Penny Red has a post up about ‘gender fascism’, and this got me thinking. The word ‘fascism’ is used in a number of ways, so although I’m going to develop a different meaning for ‘gender fascism’ to the one she does, that shouldn’t be interpreted as disagreement.
The analysis of fascism and its meaning that is standardly offered by Marxists has tended to go something like this (I don’t know if this is necessarily the right analysis of what happened in Italy and Germany, but it’s what I’ll roll with for now):
In the context of a general crisis of society and the economy (the first world war, the depression) the normal ‘conservatives’ of the government found themselves unable to restore order, in particular, unable to defeat the growing socialist movement that threatened them. There emerged a movement that shared their principal goals – the destruction of socialism, the maintenance of general social and economic structures, the restoration of order and stability on that basis – but which wasn’t held back by their ideas of legality, moderation, or liberalism, which believed in using any means necessary (and indeed visibly rejoiced in doing so). This movement did not develop out of the existing power structure: it developed its own mass base, its own organisations, its own forms. But they were all forms suited to the maintenance of the social and economic status quo (though not the political one, obviously). As a result, this movement, which had emerged outside of the existing power structure, was reluctantly welcomed by that existing power structure (manifested in the support of German president Hindenburg, or the Italian king), who allowed it to take power and use it to solve the problems that this power structure itself had so far been unable to – in particular, allowed it to destroy socialism with massive quantities of violence. Thia movement relied for its most active support on the ‘petite-bourgeoisie’, i.e. those who were neither workers nor big business, but managers, police, small businesses, peasants, etc, i.e. the middle classes who saw socialism as a threat but were more numerous than the real economic powers, the ‘grande-bourgeoisie’. A possibly good modern example is the reactionary forces in Bolivia.
Now, if we take that basic idea, what would ‘gender fascism’ look like? It would require a context where the gender structure was under threat both from general circumstances (e.g. the spread of contraceptives, changing labour patterns) and from a conscious left-wing political movement (namely feminism). In this context there would be very many people who were very unhappy with this threat, but felt unable to do what needed to be done to defeat it, being held back by their commitment to legality, moderation, and liberalism.
Gender fascism would then be a movement that enlisted the masses in a project of fighting sexual liberation by any means necessary, and which happily and routinely engaged in the most extreme measures to do so. It would have rationally ridiculous but emotionally appealing ideology, quite possibly involving jews, and it would recruit principally among those who see feminism as a threat but are not themselves established family heads – the gender equivalent of the ‘petite-bourgeoisie’, young unmarried men (tell me at what point my ‘lets-make-feminism-look-like-marxism’ thing becomes completely ridiculous).
Given such a description, what springs to mind is Islamism – which, like fascism, is a ‘radical’ movement that develops outside the traditional power structure, yet the goal of which is to crush whatever poses a threat to the status quo. Perhaps the best example is the Taliban, whose name means ‘students’, indicating their origins as young and radical, not old and conservative.
Many on the left have been very sceptical of the description of such movements as ‘fascist’ or ‘islamofascist’, arguing that they don’t have the same class basis or economic role. That may well be true, but it occurs to me that the structure by which fascism emerged (threatening left-wingers, impotent moderates, cowardly centre-left leaders, etc.) could perhaps be replicated on a different plane of power – not economic but sexual. Islamism might be not class-fascist, but nevertheless gender-fascist.
Similarly, the ‘beginnings’ of a potential gender-fascist movement would be present in such things as a male student shooting his female colleagues for being feminists, or the routine murder of LGBTQ people. If these individual acts were to be linked together into any kind of coherent movement – a movement able to attract widespread support for its claims to ‘protect family values’ and ‘restore order’ to our ‘broken society’, that would be gender-fascism.
What sort of predictions would that imply? Well, it would suggest that there might be a tendency for those moderate, mild-mannered conservatives who proclaim the awfulness of gender-blurring, like Joseph Ratzinger, to play the Hindenburg role – while publicly deploring violence of all forms, to objectively support and enable gender-fascism against the ‘greater threat’ of ‘gender-anarchy’. To continue in my favourite activity of unsupported speculations on the future, there might equally be some equivalent to the centre-left social democratic leaders who held back from leading their socialist legions to power, who refrained from equipping the working class to resist and defeat fascism, out of a confidence that the police and government would always protect them. There might be a split between those sections of the feminist movement who insisted on only legal steps, and those who insisted on organising and equipping themselves for self–defense. Or not.