Anti-Gender Populism – Institutionalized Religion and the Far-Right

Wesley M.

The Anti-Gender movement in contemporary Europe that has been made a tool for far-right populists as well as institutionalized religions so that they might be able to reinforce their influence and thereby solidify control over the society in which they occupy.

Professor Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk discuss how the far-right’s arguments against gender, and sexual minorities have been aided by the forces of institutionalized religion, specifically using the example of Poland and the Catholic Church within Poland which allowed for them to portray their repression in the post-communist era to the public as a kind of compromise, under the belief that far-right changes could be worse, which allowed for acceptance of the far right process of othering both people internally as well as Poland internationally against the EU.[1] Both authors explore how right-wing media tactics are used to generate fear, as well as how the othering can be used to simplify and demonize any narrative as well as twisting it so that it’s false such as the narrative that claims that abortion has false ties to the Stalinist regime when it doesn’t, which in turn allows for ideological manipulation of the population by state as well as the institutionalized religious forces.[2]

Professor’s David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar argument about scholars urgent need to disentangle the global right’s Anti-Gender from the far-right narrative is interesting as both movements are very similar but distinction would clearly assist further analysis of how the right-wing criticism mainly comes from what they deem to be threatening European progressive policies in order to argue gender ideology as a kind of Marxist/Totalitarian conspiracy by legitimate democracies, specifically utilizing five target areas in order to further their populist discourse: 1. same-sex marriages. 2. Reproductive rights. 3. Sex and gender education. 4. Gender. 5. Gender Ideology in the far-rights view being politically autocratic.[3] In the same breath the authors also acknowledge that the tactics used by the far-right populists as well as have been able to use the anti-gender campaign, as well as institutionalized religion’s support, in some cases, to be able to gain a far wider audience for their rhetoric, specifically focusing around the politics of fear that they are able to use in order to create or exasperate anxiety within society.[4]

The reading by Andrea Peto argues that how Hungarian populists are using their discourse to attack the subject of Gender Studies has in fact made it more relevant, and that the reason behind the attack is to allow the Populists to shift public attention from governmental corruption within their country.[5] This viewpoint if true shows a classic autocratic move: create a crisis in order to target a group as a distraction to secure their hold on power (cough…Reichstag Fire Decree…cough…). As the Parsons reading indicates, the Hungarian government continues to repress sexual diversity by cracking down on the LGBTQ community.[6] Given the upcoming Hungarian election, this speculation of a distraction tactic does seem likely.


[1] Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 575.

[2] Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’:”: 576-585.

[3] David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-10.

[4] Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling”: 11-13.

[5] Andrea Peto, “Report from the Trenches: The Debate around Teaching Gender Studies In Hungary, 10 April 2017. Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Green Political Foundation, https://www.boell.de/en/2017/04/10/report-trenches-debate-around-teaching-gender-studies-hungary.

[6] Vic Parsons, “Powerful Film about Non-Binary Teen in Transphobic Hungary Is Heartbreaking for the Right Reasons,” PinkNews | Latest Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans News | LGBT+ News (blog), March 24, 2021, https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2021/03/24/colors-of-tobi-bfi-flare-alexa-bakony-hungary-transgender/.

                                                                  Bibliography:                         

Parsons, Vic. “Powerful Film about Non-Binary Teen in Transphobic Hungary Is Heartbreaking for the Right Reasons.” PinkNews | Latest Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans News | LGBT+ News (blog), March 24, 2021. https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2021/03/24/colors-of-tobi-bfi-flare-alexa-bakony-hungary-transgender/.

Paternotte, David and Roman Kuhar. “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe.” Politics and Governance 6, no. 3 (2018): 6-19. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v6i3.1557. https://proxy.library.carleton.ca/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fscholarly-journals%2Fdisentangling-locating-global-right-anti-gender%2Fdocview%2F2132729168%2Fse-2.

Peto, Andrea. “Report from the Trenches: The Debate around Teaching Gender Studies In Hungary, 10 April 2017. Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Green Political Foundation, https://www.boell.de/en/2017/04/10/report-trenches-debate-around-teaching-gender-studies-hungary.

Żuk, Piotr and Paweł Żuk ‘Murderers of the unborn’ and ‘sexual degenerates’: analysis of the ‘anti-gender’ discourse of the Catholic Church and the nationalist right in Poland.” Critical Discourse Studies, 17:5 (2020): 566-588, DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2019.1676808.

4 Replies to “Anti-Gender Populism – Institutionalized Religion and the Far-Right”

  1. Your comment about the crackdown on the LGBTQ being a distraction is definitely relevant, and kind of an extension of my own idea. By emphasizing a “threat” that can supposedly cause great harm to the in-group, you are keeping your people focused on that threat. It goes back to the politics of fear mentioned in Paternotte and Kuhar.

    1. Thanks, you know what they say about great minds thinking alike. That was exactly the point I was trying to get at. Yes that reading was interesting and I’d argue the politics of fear is even more relevant nowadays than the the politics of hope/belief (I suspect Niccolo Machiavelli would rather enjoy the current world leaders use of realpolitik, his book The Prince remains relevant over 500 years later).

  2. Hi Wesley,

    In your discussion of Poland and the Catholic church, I think you bring up a good point that they have acted to push the Overton Window to the far right in the name of “compromise.” I touched on this a bit in mine but I will expand here. Polish and Catholic identity is synonymous with one another and the Catholic church played a vital role at the end of communism in Poland. This has given the church a sense of institutional power over the Polish legislature and the PiS government.

  3. Hi Declan,

    Thank you for the compliment. I agree, Catholicism has managed to achieve a level of influence in a country because of it’s stand against communism not seen since the secularization of european countries as a whole. I agree about the influence (as was common in Renaissance Europe, it’s not for the citizen’s best).

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