© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This article explores the response of a European Union (EU) feminist civil society organization (CSO) the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) to right wing populist opposition (RWP) to gender equality in Europe. RWP forces rely on gender politics to advance their projects co-opting ideas used by feminists at the same time vilifying feminist idea and actors. Feminist oppositions to RWP are as such complicated by how RWP forces co-opt constructions of gender justice and the proximity between RWP and feminist critiques of economic governance, austerity and EU integration. The EWL work to counter RWP frameworks but are tied to EU imperatives, weakened by austerity and a neglect of gender equality at EU level. Social movement concepts of framing theory are applied to the EWL response to reveal counter framing directed to EU elites, underlining how illiberal threats to gender equality are emblematic of a deeper crisis facing European democracies and as such deserving of a robust and well-resourced defence. Frame saving aims to re-politicise gender equality as an EU ideal and feminism as a project for the common good. RWP opposition to gender equality creates a discursive opportunity for the EWL to claim relevance as a vanguard of progressive anti-populist values in Europe.