The Deal with Overt and Subvert

By: Hannah Long

Melania and Chris. Credits for Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

The role that anti-gender populism plays is either an overt game or is subvert, all of which heavily depends on the social and political factors of a given nation. The two best examples from this week’s readings to prove this are the analysis of Poland, Hungary, and the UK’s struggle with anti-gender populism. All have the similar struggle of overt opposition towards members of LGBTQ+ communities but it is only the latter where this growing problem is seldom seen as a major issue both nationally and internationally. The fact that some countries are under more scrutiny than others over anti-genderism comes down to their international reputation and their further relationship with the Western World, as both Poland and Hungary are two countries in Europe who are constantly discussed as being one of the most dangerous places for LGBTQ+ members to live, with the homophobic rhetortic being much more inforced than other countries such as the UK. Both Hungary and Poland have had difficulty transitioning into a democratic society Post Cold War, with having no direct sense of where and how each government wants to direct national politics this can provide some clarity as to why both are leaning in to the far-right agenda more than the UK, as they both were countries in a constant state of transition due to two World Wars and the resulting aftermath of the Cold War. 

Participant of counter demo tries to block Equality Parade in Plock, Poland on 10 August, 2019. (Photo by Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now all of this is definitely not to excuse the behaviours of those who continue to play into anti-gender populism and the growing intolerance towards LGBTQ+ communities, it does provide a basis to understand how these issues are allowed in their own countries to continue to grow without any direct consequences. In the Vice mini documentary it introduces Aleks Bach-Gapinski, a member of the LGBTQ+ community who lives in a constant uncertainty over the direction Poland will go during the 2020 elections, there is one part of his interview where he discusses being the victim of homophobic related attack. The video does not provide any sense that this attack was taken into just action by the police, seemingly being ignored with Aleks being left with no real justice. The Guardian article highlights a similar issue that took place with two women being targeted and assaulted in another homophobic attack, the only difference being that the attack here became blasted across national media, condemning the attack, the growing far-right, and the attackers themselves. Two completely different responses to two attacks that stem from the same problem, and while it may be easy to champion the national response in the UK over Poland’s, the problem still doesn’t go away, in fact it only provides a façade that populism isn’t as much of a concern in comparison to countries like Poland. Which is part of the problem itself, a condemning reaction can only provide so much protection towards political ideologies.


Sarah Marsh, Aamna Mohdin and Niamh McIntyre, “Homophobic and Transphobic Hate Crimes Surge in England and Wales” The Guardian, 14 June 2019,

Trans teens in today’s Hungary

Transphobia and gender studies

While the reading on homophobic and transphobic crimes increasing in Wales and England is of course something that should be of concern, I certainly wonder if Right-Wing populism is really the key factor in this increase. While I of course do not mean to undermine the dangers of populism and their antagonism towards the LGBTQ+ community, I feel that the article fails to consider perhaps the opposite lens, which I would assume is a general increase in openly trans and homosexual identification. I assume that in the same years that these crime rates increased (in this case between 2013 and 2018), there was likely a similarly large increase in openly LGBTQ+ members in the community. Especially because the article focuses on crimes per capita (rather than crimes proportional to the size of the community or perhaps the increase in crime in proportion to the growth of LGBTQ+ communities in the UK), I feel that the conclusion drawn is largely meant to incite fear of a proposed “huge” growth in homophobic and transphobic crimes. I feel the article is right in addressing right-wing populism hate, but the methodology of this article certainly seems flawed.

On another note, I felt it important to talk about the CEU. While our reading talks about a bill in April 2017, it was written at the time of it happening. Of course not to the authors fault, but this means it fails to highlight that the CEU was actually forced to move its main campus to Vienna as a result of this bill, which I feel is a big loss and alarming thought for gender studies in the country. In this regard, the article was perhaps a bit over-optimistic in their outlook on the situation, which certainly looked much grimmer only a year later.

Anti-Genderism vs Right-Wing Populism

Megan MacRae

The content covered this week made it very notable that although anti-genderism and right-wing populism share similarities, it would be incorrect to consider them to be entangled with each other. Specifically, the reading from Paternotte and Kuhar explicitly emphasizes the fact that these two topics should not be considered ‘the same’.

In all transparency, prior to reading this week’s materials, I would have associated anti-genderism with right-wing populism. This is due to the discourse that surrounds both of these issues. However, Paternotte and Kuhar made a great point by noting the differences between these two issues.

It is noted that while anti-genderism stems from the Catholic project and can be found in debates amongst the New Evangelization project, right-wing populism is not necessarily a religious phenomenon. Although this does make complete sense and is something I agree with, perhaps it still struck me because of how often right-wing populism uses religion in its discourse. Whether it is using religion to make a pregnant woman feel guilty for having an abortion, or imposing their faith on two gay men who are looking to get married, I do strongly feel that right-wing populists utilize religion in their discourse. Of course, I do not want to generalize right-wing populism as it is such as complex and vast issue, but this is just what came to my mind throughout Paternotte and Kuhar’s article.

The material for this week definitely brought more awareness to the needed separation between anti-genderism and right-wing populism. Although I would personally consider both of these issues to stem from places of xenophobia, I do understand that they involve various discourses and therefore it is not accurate to label all right-wing populists as attackers of gender identity.

Gender = Communism – Is Poland’s right-wing discourse lazy or sinisterly simple and effective?

By Frank

Going into this week’s readings, in particular the ones about Poland, I had a thought: Is there a dynamic going on where mainstream politicians and institutions are borrowing (and normalizing) anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from fringe far-right parties, similar to what happened in Hungary with Islamophobic discourse (if you recall Ivan Kalmar’s article from last week)? It appears to me that, in the Polish case, this discourse is actually coming straight from Law and Justice politicians, President Andrej Duda, the Catholic Church.

One example (of many) was the comparison of “gender” to Marxism and communism. As Zuk (2019) highlights, this is a conscious act of persuasive inference to discredit the LGBT gender and sexual identities, as well as pro-abortion policy. This discourse also lumps together many of the Catholic Church and right-wing’s “enemies” into a single, easy-to-denounce category, absolving any of the nuance or differences between these issues. In the vice video, Duda’s campaign speech that denounces “gender” as the (even more dangerous) successor to Marxism. To the Catholic Church, “gender” is supposed to be a new version of dangerous, leftist ideologies, a new disguise of Marxism, which this time took the ‘cultural’ rather than the ‘economic’ form (Zuk, 2019)

This type of rhetoric not only positions gender as an ideology (which is highly problematic), but also portrays it as a threat tantamount to communism that the Polish people must be protected from. It fans the fear of national fragility, that when Poles or Hungarians or French nationalists, fear a perceived tyranny of a minority (LGBTQ, Muslim, Romani, etc.) that is seeking to undermine the values of the majority.

The Fight Over Gender

By Blaise Rego

Anti-gender thought and ideas have become mainstream across Europe over the past few years. States ranging from the UK to Hungary have tried to combat the idea that gender should be taught as a construct. There are massive difference’s though on ow and why this occurring.

In countries like Hungary and Poland the pressure of anti gender/LGBTQ+ comes from top down pressure that is initiated by the government in power. Their leaders have made pushes that try to eliminate discussions about gender and sexuality, this has allowed and normalized attacks and violence against this community. In theses communities we have seen resistance in the form on new media as discussed in the pink news article, about the transgender teen in Hungary.

In comparison in the UK the anti gender/LBGTQ+, the push is coming from bellow. swells of anti LGBTQ+ feeling have come to the surface following Brexit and further rightwing leaders coming to power. These leaders don’t wish to push off a larger swath of the population so they are not as extreme as eastern European leaders in their anti-gender and LGBTQ+ rhetoric so the swell of violence comes from the population. A greater swath of the population has begun to view discussions later as the “enemy”, stating that it’s a woke liberal agenda that is destroying conservative views.

this is the same and result as we see in Poland and Hungary but with this main difference being that where the push of this anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment comes from is inverse. This is an uninspiring result that is worrying for the future of gender discussions going forward.

Gender and Sexual Orientation discrimination: the New Racism

The concept of genders as we know them have changed and transformed in the last years. They have been molded to accommodate the situations the best they could to fit the individuals that did not find themselves fitting in any other gender class. Sexuality on the other hand is something that has been around for a long time, and people can’t seem to accept persons that are homosexuals or members of the LGBTQ community. As Judith Butler reported in her article, Hungarian schools have started to eliminate gender teachings under the pretext that it could turn their children to different sexual orientations. England as well as Poland have also picked up homophobic and transphobic movements as they fear that left uncheck, they will corrupt their youths and change their society for the worse. But like it was showcased in Sarah Marsh’s text, the members of LGBTQ groups are ordinary people that are scared of the right wing aggressiveness and are now uncomfortable to be themselves in public. When we think about it, it does not seem that there are reasons that sexual orientations and gender association would be bad, but the keyword that is exploited here is difference. People don’t like changes and their fear of it becomes exploitable, just like with racism and antisemitism. It makes these minorities easily targetable for right wing hate as they just try to live and exist just as anyone else. Since racism is perceived very poorly, it gives another reason to target the LGBTQ community as it is a “disguised” form of racism.

Hate-Crimes (What is Wrong with People?) and Bad Thesis Writing Skills

The two Guardian articles for this week just outright shocked me. Whether or not one agrees with “Gender Ideology”, is irrelevant in the case of the guardian article that mentioned a lesbian couple being attacked. People have basic human rights, and one of those rights is to be ensured safety regardless of who they are and what they believe in. No-one should have to fear for their safety and wellbeing because of who their attracted too. This is not something that is even remotely debatable. Of course people are entitled to whatever view they want to have gender ideology (that’s the beauty of a free society), but violence is never an ok avenue to take. That said, it certainly appears that a lot of the anti-gender ideology movements in and around Europe don’t seem to have any sort of cohesive or central arguments besides stating things like, “the traditional family is under attack, that children in the classroom are being indoctrinated to become homosexuals, and that “gender” is a dangerous, if not diabolical, ideology threatening to destroy families, local cultures, civilization, and even “man” himself.” (Butler) The problem with these being the sort of central arguments is that they come across like a badly written thesis without any reasons for why their arguments are right. It is literally the equivalent of saying “I think peanut butter and jelly sandwiches threaten the stability of the food industry.” See how I didn’t include any valid or well researched reasons as to why they threaten the stability of the food industry? I just stated that they did.

Readings looked at:


By Lauren McCoy

In our seminar discussions, we have previously considered how within fascist discourses, specific terms become empty signifier that collapse multiple strands of thought and become embedded with an ethical dimension. Within the multiple misappropriation and incorrect uses of terms within anti-genderism, the comparison of abortion to the Holocaust among Polish nationalist struck me as especially interesting. While I can understand how academic terms can become removed from and expanded beyond their original definition – as with the case of Gender analysis – I thought part of this misuse might be rooted in their lack of use in public lexicon prior to their misappropriation. As the Peto and Butler article highlight, Gender studies was largely invisible in national consciousness prior to it being used by right politicians across Europe, allowing these groups to create a new, alternative understanding of these terms.

Yet this isn’t the case with anti-abortion protesters use of the Holocaust. When first considering this issue, I thought it was strange how an event with such a strong image and understanding within public memory could become misused, especially with the many memorials and novels/films that reaffirm a specific historical narrative regarding the Holocaust. Perhaps the answer lies in Poland’s unique and complicated public memory and complicated relationship with the Holocaust, which may have contributed to their ability to manipulate the image and emotion evoked by the Holocaust. Yet still I’m left wondering – what are the qualities that connected the terms and ideas that become misappropriated by alt-right discourses? While reoccurring ideas can appear within fascist rhetoric (including anti-immigration, white supremacy, a support for “traditional” values regarding the family and gender roles), since fascist do not rely on factual or historical evidence to support their claims, it seems like even the most well-understood ideas can become warped. Do alt-right groups latch onto any terms that become widely circulated (for instances, I thought it was amazingly ironic that gender ideology is described as “ideological colonization” by Pope Francis, maybe reflecting increasing discussions surrounding the impacts of colonialism?) or is there another quality that they also latch onto? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

Challenging Cultural Norms and Anti-Genderism

Jacob Braun

Anti-gender populism has been on the rise since 2016 across the EU and beyond. Ringing very similar to the Republicans of the United States, proponents of anti-genderism put forward a number of far-fetched claims that mainly revolve around “saving the children” or the “corruption of society.” Anti-genderists seek to maintain the status quo of patriarchal society, which is in direct contrast to the aim projected by LGBTQ communities/academics which challenge current norms. Though anti-gender movements hold much in common across borders, the way they respond to the perceived “LGBTQ threat” can be very different.

In the British Isles, violence against LGBTQ communities skyrocketed following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Under successive Tory governments and the populist spectre of UKIP, barely anything has been done to protect these communities. In contrast, Poland has opted to target LGBTQ communities through legislation with their decision to create “LGBT-free” zones throughout the country. As shown in the VICE news clip for this week, the threat of violence in Poland also only seems to be increasing.

In Hungary, the Orban government sought to target academics in the field of gender studies, getting rid of their ability to receive degrees in the field. Gender studies (both in Hungary and Poland) is derided as “communist” or “totalitarian,” because it challenges the staunchly catholic-conservative norms of eastern European governance. Overall, attacks on “gender ideology” all seem to spring from the same conservative corner of preserving the past, with the populist aspect of “save the children!” (and other added conspiratorial nonsense) sprinkled in.

Words as Weapons. Again. by Aimee Brown

In this week’s readings about gender, the empty signifier strikes again and neoliberalism abides. Addressing the latter in their article on Poland, Zuk and Zuk explain how, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, socialism became anathema, the language of class was replaced by a language of identity politics, and everything became about nationalism. Once ‘class’ stopped being a valid category of analysis, societal frustration was directed against religiously, racially, and normatively defined ‘others’, a discursive shift towards religious ethno-nationalism which worked in the interests of the neoliberal elites who, otherwise, would have been (justly) blamed for societal ills.

Judith Butler contextualizes the current furore around gender within this campaign of other-ing, explaining that “the term ‘gender’ attracts, condenses, and electrifies a diverse set of social and economic anxieties produced by increasing economic precarity.” This anxiety caused by economic factors cannot be expressed as such (because class is no longer a valid category of analysis), so instead, it is expressed through a discourse of nationalism. Rather than the issue being economic exploitation, the issue becomes the loss of a national identity predicated upon heteronormative patriarchy and white supremacy, which redirects public antipathy towards very counterintuitive targets like gender studies, along with postcolonial studies and critical race theory. In this way, ‘gender’ has become an empty signifier that channels class-based rage away from neoliberal elites and towards already discriminated against individuals and previously obscure scholarly disciplines.  

Finally, Patternote and Kuhare demonstrate how the Catholic Church has used ‘gender’, first, as an empty signifier for everything that it dislikes, and second, to present itself as facing a credible, cohesive, and dangerous enemy. Thus, instead of opposing a disparate bunch of groups composed of predominantly vulnerable people, the Church can (through the magic of a chain of equivalence) oppose an army of gender ideologues engaged in an apocalyptic conspiracy to destroy Christian civilization. This strategy has proved very successful, and the Church specifically, and the far-right generally, is now the source of hegemonic discourse around ‘gender’ and ‘feminism’ in countries like Poland and Hungary, having managed to resignify terms that took progressives decades to introduce into the public consciousness. As a result, women and LBGTQ individuals are made to bear the brunt of a rage which they did not cause as the empty signifier strikes again, and neoliberalism abides.