Anti-Genderism and Right-Wing Populism: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

D.Khaznadji

The set of readings this week were quite interesting. While most of them established the connection between “gender ideology” and right-wing populism, I think the Paternotte article was useful in making us understand the distinct characteristics of each of them. As that article suggested, anti-gender mobilization originated from religious centers. When it comes to populism, it can be a powerful fuel for the former, but ultimately belong to a category of its own. Indeed, the particularity of populism, Paternotte and Kuhar argue, is that it does not have a “side”. The capacity of populism to be integrated into a variety of ideas reminded me of some of the earlier readings we have done this semester, specifically the notion that populism is often combined with an ideological host. 

There is definitely a correlation between the intensification of anti-gender sentiments and the rise of right-wing populism. The statistics provided by the article on the homophobic and transphobic hate crimes surge in England and Wales show that hate crimes have significantly increased in recent years. This increase has been associated with Brexit and its effects. 

It is interesting to see how in other countries like Spain or Poland, this hate is closely linked with the Church. As the Zuk article points out: “the language of religion permeates the language of politics and how the discourse of religious fundamentalists penetrates the homophobic discourse” (Zuk & Zuk 568). This notion got blended in right-wing populist rhetoric. Thus, LGBT people were cast as the epitome of debauchery and hedonism, and part of a corrupt elite “devoid of national Catholic values”.

The case of Poland is worth looking at. The Zuk article asserts that the public opinion is generally in favor of those constraining laws became it is a good “compromise”. This speaks to the tactic used by the government in place. Zuk argues that when “facing the threat of an even more repressive law, the public is much more likely to accept the existing repressive regulations and even considers them to be a ‘compromise’” (Zuk & Zuk 570). This is what Paternotte and Kuhar have determined to be the “politics of fear”, which consists of inspiring fear in the hearts of people based on real or imagined dangers. As a result of all this, attempts from the left to change public opinion and to liberalize the law have been unsuccessful. 

That being said, it is important to mention that Paternotte and Kuhar insist on the fact that gender ideology and right-wing populism are not exactly two sides of the same coin. While anti-gender ideology originated from the Church and addressed concerns that were prevalent in religious centers, populism is not always in line with such an idea. Interestingly, some populists endorse LGBT rights to stigmatize specific groups of people like migrants or Muslims. 

The notion of populism being ideologically flexible took me back to readings from the early weeks. One of them explained how the group targeted by populists is defined not by wealth, class or race, but by having the wrong values. One of the core ideas of populism is to protect the homogenous group of the majority against any threat from the inside or outside. Hence, it can take on a variety of forms, and stand against any ideology that is deemed alien. This is why you can have populists adopting anti-LGBT rhetoric in one place and pro-LGBT rhetoric in another. In the end, it all depends on who is the target. 

2 Replies to “Anti-Genderism and Right-Wing Populism: Two Sides of the Same Coin?”

  1. I think your comment on the fact that a pro-LGBTQ stance is used in order to combat Islam is a perfect segue from last week’s discussions.

    I would like to add an example on to your notes about defining the out-group and that there are ways in which homophobia and Islamophobia interact.

    In the case of the Polish Catholic Church, it’s anti-gender stance would, ostensibly, find an ally in the Islamophobic portrayal of Islam being inherently homophobic. What we get, however, is the Polish Catholic Church looking to return to a lost identity of the Polish people which de facto rejects Islam as a part of the Polish nation. I think you’re completely right in saying that, above all, it is about the composition of the nation for the populist (right or left wing) that defines how they use and engage with various prejudices.

    1. The readings do talk about the idea of preserving European identity through strict conservationism. The aspect of identity is crucial here, you’re absolutely right.

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