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Discursive Constructions of the Enemy through Metonymy: The Case of CitizenGo’s Anti-Genderist E-Petitions

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Many studies have mentioned the significance of the online petition platform CitizenGo.org in mobilizing a transnational network of right-wing extremist groups and disseminating their 'anti-genderist' agenda. However, the specific discursive practices employed in the online petitions remain underexamined. In the current study, we bridge this gap by combining corpus linguistics and critical discourse analysis. Following a corpus-driven approach through Sketch Engine, key-multiwords related to gender/sexuality were analyzed in terms of metonymy. The analysis revealed three different metonymic variants (i.e., PART FOR WHOLE, WHOLE FOR PART, and PART FOR PART), which are strategically employed in the construction of a depersonalized gendered/sexual Other, and the repurposing of progressive vocabulary for regressive ends. We argue that metonymy provides a semantic flexibility to the anti-genderist propaganda, and as such, it merits serious scholarly attention.
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Anglistica AION 24.1 (2020), 9-23, ISSN 2035-8504
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Stamatina Katsiveli and Elvis Coimbra-Gomes
Discursive Constructions of the Enemy through Metonymy.
The Case of CitizenGo’s Anti-Genderist E-Petitions
Abstract: Many studies have mentioned the significance of the online petition platform CitizenGo.org in
mobilizing a transnational network of right-wing extremist groups and disseminating their ‘anti-genderist’ agenda.
However, the specific discursive practices employed in the online petitions remain underexamined. In the current
study, we bridge this gap by combining corpus linguistics and critical discourse analysis. Following a corpus-
driven approach through Sketch Engine, key-multiwords related to gender/sexuality were analyzed in terms of
metonymy. The analysis revealed three different metonymic variants (i.e., PART FOR WHOLE, WHOLE FOR
PART, and PART FOR PART), which are strategically employed in the construction of a depersonalized
gendered/sexual Other, and the repurposing of progressive vocabulary for regressive ends. We argue that
metonymy provides a semantic flexibility to the anti-genderist propaganda, and as such, it merits serious scholarly
attention.
Keywords: anti-genderism, CitizenGo, metonymy, corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis, global right
1. Introduction1
In the last decades, conservative anti-feminist movements have significantly grown around a coherent
agenda, which selectively borrows from liberal-left, feminist, and anti-colonial discourses, replaces
individual rights with rights of the family, and positions religious conservatives as an oppressed
minority.2 Such anti-gender campaigns and mobilizations around the globe began in the mid-2000s,
and have manifested ever since in a variety of diverse national contexts such as Spain, Slovenia,
France, Poland, Brazil, India and the United States.3 Despite its local contextualization across different
countries, gender conservatism is not “just one of many aspects of right-wing value systems”, but
rather “a sentiment at the heart of the Right’s value system and political strategy, a platform for
organizing and for recruiting massive support”.4 From this perspective, anti-genderism has been
described as a transnational phenomenon, “a coherent ideological construction consciously and
effectively used by right-wing and religious fundamentalists worldwide”.5 Even though the global
Right is not a unified political movement, anti-genderism builds a coherent cross-national resistance to
the gains achieved by feminist and LGBTQ+ movements over the years. Although not all members of
1 We would like to thank the following people for their insights, which enhanced the quality of this paper: the two anonymous
reviewers, the editors Rodrigo Borba and Giuseppe Balirano, our supervisor Erez Levon, and our PhD peers at Queen Mary
University of London Chiara Ardoino, Matthew Hunt, Liam O’Hare, Rosie Oxbury, Louis Strange, and Chloé Vincent. All
remaining mistakes are, of course, our own.
2 Elżbieta Korolczuk and Agnieszka Graff, “Gender as ‘Ebola from Brussels’: The Anticolonial Frame and the Rise of Illiberal
Populism”, Signs, 43.4 (2018), 797-821.
3 For an overview see Agnieszka Graff et al., “Introduction: Gender and the Rise of the Global Right”, Signs, 44.3 (2019), 541-
560; Roman Kuhar and David Paternotte, eds., Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe: Mobilizing against Equality (London:
Rowman & Littlefield, 2017); Sonia Corrêa, ed., Politicas Antigénero en América Latina: Estudios de Caso (Rio de Janeiro:
Associação Brasileira Interdisciplinas de Aids - ABIA, 2021), https://sxpolitics.org/GPAL/.
4 Graff et al., “Introduction”, 541.
5 Korolczuk and Graff, “Gender as ‘Ebola from Brussels’: The Anticolonial Frame and the Rise of Illiberal Populism”, 798.
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the Right are religious, it is noteworthy that the religious Right has risen fast worldwide6. It adopts a
rhetoric that foregrounds anti-genderism as a scientific and “alternative field of knowledge production”
based on a Christian humanism.7 Ultimately, by exploiting divergences within feminist thought about
sexual differences, colonialism and classism, the (religious) Right appropriates progressive discourses
for regressive ends when opposing gender, sexual and reproductive rights.8
Despite their heterogeneity, anti-genderist discourses systematically involve the semantic
reconfiguration of progressive vocabulary. An indicative example is the coalition between the Holy
See, Muslim leaders, and right-wing US fundamentalist Protestants who contested the meaning of
certain terms included in the “Declaration and Platform for Action” discussed at the 1995 conference
in Beijing. They successfully discarded the mention of “sexual orientation” as a category of protection
against discrimination, on the basis that it contradicts religious and cultural values of certain states.9 In
particular, they argued that human rights are being semantically elasticized and degraded, because
“sexual orientation” normalizes pedophilia, bestiality, incest, and adultery.10 Similar reservations were
also expressed against “gender”, which was framed by the Vatican as a Western imperialist attempt to
colonialize international human rights.11 In particular, the Vatican proclaimed a “nightmarish vision”
of “gender” as concealing a secret (pro-LGBTQ+) agenda that threatens the nucleus of a stable society
i.e., the “natural” sexual order and heterosexual family by urging people to choose their
gender/sexuality regardless of biological differences.12 Interestingly, while articulating an explicitly
anti-feminist discourse under the label “new feminism”, the Vatican distanced itself from sexism by
replacing discussions of “natural subordination of women” with discussions of the “complementary
differences of the sexes”, thus leaving gender hierarchies intact.13 This discourse was crystalized in a
lexicon14 written by the Vatican as a referential clarification of “ambiguous and debatable terms”
promulgating a “culture of death”. By conflating heterogeneous (mostly radical) feminist groups that
draw on critical, feminist, and queer scholarship, this lexicon accused “gender feminists” of secretly
spreading an unscientific, Neo-Marxist “gender ideology” through the creation of a totalitarian
“Orwellian language”.15
Of course, the semantic demonization of the terms “gender” and “sexual orientation” alongside the
very use of the term “gender ideology” is far from being a naïve misunderstanding of gender studies.16
6 Graff et al., “Introduction”, 543.
7 Agnieszka Graff and Elżbieta Korolczuk, “‘Worse than Communism and Nazism Put Together’: War on Gender in Poland”, in
Roman Kuhar and David Patternote, eds., Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe: Mobilizing against Equality (London: Rowman &
Littlefield, 2017), 183.
8 For an example of how anti-genderist movements use discourses of their opponents for their own goals, see the discussion
about “grafting” in Gal, Susan, “Making registers in politics: Circulation and ideologies of linguistic authority”, Journal of
Sociolinguistics, 23.5 (2019), 450-466.
9 Dianne Otto, “Lesbians? Not in My Country”, Alternative Law Journal, 20.6 (1995), 288-290.
10 Cynthia Rotschild, “We Would Have a Hard Time Going Home: Fear of Sexuality in the International Sphere”, in Scott Lang
and Susana T. Fried, eds., Written Out: How Sexuality is Used to Attack Women’s Orginizing (New York: International Gay and
Lesbian Human Rights Commission), 83-120.
11 Doris E. Buss, “Robes, Relics, and Rights: The Vatican and the Beijing Conference on Women”, Social and Legal Studies,
7.3 (1998), 339-363.
12 Mary Anne Case, “After Gender the Destruction of Man: The Vatican’s Nightmare Vision of the Gender Agenda for Law”,
Pace Law Review, 31.3 (2011), 802-817.
13 Sara Garbagnoli, “Le Vatican Contre la Dénaturalisation de l’Ordre Sexuel: Structure et Enjeux d’un Discours Institutionnel
Réactionnaire”, Synergies Italie, 10 (2014), 145-167; Sara Garbagnoli, “Against the Heresy of Immanence: Vatican’s ‘Gender’
as a New Rhetorical Device against the Denaturalization of the Sexual Order”, Religion and Gender, 6.2 (2016), 187-204.
14 Pontifical Council for the Family, Lexicon: Ambiguous and Debatable Terms regarding Family Life and Ethical Questions
(Front Royal, VA: Human Life International, 2006).
15 For an example of how the use of a gender-neutral morpheme in a Brazilian educational context stirred debate, see Rodrigo
Borba, “Gendered Politics of Enmity: Language Ideologies and Social Polarisation in Brazil”, Gender and Language, 13.4
(2019), 423-448.
16 Agnieszka Graff, “‘Gender Ideology’: Weak Concepts, Powerful Politics”, Religion & Gender, 6.2 (2016), 268-272.
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Rather, similar semantic contestations emerge as strategic political tools to mobilize a transnational
network of conservative actors consisting of religious leaders, right-wing political parties, international
anti-choice organizations (e.g., World Congress of Families) and online petition platforms (e.g.,
CitizenGo.org).17 Although these assembled groups often have conflicting interests, they draw on each
other’s agendas to contest austerity measures, precarity, and allegedly corrupt elites (UN, EU, WHO)
who are thought to colonize the world with “gender ideology”. Through petitions, demonstrations,
publications, workshops, conferences and political initiatives, anti-genderists employ right-wing
populist, fear-mongering discursive constructions e.g., victim-perpetrator reversal, scapegoating, and
the construction of conspiracy theories 18 to frame themselves as the true minority that needs to be
saved from a neoliberal ideology of gender.19 As such, “gender ideology” becomes a “performative
utterance that transforms the social reality it supposedly describes”.20 It constitutes a “symbolic glue”21
or an “empty signifier”22 that conflates highly heterogeneous groups into a contestable, common
(queer/neoliberal) enemy.
Although scholarly work on anti-genderism as a transnational phenomenon is growing,23 studies
that specifically focus on the linguistic construction of anti-genderist discourse are relatively lacking
(though notable exceptions are: Barát on the populist anti-gender discourses in Hungary;24 Borba on
language ideology and gendered politics in Brasil,25 and on the functions of anti-genderism as a
register;26 Mad’arová on anti-genderists’ argumentative strategies in Slovakia;27 and Russell on
homophobic language in European far-right groups).28 Taking into consideration the aforementioned
theoretical contributions to anti-genderism, the present article delves deeper into the ways in which the
semantic appropriation and reconfiguration of progressive vocabulary is involved in anti-genderist
discourses from a linguistic perspective. In particular, we argue that the manipulation of the meaning
associated with terms like “gender” and “sexual orientation” is systematically involved in the strategic
creation of a tangible gendered/sexual enemy, against whom people must take action. This is
accomplished through the metonymization of progressive vocabulary to refer to a dangerous
gendered/sexual Other. As Mbembe puts it, in the contemporary era, where separation, hate
movements and hostility prevail, “the enemy is […] more dangerous by being everywhere: without a
face, name, or place”.29 In what follows, we show that metonymy is involved in a “game of
representations” with the ultimate goal to turn feminist and other progressive groups into a “type-
image” (47), in which the dangerous enemy finds a face and a name. We specifically focus on the
17 Kuhar and Paternotte, Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe; Korolczuk and Graff, “Gender as ‘Ebola from Brussels’”.
18 Ruth Wodak, The Politics of Fear: What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean (London: Sage, 2015).
19 Graff and Korolczuk, “‘Worse than Communism and Nazism Put Together’”.
20 Garbagnoli, “Against the Heresy”, 198.
21 Eszter Kováts and Maari Põim, eds., Gender as Symbolic Glue: The Position and Role of Conservative and Far Right Parties
in the Anti-Gender Mobilization in Europe (Brussels: FEPS and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Budapest, 2015).
22 Stefanie Mayer and Birgit Sauer, “‘Gender Ideology’ in Austria: Coalitions around an Empty Signifier”, in Roman Kuhar and
David Patternote, eds., Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe: Mobilizing against Equality (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017),
23-40.
23 Elizabeth Corredor, “Unpacking ‘Gender Ideology’ and the Global Right’s Antigender Countermovement”, Signs, 44.3
(2019), 613-638; Graff et al., “Introduction”; Korolczuk and Graff, “Gender as ‘Ebola from Brussels’”.
24 Erzsébet Barát, “Populist Discourse and Desire for Social Justice”, in Kira Hall and Rusty Barrett, eds. The Oxford Handbook
of Language and Sexuality (Oxford: Oxford U.P., forthcoming).
25 Borba, “Gendered Politics of Enmity”.
26 Borba, “Enregistering ‘Gender Ideology’”, Journal of Language and Sexuality (forthcoming).
27 Zuzana Mad’arová, “Love and Fear: Argumentative Strategies against Gender Equality in Slovakia”, in Heinrich Boll
Foundation, Anti-gender Movements on the Rise? Strategising for Gender Equality in Central and Eastern Europe (Berlin:
Heinrich Boll Foundation, 2015).
28 Eric Russel, “Les Hommen: The Language of Reactionary Masculinity”, Gender and Language, 13.1 (2019), 94-121.
29 Achille Mbembe, Necropolitics (Durham: Duke U.P., 2019), 49.
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online petition platform CitizenGo.org, since it provides access to written discourses that get
disseminated around the globe. As such, they play a significant role in orchestrating the transnational
anti-genderist movement, and it becomes imperative to understand their discursive strategies in calling
for political action.
2. CitizenGo: The Expansion of an International Network
The genesis of CitizenGo dates back to the late 1990s, when its founder Ignacio Arsuaga discovered
American grassroots movements and their lobbying tools.30 Arsuaga was especially drawn to the rising
popularity of new digital technologies for political action (e.g., MoveOn.org), which he employed in
2001 when founding HazteOir.org (“make yourself heard”). This Spanish website presented itself as a
populist online platform that offered a forum, e-petitions and different sources of political information
to Spanish people who felt abandoned by their government and want to take political action. Although
the website claimed to not “promote any ideology”,31 its initiatives were undertaken in the name of a
“Christian humanism”.32
After spending more than a decade adapting online advocacy techniques from American to Spanish
politics, HazteOir.org launched its expansion platform CitizenGo.org in October 2013. Among its
board of trustees are personalities who have connections to influential international anti-LGBTQ+,
pro-life, and ultraconservative groups.33 Although its headquarters are located in Madrid, its team
members who are proclaimed “social leaders” in issues relating to “family, life, and liberty”
cooperate in a “virtual (international) office”, where they offer campaigns in twelve languages
influencing institutions, governments and organizations in fifty different countries.34 Since its
development into a transnational platform, CitizenGo has gained important impact, reflected in the
exponentially increasing self-reported numbers of HazteOír and CitizenGo’s members.35 As illustrated
in Figure 1, starting from 380,000 in 2013, CitizenGo has more than 14 million members to date.
Compared to the relatively small numbers of HazteOír’s members, these increasing numbers are
indicative of CitizenGo’s success and transnational influence.
As a platform that enables the solidification of a wide-spanning network, CitizenGo has the
potential to spread ultraconservative propaganda internationally. For instance, it supported France’s
Manif Pour Tous,36 Ireland’s anti-abortion rallies37 and co-organized workshops with the World
Congress of Families in Italy.38 A recent campaign that caught the media’s attention was a bus with
transphobic slogans that circulated through Spain, France,39 Germany,40 Kenya,41 Chile,42 and the
30 J. Lester Feder, “The Rise of Europe’s Religious Right”, BuzzFeedNews (2014), https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/
lesterfeder/the-rise-of-europes-religious-right.
31 “Sobre Hazteoír”, HazeOír.org, (n.d.), http://www.hazteoir.org/p/todo-hazteoír-org.
32 For a review of HazteOír’s political engagement: Monica Corneja and José Ignacio Pichardo-Galán, “From the Pulpit to the
Streets: Ultra-Conservative Religious Positions against Gender in Spain”, in Roman Kuhar and David Patternote, eds., Anti-
Gender Campaigns in Europe. Mobilizing against Equality (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), 233-252.
33 For a review: Ellen Rivera, “Unraveling the Anti-Choice Supergroup Agenda Europe in Spain. A Case Study of CitizenGo
and HazteOír”, CovertAction Magazine (2020), https://covertactionmagazine.com/index.php/2020/01/03/unraveling-the-anti-
choice-supergroup-agenda-europe-in-spain-a-case-study-of-citizengo-and-hazteoir.
34 “About us”, CitizenGo.org, (n.d.), https://www.citizengo.org/en/about-us.
35 Adapted from “Memorias HO”, HazeOír.org.
36 Catherine Mallaval and Virginie Ballet, “CitizenGo, Chambre d’Écho des Bigots”, Libération (2016),
https://www.liberation.fr/france/2016/11/23/citizengo-chambre-d-echo-des-bigots_1530482.
37 Andrea Peña, “CitizenGo Reúne más de 50.000 Firmas para Apoyar el ‘NO al Aborto’ en Irlanda”, Actuall (2018),
https://www.actuall.com/vida/citizengo-reune-mas-de-50-000-mensajes-de-apoyo-al-no-al-aborto-en-irlanda/.
38 Hélène Barthélemy, “The American Anti-LGBT Movement Goes to Italy”, SPLCenter.org (2018),
https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/12/19/american-anti-lgbt-movement-goes-italy
39 Nigari, “Le Bus CitizenGO contre la théorie du genre face au lobby LGBT”, AgoraVox.tv (2017),
https://www.agoravox.tv/tribune-libre/article/le-bus-citizengo-contre-la-theorie-74722.
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US.43 Probably its most well-known success was in 2013 when the EU parliament discussed the
“Estrela Report” about women’s health and reproductive rights. CitizenGo collected signatures and
orchestrated the sending of 200,000 threatening e-mails to politicians who supported the non-binding
resolution44, which led to the unexpected rejection of the report.
Given its growing socio-political impact, many studies mention the central role of CitizenGo in the
global anti-genderist movement,45 or highlight its local adaptation across national contexts such as
across Latin America.46 However, none has actually analyzed the use of language in CitizenGo
electronic petitions (e-petitions). In the current study, we make use of the data-driven synergy of
corpus linguistics and critical discourse analysis to explore the discursive and argumentative tools
employed in CitizenGo’s e-petitions. As explained in the following section, we particularly focus on
the systematic use of metonymy, which we argue is a mechanism involved in the multivalent semantic
plasticity of “gender ideology” rhetoric.
40 Katja Thorwarth, “Der Bus des Grauens”, Fr.de (2017), https://www.fr.de/meinung/grauens-11025288.html.
41 Cole Parke, “The Right’s ‘Gender Ideology’ Menace Rolls to Africa”, OpenDemocracy.net (2018),
https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/gender-ideology-menace-rolls-to-africa.
42 Efe Noticias, “Polémico Bus CitizenGO Llega a Chile y Organizaciones LGBTI se Movilizan en su Contra”, DiarioElDia.cl
(2017), http://www.diarioeldia.cl/pais/polemico-bus-citizengo-llega-chile-organizaciones-lgbti-se-movilizan-en-su-contra.
43 “Support Biological Reality! Support the #FreeSpeechBus!”, CitizenGo.org, (n.d.), http://citizengo.org/en/ed/42723-
freespeechbus.
44 Nikolaj Nielsen, “MEP Receives 41,000 Emails against Gay Rights”, EUObserver.com (2014),
https://euobserver.com/justice/123001.
45 E.g., Corredor, “Unpacking ‘gender ideology’”; Graff et al., “Introduction”; Korolczuk and Graff, “Gender as ‘Ebola from
Brussels’”.
46 Corrêa, Politicas Antigénero en América Latina.
0
2,000,000
4,000,000
6,000,000
8,000,000
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2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
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2014
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Hazt eOir CitizenGo
Figure 1. Numbers of HazteOír and CitizenGo’s members
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3. Data & Method
We scraped 687 e-petitions (351,020 words) that were available in CitizenGo from 18 September 2013
(first petition) to 24 June 2019. For ease of analysis, we restricted our corpus to those petitions
published under the language tab English. To contextually ground the analysis, we also kept the
following meta-data: the petition’s URL, addressee, date, and author. Images and a few passages
written in non-Anglophone languages were replaced with a tag. The corpus was then uploaded into the
online software Sketch Engine47 which automatically annotated the data for part-of-speech.
We chose to approach the data in an exploratory, bottom-up manner, by triangulating critical
discourse analysis with computerized corpus linguistics tools. That is, instead of starting the analysis
with preconceived hypotheses, we let the quantitative and qualitative results guide us through a
corpus-driven approach to analyze discourse.48 The mixing of these methods has been shown to
reduce researchers’ bias when conducting discourse analysis.49 We thus started with a quantitative
keyword analysis.50 This reveals which linguistic items occur more often in our corpus than expected
when compared to the whole “English Web 2013”51 reference corpus containing online language (ca.
19.6 billions words). The effect-size metric “simple math” was used to calculate keywords. This
metric is a simple ratio of relative frequencies of words plus a variable N that controls for low- and
high-frequency keywords. Keeping N=0 generated a list where the top keywords represented exclusive
words in our corpus that referred to hashtags, political personalities, documents, and organizations
(e.g., #freespeechbus, Petr Jašek, Katarzyna Jachimowicz, GIRFY, etc.). These keywords did not
reveal any shared, transnational concerns that were representative of our CitizenGo corpus, as they
only appeared in single petitions. Therefore, through trial and error, we settled upon N=10 to generate
higher frequency (case insensitive) keywords that revealed transnational political discourses shared in
multiple e-petitions. Keywords’ statistical significance was also tracked, by examining corresponding
log-likelihood scores with a threshold of p<0.0001.52
We then manually grouped the top 100 keywords with the largest effect sizes (ranging from 8.5 to
125.7) that were significant at p<0.0001 into the following 14 semantic categories: bodily integrity,
CitizenGo, crime, family, gender and sexuality, humanity, language, law and rights, nation-state,
places, religion, reproduction, values, and miscellaneous. Although those categories hint at expected
concerns present in e-petitions, we chose to focus on the most relevant category for the current study,
namely “gender and sexuality”. We read through its 1757 instances of the keywords LGBT,
(trans)gender, homosexual(ity), sex[(ual)ity], pornography, prostitution, and gay, and noticed that
some keywords were often used metonymically.
Metonymy is a figure of language and thought in which one entity (a source) is used as a vehicle to
refer to another entity (a target), within the same frame, domain or idealized cognitive model (ICM).53
For instance, in the sentence “He was shocked by Vietnam”, Vietnam (source) is used as a
metonymic vehicle referring to the war that happened in the 1960-70s (target) and not to its literal
meaning (i.e., the location). Despite the close relationship between metaphor and metonymy, there is
47 Sketch Engine, “What is Sketch Engine?” (2020), https://www.sketchengine.eu/#blue.
48 Elena Tognini-Bonelli, Corpus Linguistics at Work (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2001).
49 Paul Baker et al., “A Useful Methodological Synergy? Combining Critical Discourse Analysis and Corpus Linguistics to
Examine Discourses of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the UK Press”, Discourse and Society, 19.3 (2008), 273-306.
50 Costas Gabrielatos, “Keyness Analysis: Nature, Metrics and Techniques”, in Charlotte Taylor and Anna Marchi, eds., Corpus
Approaches to Discourse: A Critical Review (London: Routledge, 2018), 225-258.
51 Sketch Engine, “enTenTen: Corpus of the English Web” (2020), https://www.sketchengine.eu/ententen-english-
corpus/#toggle-id-3-closed.
52 Gabrielatos, “Keyness Analysis”, 254n8.
53 Günter Radden and Zoltán Kövecses, “Towards a Theory of Metonymy”, in Klaus-Uwe Panther and Günter Radden, eds.,
Metonymy in Language and Thought (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1999), 17-59.
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one important distinction made with respect to the notion of contiguity: in metonymy, the source
and the target are semantically related, as they belong to the same ICM. Based on this, a corpus-driven
approach to metonymy can reveal how a specific concept is systematically assigned to different related
meanings through figurative speech and, thus, how it is semantically manipulated.
Given that metonymy often operates above the word-level,54 the previous keyword procedure was
applied to Sketch Engine to calculate and identify “gender and sexuality” key-multiwords (i.e.,
unusually frequent two-word phrases with a noun headword). Since Sketch Engine is liable to annotate
some multiwords inaccurately (e.g., in gender ideology the software annotated some instances of
gender as a verb), all instances of the generated key-multiwords were considered regardless of their
part-of-speech annotation and number. As shown in Table 1, our analysis considered 705 instances of
key-multiwords originating from 27.8% (n=191) e-petitions.
As Dirven argues, metonymy is situated on a continuum between literal language and metaphor,
which often makes its occurrence hard to spot.55 While early research on metonymy relied on
intuition-based judgments for its identification,56 we drew on Markert and Nissim’s corpus-based
annotation scheme to systematically spot metonymies.57 Their scheme, which particularly focuses on
metonymic uses of locations and organization names, involves the annotation of their data (e.g.,
locations) using three categories (i.e., metonymic, literal, and mixed reading). However, their approach
is a top-down analysis which builds on previous literature on the relevant metonymic mappings (e.g.,
place-for-event). Since we were dealing with understudied and not clear-cut metonymic patterns which
are not immediately recognizable, we decided not to directly code for metonymies. Rather, next to the
literal and ambiguous categories, we used a broader category of “figurative readings” that also
included metaphors. After comparing our coding and resolving our disagreements one by one, we
excluded from qualitative analysis key-multiwords that were used literally more than 90% of the time:
same-sex, opposite-sex, biological sex(es), sexual exploitation, human sexuality, sexual violence, gay
pride, gender dysphoria (see Table 1).
In order to specifically identify metonymies without any presuppositions of their conceptual
mappings, we followed Biernacka’s bottom-up approach.58 This consists in 1) identifying lexical units,
2) establishing their contextual meaning, 3) determining if they have a more basic contemporary
meaning in other contexts than the meaning in the given context, and 4) determining whether the two
meanings are connected by contiguity (i.e., semantic closeness), in which case the identified lexical
unit is used metonymically. Therefore, we coded the figurative and ambiguous cases by determining
their contextual meaning through a reading of their concordance lines (i.e., their occurrence with
neighboring co-text), and comparing it to their contemporary reading.59 The Cambridge Dictionary of
English (CDE) was deemed to be an appropriate reference due to its data-informed entries. If
contextual and contemporary meanings were different and their connection was one of semantic
closeness and adjacency, then the key-multiword was classed as a metonymy vehicle that designates a
semantically-related referent. Overall, we identified 130 metonymies. Ambiguous (whereby the
contextual meaning could be both literal and metonymic) and exclusively metaphorical cases were
excluded from analysis (e.g., sexual revolution and sex(ual[ity]) education). Although 67.9% of the
54 Jeannette Littlemore, Metonymy: Hidden Shortcuts in Language, Thought and Communication (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.,
2015), chapter 6.
55 René Dirven, “Metonymy and Metaphor: Different Mental Strategies of Conceptualisation”, in René Dirven and Ralf Pörings,
eds., Metaphor and Metonymy in Comparison and Contrast (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2003), 75-112.
56 Littlemore, Metonymy, 19-20.
57 Katja Markert and Malvina Nissim, “Corpus-Based Metonymy Analysis”, Metaphor and Symbol, 18.3 (2003), 175-188.
58 Ewa Biernacka, A Discourse Dynamics Investigation of Metonymy in Talk (PhD Thesis, The Open University, 2013), 115-
127.
59 See Biernacka, A Discourse Dynamics Investigation of Metonymy in Talk.
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705 key-multiwords were most often used literally, the 130 identified metonymies revealed a
systematic pattern in their conceptual mapping, indicating an incremental discursive effect with socio-
political consequences.
4. Analysis
The fact that metonymy is situated between literal language and metaphor is related to some of its
“edgier” communicative functions: namely vague language, evaluation and positioning.60 That is, the
intended meaning (target) often remains unspecified. It constructs a vagueness that can be strategically
manipulated for communicative and evaluative purposes. Alongside strategic vagueness, metonymies
have been reported to have a strong depersonalizing effect61 in contexts where speakers/authors want
to create distance from a particular group of people, while reducing it to its most relevant attributes.
From this perspective, uses of metonymy are practices of othering whereby a given Other is
strategically framed as an out-group with specific, conveniently condensed defining properties. This
function of metonymy alongside its socio-political implications has been investigated across various
contexts. A large body of work has looked at the role of metonymy in the development of in-/out-
60 Littlemore, Metonymy, 96-97.
61 Littlemore, Metonymy; Ruth Wodak et al., The Discursive Construction of National Identity (Edinburg: Edinburg U.P., 2009).
Table 1. Analyzed key-multiwords
Freq.
%Texts
(N) % (N) % (N) % (N)
same-sex 249 13.10 (90) 99.6 (248) 0.4 (1) - -
gender identit(y/ies) 61 5.39 (37) 57.4 (35) 21.3 (13) 21.3 (13)
sexual orientation(s)53 5.24 (36) 41.5 (22) 17.0 (9) 41.5 (22)
sex([ual]ity) education 84 3.93 (27) 54.8 (46) 2.4 (2) 42.9 (36)
gender ideology 36 3.06 (21) - - 100 (36) - -
opposite-sex 28 2.91 (20) 100 (28) - - - -
gay marriage(s)26 2.47 (17) - - 100 (26) - -
biological sex(es) 17 2.33 (16) 100 (17) - - - -
sexual exploitation 29 1.46 (10) 89.7 (26) 6.9 (2) 3.4 (1)
sexual revolution 13 1.46 (10) - - - - - -
gay lobby 15 1.31 (9) - - 100 (15) - -
gender expression(s)11 1.31 (9) - - - - 100 (11)
human sexuality 12 1.16 (8) 100 (12) - - - -
sexual violence23 1.02 (7) 100 (23) - - - -
transgender ideology 15 1.02 (7) - - 100 (15) - -
gay pride 12 1.02 (7) 91.7 (11) 8.3 (1) - -
gender dysphoria 11 1.02 (7) 100 (11) - - - -
sexual agenda 10 1.02 (7) - - 100 (10) - -
TOTAL705 27.80 (191) 67.9 (479) 18.4 (130) 11.8 (83)
KEY-
MULTIWORDS
Literal
Ambiguous
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group relationships in political discourse,62 journalistic media,63 as well as in the construction of
national identity64 or faith communities.65 In the present section, we explore how systematic
metonymic uses of the identified key-multiwords are involved in the construction of a gendered/sexual
Other targeted by anti-genderist e-petitions.
Although there are a number of different typologies of metonymy suggested in the relevant
literature,66 the majority of them involve a PART-WHOLE relationship.67 According to this
relationship, the metonymic reading of a lexical item mobilizes either a whole conceptual entity or a
part of it (source), in order to invoke the intended referent (target) within the same ICM. Overall, the
metonymized key-multiwords found in our data fall into three broader categories, according to the
type of metonymic mapping they instantiate: i.e., PART FOR WHOLE, WHOLE FOR PART and PART
FOR PART. In the remainder of this section, we explore each of these types, which systematically
appear as MEMBER OF CATEGORY FOR CATEGORY, CATEGORY FOR MEMBER OF CATEGORY68
and DEFINING PROPERTY FOR STANCE respectively. Taking into consideration the contextually
emergent metonymic meaning of the key-multiwords, as well as the nuances of each metonymization
process, we will argue for the central role of these metonymies in the construction of the
gendered/sexual enemy.
4.1 Member of category for category
The first type of metonymy found in the figurative use of gender/sexuality-related key-multiwords
involves a PART FOR WHOLE mapping, where a subgroup of an entity (source) is used to refer to the
entity as a whole (target), e.g., “England” for “Great Britain”. This pattern is systematically found in
all the instances of the key-multiword gay lobby:
(1) These leaders need your encouragement to withstand the pressure of the gay lobby, the
mainstream media, and the apparatus of the Western European powers which seem to have
turned their face against the natural family.
Author: CitizenGo
Addressee: 24 European Prime Ministers/Presidents
Extract (1) appears in a petition opposing the decision of the European Court of Human Rights
(ECHR) to rule against Italy on the basis that it does not legally recognize same-sex marriage. The
petition is addressed to “the leaders of 24 European countries (most of them, in Eastern Europe) which
still recognize marriage between a man and a woman and which are party to the ECHR”. Its intention
is to encourage those leaders to refuse to modify their country’s legal framework in case the gay
lobby, the mainstream media and the apparatus of the Western European powers” puts pressure on
62 Teun A. van Dijk, Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach (London: SAGE Publications, 1998); Wodak, The Politics of Fear.
63 Weiwei Zhang et al., “Variation in the Non Metonymic Capital Names in Mainland Chinese and Taiwan Chinese”, Metaphor
and the Social World, 1.1 (2011), 90-112.
64 Wodak et al., Discursive Construction of National Identity.
65 Peter Richardson, A Closer Walk: A Cognitive Linguistic Study of Movement and Proximity Metaphors and their Impact on
Certainty in Muslim and Christian Language (Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Birmingham, 2013).
66 For an overview: Weiwei Zhang, Variation in Metonymy: Cross-Linguistic, Historical and Lectal Perspectives (Berlin:
Mouton de Gruyter, 2016), 20-23.
67 This relationship is commonly found in the literature as “PART-WHOLE synecdoche”. Although synecdoche is often
considered distinct from metonymy in traditional rhetoric, many scholars have argued that it is a subtype of metonymy. For an
overview see: Zhang, Variation in Metonymy, 18-20.
68 Radden and Kövecses, “Toward a Theory of Metonymy”, 34-35.
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them. This formulation leads to an interesting question as to what gay lobby is actually referring to.
According to CDE, lobby is defined as “a group of people who try to persuade the government or an
official group to do something”. From this perspective, the literal meaning of the compound gay lobby
would refer to LGBTQ+ groups whose political activity pressures policy makers to grant them rights.
However, in the majority of the remaining petitions in which gay lobby occurs, nowhere do the
petitioners refer to specific LGBTQ+ organizations and associations with socio-political activity.
Rather, in extract (1) gay lobby refers to a wide range of unmentioned agents, groups and individuals
who support same-sex marriage, and threaten to interfere with the pro-family legislation that the
aforementioned 24 countries maintain. This is similar to what previous research found when analysing
mentions of gay lobby in the Irish69 and British70 press. For instance, Baker argues that it is
constructed as a homogenous group of people composed of unspecified “activists, campaigners,
pressure groups, protesters, and demonstrators [ as well as] radicals and militants” who were
described as “strident and vociferous” in their demands for gay rights.71
We argue that this use of the key-multiword gay lobby instantiates a PART FOR WHOLE metonymy
and, more specifically a MEMBER OF CATEGORY FOR CATEGORY (i.e., LGBTQ+ associations for
LGBTQ+ individuals and supporters of LGBTQ+ rights).72 Through this metonymic mapping, the
petitioners condense referential information under a single descriptive term (i.e., gay lobby) which can
be more easily instrumentalized in the service of political purposes. In particular, a whole range of
positionalities is conflated under an abstract Other, and framed as a political opponent against whom
the petition calls for action. In this way, any LGBTQ+ individual but also any supporter of LGBTQ+
rights is conveniently framed as part of a threatening lobby and, by implication, as the political
enemy. This practice becomes even clearer in the PART FOR PART metonymy discussed in section 4.3.
4.2 Category for member of category
Another important type of metonymic mapping between source and target involves a WHOLE FOR
PART relationship. That is, a whole entity (source) is used to refer to a part of it (target), e.g.,
“America” for “United States”. The key-multiwords gender identity and sexual orientation are
commonly used in this way. As shown in Table 1 above, contrary to the other metonymic key-
multiwords analyzed in the present study, these terms are also commonly used in literal speech (57,4%
and 41,5%, respectively). According to CDE, “gender identity” is defined as “a person’s feeling of
having a particular gender”, while “sexual orientation” is “the fact of someone preferring to have
sexual relationships either with men, or with women, or both”. Both definitions refer to gender identity
and sexual orientation as properties that include the whole range of gender/sexual identifications. A
typical literal use of both multiwords which mostly co-occur with each other is given below:
(2) The Kentucky regulation states that "DJJ staff, volunteers, interns and contractors shall not imply or tell
LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful or that they can or should change their sexual
orientation or gender identity".
Author: CitizenGo USA
Addressee: Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice
69 Leanne Barlety and Encarnación Hidalgo-Tenorio, “’To Be Irish, Gay, and on the Outside’: A Critical Discourse Analysis of
the Other after the Celtic Tiger Period”, Journal of Language and Sexuality, 5.1 (2016), 1-36.
70 Paul Baker, Public Discourses of Gay Men (London: Routledge, 2005).
71 Ibid., 87.
72 This is also the case in similar uses of the term lobby in other discourses, see Green lobby, Black lobby, Catholic lobby etc.
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This e-petition argues against the policy of the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice described in
the extract. Sexual orientation and gender identity are referring to a gender/sexuality-specific property
that can or should be “changed”. That is, regardless of the argument in which they are involved, these
key-multiwords are used in their literal “contemporary meaning”. Interestingly, a close look at the
totality of similar literal uses reveals that all of them are included in reported speech; that is, they refer
to documents or positions cited in the petitions, which are followed by negative evaluation or calls for
action. In this sense, even when used literally as in (2), these terms are either mocked and framed as
invented or attributed to other parties rather than the petitioners. In other words, the literal definition of
these terms provided in the CDE already reflects an epistemological understanding of gender/sexual
diversity which the petitioners reject; gender identity or sexual orientation are useless in a world-view
that exclusively assumes the in-born and inherent existence of (heterosexual) man and woman.
However, as we argue below, while some CitizenGo petitions report and reject the literal meaning of
those terms, others even modify their contemporary referent through metonymy.
Excluding the ambiguous cases, in which the context is not sufficient to specify whether the
intended meaning is literal or figurative (see Table 1), the following extracts focus on uses of gender
identity and sexual orientation in which the referent clearly diverges from the literal, contemporary
meaning of “property” (21,3% and 17% respectively):
(3) Support the pro-family movement in Trinidad and Tobago! Say NO to special rights for "sexual
orientation". This petition is sponsored by the Trinidad and Tobago Council of Evangelical Churches
Author: World Congress of Families (sponsored by the Trinidad and. Tobago
Council of Evangelical Churches, the International Organization for the
Family)
Addressee: MP and Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago
(4) The city’s first openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, has subpoenaed Houston pastors for all books,
materials, speeches, and "all communications with members of your congregation" that mention
homosexuality, and gender identity or Mayor Parker herself.
Author: Alejandra Fabris (USA)
Addressee: Houston Mayor
Extract (3) appears in a petition calling for solidarity with the pro-family movement in Trinidad and
Tobago, which is against the normalization of same-sex relations and anti-discrimination laws. Here,
sexual orientation is framed as a claim uttered by certain groups which needs to be denied. The use of
the preposition “for” in the phrase “sexual rights for” would usually call for an animate object (e.g., a
group of people). However, the literal meaning of sexual orientation does not refer to a group of
people, but to a property of a person. Given that an individual’s general characteristic (e.g., age)
cannot be claimed or denied but simply exists, sexual orientation is used metonymically in this context
to refer to non-heteronormative sexual identities, while implicitly excluding heterosexuals. Similarly,
extract (4) is drawn from a petition which seeks to stop the Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker (who is
a lesbian) from taking legal action against pastors who promote anti-LGBT ideas. Gender identity co-
occurs with homosexuality and invokes the same discourse of non-normativity. That is, the pastors’
mentions of gender identity do not refer to “a person’s feeling of having a particular gender” as
defined in CDE, but rather to non-heteronormative ideas around gender identity.
In these metonymic uses of sexual orientation and gender identity, the intended referent (or
metonymic target) invokes non-heteronormative positionalities within the gendered and/or sexual
spectrum. As a WHOLE FOR PART metonymy, an entity-source (i.e., gender and sexuality as a
property which involves the whole range of identities) is used to invoke a non-normative subgroup as
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its target. In this sense, the metonymic mapping invokes a CATEGORY FOR MEMBER OF CATEGORY
relationship: i.e., the generic and inclusive “gender/sexuality” for “non-normative gender/sexuality”.
Crucially, the contextual meaning of all these instances can potentially conflate various referents under
these lexical units (e.g., LGBTQ+ individuals, supporters of LGBTQ+ rights, feminists). More
accurately, the targeted referent here involves all those agents who understand, and literally use, the
terms gender identity and sexual orientation to refer to gender/sexual diversity. They thus adopt the
epistemological understanding that the very use of these terms entails. Simply put, in this WHOLE FOR
PART metonymy the literal referent of these key-multiwords i.e., a property that everyone (including
normative identities) has is narrowed down to target those people who use the terms literally (i.e.,
the non-normative subgroup). Importantly, nowhere in the 130 analyzed metonymies does the same
type occur to refer to normative gender/sexual identities.
4.3 Defining property for stance
The third important metonymic configuration we find in our data involves a PART FOR PART
metonymic mapping. In this case, a subgroup of a whole entity (source) is used to refer to another
subgroup of the same entity (target). For instance, the pen (i.e., instrument) can be used to refer to the
writer (i.e., agent) in the action ICM of writing.73 Even though this example is fairly straightforward,
PART FOR PART metonymy can be more complicated when dealing with more abstract notions, as
illustrated in the following extracts:
(5) Transgender ideology is apparently doing nothing short of attempting to redefine what it means to be a
man and what it means to be a woman. It is not remotely concerned with reality or our understanding of
the nature of men and women as essentially tied to their role in reproduction.
Author: CitizenGo
Addressee: BBC
(6) In this new proposal, the FEMM ... continues to promote: early childhood indoctrination in gender
ideology at public schools (without the prior consent of parents,) abortion, LGBT "marriage", and gender
quotas in public life.
Author: CitizenGo Europe (Spain)
Addressee: European Parliament
Extract (5) is involved in an e-petition which calls for action against a BBC program on transgender
issues addressed to children. Similarly, the petition in which extract (6) occurs argues against a
proposal introduced in 2014 by the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) of
the European Parliament regarding gender discrimination in the workplace. As illustrated in both
extracts, the e-petitions argue for the dangers of a certain ideology, described as transgender and
gender respectively. In other words, the two key-multiwords refer to an ideology of a sort i.e., “a set
of beliefs or principles” (CDE) further defining it through the adjectival use of (trans)gender. From
this perspective, both individual compounds are used literally; the intended reading is not distant from
the contemporary meaning of ideology. However, the metonymy is located precisely in the modifiers
of ideology.
Firstly, the literal meaning of “transgender” is someone “who feels that they are not the same
gender they were said to have when they were born” (CDE). Although this already entails
epistemological and ontological assumptions regarding the existence of transgender people, the use of
73 Radden and Kövecses, “Toward a Theory of Metonymy”, 37.
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“transgender” as a modifier of ideology foregrounds a slightly different meaning. What is being
discussed in the petition is not only the ideology that transgender people adopt (which would maintain
the contemporary meaning of the term), but also the ideology of support and, more importantly, the
acknowledgement of transgender identity/issues/rights. The key-multiword is hence used
metonymically as a PART FOR PART relationship which we describe as DEFINING PROPERTY FOR
STANCE. In other words, a personal trait of a category (i.e., being transgender) is used to denote a
specific ideological position with respect to this category (i.e., acknowledgement and support of
transgender people).
This is specifically evidenced in the use of gender ideology. According to the petition cited in
extract (6), students of public schools are threatened with the possibility of getting indoctrinated in
gender ideology, alongside issues of abortion and LGBT marriage. The contemporary meaning of
“gender” is defined as “the physical and/or social condition of being male or female” (CDE). Similar
to gender identity and sexual orientation (see section 4.2), the term already reflects an epistemological
assumption that there exists a non-inherent relationship between biology and behavior. It is precisely
this assumption that is attacked by the petitioners through this metonymic use. Employed as a modifier
of ideology, gender is not literally referring to a general “property” anymore, but rather targets a series
of unnamed agents who are grouped together around the same ideological position. Through a PART
FOR PART mapping, a descriptive property (i.e., having a gender) is used as a vehicle to refer to a
particular related stance (i.e., acknowledging and supporting gender diversity).
Both key-multiwords (i.e., transgender/gender ideology) are the outcome of a metonymic
configuration which uses a defining property to refer to a particular ideological stance. In this way, the
petitioners turn any mention of (trans)gender rights/issues(/people) into an ideological concept, and
exclude any possibility that gender diversity exists. Ultimately, they construct a vague Other; an
enemy who is defined only by their own ideological stance. This is also the case in the metonymic use
of sexual agenda:
(7) The petition will be delivered to your UN delegation; it will ask that they work to delete any and all
references to the harmful sexual agenda that supports abortion, free access to birth control, sexual
orientation and gender identity, and comprehensive sexuality education.
Author: CitizenGo
Addressee: United Nations
Similarly to the aforementioned cases, the compound sexual agenda is here referring to an ideological
agenda of a sort; hence it is being used literally. The metonymicity of the term is again located in the
modifier (i.e., sexual). According to CDE, the term “sexual” describes someone or something “relating
to the activity of sex”. From this perspective, the literal meaning of the key-multiword would be a list
of aims or possible future achievements (see CDE’s definition of “agenda”) relating to sexual activity.
However, as illustrated in extract (4) and present in all occurrences of the key-multiword, the agenda
under discussion involves issues that are not exclusively related to sex acts. As described in the
petition, the sexual agenda accused of being harmful is concerned with abortion, birth control,
sexuality education, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity (see section 4.2). Therefore, in
this context, sexual refers to a variety of epistemological and ontological assumptions adopted by a
targeted enemy; assumptions that are understood to be dangerous and unethical, and thus criticized by
the petition. In other words, a descriptive characteristic is foregrounded as the modifier of the agenda
that is assigned to an ideological gendered/sexual Other through a DEFINING PROPERTY FOR
STANCE metonymy.
More interestingly, as evidenced in other occurrences of the key-multiword, sexual agenda seems
to be understood as a cluster of stigmatized” views that do not exclusively revolve around sexual
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activity. This is the case in extract (8). This petition argues against two bills which were to be
discussed in the Parliament of Malta, namely “Equality Act, 2015” and “The Human Rights Equality
Commision Act”. The extract cites a series of issues introduced in the bills, which are subsequently
described as a sexual agenda:
(8) “protected characteristics” shall be age; belief, creed or religion; disability; family responsibilities;
family or marital status; gender expression or gender identity; HIV status; maternity; pregnancy; race,
colour or ethnic origin; sex or sex characteristics; and, sexual orientation;" Unfortunately, this sexual
agenda is being promoted all around the world.
Author: CitizenGo
Addressee: Parent/Teacher Associations in Malta and Gozo, the Catholic Hierarchy
and the Maltese Parliament
As illustrated in the issues listed in the extract, sexual agenda conflates a variety of criticized positions
that extend beyond gender/sexuality-related issues, also including race and ethnicity. Thus, not only
does this DEFINING PROPERTY FOR STANCE mapping target an ideological Other who is defined by
a liberal stance with respect to gender/sexual rights, but it also condenses other social issues under this
unified dangerous political agenda.
5. Final Remarks
Taking into consideration the central role of CitizenGo in the dissemination of anti-genderist discourse
often mentioned in previous literature, the above discussion highlights the systematic involvement of
metonymy in the discursive construction of the gendered/sexual enemy. Specifically, it foregrounds
three different metonymic uses in which gender/sexuality-related key-multiwords are involved. In the
MEMBER OF CATEGORY FOR CATEGORY metonymy (section 4.1), where a subgroup of an entity
refers to the whole entity, gay lobby targets LGBTQ+ individuals and supporters of LGBTQ+ rights
rather than exclusively referring to specific activists and associations. Conversely, in the CATEGORY
FOR MEMBER OF CATEGORY metonymy (section 4.2), where a whole entity refers to part of it, a
general property (gender identity, sexual orientation) is narrowed down to non-normative
gendered/sexual identities and supporters of gender/sexual diversity. The final metonymic mapping we
discuss concerns the DEFINING PROPERTY FOR STANCE relationship, where a subgroup of an entity
refers to another subgroup of the same entity. In the case of transgender/gender ideology, a defining
property (i.e., being transgender or having a gender, respectively) is used to refer to an ideological
stance (i.e., acknowledgment of transgender people or a social-constructionist understanding of
gender). Similarly, sexual agenda foregrounds a property (i.e., relating to sex acts) to target a
particular ideological stance that conflates liberal positions with respect to gender, sexuality and other
social issues. Together, these metonymies highlight aspects of reality while downplaying others,
conveniently broadening or narrowing the worldview according to the petitioner’s argumentative
needs.74
Two significant socio-political consequences arise from these three metonymic configurations. On
the one hand, as part of the referential/nomination strategies employed by right-wing populists,75 the
semantic elasticity of metonymy strategically shapes public opinion about progressive sexual and
reproductive rights by advancing an affective “us vs. them” dichotomy. As we have shown, it
effectively condenses LGBTQ+ people, feminists, and supporters of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights
74 Littlemore, Metonymy, 99.
75 Wodak, Politics of Fear; Martin Reisigl and Ruth Wodak, Discourse and Discrimination: Rhetorics of Racism and
Antisemitism (London: Routledge, 2001).
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into a homogeneous Other. This Other is framed as a political enemy (gay lobby) or as an ideological
movement, which adopts an epistemological understanding of gender/sexual diversity, uses concepts
such as gender identity and sexual orientation, promotes a (trans)gender ideology and follows a
particular sexual agenda. Such metonymic configurations help construct a vague yet tangible
enemy, a “terrifying object”76 that facilitates the mobilization of conservative groups to take action by
creating, signing and sharing CitizenGo e-petitions.
On the other hand, metonymy is involved in the repurposing of the concepts of gender and
sexuality. As various linguists stress, metonymization i.e., using words for the near neighbors of the
things you mean” 77 is one of the most effective operators of semantic change.78 The aforementioned
metonymies contribute to a similar semantic change of (trans)gender (identity) and sexual orientation,
by narrowing down their contemporary meaning to refer to agents who understand and adopt these
terms alongside the assumptions these entail. By framing them as invented, unscientific and
meaningless ideological concepts, the petitioners reject the possibility of gender/sexual diversity and
ultimately deny the very existence of those who acknowledge it or use it for self-identification. It is
this metonymy-based semantic reconfiguration of gender and sexuality that contributes to the
emergence of a new “ominous and alien”79 vocabulary, elsewhere described as an “empty signifier”80
or a “symbolic glue”81 that secures ideological coherence across divergent actors.
Given CitizenGo’s transnational network, we argue that the metonymic uses explored in the
present study provide new vocabulary which helps to solidify the establishment of a borderless, ultra-
conservative discourse community82 constituting an “alternative field of knowledge.83 As such,
metonymy is involved into a conventionalized aggregate of signs that constitute anti-genderism as a
register bringing anti-genderists into a cohesive although heterogeneous whole.84 A cross-national
investigation of other metonymic/figurative configurations involved in anti-genderist rhetoric could
give a better insight into how the anti-gender register is nationally contextualized and adapted to
empower conservative coalitions.
76 Mbembe, Necropolitics, 42.
77 Brigitte Nerlich and David D. Clarke, “Outline of a Model for Semantic Change”, in Günter Kellermann and Michael D.
Morrissey, eds., Diachrony within Synchrony: Language History and Cognition (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1992), 137.
78 Jan Ifversen, “Conceptual History: The History of Basic Concepts”, in Ruth Wodak and Bernhard Forchtner, eds., The
Routledge Handbook of Language and Politics (London: Routledge, 2018), 125.
79 Korolczuk and Graff, “Gender as ‘Ebola from Brussels’”, 799.
80 Mayer and Sauer, “’Gender Ideology’ in Austria”.
81 Kováts and Põim, Gender as Symbolic Glue.
82 Littlemore, Metonymy, 65.
83 Graff and Korolczuk, “Worse than Communism and Nazism Put Together”.
84 Borba, “Enregistering ‘Gender Ideology’”.
Full-text available
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This paper examines the (non)metonymic usage of capital names in news articles from Mainland Chinese and Taiwan Chinese and shows that this phenomenon is actually more complex than might have been expected. We annotated capital names extracted from a self-built news corpus with insights from previous studies on place name metonymies in Cognitive Linguistics and identified factors that would influence their (non)metonymic usage. To quantitatively explore the data, logistic regression analysis was employed. The statistical results reveal that the variation in the (non)metonymic capital names is a result of an intricate interplay of a number of conceptual, lectal and discursive factors: (1) more metonymic capital names are found in subject than non-subject position and in political than non-political news topics; types of capital may influence their metonymic usage; (2) differences between Mainland Chinese and Taiwan Chinese cannot be ignored, especially for the interpretation of a specific metonymy, i.e. CAPITAL FOR GOVERNMENT; (3) the (non)metonymic usage of a capital name is also determined by its sequencing and location in discourse. We hope this study may shed some light on the usage-based trend of current Cognitive Linguistics, i.e. investigating metonymy in authentic linguistic data by a range of empirical methodologies.
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This article examines the lexico-grammatical and lexico-pragmatic patterns of a social media corpus authored by les Hommen, a populist group of young French males who protested the enactment of same-sex marriage and parenting laws in late 2012 and early 2013. Through the close description of linguistic data and its interpolation via abstract discursive constructs of positioning and framing, it is argued that these praxes are not merely homophobic, but are also projections of reactive masculinity (i.e. a backlash against the perceived erosion of male hegemony triggered by the loi Taubira and its consequences). The article uses traditional and functional grammatical approaches to advance a view of the Hommen's cognitive context, manifest though linguistic performance, whereby the French male is projected as a simultaneous victim of and reactionary force against - in their view - an undemocratic administration, and sectarian LGBT and feminist activists.
Chapter
Since the turn of the millennium the term “gender-ideology” has become a political catch phrase, which unites different conservative, Christian, right-wing populist and right-wing extremist actors in Austria. This notion provides the discursive nod that allows to create a chain of equivalence between positions directed against legal equality for LGBT, against women's policies, gender mainstreaming and gender research as well as criticism of sexual education and gender-sensitive pedagogy. By strategically misrepresenting (queer-)feminist theory gender is understood as a tool for the creation of a “genderless human”, as an attack on the family and on European society as such. This reading of the term gender, which originated in the Catholic Church in the 1990ies, has now entered a range of online as well as offline publications, parliamentary debates and it has been taken to the streets. Especially at the level of activist engagement in the form of demonstrations and campaigns we witness the establishment of new coalitions of different right-wing actors, who used to be set apart by differing ideological backgrounds. In our article we aim to identify the main actors of this nascent political movement against “gender-ideology” and to unravel the discursive nod that has been built around the term by means of a Critical Frame Analysis.
Article
This book analyses discourses of national identity in Europe with particular attention to Austria. © Ruth Wodak, Rudolf de Cillia, Martin Reisigl, Karin Liebhart, 1999, 2009. Translation
Gender as Symbolic Glue: The Position and Role of Conservative and Far Right Parties in the Anti-Gender Mobilization in
Eszter Kováts and Maari Põim, eds., Gender as Symbolic Glue: The Position and Role of Conservative and Far Right Parties in the Anti-Gender Mobilization in Europe (Brussels: FEPS and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Budapest, 2015).