From Gaza to western delivery rooms, Judith Butler sees fascists everywhere

Fascists, of course, we gender-critical feminists too, 'allies of the right and the Vatican'. The Californian intellectual, renouncing all philosophical subtlety, compiles a political agenda that coincides with the platform of the university students in struggle. And he calls for an alliance between trans people, antifa, the pro-Pal movement, the homeless, black people, migrants and even women - understood as one of many minorities - to build 'a radical democracy inspired by the ideals of socialism'. An account of the Bologna leg of his triumphant European tour
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Da Gaza alle sale parto occidentali, Judith Butler vede fascisti dappertutto

Perhaps today one could speak of "Agenda Butler': its platform coincides perfectly with the students' platform of struggle throughout the West, with little certainty as to whether the chicken or the egg came first. Certainly Judith Butler is to all intents and purposes the mother of Gender Theory to which these students (in any case a minority) enthusiastically adhere; in turn these/these students with their mobilisations are a source of inspiration for Butler, their platforms are also a relaunch platform for the Californian philosopher who is taking his lecture in triumphal tour, from London to Barcelona to Bologna: here the account of his Bologna stop published in Il Foglio. After the Butler lecture also visited the 'acampada'. of students from the Alma Mater Studiorum University, which organised the crowded meeting.

Not quite like theto peer Madonna in Copacabana, but almost: Judith Butler's European tour with her 'Fascist Passions' is triumphant, the date of Bologna, Italy's most Butlerian city -organised by the Alma Mater Studiorum University- is quickly sold out, the hall is packed with young people, the entire local queer community in the front row, a few keffiyehs in attendance. Like Madonna Judith has been making the world dance for thirty yearsProfessor at Berkeley, radical constructivist mother of all gender theory, is recognised even by its detractors as one of the most influential philosophers of our time and to all intents and purposes it is. If even the smallest local administrator today finds himself coming to terms with the neo-gnostic concept of gender identity, a soul trapped in a prison-body - while Judith was giving her lecture in Bologna, a heated assembly on tryptorelin and children's transition was underway in the Lombardy Region -, if thetransgender identity stands as a paradigm of human freedom, a large part of the responsibility lies with this petite woman in regulation black leather butch jacket who set off her firework as a girl with 'Gender Trouble' (1990).

"During my youth in the United States," he recounts in "Making and Unmaking Gender", "the most effective self-description I could give was to describe myself. , "the most effective self-description I could give of myself was 'bar lesbian' (bar dyke), a lesbian girl who spent her days reading Hegel and her evenings at the gay bar, which occasionally became a bar drag (...) I quickly realised that some of those 'men' could do women much better than I could have done, and also as much as I have ever desired and still desire'.

Bologna audience in religious silence, Butler reads from his iPad a text that, with a few changes, he has also already declaimed at the London School of Economics and recalling the contents of his latest "Who's afraid of gender?".

Introducing the prestigious guest, the Alma Mater's delegate for inclusiveness immediately clears the scandal stone: "It is not about denying biology, but biological determinism" (to be precise Butler has always spoken of sex as a construction of languagebut so be it) and in a voice broken by emotion anticipates the themes of the lecture: humanitarian catastrophe, struggles in the universities, universal attack on rights, new authoritarianisms that agitate the ghost of gender, the need to build alliances.

Judith, Jewish, starts from Gaza and the right to speak of 'genocide' even though, he admits, 'the atrocities of Hamas have been terrible'. But "Fascism is in Israel today, in homicidal drunkenness against women and children'. With a quick transoceanic flight, he travels to the USA where, he says, we witness "aescalation of fascist passion: is it not fascism', he asks, "wanting to eliminate trans and non-binary people?". That too is genocide. The genocide-type is Michael Knowles, Daily Wire political commentator that 'for the good of society, transgenderism must be eliminated entirely from public life', which is quite different from wanting to eliminate trans people. The rhetorical device is crude, but philosophical subtleties will be in short supply throughout the lecture, frenetic back-and-forth between the Middle East and the Western delivery rooms where by authority we are assigned a sex at birth. "Life," says Butler lennonically, "is the gap between this allocation and what we will be. What does this have to do with Gaza?" he anticipates the reasonable objection. 'It's about the same fascism. Fascist Israel, fascist the anti-migratory policies, fascist the lack of due process, fascist the difficulty of finding a home, and also fascist the abolition of gender books in schools. Fascist is gender-critical feminism allied with the right and the Vatican fearing the ethnic replacement of women by trans people. Fascist is to deny reproductive and parental rights and to fight against surrogacy. Fascist, of course, is Giorgia Meloni.

Judith's voice breaks -applause of encouragement- when she says At the root of all this fascism is nothing but fear. Psychoanalytic digression to follow that stigmatises the excited and sadistic moralism of those who think they are restoring the old patriarchal world waving the ghost of the gender lobby to distract from the real problems, from the climate crisis to social injustice. "And so it is about being interconnected. To make freedom and justice new objects of desire'. All minorities, women (?), Lgbtq+, migrants, Palestinians, black people, the homeless, antifa, struggling students and so on must form transnational alliances to build "a radical democracy inspired by the ideals of socialism". against neo-liberal capitalism. Which, incidentally, does a lot of business with real butlerism. The market doesn't lie and is very capable of intercepting circulating moods and turning them into over-the-counter products: queer has long been decidedly mainstream. As for Gaza -a stroke of realpolitik- Judith says that a single democratic state would be ideal.

I intercept Butler in the foyer after the standing ovation. I am excited and disappointed, I want to talk to her about so many things. I can only tell her about pro-Sharia demonstrations in Hamburg and France, of an aggressive radical Islamism to which she did not devote a word, other than Queer for Palestine: "In Gaza," he dismisses the issue, "there is a notable queer movement fighting for freedom and justice'. I also ask her about the Cass Review, of those thousands of hormone-bombed Western girls and boys. "I think," he replies, "that children should not be pushed in any way. That they must be given time to explore, to experiment'. Have I understood correctly?

At least this, Judy.

Marina Terragni

(Published in Il Foglio of 9 May 2024)

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