Also, we live in a democracy, which is a good thing.
Some radical feminists and gender critical people have been attacking WoLF in social media posts, by implying we are anti-gay/anti-lesbian because of our targeted joint efforts with some groups on the right wing of the political spectrum. It is true that WoLF has worked with conservative political groups, including conservative Christians, in order to further particular goals that we have shared. Anyone who has been involved much in politics knows that most battles are won when different groups coordinate to achieve a shared goal.
Our online detractors don’t seem to be aware that many groups on the political left, including groups that have filed amicus briefs in support of Aimee Stephens’ bid to compel speech and belief in the Harris case, have also partnered with right wing groups. This specifically includes prominent groups like the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign.
For example, the ACLU has worked along with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC,) a right/libertarian group, on several criminal justice reform issues. This includes an effort to end driver’s license suspensions over unpaid court fines, which they supported jointly with both ALEC and Americans For Prosperity’s (AFP) Montana chapter, and described like this, “Advocacy groups from across the ideological spectrum support the bill.” AFP is funded by the conservative Koch family, who are also supporters of the Heritage Foundation. Speaking of which, the ACLU stood with the Charles Koch Institute to support free speech and peaceful assembly around DC monuments.
When an ACLU staff attorney was appointed to President Obama’s Justice Department, she was praised in the following terms, in The Guardian, to the apparent delight of everyone concerned:
“… The Washington Post, which broke the news of her appointment, carried glowing testimonials from such unlikely quarters as Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and the former head of the National Rifle Association David Keene who said: “Vanita is someone who works with everyone.”
“According to the Washington Post, the attorney general Eric Holder introduced Gupta to her new DOJ staff on Wednesday, saying that “even as she has done trailblazing work as a civil rights lawyer, Vanita is also known as a unifier and consensus builder.”
“The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, told the Guardian that Gupta was “the kind of leader who comes along once a generation. Largely through her efforts, we’ve seen a realignment that has brought together conservatives and progressives over criminal justice reform.” …”
Why are we being held to a different standard than the ACLU, who represented Milo Yiannopoulous in a free speech case? It’s a mystery.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) supported Bill Clinton despite his “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military, which today is widely seen as homophobic. Contradictory? Perhaps expedient or strategic is a better term. Later, they supported Republican Al D’Amato in his Senate campaign in 1998, despite the fact that in 1996 he was opposed to same-sex marriage. Though realistically, support for same-sex marriage among elected officials even within the Democratic Party is a recent phenomenon, which required many years worth of work to change.
Presently, HRC is known for lobbying efforts that reach out to every office on Capitol Hill, including their support for extensive efforts to recruit Republicans to support the Equality Act, which will erase women’s sex-based rights, as written. Maybe they recall that before the fight for marriage was won in the courts, and politicians no longer had to worry about it as a campaign issue, they had to spend a lot of years talking to people who didn’t agree with them before they got where they are today.
Now people who take HRC’s side will generally consider someone anti-gay if they don’t support same-sex marriage, but won’t put that same label on organizations like HRC that support sterilizing minors who are likely to experience same-sex attraction. With the marriage fight largely settled, it’s our opinion that we have other priorities to consider.
So it seems hypocritical for feminists posting anti-WoLF comments online to be attacking us for working with conservatives, whereas they’re not leveling similar charges against the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign, or any number of other organizations led by men on the left who do the same thing. Some women criticizing us anonymously have been driven underground by the same misogynistic blacklisting and harassment we’ve faced, but have allowed partisan loyalty to muffle their rightful indignance over being denied freedom of participation in the public sphere.
Maybe we’re just not influential enough to get away with doing politics the way everyone else does?
People should let us know what metric of size, popularity, financial success, or high office, we should look to attain before we’re allowed out unsupervised to talk to the kids across the street?
Several women in our organization have been targeted for personal threats and blacklisting. Our volunteers are called out regularly by name in conspiracy theorists’ screeds, by vindictive former friends, and activists who accuse us of things they’ve invented to make up for their own lack of a good argument. We nonetheless believe it’s our right to petition our government, and other members of civil society, for a redress of our grievances. We would prefer to talk to people who have something more to say than “f*** you,” who won’t issue various threats to harass or assault us, and who are in fact willing to listen to our arguments.
We understand that many people entirely disregard these direct, and ongoing, harms to us as inconsequential. That is their right, and it’s true that many people disregard harms against women they don’t like as politically irrelevant, but we also don’t have to regard them as experts on expressing solidarity with other women. We reserve our own right to prioritize both our safety, and our ability to represent the interests of our constituents in the public sphere.
The substance of the arguments we make in advance of these interests is public; viewable here on our website, in federal court briefs, and in the congressional record. People have the right to consume their time with drawing occultish inferences about what we ‘really’ want based on guilt by association and travel itineraries, but everyone is also welcome to read what we have said that we want, which is our own best faith effort to accurately describe what we want.
What WoLF does consistently is to support measures that we believe are in women’s best interests. That is what the essence of a feminist organization should be. Occasionally, conservative groups, especially those with female leadership, are in support of the same measures. We understand that conservatives are also generally in support of the Constitution, and we hope that this position will not someday be wrongly described as solely conservative in the event that the ACLU decides that the Constitution is for the birds.
“I am a civil rights and constitutional lawyer who fundamentally doesn’t believe in the Constitution and the legal system.” – Chase Strangio, ACLU staff attorney, 2019
We don’t always share the same goals or values as the ACLU or the Human Rights Campaign, though conservatives might well lump all of us together on the “left.”
These organizations may not, in fact, always be in favor of feminist goals or values, but hardly anyone tells them that they’re a broad liability to any movement because they disagree with us. The ACLU has supported pornographers under its definition of free speech, in direct contradiction to a feminist understanding of pornography as a film recording of the commercial sexual exploitation of women. HRC has not been known to have a woman-friendly culture, they do a lot of PR-type work for companies who treat their female employees very poorly, and they support the sex industry, as well.
Yet over the years, in order to fit in with the left, feminism has shrunk and contorted itself to put up with the left’s particular style of libertine degradation of women. For the greater good, feminists put on the corsets and hobbling shoes, shut up about their male peers buying impoverished women for sex, and now they’ll even watch porn and rave about how exciting rape fantasies are. When men on the left then demanded fealty to the idea that sex is irrelevant, whenever men say so, it was all over but the shouting.
So, that’s a set of compromises some women have made in order to get to work on the abortion issue, sometimes take a step towards equal pay, or maybe get some shelter funding. Not many people seem to be invested in asking them over and over if it was really worth it to have worked with the left, rather than looking at what they say and engaging with their positions.
Feminism is a movement for the liberation of women. WoLF fights for women, and that sometimes includes talking to people we may not have very much in common with. But you don’t make peace with your friends, as they say.
We do not apologize for our strategies, which are the same strategies used by groups across the Left/Right spectrum. Indeed, it’s called “politics”, and we want to win.