Canadian Anti-Hate Network
A handful of activists gathered at the Grand Valley Institution for Women, a correctional facility located in the Kitchener-Waterloo region in July 2021, as part of a rally organized by CAWSBAR, an organization that actively fights against civil rights for transgender people. Holding up signs with slogans like “Trudeau put rapists in women’s prisons” and “Dicks don’t belong here,” around a dozen protestors called for Canada to return to its old policy of housing transgender women in men’s prison – an approach which prisoners’ rights organizations believe puts them in danger.
About midway through the rally, one attendee steps forward, ukulele in hands, and begins to sing.
“Pronouns are Rohypnol,” she croons, comparing gender-inclusive language to a date rape drug. “If you can’t tell it’s a dude in a dress, then you must need contact lenses.”
The woman in question, Vanessa Vokey, is a popular entertainer – other, larger anti-trans groups and influencers have shared her content – within the so-called “gender critical” movement, which promotes hatred of transgender people in the name of women’s “sex-based rights.” She is best known for her songs, which depict transgender individuals and those who support them as “cultists” and “pedophiles,” as well as for the aggressive and mean-spirited rants she posts on her Youtube channel.
Much like the ideology she advocates for, Vokey repackages hateful beliefs in the language of progressivism. Though she bills herself a “radical feminist,” her online footprint paints the picture of a deeply Islamophobic and conspiratorial ideologue who has little qualms with harassing and bullying vulnerable individuals – even teenagers – to get her points across.
In an interview with Rebel Media’s David Menzies filmed at the Grand Valley protest, Vokey criticizes the “woke ideology” that teaches girls that they are “born in the wrong body,” and allows “men with transvestic disorder” who are “potential pedophiles” to victimize women.
Vanessa Vokey with Rebel Media’s David Menzies. Source: Rebel News
Vokey, who is from Guelph, believes that “gender ideology,” or the established and medically-supported fact that gender and sex are separate concepts, poses a great risk to cisgender women because it allows abusive men to “self-identify” as women in order to access gender-segregated spaces and because it convinces young girls and lesbians that they were born in the wrong body.
According to this worldview, all transgender women are potential abusers who Vokey believes wish to “literally wear her skin,” whereas transgender men are victims who were “manipulated” into transitioning, unless, in her words, they are actively recruiting others into the cult.
These talking points are nearly indistinguishable from far-right beliefs on gender. For Vokey, however, the comparisons to the far-right do not stop at her beliefs on gender, or her appearance on Rebel Media.
“No Such Thing As A Free Muslim Woman.”
Despite her videos’ popularity within the anti-transgender movement, Vokey’s racist and Islamophobic views have earned her some criticism from her followers. After receiving flak for claiming that “Islam is not a feminist religion” on a live stream, Vokey filmed a follow-up video expanding on her beliefs. Responding to one comment from a supporter who mentioned his disappointment with her dismissal of the entire Muslim faith due to his wife being Muslim, Vokey called the man “indoctrinated into Islam by virtue of his wife,” adding that there is “no such thing as a free Muslim woman” and that ISIS and the Taliban are “exemplar of Islam.”
“For some reason, one can’t even criticize the religion [Islam] without being insulted, told you’re bigoted and ignorant and not allowed to have an opinion,” she adds, concluding that Islam is “regressive” and “stuck in the past.”
Vokey's Islamophobia bleeds into her COVID conspiracism, particularly her belief that pandemic masks and burqas are in fact the same thing. In a video posted on her Instagram account, Vokey is shown attempting to vote in the 2021 federal election while refusing to wear a mask, walking up to Elections Canada staffers and grabbing their name tags. In the caption, she writes in all-caps, “feminists, why are you arguing for the state's right to abuse women like this? Because I want to choose what I wear? Because I don’t want to wear a burqa! And I shouldn’t ever be asked to.”
Social media posts made from Vokey’s accounts.
In Instagram posts, Vokey compares wearing a mask to wearing a burqa.
In a follow-up video, Vokey threatens to block those who criticize her reaction to the staffers’ “harassment,” those who “defend masks and pretend they work.”
“I have no time for you stupid fucking sheeps. Wake the fuck up. You know that men can’t become women, you also know that masks don’t do shit, so why are you pretending they do?,” she says at the end of the video.
In a series of tweets published in July 2021, Vokey also invects Black Lives Matter, describing the civil rights movement as a terrorist organization. When pressed on her reasons for making this claim, she posted a link to an hour-long Steven Crowder video.
She goes on to tweet that “Breonna Taylor was a drug dealer,” “Trayvon Martin was curb stomping/beating up George Zimmerman,” “Michael Brown had robbed a convenience store,” and that George Floyd had “overdosed on fentanyl,” rehashing half-truths and falsehoods in order to justify the killing of unarmed Black individuals.
On Twitter, an account connected to Vokey has shared content from far-right sources like Action4Canada, a Christian fundamentalist organization which opposes abortion, “political Islam” and the “LGBTQ agenda,” as well as Andy Ngo, a propagandist with ties to the far-right, who produces one-sided stories that defame anti-racist activists while covering for hate groups.
Despite her affinity for Ngo’s work, Vokey skewers him in a YouTube video, taking specific offence at his use of correct pronouns when talking about a transgender woman.
“You’re a journalist. Report the truth. He’s a man. He’s a he. Stop calling him she. We expect better from you, honestly.”
Who Is “Radical Feminism” For?
Vokey, who is heterosexual, claims that her opposition to transgender rights is fuelled by her support for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, which she views as victims of the “gender identity cult.”
The content she posts on social media tells a different story.
In one video, Vokey films a building with a number of Pride flags, then shifts focus towards a “Progress flag” flying below Canada’s. Then, turning the camera towards her, she says “this is the ugliest effing flag I’ve ever seen.”
The Progress flag is a modified version of the Pride flag, with added colours to show support for BIPOC liberation and transgender rights.
In another video, Vokey is shown responding to 2SLGBTQ+ content she found on TikTok. Commenting on a clip that showed a group of teenagers celebrating their friend's coming out to them as pansexual, Vokey calls the display of support “cult indoctrination” and compares it to a number of abuse tactics.
The same video shows Vokey deriding a teenager who comes out as transgender to his friends after facing a negative reaction from his parents. She first comments on his weight, opining that it might have played a role in his decision to come out, then praises his parents for not “playing along” with the youth’s “delusions,” all the while purposefully using the wrong pronouns when describing the teen.
“Pansexual” refers to one’s attraction to people of all genders, and is often used interchangeably with “bisexual.”
In spite of her self-proclaimed feminist stance, Vokey is quick to police the appearance and bodies of other women. In a video criticizing the “big fat lie of body positivity,” she describes overweight people as “addicts” who “lie about their food consumption,” and shames a body positivity activist over pictures of her standing on a bike, pondering as to whether or not she actually ride it.
“I think I started realizing how crappy mainstream feminism was when obesity started being celebrated,” says Vokey in another video, citing feminists’ embrace of body positivity as one of the reasons for her radicalization.
Her personal preference for “modest clothing” likewise pushed her away from more “mainstream” feminists, she claims.
“Women need to stop being so naive and thinking that you can wear whatever you want all the time.”
Vanessa Vokey did not return CAHN’s request for comment.