In 2015, I was fired from my job of 17 years when I refused to draft a policy allowing grown men and their genitalia to shower in the YMCA girls’ locker rooms while little girls got ready for swim class.
At the time, transgenderism was not yet a Tumblr trend, and virtually no one was talking about “gender identity” in any meaningful way. I remember being dumbfounded as a Christian, as a mother, and, especially as a rape survivor, about the implications of such an absurdly misogynistic public policy, and I was even more dismayed to discover that literally none of the professing Christian men in my upline at the Y would take a stand alongside me.
One of the most startling discoveries I made in my brief stint in activism has been how very low a priority this particular issue is to many men who call themselves Christians or conservatives.
A few friends and I ran a statewide initiative to repeal Washington state’s gender inclusive locker room policies. One of our volunteers called no fewer than 400 churches to solicit their help. Only seven said yes. Even after we told them that men were raping women in women’s prisons and shelters, that men were stealing women’s hard-fought athletic opportunities, and that children were being sterilized in the name of inclusivity.
While there were a number of bold, enthusiastic men who rose to help, if we are speaking in generalities, the truth remains that, as a whole, men did not experience or embody the threat of the trans agenda the same way women did.
It was largely women who stepped up to the plate to fight. They did so without fanfare and at great personal cost. And the women who impressed me the most in this capacity were women who had the most to lose – the radical feminists. It’s one thing to speak an unpopular truth into a crowd of people who support your position. It’s another thing entirely to stand up against your own tribe.
But that’s what so many radical feminists and other women’s rights campaigners have done for nearly a decade now – women like Natasha Chart, Kellie Jay Keen-Minshull, MaryLou Singleton, Miriam Ben-Shalom, Caroline Farrow, Kara Dansky, Thistle Pettersen, Jennifer Bilek, Beth Stelzer, Magdalen Berns, Meghan Murphy, Julia Beck,Birdy Rose and a ton of other brilliantly brave souls who risked everything, not to make a name or a career for themselves, but because it was the right thing to do. They’ve been canceled. They’ve been fired. They’ve been stalked and harassed. They’ve been investigated by police for the content of their tweets. They’ve lost their ability to be published. They’ve had their business licenses threatened. They’ve had activists show up outside their homes to threaten them.
And still they’ve stood.
Perhaps one of the brightest stars among them is the prolific author JK Rowling, who has stood firm at great personal cost on behalf of women. All these women understand the issue in a way that most men cannot. It’s intensely personal to them because the physical safety of the female sex hangs in the balance of these public policies.
So when Matt Walsh, the political right’s provocateur extraordinaire, decided to release a documentary about the trans phenomenon early last month, I admittedly had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I was thrilled that someone with Walsh’s degree of influence was finally caring enough to expose the barbarism of the gender industry. I welcome the invitation to long forbidden discourse. I’m overjoyed to see eyes opened. And it’s always a good thing when men police their own. This film is a blessing and a balm to so many. The few clips I have seen are excellent and satisfyingly comedic. He’s doing good and important work that’s resonating with the masses. This is a major victory.
But, if I’m honest, I also found myself a bit troubled by his approach to the problem and to the women warring on the frontlines against it. As a friend brilliantly put it, “I get the sense that he sees the transgender issue as being more about the emasculation of men than about the erasure of women.” There’s a difference between speaking truth to “own the libs” and speaking truth to protect the innocent.
The truth is that fearless women wrote a lot of Walsh’s talking points and championed them for years at their own expense, but while he soars to #1 ratings and internet fame, some of these women remain silenced by every social media channel available. I could ignore this more easily if he and his buddies weren’t participants in the silencing.
Recently, Walsh and others took aim specifically at JK Rowling and, rather than applauding her moral courage, they condemned her political leanings and took pot shots at feminism as a whole. In a stunningly tone-deaf moment, author Jason Whitlock chimed in to assist in the silencing, telling Rowling to “fall back and support men. You’re not built for this conflict.”
My eyes twitched a bit while reading that. Here’s the reality I need to speak that will likely get me burned at the proverbial stake: Women are being routinely silenced by both the left and the right on this issue.
The left silences them for saying men are men. The right silences them for failing to march in ideological lockstep with them on other issues. Only compliant women are permitted to speak. And that’s why feminism exists in the first place.
Just as the political left loves to place the blame for all the world’s problems on the shoulders of “old white men,” the political right loves to do the same to feminism. Cancel culture exists in both directions.
Women (including many leftist women) could not afford to sit around waiting for men to rise to our defense. So we stood for ourselves. To come riding in like a white knight at the 11th hour when so much of the work has already been done only for men to tell us to “fall in line” is really… well it’s pretty ballsy.
I’m a pro-life Christian conservative who voted for Donald Trump twice. I disagree vehemently with some of these feminist women on a great number of issues, but that hardly means it’s right to dismiss their legitimate contributions to our shared fight. Tucker Carlson is about as far right as it gets, but he still manages to honor the human dignity of the radical feminists in order to facilitate meaningful discussions about this issue and has platformed several of them over the years. Matt Walsh would do well to take a cue from him.
So here’s my attempt at speaking truth to the power of my own tribe: Feminism is not cancer. In fact, it remains a pretty necessary movement. And feminists are not rabid lunatics; they’re human beings who are worthy of respect.
If you're a woman who enjoys the privilege of wearing pants or driving a car or using a credit card or casting your vote in elections, then you’ve benefited from the work of feminism. If you've benefited from athletic pursuits or found healing in rape crisis shelters, if you've sought legal protection from abusive men, or purchased property of your own without a husband's permission, or retained your job after becoming pregnant then you've benefited from the work of feminism. If you're a woman who has ever taken out a loan or pursued a college degree or had the honor of serving in the military or breastfed in a public place then you've benefited from the work of feminism. If you’re a Republican woman who has enjoyed the luxury of voting in an American election, then yes, you too have benefited from the efforts of first-wave feminism.
There are radical feminists who oppose prostitution and sex trafficking and domestic violence and surrogacy and many of the other human rights atrocities we should rightly oppose on the right. There are pro-life feminists who work to create a culture where women in crisis are surrounded with the support they need to carry their pregnancies to term.
In 2018 alone, there were over half a million calls to domestic violence hotlines in America. An estimated 91% of rape victims are still female. The overwhelming majority of people sold into sex trafficking are female, with the average age of entry around 12 years old. The pornography epidemic is a national crisis, with Americans spending more time objectifying and degrading women on Pornhub last year than they spent on Netflix, Twitter, and Amazon combined. With that many brains full of that much garbage, we shouldn’t be surprised that we have a major sexual assault problem in our culture, both inside and outside of the church.
And dare I mention that there are over 100,000 untested rape kits in America?
In theory, the Church should be providing the cure for all of this, but the ugly truth is that, with a few exceptions, it’s not. A large percentage of churches don’t even have an abuse prevention plan. Many scorn necessary counseling as an enemy to the faith, and a lot of them refuse to include women in their leadership circles, so the voices that would elevate these needs are largely silent. We still don’t even have a nationally known Christian resource for sexual trauma victims.
Love it or hate it, we need true feminism – the kind that seeks dignity, not revenge, the kind that insists on fairness, not just power. Someone needs to advocate on behalf of women, and when it comes to the trans agenda, few have done more in this regard than radical feminists. They should be thanked and applauded, not silenced and demeaned. While Walsh and others may be inclined to throw stones at these women, my seven years working alongside them tells me it’s a lot more fruitful to pick up those stones and try to build a few bridges with them. We may even find they have something meaningful to say, and we have something important to learn.
Kaeley Harms is a truth teller, envelope pusher, grace chaser, Christ follower, and women’s rights activist. In 2016, she co-founded a bipartisan coalition of women called “Hands Across the Aisle,” which unites a diverse group of women from across the globe around the shared goal of protecting sex-based protections for females.
Kaeley has written extensively on the subject of gender identity. Her work appears in outlets like “The Federalist,” “Decision Magazine,” and “National Review Online.”
She lives in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, with her husband and three children.