.
In the meantime, I can respond to your argument that it is important for feminists “to be the gatekeepers of the Left, and claw it back from the boys.”
This is a place where we disagree.
Though I would have once agreed, and indeed made this project central to my work for most of my career, I no longer feel this way. I do not want to attach myself to either left or right, I wish to fight for what I believe is practical and ethical — to advocate the best policy and practice based on what I hope will be good for humanity, rather than based on where those polices and practices fall on the political spectrum. I will not support any particular policy or practice because I am told it is “feminist,” for example, if I believe it to be irrational, dangerous, or harmful. I will not ally with or support a party labelled “feminist” if the party puts forth bad ideas or policy, and I apply the same principles to the left (or the right, for that matter). I don’t care about the labels or categories, I care about the policies, ideas, people, real-life impacts, ethics, and practices.
As a lifelong devotee of not just the left, but the hard left, I have (disappointingly) come to the conclusion that leftist politics and The Left, as it exists today, is dogmatic, cultish, hyperbolic, irrational, and chooses mantras over facts and truth. I feel that I operated in this way myself, when I identified as a leftist, leading me to believe this is a problem ingrained in the politic, approach, and ideology, that will not be resolved should feminists be successful in wresting back power.
What I would ask is: What is there to take back? Why do we need it? Why would I want to “take back” a politic I don’t support?
You say, “Men on the hard/far Right love women if we are in our place — beneath them in the pecking order.” Perhaps, but I feel like we’re dealing an idea, rather than individuals, or even a group. I don’t wish to work with sexists — I wish to deal with people who have good ethics and ideas, and who wish to work towards a better world. I also believe that people can and do change their minds, through learning, conversation, and exposure to different ideas and people. For this reason, I won’t write someone off purely because of politics.
If I determine someone is abusive, dangerous, phony, or a jerk, I will avoid him or her like the plague, but I’m not going to stick people in categories (as determined by others) and dismiss them wholesale based on political categorization.
I don’t think I know any “far right” people on a personal level, so can’t speak to their character, but in recent years I have engaged with many more conservatives, Republicans, and people who would probably call themselves or be called “right wing” than ever before. And the perhaps uncomfortable truth is that I have experienced much more respect and civility from these people than I ever did from the left and from many feminists. This doesn’t mean there aren’t terrible people on the right, but the idea that anyone who is not on the left does not respect women is simply not true.
People often say that “extremes” are bad — that the “extreme right” is bad and the “extreme left” is bad. And they are probably right. But the problem with the left is that it’s all become bad. It is not only “extremists” that are the problem.
From the Democrats, to the NDP, to the socialists, to Justin Trudeau, to Antifa — their policy, ideas, and approach to everything from Covid, to climate change, to guns, to gender identity are policies that strike me as not being grounded in reality, but grounded in wishful thinking, party lines, ideology, tribalism, or blind hate for the “other side.” If Trump had been in power and imposed lockdowns and vaccine mandates, the left would have fought against them. Instead, on account of blind allegiance to “their side,” they advocated authoritanism and became Big Pharma shills. Likewise, the reason “transwomen are women” has become the mantra of the left is because the left determined only the right would disagree with such a thing.
Leftist thinking says: Clearly the left wing position must be good, and the right wing position must be bad. This is how we’ve ended up with a refusal to even engage in a debate about gender identity legislation, despite its obvious harm to women and children.
Dogma and blind attachment to ideology, labels, categories, tribes, and parties is, I believe, harmful — it discourages critical thinking and limits free, independent thought. And because of this, it creates bad ideas and policy.
Interestingly, the left and most of feminism has rejected me on account of my positions on everything from gender identity to prostitution, to free speech and open debate. But the right hasn’t rejected me on account of my position on women’s reproductive sovereignty and abortion. They haven’t attacked me because I reject femininity and traditional female roles. They haven’t rejected me on account of my belief that women and men should be free to engage in same-sex partnerships, and that individuals should be free and encouraged to push back against gender norms. They haven’t rejected me because I don’t believe in God, have never read the bible, and have little interest in Christianity or, frankly, “faith” of any kind. The Republicans, conservatives, and right wing people I know have been respectful towards me, which is more than I can say (sadly) for the left — my literal friends, who have known me for years; my coworkers; my (former) allies; the people I dutifully voted for my entire adult life.
Feminists — including radical feminists and “gender critical feminists” — have said far worse, far more misogynist things about me than any so-called “right winger” or any of the men we are supposed to hate — who we are told are enemies to our cause. Comments about my appearance, my age, my income, my sexuality, and my fondness for palming balls have come from feminists, not from the right wing boogeyman.
This is, in part, is why I have no allegiance to anyone based on politics. These labels mean nothing to me. Show me your character.
We are both familiar with Andrea Dworkin’s oft-repeated observation, "To right wing men, we are private property. To left wing men, we are public property.” I think that if we look at the ideologies behind “left” and “right” politics, that could be true. But in as far as how regular people operate as individuals and in a political context, things become more complicated.
I don’t think men think of women as “their property” because of who they vote for… I don’t even think most men think of women as “their property.” Not in the West, in any case.
In places like Canada and the US, I think most men are generally well-meaning people, who have nonetheless grown up in a porn-soaked world, socialized to enjoy the sound of their own voices more than they do listening to others, who failed to be taught or to learn emotional intelligence, and who were, to be crass, fucked up by their parents, just like the rest of us — modeled bad behaviour they need to work hard to unlearn. I think men have a lifetime of indoctrination teaching them that women exist for their sexual pleasure — now a mostly corporate endeavour, run by sadistic men, as evidenced by documentaries like Beyond Fantasy. This does not mean they are excused — it means men need to make a conscious effort to make choices that will inspire pride in themselves and to behave respectfully to those around them. They need to learn how to listen and to communicate with humility and empathy, and to put their egos aside — a challenge for most of us, really.
But this reality is mostly not a political thing — it’s a society thing, and an individual thing — a thing men need to change in terms of their behaviour, and a thing society needs to work to undo.
There are men on the left, the right, and everywhere in between who hold negative views of women. There are certainly men who come from extremist cultures and religions who really do believe women are their property and that it is their right to rape and abuse them, because they are lesser — an untenable position in today’s world. There are a lot of regular men who behave in abusive, violent, misogynist ways towards women, and I don’t believe any of this has to do with whether or not they voted for Trump.
Your story about being contacted by Gettr CEO, Jason Miller, for a meeting “to discuss your campaigns and the pro-free speech landscape in the UK more generally” is an interesting one.
“Why would Miller, clearly on the radical Right, and opposed to all of the liberation struggles I have been involved in throughout my adult life, want to work alongside a hardline, uncompromising lesbian feminist?”
You shared your response to Miller’s request for a meeting:
I will not be meeting with Miller. I can't think of much worse except for meeting with Trump himself. I have no idea why are you think a feminist (a real one, not those women that collude with the far right to achieve a single aim) would entertain a racist misogynist in this way? This is not about freedom of speech or censorship – it is about values. Your values are in direct opposition to mine and have harmed women immeasurably. Such values have also had a dreadful impact on the lives and freedoms of people of colour and indigenous communities. Go and take your offer to meet and shove it as far as it will go.
I despise everything you stand for.”
To answer your first question: I don’t know why he wanted to meet with you. I imagine if you had met with him, you may have found out.
Had I received the email you did, I would have had a different response, perhaps putting me in the category of “sellout” or, of course, a feminist “allying with the right.” While I would not have dropped everything to meet with Miller, I also would not have been offended or angry that he asked for a meeting. If I had the time, I would have considered it. Why not? Why not take the opportunity to share my views and positions with a powerful man who likely has never sat down and listened to a woman like me? Why wouldn’t I want him to better understand me (and I him), considering he likely think of “feminists” as a bunch of frothing morons in pink pussy hats who sold out their own movement for a bunch of bearded perverts in heels?
A thing that strikes me is that you see Miller and men who, presumably, are in the Trump camp, in a way you don’t want them to see you — as a conglomeration of stereotypes. Why not try to change that? Maybe you’ll discover you like each other, or even share a few views here and there? Or maybe not. Maybe all your negative assumptions will be affirmed, and then you will know for certain you never want to entertain this man again. But what harm would the meeting (and discovering) do?
I had not heard of Jason Miller until now. Based on what you have told me here, I now know that he is the CEO of Gettr, and based on a Google search, I now know he was an advisor to the Trump campaign. Maybe you have observed or had experiences with him that led you to determine he is a “racist misogynist” who should take his “offer to meet and shove it,” but this isn’t a response I understand, honestly. What is the win in creating an enemy out of a stranger’s invitation to meet?
You label him a racist and misogynist, and say his values “have had a dreadful impact on the lives and freedoms of people of colour and indigenous communities,” but you don’t say what he has done to deserve these labels? Again, they may be well-deserved, but the why and how is missing. Instead we have the same kind of epithets used against you and I, which, perhaps unfortunately, has led me to respond with skepticism when I am told a person holds these characteristics or is responsible for such things.
If I met Miller, and determined he was a jerk, a creep, or a liar, then I would likely decline to engage with him further, but it would be his character, rather than his association with the right, that would lead me to do so. And I get the impression your rejection of his invitation to meet with him was based on his politics rather than his character. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)
I’m curious to know if you would have responded similarly to an invitation by one of Biden’s advisors — part of an administration that pretends not to know what a woman is, has allowed dangerous men to be transferred to female prisons, that gutted Title IX, the legislation protecting women and girls’ right to have access to single-sex resources, spaces, and sports at school, and hosted walking parody, Dylan Mulvaney, at the White House, where Biden proudly told the TikToker now-famous for documenting his journey in “girlhood,” that men should have the right to access women’s bathrooms and that men who identify as women are being murdered “more than any other group of people.”
Should someone associated with Justin Trudeau, the man whose party passed Canada’s gender identity legislation without debate or regard for the impact on women, and who has behaved like a depraved totalitarian over the past two years, be told to “shove it” as well? This is a man who is actively working to push through online “hate speech” bills that would ensure women like me are persecuted for speaking the truth, and who froze the bank accounts of Canadian citizens who opposed his attempts to remove our Charter rights.
What if the invitation had come from a Twitter executive? A company that has, over the past five years, allowed perverted, misogynistic, narcissistic men to commandeer the social media platform with the most influence over speech, news, facts, and politics — banning any woman who dares say that men are not women. A company that has censored news, facts, and speech that doesn’t support Democrat-approved narratives. A platform that allowed pornography (and worse) but not women who understand how biology works.
What are the standards of rejection?
The title of your last letter is, “Men on the left hate women, men on the right hate women, but who has the power to take our rights away?” The answer is obvious: the left. It is the left who have taken our rights away — with gusto.
You mention Matt Walsh, and he is a good example of a right wing man with poor character. I have liked some things he said, and disliked others, but determined, based on his behaviour and statements, that he is a misogynist liar and grifter without an original thought in his head, aside from his frothing hatred of dogs, whose political aims are grounded in self-promotion and religious principles, not rational thought or empathy for his fellow human. Had he behaved differently, perhaps some of women would have worked with him, but he revealed himself.
Let people show their colours. They will. And let us make a decision about who they are and what they stand for based on that, not based on party affiliations or the “right wing” label.
You say these men “try to charm us with promises of support, when in fact they are using the 'stopped clock is right twice a day' routine to attempt to draw us in,” and that, “If they agree with us on the trans issue, for example, then they are our friends. Well, no they are not.”
Ok. So they aren’t are friends. Do we think they are? Do they have to be? I think I and the women I work with in this fight are more savvy than that.
I see women working their very hardest to fight for our sex-based rights and for the protection of children, and meeting with and engaging with anyone who might aid them in that fight. I see women calling men like Matt Walsh out on his lies and childish attacks on feminists who have fought gender identity nonsense much longer and harder than he, with more integrity and courage.
I would ask: Draw us into what? What is the dangerous territory here? A conversation? A platform? Funding? Understanding? Friendship?
Don’t get me wrong: I have watched, frustrated, as women fell prey to the manipulations of abusive, shady men whose interest in our movements and work was rooted in narcissism rather than sincerity. But those men were not dangerous on account of their politics. These women could not have been saved from that swindle by avoiding the right. It’s a lack of wisdom, and the ability to recognize red flags, that made these women vulnerable to predatory, narcissistic men. What political boundaries would have protected our movement from the likes of Chris Elston, for example? An ex-Scientologist with a long history of using threats, bullying, and blackmail to control women, who managed to infiltrate the “gender critical” movement because not everyone has the experience of dealing with personality disorders and abusers required to see the warning signs.
I make every effort to work with women who know how to set boundaries and are smart and tough. But people make mistakes. Hopefully they learn from those mistakes and are better equipped to avoid repeating them in the future. What I’m not worried about is that I or the women around me might passively adopt ideas that harm women simply because they had a conversation with a right wing man. If I were susceptible to such a thing, wouldn’t I have taken up the fight to legalize prostitution, alongside my leftist comrades, long ago? How is it that I’ve managed to maintain my politics and positions, in opposition to the left, while also being on the left all those years? How have I managed to change my mind when those politics and positions turned out to be wrong, ineffective, or irrational, if I am so easily persuaded by those around me, or those I share platforms with, or those I have lunch with? Wouldn’t the feminists I worked with for so many years have convinced me free speech is in fact a dangerous thing? That supporting the Democrats is pivotal, lest the Republicans come into power?
I have been able to maintain my independence and independent thought all this time, despite being at odds with those around me — the notion that speaking to, listening to, engaging with, or even working with (in a limited context) a right wing man might turn me into an enemy of women is laughable.
I am not befriending everyone who agrees with me on the “trans issue” willy nilly. Political agreement or disagreement is not the sole or even primary basis for the friendships I choose. As a writer, journalist, editor, podcast host, speaker, and media commentator, I have had working relationships with hundreds of people around the world. Probably thousands. I am not “friends” with or somehow “in bed” with any individual because I sit on a panel with them, share their work, meet with them, edit their article, or accept a donation from them. Imagine how inconsistent my positions and politics would be if they changed every time I had a meeting or received a donation?
I am in a particular position, as an independent writer and media producer. I don’t have a “job” in the traditional sense. I am paid by no one but those who support my work, voluntarily, through small (but generous) donations. I chose independence and have maintained it for over a decade intentionally, despite the fact that it has kept me in financial insecurity. I love what I do, and value my independence. I am beholden to no one but myself and my audience, which has changed over the years. I have been rejected, ostracized, and abandoned by many of the feminists I worked with and supported over the years, yet have been able to continue working and speaking my mind, thanks to those who value my commitment to the truth and my willingness to say things that led me to lose favour with those who would prefer I continue to repeat the same things over and over again, even when I don’t believe them anymore.
If I were going to sell out, I would have done it already. I could have stayed in mainstream media, maintained my base of leftist and feminist support (and the donations attached to that), and not become a pariah in every arena except the heterodox one. I could have stayed on Twitter, and doubled my income (at least).
Denouncing the left does not mean “moving towards the right.” It means choosing independent thought, however that manifests. It means determining the left has become unthinking, dogmatic, and dangerous. It means that the left has failed to support women and the working class, and has become cowardly — beholden to their friends, employers, and funders. They have compromised their integrity in the most vile and hypocritical of ways, supporting corporate-sanctioned, manufactured activism, intended to distract people from reality and the real issues impacting the poor and working class. The left has adopted a politic that opposes free speech and advocates authoritarian and sometimes violent persecution of political dissidents.
These are not my people.
These people are snakes — they have become the elite, looking down their noses at and condescending to the marginalized, insulting women who have fought for their causes for decades. They are despicable liars and turncoats who have stood by and watched (even applauded) as women are abused, harassed, threatened, fired, libeled, and vilified in order to maintain their own power, status, social and political clout, and income.
They can have their left. As more and more people begin to see through their empty mantras and abhorrent hypocrisy, I hope they lose the left entirely, allowing space to build something new. I hope that we can fight for the sane and nuanced middle, wherein conversation, listening, and debate is encouraged. Wherein we adopt position and policy based on what is good, right, and rational, rather than based on party lines — a politic that supports autonomy and freedom for all, not just for our tribe.
I choose truth, not politics. I choose free thought, not parties.
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"But the right hasn’t rejected me on account of my position on women’s reproductive sovereignty and abortion"
I overall agree with you, but I'll point out that Tomi Lahren got canceled pretty hard by the right when she came out as pro-choice on Fox https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/business/media/tomi-lahren-lawsuit-glenn-beck-blaze.html
FWIW, I see nothing wrong with an alliance-of-convenience with right-wing men (I'll include Matt Walsh in there). Obviously feminists won't have much common ground with social conservatives outside of gender critical topics, but agreeing with every single one of a person's beliefs shouldn't be a prerequisite to working with them on shared issues. Julie's concern that diabolical genius right-wingers will exploit the poor naive feminists, or that going on Fox will mean those women have been suckered into working for the patriarchy, seems ironically paternalistic.
Plus, her purity politics play right into classic 'divide and conquer' tactics from the trans left, which makes it all the easier for them to enact their agenda.
I’m so enjoying this series. You both make excellent points, and I find myself ping-ponging back and forth with each letter. Much thanks to you and Julie for doing this.