Who Are the “Women’s Liberation Front”? Why Do They Apparently Oppose the Equal Rights Amendment?
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
That is the main idea of the Equal Rights Amendment, also known as the ERA.
One would have thought that a “radical feminist” organization known as the Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF, would be eager to support a bill which enshrines those “sex-based rights” they repeatedly insist they are so “staunchly” concerned about, into the U.S. Constitution.
This would mean that women’s rights would be significantly more difficult to overturn, and in our uncertain political climate that is of serious value.
If social conservatives a decade or two from now should decide to manufacture a reason to push to overturn women’s inclusion in civil rights law (perhaps on the grounds that it supports reproductive rights such as access to abortions — as you will see shortly), and if that should unexpectedly gain traction among the population, it would be of serious advantage that this be protected under an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This way, it cannot just be overturned by a simple majority in Congress. A higher bar would be set.
However, on the same day that the House of Representatives voted to remove a deadline on the ratification of the ERA by a 222–204 split, the “Women’s Liberation Front” repeated something it had more or less been saying previously: “The ERA is likely to end freedom of association for women.”
Curiously, they went further and also stated: “The Violence Against Women Act will put men in women’s shelters and prisons.” The House of Representatives had on the same day, again, voted to renew The Violence Against Women Act.
Unlike the ERA, you probably don’t need to be informed about what the VAWA was and is for. Its primary purpose and impact is to counter violence against women (of course.)
This begs the question, why is a group calling itself for women’s liberation and radical feminism opposed to the ERA and VAWA? In reality, it’s not a very hard question to answer, considering this group has attended at least one panel hosted by the Heritage Foundation in 2019, and has repeatedly worked with other right-wing Christian conservative organizations since.
The Heritage Foundation are a right-wing think tank which has tended to deny the scientific consensus on climate change (while taking funding from the fossil fuel industry) and has been opposed to women’s reproductive rights. During the Trump era, they had such deep ties with the Trump presidency that they boasted at least 56 former staffers with positions in the administration. They have a history of promoting hostile policy towards LGBT people.
More recently, the “Women’s Liberation Front” appears to have teamed up with not only the Heritage Foundation (again), but the “Family Policy Alliance” and “Minnesota Family Council” to produce a “Parent Guide on Transgender Issues”. According to the FPA, “The Gender Resource Guide will help parents understand the transgender trend and its consequences”.
The Family Policy Alliance is apparently the “public policy wing of Focus on the Family”, which is an “anti-LGBTQ” group, according to NBC News. FotF appears to have a history of opposing equal marriage.
The Minnesota Family Council appears to be staunchly anti-abortion, against banning so-called “conversion therapy”, and was a “leading opponent” of same-sex marriage. Recently they said, “Roe v. Wade must be overturned!”
The “Women’s Liberation Front” has a history of rubbing shoulders with such right-wing groups.
Given that the “Parent Guide on Transgender Issues” which WoLF has assisted these conservative Christian organizations in creating was apparently “endorsed by medical professionals”, one may be curious where such an endorsement originated. Evidently, the “medical professionals” referred to here are the “American College of Pediatricians”.
The American College of Pediatricians is easy to mistake for the American Academy of Pediatrics, a much larger and more well-respected medical institution dedicated to the health of children.
According to the ACLU, the ACP (or “ACPeds”) originated as a fringe breakaway group from the AAP (of ~0.1% of their members), and apparently what caused this split was that the AAP had endorsed adoption of children by gay parents, which the ACP opposed.
The SPLC says that the ACP “push anti-LGBTQ junk science”.
Predictably, this tango over gay rights was reproduced over the topic of transgender rights, with the “ACPeds” and AAP appearing to hold contradictory positions. It is little surprise that WoLF finds itself aligned to ACPeds, then.
The Violence Against Women Act
Another thing of little surprise is that the Women’s Liberation Front has had its rhetoric about the Violence Against Women Act adopted by conservatives in the House of Representatives.
More recently, as mentioned, they said that the VAWA would “put men in women’s shelters”. What do they mean by that? Well, they appear to mean transgender women, of course. They seem willing to push for defunding of women’s refuges because people who were assigned male at their birth but later transitioned to be female could potentially seek safety in these shelters. This would provide aid to transgender women who had experienced rape, homelessness, sexual assault, or domestic violence. As this other Medium post mentions, the National Trans Discrimination Survey found that 47% of trans people had been sexually assaulted.
Given the collaboration with right-wing organizations, it could well be the case that this is all simply an excuse to destroy women’s rights in the United States. Why else would they consider transgender rights organizations a larger threat to women’s rights than conservative Christian organizations who have a history of hostility to women’s rights?
WoLF went as far as to state that because pro-transgender activists (who they refer to as “gender identity activists” and “non-feminist”) “express enthusiastic support” for the Equal Rights Amendment, it should give “serious pause”.
Is there some reason why they are able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with right-wing Christian fundamentalists who have a history of open opposition to women’s rights, gay rights, and so on without bringing that “serious pause” out?
That appears unanswered thus far.
The Equal Rights Amendment & The Equality Act
The ERA, again reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
According to WoLF’s apparent “legal analysis”, they have judged that the Equal Rights Amendment “may be used against women to end single-sex spaces, services, and accommodations by applying ‘strict scrutiny’ to sex discrimination”. They were apparently proud enough of this line that they decided to pin it at the top of their Twitter profile.
This, again, is a simple reference to the idea that affirming anti-discrimination law in any way may allow for transgender women who have experienced rape or domestic assault to gain access to places such as women’s refuges. A similar line of attack crops up, as you may have noticed, for their “criticism” of the Equality Act, a bill which proposes to protect gay, intersex, and transgender people from discrimination.
When a proposal such as the Equality Act comes up which would benefit women, people of color, gay people, and/or trans people, they appear to come out of the woodwork to attempt to drive a wedge between these demographics. Fearmongering about transgender women, in particular, has become a go-to tactic.
Clearly, they’re in good company. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon-supporting House representative from Georgia who stood in an uncontested election last year, took to Twitter a few days ago to announce her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. She said, “The so-called Equal Rights Amendment is designed to do one thing: Abortion on-demand up until birth and perhaps after birth … That’s why I OPPOSE the ERA.”
There is no doubt that the “Women’s Liberation Front” is a transphobic organization. In their “Media Style Guide”, they suggested saying “Gender-nonconforming men face a heightened risk of violence from other men in prison” as an alternative to “Transgender women face a heightened risk of violence from men in prison”. This was one example among many others, but it says enough on its own, and is a clear instance of erasure.
Despite their insistence in that same “Media Style Guide” document that “working with right-wing politicians or organizations … does not make feminists right-wing”, they do not appear similarly willing to understand or “work with” transgender feminists, or allies of transgender feminists. Even more, support of equal rights on the basis of sex is evidently cause for “serious pause”, according to WoLF, if it comes from transgender feminists. When your go-to slogan is “sex-based rights”, and you drop it as soon as transgender people are advocating it, are you more for women or against transgender women?
Put into more socialist feminist terms by the Freedom Socialist Party: “Sexism, transphobia, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia are all used to keep natural allies divided … WoLF’s lack of class consciousness is underscored by its willingness to work with and take money from hard right groups”.
Perhaps there is truth to that. If WoLF are not simply a right-wing front group of some kind, they do plenty of the sort of work which a right-wing front group would be expected to do.
The so-called Women’s Liberation Front is not alone, either. Similar groups like the “LGB Alliance USA” and “Women’s Human Rights Campaign USA” (both groups of apparent British roots), are vigorous in their opposition to the Equality Act, which affirms that federal anti-discrimination protections apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.
Again and again their rallying cry against equal rights persists, one which says that because expansion of civil rights law may benefit transgender people, it must be opposed. The connections between transphobic feminist organizations and the right-wing is spottily documented, but clearly something worth further investigation. WoLF happens to be a group which is rather open about their alliance with groups like the Heritage Foundation.
This situation underlines the need for feminism to take a more international analysis. It follows a history of transphobic feminist organizations in the United Kingdom collaborating with right-wing groups to destroy LGBT civil rights (and some of said groups are currently attempting to stop a ban on “conversion therapy” out of concern it would ban conversion therapy for transgender people.)
The United States is little isolated from whatever is occurring in societies located on the other side of the Atlantic, Pacific, or across our borders. Civil rights activists in the United Kingdom have long been attentive to these problems festering in the American feminist movement. Perhaps they know it will affect them. The reverse should be true as well, and it’s about time that American feminists were more attentive to these issues arising in countries such as the UK. The unholy alliance between British transphobic feminists, a willing British yellow-press, and British conservatives has grown fairly out of control, which has had a terrible impact on civil rights in that country.
Now British-originating groups like the LGB Alliance are seeking to extend their influence to countries like the United States, India, Australia, and Ireland among other places. Wherever these movements extend, they appear to unendingly rub shoulders with the right-wing at the expense of equal legal rights. They could fairly be called a part of the right-wing of the women’s movement.
The tactics of these groups tend to mirror that of antisemites, sexists, homophobes, and racists — only, targeting another group.
It’s about time we paid attention before it is too late. The left has for now been reduced to dim prospects in the UK, and some credit is due to this unholy alliance of reaction.
Given the importance of internationalism, perhaps it’s also about time we extended a helping hand across the Atlantic — and hey, before you call it “Americans sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong” … a whole lot of Irish-Americans remember Britain’s history with Ireland.