In 2015, the right-wing conservative weekly Junge Freiheit took the debate about the school curriculum plans of the Baden-Württemberg Red-Green (Social Democrat and Green Party) coalition government as an opportunity to launch a campaign against the so-called ‘ideology of gender mainstreaming’.
Just as Junge Freiheit is part of the New Right in terms of content, the campaign video Gender mich nicht! stands out with its right-wing populist rhetoric, which exploits and exaggerates prejudices and misunderstandings around gender issues. The aim of the video is not only to mobilise people to protest against the Red-Green education policy, but also to win sympathisers and thus new subscribers by propagating the newspaper’s political stance.
Gender mich nicht begins with obviously romanticised images of nature: a sunrise, underscored by harmonious piano music, then a series of animal parents and their offspring in the wild. With a series of several rhetorical questions, a voice-over narrator puts the images into a context, barely concealing the ironic tone of voice: ‘Gender? Just a social construct. Male and female? Only acquired. The family? An obsolete model that has to be overcome.’ The message is clear: gender and family are not just a social construct. The animals depicted – relatively ‘cute’ examples that can be shown in a humanising light more quickly – are not only made representative of a natural sexual dimorphism but also form family-like structures. A constructivist view of human gender identity is to be seen as ‘against nature’ in the truest sense of the word. The pointedly calm narrative style underlines this premise: The position presented is such an obvious truth that one need not bother to prove its correctness with evidence or argumentation.
But then comes the shock: ‘Millions of years of evolution turned upside down by a few gender ideologists,’ complains the speaker. The biological order of nature is being turned upside down because of the blindness of a few – contrary to the system that has existed since time immemorial. The video ignores that the gender debate caricatured here is in reality not dominated by a few allegedly fanatical ideologues, but has made waves internationally. Instead, viewers are presented with an almost satirical exaggeration of actual scientific positions. Its own position is propagated as truth, while particular aspects of the other position are decontextualized and exaggerated to demonstrate its alleged absurdity. The video also does not shy away from deliberate misrepresentations of the theoretical statements. Not only is the conceptual distinction between the concepts of biological sex and social gender identity deliberately blurred, but it is also claimed, without citing any evidence, that the goal of the ‘gender ideologues’ is the ‘creation of a new human being’.
As a supposed expert, the author Birgit Kelle delivers sound bites in which she is perplexed by the absurdity of ‘GenderGaga’. It is also claimed that the ‘gender ideology’ meets with resistance in professional circles – but it is not mentioned that Kelle is a fiction writer, not a scientist. The video uses a few rhetorical devices again and again, consistently and without humour, and relies on the constant repetition of the same arguments. This so-called ‘proof by assertion’ strategy, however, is in no way valid: a statement does not become truer the more often it is repeated. The reduced syntactic complexity of the speaker’s commentary is also striking, which seems almost obsessively fixed on provocative hypophora – rhetorical questions which are then answered by the speaker: ‘The method? Early sexualisation and indoctrination of children from pre-school age. The trick? Introduction through the back door, without informing the public.’
Here at the latest, the style and rhetoric of the clip – the use of ironic animal videos, sentimental piano accompaniment, and exaggerated choice of words – can no longer be clearly distinguished from a parody of right-wing populist positions. The reduction to the simplest patterns of argumentation and striking illustrations lacks any claim to seriousness. In an attempt to condense the content of the anti-gender campaign to the lowest common denominator in order to make it understandable to everyone, the video takes itself ad absurdum. Only the fact that it is demonstrably a genuine action of ‘Junge Freiheit’ still shows that it is meant seriously.
This is followed by a call to take part in a demonstration against so-called ‘GenderGaga’. This ‘demonstration for all’ – named in reference to the French protest march ‘La Manif pour tous’ against same-sex marriage a year earlier – was attended by AfD politician Beatrix von Storch, author Birgit Kelle, and several extreme right-wing groups such as the ‘Identitarian Movement’. Using the slogan ‘For true diversity, against red-green simplicity’, the concept of diversity is reinterpreted here in a heteronormative way: the traditional family – consisting of father, mother, and child – is true diversity, since it is biologically determined. Diversity, in other words, is opposed to the ideological ‘levelling down’ through early sexualisation of children: ‘gender, dildo, leather whip, group sex’. It is absurd to claim that such buzzwords find their way into school lessons, let alone early childhood education. There is no real discussion of gender theory and its positions. Instead, the ‘Gender me not’ campaign relies on misinformation, provocation, and agitational rhetoric. Individual aspects of the opposing position are hyperbolically overloaded in order to distract from the lack of evidence for a large part of their own assertions. Thus, the video ultimately appears to be a caricature of itself.