On 21st January, a student news site UCL Pi Media published an article entitled ‘UCL hosting Women’s [sic] Place UK conference sparks concern’. This article has been edited several times.
Pi Media did not attempt to contact either Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) or the UCL Women’s Liberation Special Interest Group (UCLWLSIG) before publishing the piece which contains falsehoods, misrepresentations as well as accusations that we believe to be defamatory.
After criticism on social media for their failure to follow basic journalistic protocols, Pi Media contacted both WPUK and UCLWLSIG to ask for comment.
This was the message WPUK received on 22nd January:
“Hi there, You may have noticed that our student paper published a news report about the concerns raised by staff/students about the conference you’re running at UCL on 1st Feb.
Apologies for not getting in touch sooner but would you like to make a statement or reply from Women’s [sic] Place UK?”
WPUK and UCLWLSIG both sent statements in reply.
On 23rd January, we received a further email:
Many thanks for your statement. We have updated the article with your comments.”
In fact, they had only published this extract:
“WPUK is a campaign committed to upholding women’s sex-based rights as they exist in the law. We are astonished that anyone should be calling to shut down an event which has been organised to mark 50 years since the first UK Women’s Liberation movement conference. We believe this is an event to be celebrated and supported and we thank UCL for their commitment to women’s rights and freedom of expression.”
This falls very short of the right of reply we are due and misrepresents what we actually sent. They have failed to remove the comments we believe to be defamatory.They also only published an extract from the UCLWLSIG statement.
On their website, Pi Media claims to create “insightful” content.
We beg to differ.
Read both statements from WPUK & UCLWLSIG below.
Statement from Woman’s Place UK to Pi Media
“Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) is a campaign committed to upholding women’s sex-based rights as they exist in the law. We also believe that any proposed changes to the law must be subject to public scrutiny and assessed for their impact on all. This is what we are calling for.
We are glad that Pi Media linked to our manifesto which clearly lays out our demands.
We agree with the Government that it is important to uphold the right of people to discuss issues of concern to them free from threat or intimidation.
We also agree with the Equality & Human Rights Commission that universities have an obligation to facilitate freedom of expression.
Unfortunately, women in this country are not being supported in this right, as we made clear in our recent submission to the UN ICCPR.
Pi Media reports, unchallenged, lazy and offensive comparisons of respected academics and campaigners with eugenicists as well as accusations of ‘hate-speech’. Such allegations are offensive, entirely without substance and likely to be defamatory.
They should be withdrawn immediately.
Pi Media also cites a scurrilous statement by Trans Action Oxford which we responded to here. Our response addresses all the false claims that were made by Trans Action Oxford.
It has been read 8,000 times.
We are astonished that anyone should be calling to shut down an event which has been organised to mark 50 years since the first UK Women’s Liberation movement conference. Given the attacks on women’s rights globally, and the fact the UN has accused the UK government of institutional misogyny, we think this conference is both necessary and timely.
We are delighted that over 80 respected legal experts, academics, activists and campaigners have accepted the invitation by UCL Women’s Liberation Special interest Group to celebrate this anniversary and the work of women for women’s rights.
As well as two plenary sessions and five themed discussion panels, there will be 30 workshops covering a range of issues (including the law, organising, media, disability & activism, women’s history, violence against women, intersectional feminism and lesbian visibility).
You can see the full range of conference sessions here
We believe this is an event to be celebrated and supported and we thank UCL for their commitment to women’s rights and freedom of expression.”
Statement from UCL Women’s Liberation SIG to Pi Media
“UCL Women’s Liberation SIG are excited and honoured to be hosting this historic conference marking 50 years since the first Women’s Liberation conference in the UK. As academics and feminists, we are committed to understanding, documenting and challenging sexism in all its forms.
In a world where, in the UK alone, an average of 2 women a week are murdered by their partners; where women expect to receive on average 40% less than men in their retirement; where one in 5 women have been victims of sexual assault; where globally, around 1.5 million fetuses are aborted every year due to female infanticide, and women are victims of FGM, forced marriages, and sex-trafficking, the Women’s Movement still has a lot of work to do. But it also has a lot to celebrate.
This conference will be celebrating the amazing and courageous women who have dedicated their lives to fighting for women’s rights, to protecting the most vulnerable women and girls in society, and to campaigning to end sexism in our legal systems, our education systems and our social practices.
Speakers at the conference include survivors of the sex trade, lesbians, disabled women, women of colour, leading academics, legal experts and experienced activists from the third sector and the labour movement.
We are delighted to work with our third sector partners, WPUK, FiLIA, National Assembly of Women, Southall Black Sisters and the Centre for Women’s Justice to bring academics and activists together. We are thrilled that so many women and men will be coming to UCL to engage with these issues and join the discussion about how we can continue to fight sexism, and we are saddened that some people have chosen to depict this event in a negative light.
The accusations that WPUK are a hate group are shocking and defamatory. Pi Media have offered no evidence for this serious accusation, merely repeating the smears of bloggers who likewise offer no evidence. WPUK has grown since it formed in 2017 to be a key organization in the women’s movement and the SIG could not have organised such a huge conference without their contacts with so many women’s organizations.
Sex is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, and there is nothing hateful about women organizing to defend their rights as a sex class, which is what WPUK and the hundreds of members of the public who have purchased tickets are doing.
We note that the letter you refer to in your article states that those objecting to the Women’s Liberation 2020 conference are concerned that we are not “representing all sides of the debate”. Given the range of titles of the 30+ workshops and panels on the programme, it is not clear what “debate” they are referring to.
This is misleading, and we also find it offensive to suggest that there might be another “side to the debate” in a panel discussion addressing, for example, violence against women and girls.
We find it deeply sexist that a conference on Women’s Liberation is only of interest to Pi Media in terms of coverage of trans issues. This is not the focus of the conference, and we believe women’s rights are worthy of discussion as a significant current global issue.
The Women’s Liberation Conference 2020 is an inclusive event, open to men, women, and those who identify as trans. We hope all attendees will come together with the common aspiration of working to end the historic oppression of women.”
24th January 2020