Thursday, December 12, 2019
Home News Women’s right to be women – a dispatch from the battlefront

Women’s right to be women – a dispatch from the battlefront

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THE Woman’s Place UK are a group set up in September 2017 to ensure women’s voices would be heard in the consultation on the Government’s proposals to change the Gender Recognition Act. The group had five demands and frankly didn’t expect their campaign to last more than three to four months.

But since then the need to protect women’s rights with respect to transgender demands has intensified rather than diminished. And as they began informing other women how they’d be affected by the proposed introduction of gender-self-identification policies (self-ID) concern has grown.

The Woman’s Place are a Left-wing group and most of their members and supporters are Labour-leaning. Although I support only some of the demands and aims on their new manifesto, I have been quite horrified by the persistent attempts to close their
meetings down and to brand them a ‘hate group’, as well as by various articles written denouncing them.  The implications for free speech are serious.

Before their most recent meeting took place on October 25, Thames Valley Police had been sent to investigate stickers put up by a supporter of WPUK around Oxford in defence of the biological definition of woman, reading ‘Woman: noun. Adult human female, the definition of a woman’.

Extraordinarily the police announced that those responsible could be charged with a public order offence and went on to appeal for witnesses. Unsurprisingly, treatment of this as a ‘serious crime’ has been greeted with disbelief.

That was the reason I decided to attend The Woman’s Place meeting ‘A Woman’s Place Is At the Lectern’ last week. It was, first and foremost, to give my support to their right to lawful assembly, before any question as to any other issue.

I found myself, however, listening to a panel of distinguished speakers presenting their various perspectives on why we need to uphold the objective biological definition of ‘woman’ as a sex, not a subjective ‘gender’ category.

Historian Selina Todd argued the feminist case that women are still in various ways the second sex in academia, hit disproportionately by high tuition fees, often exploited in the lowest-paid part-time jobs, earning less even when they reach the top ranks, and holding only 25 per cent of professorships. Concealing biological sex, she worried, would only cover up this inequality. To those who say gender-critical feminists are ‘on the wrong side of history’ she replied: ‘Who defines history? Whose voices matter?’ And she mentioned that support for her view was ‘whispered’, not often openly expressed.

What concerned Susan Matthews of Roehampton University was how rapidly transgender ideology has been spread into schools and universities, where it is now taught as fact although it has no scientific basis. Teaching these theories, she argued, has led to an epidemic of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria in children who are now encouraged to get sex-change surgery. ‘We do not need to change our bodies to fit our sense of self . . . we are all right as we are.’ And she asked why those who dissent are penalised and silenced in so many ways. Even protesting again men in women’s sport is risking a backlash.

Raquel Rosario Sanchez protested about the way academic freedom has been lost by this ‘institutional capture’. She described her personal subjection to ‘bullying, abuse and intimidation’ for challenging what is now the dominant ideology: that of transgenderism as upheld by Stonewall UK. She complained rightly about ‘compelled speech, enforcement of pronouns’ that do not correspond to the sex of the person referred to. What would be left of ‘Women’s Studies’ if we demolish the objective biological category of women, she asked. Ms Sanchez has been the victim of a witch-hunt by trans-activists at Bristol University who have tried to get her research position and her visa removed simply on account of her beliefs. ‘They are scaring the living daylights out of everyone.’

Allison Bailey, the barrister who chaired the meeting, said similar terror tactics were operating in the legal profession; other barristers had said to her: ‘I can’t speak out on gender-critical issues . . . I am too scared.’ A floor speaker, also from the legal profession, confirmed what she was saying and said that a recent book on civil liberties had to be brought out anonymously, because the authors feared reprisals for simply criticising transgender ideology. Another speaker pointed to an article in the British Medical Journal about the gender experiments of the Tavistock Clinic and how it admitted that many experts had felt unable to comment on this matter. They knew their livelihoods would suffer if they stepped out of line. Speaker after speaker confirmed that there is a reign of terror operating in academia, the medical profession, the law and in politics.

I found myself surrounded by Left-wing women, many of them lesbians, who seemed to regard Section 28 as a crime comparable to slavery or the Peterloo Massacre, yet were nevertheless now speaking out about the dangers of too much power being vested in a tiny, unelected LGBT dictatorship.

I heard them call Stonewall UK ‘a thoroughly sinister institution’ which enforces its agenda by means of ‘a carrot and a stick’ that is silent about ‘systematic harassment of women particularly women of colour’. They spoke of its authoritarianism: ‘If you step out of line for one moment we will pounce on you’. They described the many reprisals they can implement apart from simply throwing around jargon terms such as ‘transphobic’.

A campaign of organised bullying, they said, has cost many people their jobs. They wondered at a Conservative woman, the former Prime Minister, giving a peerage to the retiring chief of Stonewall, Ruth Hunt, who while in the job had allowed Stonewall to misrepresent the law to schools, police and other institutions in order to push through policies that ‘steamroller women’s rights’ – policies these socialist, feminist and lesbian women are determined to resist.

None of the speakers at this meeting said anything hostile about any transitioned individual, but only about belligerent tactics. When a floor speaker introduced herself as a ‘transwidow’ (an invisible group that receives no sympathy, concern or respect) and asked whether there was any prospect of repealing the Gender Recognition Act or removing ‘gender identity’ as a legally protected characteristic, the response was cautious. Allison Bailey said that she believed trans people did need to be protected from discrimination.

But what is ‘discrimination’? Should all their demands be considered rights, and what happens to the rights of everybody else living under this reign of terror? That was my overriding concern as the meeting came to an end. So all credit to Oxford University for agreeing to host this event (which was attended by men too) despite strenuous attempts by trans-activists to ban it and close down similar meetings all over the country. A meeting of WPUK at the Labour conference last month was mobbed, but fortunately this one went ahead peacefully and without a hitch.

A video of the meeting will be available on the website of Woman’s Place UK.

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Julia Gasper
Julia Gasper is an academic specialising in early modern literature. She is a a current member of the English Democrats Party.

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