In Spring 2018 we decided to organise a meeting in Cornwall. As is the case with all our meetings, the panel of speakers was agreed in collaboration with local women who were keen to invite Kellie-Jay Keen (Posie Parker). KJK had been in the news following an investigation by police over her tweets about the CEO of Mermaids who sought ‘surgical gender affirmation’ treatment of her child. It was clear that the police reaction was excessive and part of a pattern of overzealous policing of women’s views.
In May 2018, we became aware of several tweets by KJK that made pejorative comments about Muslim communities. We believed these tweets would contribute to a hostile environment for people from minoritised communities. The views expressed in these tweets are diametrically opposed to our principles and beliefs. We were unable to reorganise the panel and therefore withdrew from the meeting.
WPUK Statement on Posie Parker and Cornwall
We felt it important to distance ourselves from these stated views that conflict with our campaign principles of antiracism and opposition to all forms of discrimination.
We therefore made a statement which was published on our website where it remains as part of our archive.
We stand by our decision and by that statement.
The only other public comment our campaign has made in relation to Kellie-Jay Keen was a message of solidarity with her when her family were being targeted and harassed as a result of her gender critical views.
Woman’s Place UK has not made any further comment on the Cornwall meeting or on Kellie-Jay Keen or her organisation. This is despite persistent and abusive attacks on us in her YouTube films and social media posts, as well as on individuals connected to our campaign. We have consciously chosen not to respond to any of these attacks, preferring to focus our energy on the vital work of winning and defending women’s rights.
The statement we made in May 2018 is periodically called into question and we have been challenged to provide evidence to justify the decision we made. At the time of our statement, the comments made by KJK that caused us to act were circulating widely. We did not feel the need to share them further or draw attention to them. There are many women, new to this movement, who may not be fully aware of them.
Unfortunately, our attempts to draw a line, clarify our own political ground and move on are thwarted by those demanding justification for a decision we made in May 2018.
We are therefore sharing screenshots of the comments that were drawn to our attention at the time. We do this without further judgement or accusation. It is for other people to decide what they think about these comments.
They were sufficient to justify our decision to cut links with KJK and that is what we did.
We have seen nothing to suggest that KJK has changed her mind or her stance. Indeed, many of her subsequent connections, statements and actions have only strengthened our decision not to work with her.
A broad movement like the current movement for women’s rights is made up of groups from across the political spectrum. We do not have to agree with each other on everything. Many of us have pushed differences aside so that we could come together in defence of women’s sex-based rights.
Such a united front has been vital in building a coalition that fully represents women in the UK, and which is now gaining serious traction.
We have always been very clear that, for us, women’s liberation cannot be won by aligning with reactionary or oppressive groups or individuals who would deny women our rights and increase division and injustice.
It is on this basis that we organise, and on this basis that we campaign.
We do not impose this stance on other women. Everyone is free to work with whom they choose and to create their own political alliances. We acknowledge that Kellie-Jay Keen’s platform is very attractive to many women. We support the rights to peaceful assembly and protest, and unequivocally condemn the harassment and intimidation of women meeting to exercise these rights.
Organising on the Left
We know failure to recognise the concerns of women, as well as active mistreatment of women on and by the parts of the political left has led to many becoming estranged, or ostracised, from the socialist and labour movement. Our values remain of the left and progressive, and we still believe that equality, justice and solidarity are worth fighting for.
Feminists built and have sustained the left. Many of the rights that women have today were won by working women’s struggles to organise themselves and others. We refuse to relinquish active engagement in a movement we helped to build, and which has the potential to improve the daily lives of millions of women, men and children.
We will continue to encourage women to self-organise and to build grassroots women’s groups which are welcoming and accessible to all women. We have created a range of resources to help with that and we will be producing more.
We believe that women have a right to self-organise – and that this includes the right to decide whom we organise with.
We believe in freedom of expression – and that this includes the right to criticise and to challenge viewpoints we disagree with.
Racism and women’s rights
Our campaign team includes women of colour and we work with many other women from exploited and oppressed ethnic groups.
Challenging the racism within our society is one of our fundamental principles and we do not want to work with, or promote the work of, others whose analysis and rhetoric on this matter differs so profoundly from our own.
We are working to build a world where the rights of all women are respected and supported, and where women of colour are not discriminated against or abused because of their ethnicity or culture.
We make no apology for holding to this principle.
We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.