In the readings this week there is a very common theme of populists and the far-right using anti-gender propaganda to push their conservative narratives. We can see examples of this in both the Patternote reading and the Zuk&Zuk reading. Patternote points out an important aspect of how “by seeking to produce a moral panic, anti-gender activists try to legitimize their particular claims, establish the validity of the issues raised, stir up concern among the general population and attract media attention.” (Patternote, 11) In the Zuk&Zuk case study of Poland, we can see how this notion of scapegoating that Patternote mentions play out in a real-world context. The far-right in Poland consistently uses the anti-gender movement to critique and challenge changing society because “from the point of view of nationalists, then, defenders of gay rights have emerged to become just like anarchist opponents of the social, state and moral order and, even worse, like barbarians attacking civilization.” (Zuk&Zuk, 571). This is not just an issue isolated to post-communist European countries, as The Guardian article points out. Since the rise of Brexit and far-right ideology in North America, England is seeing a huge spike in hate-targeted crimes against people in the LGBTQ+ communities. The article states that “The rate of LGBT hate crime per capita rose by 144% between 2013-14 and 2017-18. In the most recent year of data, police recorded 11,600 crimes, more than doubling from 4,600 during this period.” That is a staggering, and unacceptable statistic. In conclusion, from the readings this week, it is clear anti-gender movements are used by far-right organizations and politics as a ‘veil’ for their primary goals/intentions.
To quote Brubaker from the second week, populism is the successful use of “politics of fear”.1 The effective ability to categorize and separate a population into insiders and outsiders creates a dynamic of constant anxiety that fuels a desire for stability. In this respect, the new and the uncertain go hand in hand with one another; why else would populist leaderships seek to shut down or re-appropriate prestigious institutions if they disagree with their conceptualization of reality?2 It provides not just a rallying point for discourse on the nature of these foreign and different ideas, it also allows for a managing of the future messaging on a given topic. This is also not a new phenomenon, as it has been demonstrated in how Italian populists took control over the news media within their nation to secure a platform of expression and dialogue.3
In much the same way, we see the use of “Creating uncertainty, managing fear and building an atmosphere that makes everyone feel that he or she can become a victim always requires some demonised enemy.”4 The simultaneous attack on academic institutions and gender dynamics through the effective othering as a means of ‘re-establishing’ a hierarchy from the past in times of turmoil and uncertainty as a means of creating stability. Through this charismatic approach to the modern issues, populist can engage and spur their supporters into the approaches that further this dichotomy. It establishes the precedence for more than institutional attacks, but personal ones as well. As seen in the case of the United Kingdom, failure to address the deep-seated issues that cause a distrust of what these people consider foreign; can have massive reaching impacts of bodily harm to both the individual and the public.5
1Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?” NUPI Podcast (51 minutes) https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/why-populism-rogers-brubaker/id1200474003?i=1000449389000 .
2Andrea 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-genderstudies-hungary .
3Anna Cento Bull, “The role of memory in populist discourse: the case of the Italian Second Republic” Patterns of Prejudice, 50:3 (2016): 213-231.
4Piotr 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): 566–588.
5 Sarah Marsh, Aamna Mohdin and Niamh McIntyre, “Homophobic and Transphobic Hate Crimes Surge in England and Wales” The Guardian, 14 June 2019, https://www. theguardian.com/world/ 2019/jun/14/homophobicand-transphobic-hatecrimes-surge-in-englandand-wales
In the anti-genderism movement, the far-right is picking another opponent and this is not a surprise. We can see through time the folk devils have often changed, from Jews and antisemitism in the WWII years, to democracy and the West and now land on genderism, not that it has never been a topic for the far-right but now it is a more publicized enemy of the right in today’s backsliding European countries. In Poland, the church takes a role in the issues with abortion and genderism (Zuk and Zuk, 567), but it may be the case that even if the church was absent from the discourse in Poland, as it was in France (Paternotte and Kuhar, 8), that this type of rhetoric would continue.
The factors that unite these issues are closer than the circumstances that make them different in each country. The fear and hate that unites the far-right against a common enemy, the fear of change and deviances vs. whether or not the government is far-right and can condemn genderism, if the Church is playing a role, etc. In each case, the underlying factors are the same even if the catalysts change depending on the context for a respective group.
David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-19.
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): 566–588
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. Given the upcoming Hungarian election, this speculation of a distraction tactic does seem likely.
 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.
 Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’:”: 576-585.
 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.
 Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling”: 11-13.
 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.
 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/.
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.
One of the major themes in the readings this week was the influence of institutions on the promotion of anti-gender campaigns and ideology, as well as how the analysis of anti-gender movements could be more nuanced.
I found the Żuk and Żuk article to be very well written, as the way that it methodically broke down the logical fallacies present in a lot of right wing discourse is a useful way to structure and address our own anti-fascist and anti-populist arguments. Appeals to emotion are very useful on both sides of the argument, but recognition of why these arguments are poor ones to make can be very useful in cutting through strong emotional responses, especially when dealing with emotional topics as abortion and LGBTQIA issues.
In a different vein, I appreciated the Patternotte and Kuhar article especially, as I think the emphasis on looking at different ways that anti-gender movements operate allows for a more nuanced approach on how to solve these particular issues. I do still think there is some connection often between countries, as we have seen from previous weeks’ readings that there is a transnational element to these movements. One example would be a comparison of the new-Marxism present in especially CEE countries, versus the “cultural-Marxism” based in the United States.
What I thought might have been interesting for Patternotte and Kuhar to look at would be the media’s presence in all of this. Britain especially is known for its wide variety of tabloids, and the framing that media does when it addresses issues like gender would have added to the conversation.
On a bit of a side note, trans-exclusionary radical feminists are an interesting intersection of all of this, as they often perceive themselves to be protectors of women and feminists but are surprised when many of the things they talk about receive positive attention from right-wing populists. Patternote and Kuhar highlight that the anti-gender conversation is not just about right-wing populists but left-wing as well. To further see this kind of dynamic, there’s an interesting article on La Manif Pour Tous’s founder Emile Duport who states that he does not see his work as left or right wing, or Catholic, but rather “This is a humanitarian topic. It is like ecology for us. We try to give [it] a higher meaning.” He now works as part of an anti-abortion organization supported in part by the Catholic Church.
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.
Declan Da Barp
The Anti-Gender movement has sprung up across the globe and in the guise of different populist movements on the right and the left. What is clear though is that this messaging of anti-Genderism is a pernicious element in the body politic today that is a backlash of the liberalization of sex and gender in the post-68 period. While many of these campaigns materialized around the move to legalize same-sex marriage and extend rights to the LGBTQ2+ community it has morphed into a movement that aims to regulate the body, restrict reproductive, and prevent sex and gender education (Paternotte and Kuhar). These ideas are widespread and have many overlapping interests, for example in Poland of the Catholic and populist regime. In this way, it touches on the ideas mentioned earlier in the course by Mudde of a “thin-crusted ideology” (Paternotte and Kuhar). Innately, as shown in both readings this week, anti-gender activists map neatly over other pre-existing ideologies.
The idea of gender ideology being a new Marxism was a poignant one, particularly in the Polish context. Poland as described by Piotr and Paweł Zuk defines itself as Catholic and anti-Marxist. The Law and Justice Party (PiS) have added anti-genderism to their repertoire of “Others” which Poland defines itself against. Hungary has done much the same (Paternotte and Kuhar). In the context of post-Soviet Hungary and Poland, to be anti-Marxist has a real political weight to it, much the same weight that being Catholic has in Poland. Thus, the labelling of Gender as Marxist not only plays on a well-established historical dark period in Polish history it gives legitimacy to the PiS party.
David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-19.
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): 566–588.