The US radical feminist group Women’s Liberation Front (WOLF) have teamed up with the Family Policy Alliance, a section of Focus on the Family, to fight against a federal protection for transgender people in the education system.
Title IX was written to protect women and girls from discrimination on the basis of sex in education programmes or activities that receive federal funding. The bone of contention is that the legal category of “sex” in Title IX has recently been changed to “gender identity”. This means that schools which discriminate against transgender people will no longer be able to receive federal funding.
Focus on the Family is an evangelical Christian fundamentalist group, which heavily promotes sexist and homophobic views. They are famous for promoting violence as a means of controlling children and describing “submissiveness to husbands” as a characteristic to cultivate in women. They have previously regarded feminism as an enemy: “everything radical feminists have advocated for regarding sexuality and family relationships call women to deny their womanhood in an effort to be like men. These are primarily abortion, sexual aggression and cohabitation.”
WOLF and Focus on the Family would normally balk at each other. However, in recent years WOLF has been a force to organise against trans women. Although their statement of Principles includes “abolishing gender”, they argue that gender identity theory “seeks to erase women as a legal class”.
WOLF argue that cisgender women have been sold out by the rest of the feminist movement and the left on this issue. The two groups have been able to link up because they agree that transgender people are morally wrong and dangerous to women. The idea that sex is binary and determined by genitalia at birth is a flawed one — it ignores the biologically complex nature of sex and its presentations and the existence of intersex people for a start — but this reductionist view of womanhood is especially ironic in the context of radical feminists’ opposition to sexual objectification of women in porn and sex work. Women are not just vaginas, uteruses and breasts, and nor is our oppression only sexual and maternity-related.
Systematic oppression of women and the maintenance of strict gender roles exists in society to serve capitalist interests without most people having to see us naked. When trans-exclusionary radical feminists prioritise the exclusion of trans women over the breakdown of gender norms, they display a poor understanding of the oppression they seek to fight. WOLF has succeeded in its stated aim to gather media attention and fundraising from this alliance, but they have also shown that their hatred for trans women is greater than their opposition to horrendous religious misogyny and homophobia. A feminism that claims to speak for all women whilst working with those who seek to ban abortion, remove rights from lesbians and condemn working women to lives of drudgery is no use at all. Workers’ Liberty is socialist feminist, and supports the rights of all women, including trans women.