Transgenderism, Neoliberalism and Rape Culture: Brisbane talk

Below is the text of a twelve-minute talk I gave in Brisbane on October 12, 2019. The talk can be viewed here. The event was hosted by the International Women’s Day Brisbane/Meanjin committee, and the other presentations on transgenderism and rape culture, lesbian erasure, women’s reproductive rights, sports and the left, can be found on their YouTube channel. This talk can be read in Norwegian, Spanish, French, and Slovenian (under “Recently translated articles”). 

I have been trying to speak on this issue for four years in New Zealand, and because of vicious and persistent censorship and smearing, I haven’t managed to speak openly like this yet. So thank you Anna, and everyone who is speaking, for inviting me here and making space for me.

Because many people still believe that the spread of transgender ideology represents a harmless fad, a phase, or a problem of youth culture or social media, I have chosen to talk about the wider context and conditions that have allowed this ideology to take hold. Transgenderism is a predatory and authoritarian neoliberal ideology, and one that couldn’t take hold outside of the context of rape culture. I want to make this as clear as I can in ten minutes.

The first point to make about neoliberalism is that it is basically synonymous with globalisation, and with corporatisation. It is not just a flawed economic policy. It is a corporate backlash against the political left and a tool of colonisation.

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw the rise of a strong political left, indigenous renaissance movements, workers unions, successful independence struggles that ousted colonisers, anti-war protest, and women’s rights movements.

By the 1980s, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had a response. They adopted policies that would reverse the progress these movements made. They began to hand out financial loans to governments on the condition that they undergo what is euphemistically called “structural adjustment,” for the benefit of multinational corporations. “Structural adjustment” is a term to ponder in relation to this issue.

This structural adjustment has three basic components. Firstly, governments have had to make natural resources, lands, and public infrastructure available for purchase by foreign corporations. Secondly, they are compelled to drastically cut back public spending on health, education, welfare and social services. Lastly, regulations and legal protections that restrict corporate profiteering, like laws that protect workers from exploitation, need to be removed. This is neoliberalism: the commodification of nature, and the removal and defunding of social services, ramped up for the age of multinational corporations.

Neoliberalism, and its so-called structural adjustments, are packaged with rhetoric about freedom. The story is that a so-called “free” market in which private sector employers face minimal barriers to profiteering, fosters job and opportunity creation, and a “trickle down” effect, that gradually enables the empowerment of the self-made individual or employee, and “choice” for consumers.

In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein points out that people – especially people who have been fighting centuries for freedom – don’t actually take these sorts of reforms lying down. So, alongside propaganda, disaster conditions have been crucial for imposing neoliberalism worldwide. That’s why Klein calls neoliberalism “disaster capitalism.” Structural adjustment often follows a state of emergency – a natural disaster, or a military invasion or coup.

Multinationals and profiteers in agribusiness and tourism move in and benefit. And because women are made especially vulnerable when land is sold off and degraded, subsistence lifestyles are destroyed, wages drop, and welfare and healthcare are harder to access, one of the industries that has profited most from neoliberalisation is prostitution. The global sex trade lobby is extremely strong at the moment, and of course in a neoliberal climate, it sells us the idea that prostitution is legitimate business, and that pimps are just job creators in an industry we are now supposed to call “sex work” and perceive to be empowering for women as individuals, disregarding the factors of poverty, land theft, sexism and rape.

Combine this with tourism and the internet, and you have huge industries in sex tourism, trafficking and pornography. One in ten websites are porn sites. The industry is worth more than the combined revenue of the top ten web technology companies. To encourage porn consumption, porn is also normalised through mainstream media. All of this fuels a climate of male sexual entitlement, rape and violation, objectification, body hatred, dissociation, dysphoria and anorexia.

These are the disaster conditions that transgender ideology exploits, and that enable whole populations to buy into the idea that not only can women be bought and sold like products, but womanhood itself is a commodity to which men should be entitled. Transgenderism is a neoliberal ideology that treats the natural fact of biological sex itself as something to be ploughed over and substituted with the cash crop of gender identity. It is empowering for the individual to reject biological sex and substitute it for a customised gender that expresses one’s own essential tastes, like your clothes and shoes are meant to do, and even your car, your cellphone screen protector and your toothbrush.

The mindless mantra “transwomen are women” encapsulates both the ideology and attitudes of transgenderism, and the neoliberal zeitgeist, in three words. It implies the destruction of nature, of biology, of our own bodies – including through the radical mastectomies increasingly conducted on adolescent girls, mainly lesbians. It is based on the commodification of women, and it leads to the removal of legal protections and social supports designated for women and based on sex, and using this mantra like a threat – because if you don’t accept it, you are a bigot – men are colonising women’s hard-won spaces, organisations, movements and safehouses as well as lesbian culture.

This mantra is also having the effect of consolidating the domestication of the whole political left – peace groups, unions, socialist organisations –and assimilating them with the establishment as they commit to and prioritise transgender mythology, purge feminists and independent, critical thinkers from their ranks, and build stronger ties to the liberal political parties and big money also promoting gender identity and funding the Pride Parades.

In this way, the lie that “transwomen are women” is the neoliberal answer to the myth of the resurrection within the Catholic church. It is the one crazy thing you need to accept, these days, to demonstrate that despite whatever else you believe in or work toward, you are ultimately willing to surrender your critical faculties and submit to power and groupthink.

People would never buy the ideas that “men can get pregnant,” or that a “lesbian can have a penis,” outside of the disaster conditions we feminists call rape culture – the conditions of, male sexual entitlement; a woman being raped, somewhere in the world, every second of the day; normalised porn, objectification, dysphoria, body hatred.

In a culture that honoured women, cared for children, and grounded in the natural world, the spread of transgender ideology would not occur.

Voltaire’s famous warning that “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities” is also pertinent. Despite all these large scale pop-up social movements taking place throughout the West at the moment, it is actually a dangerous and threatening climate we live in – a climate in which the absurdities of transgenderism are promoted so widely, while they cause such serious harm, and are taboo to question. Women who speak out now face ostracism and losing their livelihoods at the hands of the very same people who are currently joining mass movements that claim to fight for the planet and social justice.

Yet as Audre Lorde famously said, “your silence will not protect you.” So to women out there holding their tongues to stay safe, I say, we are living in an era of rising authoritarianism, and this ideology is one vehicle for it. You need to find your sisters. Now is the time to speak the truth where you can, in spite of those who will turn on you or who refuse to offer you solidarity – and find your sisters. We are here, we are healing and finding our voices together, and we want you among us.

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16 thoughts on “Transgenderism, Neoliberalism and Rape Culture: Brisbane talk”

  1. This is the best, most comprehensive critique of gender identity ideology I have seen in six years of staring at this monstrosity. Positively brilliant & accomplished in under 10min. I’m gobsmacked.

  2. I read this whole thing looking for a single argument, but it’s just a bunch of polemical shouting, borderline incoherent ramblings I should have expected from the opening paragraph. Despite the leftist flavor, the core sentiment is straight from the mouth of the religious right purity movement of the 19th century: We can’t taint the natural (god-given) biology! Don’t mind our archaic assumptions about the metaphysics of gender, masquerading as “real” feminism, they only end up excluding most women from womanhood!

    What’s the determiner for womanhood? To bear children? I guess fuck those who don’t, can’t, the post-menopausal, and the post-hysterectomied. To have certain chromosomes? Do you even know which chromosomes you have? How do you know you’re not one of the many people with neither xx nor xy chromosomes? You folks keep yelling about the trans, probably since the first transperson in 500 BCE or whenever (contrary to the hot take here that neoliberalism and rape culture are to blame), but it’s so boring! Find a new hobby.

      1. It’s very simple: (1) The so-called feminism here is so regressive and boring, and it shares all the core tenants of your average purity movement of the religious right, and (2) There are no clear methods for determining womanhood along biological lines. Thinking for more than 5 seconds about what it is that makes a person a woman would show you that. Or read Simone de Beauvoir ffs. I’m sure you all have some backwards nonsense way of making something so incoherent make sense to you, but really, you have no leg to stand on. Pure hatred propels you, nothing else.

        1. There are no clear methods for determining womanhood along biological lines. HAHAHAHAHAHA! And Simone de Beauvoir would fucking fry your complicit ass.

  3. Superlative summation, Renee. It puts it all together in an extremely succinct, mind-blowing few minutes. I treasure those who have the ability to make connections, which seems very rare these days, and is absolutely critical to any understanding of what is going on in the human world. And I’m pleased to see that you are not as alone as you once seemed to be!

  4. Hello. Thank you for your work. What you write and say makes sense to me. I’m sympathetic to women who don’t want transgender people in their space. May you be well and happy. – T W

  5. Woman/Sister/Freethinker

    I love where you spoke of the commodification of womanhood is akin to the commodification of natural resources. I have been mulling on this topic because I live in the Pacific Northwest and I do actually have several trans friends. I even voted for trans rights bathroom act here in Washington state and we won but I instantly regretted it. I found myself sharing the bathroom with a cis male who came into the ladies room and pissed standing up in the stall next to me. I regret voting for that now and while I do want my trans friends to be safe there is just something very u settling about a man telling me what it takes to be a woman. It’s like men are so fucking privileged and entitled that they’d rather be the perfect woman than be with a perfect woman. And the ideology of gender identity is purely based on incredibly sexist ideology even if you are talking about someone who declines to be binary at all. It still plays into sexist ideology because it’s saying “I have a penis but I refuse to be labeled with a penis or acknowledge my penis because people with penis’s don’t dress or “present” the way I wish to present myself.” It’s completely sexist. I thought we had been turning away from sexist ideology but with the whole trans movement we’ve done e a complete 180 and gone right back to sexist roles based on gender.

  6. Brilliant. It sums up precisely what I fear is happening. Neoliberalism is turning progressivism upside down, youth is its main propaganda and brainwhashing target. We are witnessing the latest version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Thanks to Jennifer Bilek who brought me here.

  7. This is a brilliant speech, locating trans ideology within its neoliberal context. Capitalism must be given credit for the brilliant way it is has drawn so many on the left into fighting tooth and nail for the furtherance of neoliberalism. We need such an analyses in the struggle to reclaim the left and to reclaim womanhood.

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