My name is Kara Dansky – welcome to my website. I would like to share some information about why this website is here and why I do what I do.
My story starts when I was four years old, when one evening I wandered into the family room, where my father was watching TV. On the screen was a man standing at a podium, with the numbers 1976 featured prominently behind him. I asked my father what was going on and he explained that the man at the podium was Jimmy Carter, the year was 1976, and this was the Democratic National Convention. After a very brief discussion in which my father offered his thoughts on the differences between Democrats and Republicans, I decided that I was a Democrat.
I have always been politically active, even before I could vote. In 1984, I circulated a petition titled “Middle Schoolers for Mondale.” I have no memory of what I expected to do with the petition, and I’m certain that I had no idea about the electoral college at that time, but I felt compelled. My best friend and I wrote a letter to Tip O’Neill about the importance of abortion rights and encouraging him to scrap the Hyde Amendment. In high school I launched a recycling program. In college I was active in the Women’s Center and served on a committee that the administration established to curb campus sexual assault.
I have always considered myself to be a feminist.
I majored in political science at the Johns Hopkins University (yes, I know that the “the” sounds pretentious, but that is actually the name of the college, so I’m sticking with it) and went on to study law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. After graduating, I served as a staff attorney at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and as a clerk at the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.
My first job after clerking was as a public defender in Seattle. I then went on to work as executive director at the Stanford Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law School, Senior Advisor at the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security, Senior Counsel at the ACLU’s Center for Justice, and Senior Advisor at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
Over the years, I got to be fairly well-known in the criminal justice reform community. In 2014, while at the ACLU, I was the primary author of this report on police militarization. I wrote numerous blogs for the ACLU, spoke at law schools, published law review articles, and appeared in the media.
2015 was the year when everything changed.
Two things happened that year that are relevant to this story: (1) I started my own consulting business doing criminal justice reform and policy advocacy; and (2) I joined the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF). Those two things are not particularly related to one another, but spoiler alert: my advocacy to protect the rights, privacy, and safety of women and girls would ultimately mean the end of my career in the so-called “progressive” criminal justice reform movement.
In late 2014, I had a conversation with a friend that would change my life. Up until that time, I was never really what has come to be known as a “trans rights activist.” I supported civil and human rights for everyone, and as a good typical liberal, I simply assumed that “trans rights” were an important part of the cause; but I hadn’t really given the matter much thought. I said something casually to my friend about “trans rights,” and she immediately stopped me. “No,” she said, emphatically. “Trans is fundamentally anti-woman.” I asked for clarification, because I didn’t understand what she meant. She said, “Think about it – trans is the ultimate penetration of women’s bodies by men.” After we parted, I went to my bookshelf and pulled down every radical feminist text that I had read in college and law school but had forgotten. My immersion in radical feminist activism had begun.
After leaving the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in 2015, I spent the years 2015-2018 operating my own consulting business. I had clients all over the country. I conducted research, advised on political strategy, examined laws and policies, and wrote reports on topics like drug law reform, mass incarceration, and policing.
I joined the WoLF board in 2016. Between 2016 and 2019, my radical feminist activism and my professional work in criminal justice went fairly smoothly. For work, I was happily engaged in research, analysis, and report writing, and with WoLF, I was enthusiastically engaged in media work, brief writing, and organizing. I would eventually leave the WoLF board in 2020, but I remain entirely supportive of its work.
In late 2018, I took a job as General Counsel at the Washington D.C. Sentencing Commission. This is a local government entity that sets sentencing and punishment policy in the District of Columbia. I missed the independence that came with consulting, but there were obvious benefits to earning a steady paycheck and having health insurance. In early 2019, I appeared with some other WoLF members on a panel at the Heritage Foundation. Within days of that event, a stranger tweeted about the Heritage event, tagging a member of the D.C. City Council, demanding to know why a “TERF” was working at the Sentencing Commission.
My boss got wind of what had happened and, in good faith, talked with me about it. I had taken leave to do the event, so it was on my own time – not Commission time – and I knew that I had done nothing wrong. Still, she couldn’t quite understand. She had no context for grasping what the issue was about. In short, she had never heard of the gender wars. She asked me why the person had sent the tweet, and the following conversation ensued:
Me: “The person is trying to get me fired.”
Her: “Why on earth would someone do that?”
Me: “Because our entire society hates women.”
She just stared at me, astonished.
I assured her that my feminist activism would not interfere with my work, and it didn’t, but over the course of the year, she received email after email from people complaining about me. These emails were always from anonymous accounts, and they always concerned feminist work that I did outside of work hours. The situation became untenable and I resigned in early 2020. I did this for two reasons: (1) I didn’t want my boss to receive any more harassment from TRAs about a topic that she had no context for understanding; and (2) I wanted to devote my life to fighting for the rights, privacy, and safety of women and girls, full time.
And here we are. It has been a wild ride. I hope you’ll join me on this next stage of the journey. You can read about my services here.