Kim Thomas was at our London meeting A Woman’s Place is back in town on May 20th. She was impressed.
Every once in a while, if you’re lucky, you have the opportunity to be present at history in the making. Monday night’s meeting of Woman’s Place UK felt like one of those occasions.
Several hundred women – and a sprinkling of men – gathered at a central London venue to hear four brilliant speakers: the young Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy; Oxford academic and historian of the working-class Selina Todd; Maya Forstater, recently sacked from her think tank job for stating a belief in biological facts; and Julie Bindel, a tireless lifelong campaigner for the most marginalised women and girls. There was a great sense among the audience of women coming together to collectively resist the sustained attack on our rights.
Meghan Murphy spoke passionately and eloquently about the importance of authenticity and refusing to collude in the lie that trans women are women – a piece of virtue signalling designed to garner Facebook likes but that no one really believes. Yet nothing about the trans activist movement is progressive – instead the rights of women and girls to their own spaces and boundaries are being overridden. “The wrong side of history is an embarrassing place to be,” she said, pointedly.
The second speaker, Selina Todd, spoke eloquently about the pernicious postmodernist idea that language creates reality and that we bring things into being purely by naming them. It’s a philosophy that negates the materiality of lived experience – and has more in common with neoliberal ideology than left-wing thought. She attacked the retrospective “transing” of women who lived their lives as men, ignoring the facts of women’s oppression that determined their choice. “Woman is not a monolithic identity but is an experience that we are born into and live – and it is that experience that binds us together as feminists.”
Maya Forstater talked about her work in international development and the importance of biological sex in understanding oppression: women, she pointed out, do billions of hours of unpaid care work each day; every year there are 25m unsafe abortions. It is women and girls who are the victims of forced marriage. Yet international agencies insist on using the word “gender” when they mean “sex”.
Julie Bindel, who was greeted with rapturous applause, gave a barnstorming speech, full of wit and humour, including a memorable reference to one well-known left-wing columnist as a “woking-class hero”. She talked about her experience of being bullied, harassed and abused over the past 20 years for her beliefs, including having a rape and death threats yelled at her as she made her way to a Stonewall journalism award. Many feminists had written to say they supported her but were frightened to speak out – and she urged feminists to find the courage to make their voices heard.
It was Bindel who came up with the most memorable line of the evening when, discussing a newspaper’s use of the phrase “her penis” in reference to the rapist Karen White, she quoted an Australian feminist who said: “The only time the phrase ‘her penis’ should be used in a sentence is when a woman has castrated her rapist and is holding his penis up in the air.”
Among the hundreds of people in the audience were some of the leading lights of the women’s resistance – and during the question-and-answer session at the end, we were lucky enough to hear from impromptu experts such as @radfemlawyer, who spoke about defending women’s legal rights, and Helen Saxby of Transgender Trend, who has written a Children’s Rights Impact Assessment for
@Transgendertrd of The Allsorts Trans Toolkit for schools.
We all left the meeting feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to speak out for what we believe in. In the words of Julie Bindel, who left the stage to a standing ovation: “Since when were we a woman’s rights movement who would keep schtum and let a few women take the shit?”