In an article published online in December 2018, Joni Alizah Cohen seeks to find a link between the global rise in antisemitism and the rise in transmisogyny.
By “transmisogyny” she means the joint experience of transphobia (hostility to transgender people) and misogyny (hatred of women). The article, “The Eradication of ‘Talmudic Abstractions’: Anti-Semitism, Transmisogyny and the National Socialist Project”, situates the contemporary rise in the far¬right as stemming from National Socialist ideals and seeks to gain an understanding of the current situation through an analysis of those historical ideas.
Cohen’s analysis begins with an identification of homosexuality as defined in Nazi Germany, emphasising the differences between their understanding and our own contemporary understanding of the term. The Nazis saw homosexuality as a corruption of the male body and psyche with different levels of extremity, the most acute form of homosexuality being embodied by those that in a contemporary context would be understood as trans women. The core of Cohen’s argument rests on an analysis of the ideological logic of far-right antisemitism; based on Moishe Postone’s analysis, with an attempt to draw parallels to the logic of the far right’s transmisogyny.
This is done in quite an academically dense way and draws some questionable conclusion, but certainly holds some value in how we view the far-right’s “common logic” as an interconnected whole rather than a set of loosely related reactionary ideas. Cohen sees the National Socialist antisemitism as coming from a “foreshortened critique of capital”: a fetishisation of that which is seen as concrete: industry and labour. This is counterposed to the “abstractions” of exchange value, money and finance: embodied in the National Socialist world by the Jews’ perceived role. In this way it is a one sided critique of capital, critiquing the perceived abstract whilst absolving the concrete value-forms of scrutiny.
Cohen here takes the short jump to an analysis not just of a fetishisation of the concrete and material in value-form but of its fetishisation more generally. Drawing on Maya Andrea Gonzalez and Jeanne Neton’s essay The Logic of Gender in an attempt to show the parallels between the far right’s conception of gender and their antisemitism. She argues that the dual-form of value (abstract and concrete) is equivalent to the dual-form of sex and gender, leading to the conclusion that the hatred for trans women stems from the abstract form that gender holds compared to the concrete form of biological sex: “the trans woman becomes the concrete manifestation of the abstraction and denaturalisation of gender.”
Where Cohen is perhaps most convincing is in her conclusions. Some of her earlier analysis which might be read as suggesting that transmisogyny and antisemitism have the same basis and therefore are running parallel to one another. Here she explains that the basis of much of the modern far right’s transmisogyny actually stems from antisemitism. For the far right, it is the Jews as “the abstraction par excellence” that are the creators of these abstractions and it is therefore the Jews that are behind “transgenderism” as a political project to undermine the dominance of the Aryan race.
Anecdotally, it is clear that this holds some weight, much of the far right’s thought today involves conspiratorial modes of thinking about trans people. We have people speculating wildly through antisemitic dog whistles about who it is that is responsible for Hollywood pushing the trans agenda down the throats of the population.
Cohen’s article, despite some arguably spurious analytical jumps here and there, offers some thoughtful conclusions about the nature of the contemporary far-right and how it relates to transmisogyny and antisemitism.