16 September 2023
“The most revolutionary thing one can do is always to proclaim loudly what is happening.” - Rosa Luxemburg
Today’s rally in Dublin takes place on the first anniversary of the murder of Iranian woman Mahsa Amini by the Morality Police for her defiance of diktats on how women should behave and dress. While a different time and place Irish women are well aware, many by their own lived experience, of the abuses that follow from the enforcement of religious dogma by state institutions. In a struggle that extended over decades, they had to fight against an alliance of state and church for control over their own bodies, for abortion rights, for contraception and divorce, and against discrimination in the workplace.
Yet these rights are once again under threat. The main thrust of this is not from religious conservatism but from the secular ideology of gender identity. While presenting itself in terms of rights and progress this ideology, and those who actively promote it, actually have much in common the religious right, particularly in the upholding of dogmas and the punishment of those who challenge them. Another common feature is the use of state institutions to promote their agendas. In the case of gender ideology, we see this in legislation brought forward by the government such as the Gender Recognition Act and in the proposed hate crimes bill. We also see it in the various guidelines that govern the health and education sectors. While a lot of this is being pushed through with little public scrutiny the impact on the everyday lives of women is already being felt. Women are being erased from public discourse; women are afraid to speak out; independent organisations that represent women face censure; pro-women events take place under threat of violence. In the face of these attacks Irish women are protesting for their right to exist, their right to not be silenced, their right to single sex spaces, their right to all their sex-based rights.
Socialists against gender ideology
Historically socialists have supported and fought for women’s sex-based rights, in opposition to conservatives and religious maniacs. Socialists must oppose gender ideology for various reasons.
It is an attack on women’s
It is homophobic.
It is a denial of science. It is a negation of material reality.
It is part of an assault on freedom of dissent and speech. It is anti-working class.
We see the oppression and misery of capitalist society as based on the material reality of class. That determines the life experiences of both men and women and provides the circumstances for unity of the sexes in struggle. Identity politics is the polar opposite of this unity. Gender ideology is identity politics taken to their logical extreme.
It is no coincidence that identity politics advanced in the wake of the defeats suffered by the organised working class in the 1980s and 90s. The promise of collective liberation, whether that is in relation to class, sex or sexuality, goes into retreat and is replaced by individualistic ideas of self-fulfilment. The working class, and working-class women in particular, are relegated to a secondary role while socialism is supplanted by every liberal fad. Gender ideology, in which an individual can define themselves without reference to material reality, is the ultimate expression of this. Those so-called socialists who support gender ideology have sold out. The only effective counter to all this is the revival of an independent working-class movement alongside organisations that truly represent women and gay people.