Holyrood calls to Westminster

The announcement this week by the Scottish Government that they intend to fully consult with women and carry out a full Equality Impact Assessment into proposals to adopt legal self-identification of ‘gender’ was very welcome news.

The announcement of a review of schools’ guidance to ensure the rights of girls are being upheld was also an important development.

All of this is an acknowledgement that processes so far have failed in transparency, fairness or equality and that women raising concerns were right to do so.

It is testament to the hard graft and determination of self-organised women’s groups and individuals such as Women’s Spaces Scotland, Women and Girls Scotland, Scottish Women, For Women Scotland. They have stepped in to the breach left by publicly funded organisations which have failed to properly represent the women they claim to speak for.

In a properly functioning democracy, it shouldn’t have taken this long for women’s concerns to be heard or responded to. Women should have been included in the initial consultation on plans to amend the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). We should have been part of any and all discussions which led to proposals to amend the law and public policy. The fact that we were not, and the way we have been treated when objecting to the proposals, has exposed an ingrained and widespread misogyny we had thought we had largely left behind.

We were wrong.

We will be watching what happens in Scotland very carefully but we know the women of Scotland will make sure that the promises that have been made are now enacted.

Our attention turns to Westminster.

The chaos around Brexit means that most MPs have very little inclination to think about other matters, but they should. Issues of concern to women will need dealing with whatever happens with Europe, and politicians of every hue would do well to heed the voices of women who feel alienated and ignored by politics.

We will expect any proposed plans to change the GRA to now follow Scotland’s lead. We will accept nothing less than:

  • A full and proper consultation with women’s groups including self-organising groups and a wide range of representation from the third sector
  • A full Equality Impact assessment of any proposals on this or any other law or change in public policy

But our campaign now goes beyond the GRA proposals.

It is clear that the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act are poorly understood and inadequately used. Services designed for women are already unsure about the legitimacy of invoking these exemptions and it is clear that many women are missing out on rights they are entitled to.

We want this put right.

Beyond these exemptions, it is clear that women are poorly served across a range of services and institutions including education, employment, healthcare, the media and the law.

This is why we are now committed to fighting for the implementation of a range of actions that will challenge the oppression and misogyny women face as well as enforcing and enhancing our legal rights.

Our draft manifesto laid out a long list of demands. We will be issuing a final version soon after considering the ideas and suggestions sent to us by supporters.

But the overriding demand is clear:

Women are being let down and Westminster needs to put that right.

WPUK

Read MSP Joan McAlpine’s statement on the Government announcement

Read our submission to the Scottish Government consultation on the GRA

 

 

 

 

The fight by women has just begun and Scotland is at the forefront

The rapid growth of a vibrant movement of women in Scotland has been inspirational, and to see that movement properly represented by incredibly brave politicians moves us beyond words. We recall our Edinburgh meeting held in association with Women’s Spaces in Scotland in February 2018, outside of which transactivist protestors banged pots and pans, in an effort to drown out women’s voices, including those of survivors of sexual abuse. 

We are therefore delighted to publish the statement of Joan McAlpine MSP on the announcement in Holyrood on Reforming the Gender Recognition Act:

 

There is much to welcome in Shirley-Anne Somerville’s statement on reforming the Gender Recognition Act. It is a significant win for the independent grassroots female rights groups who have worked so hard to point out the flaws in the rush towards ‘sex self-identification’.

Women and Girls Scotland, Susan Sinclair of Scottish Women and For Women Scotland should all take credit for campaigning so hard, with no funds at all, to achieve some of these concessions. It was a real David and Goliath struggle when you consider that they were up against professional campaign groups who receive six figure funding packages from government.

It’s very good news that the draft bill will be subject to a full consultation including, crucially, a full Equality Impact Assessment. The ‘partial’ EQIA for the previous consultation was described as “very poor”. In my experience, Equality Impact Assessments are variable in quality. This one needs to be rigorous and look carefully at the impact on women through the protected characteristic of sex.

The EQIA should also look at how the protected characteristics of religion and belief and sexual orientation might be impacted by changes in the law. I am thinking particularly of religious women and lesbian women who wish to exclude people born male from social activities.

I also welcome the government’s decision to replace the LGBT Youth Scotland transgender guidance for schools, which was shown to have a negative impact on the privacy and dignity of girls, as well as the government’s recognition that statistics on sex matters. For too long public authorities have failed to distinguish between sex and gender and this must change. I hope the working group set up to consider this will advise a change in the collection of crime statistics according to sex self-identification. It should be possible for people to choose a gender marker in addition to biological sex.

I continue to oppose the proposal that will allow any man to identify as a female, without the current medical diagnosis, and change the sex on their birth certificate. Most people identifying as ‘transwomen’ still have male genitals. I asked the Cabinet Secretary if this would mean that someone with a history of violence against women could change sex and she seemed to indicate that he could. I think most women will find this offensive.

The GRA gives such people privacy protections. While the Cabinet Secretary pointed out that disclosure certificates would legally oblige someone who committed a crime under a previous gender identity to reveal this, that is only in certain circumstances, such as applying for work. Such a person could still present themselves as female in many other aspects of life.

The Cabinet Secretary pointed out that gender recognition has been around since 2005 and did not require medical treatment. This is quite correct, but it was intended for transsexuals, which is what the European Court of Human Rights ruling of 2002 on which it was based actually spelled out. It did not insist on hormones or surgery because it was argued that some people may not be able to do that for health reasons. The gatekeeping of a medical diagnoses was and is an appropriate safeguard. The Cabinet Secretary talked about the penalties for someone falsely declaring themselves transgender. But since we no longer have any definition of transgender, as there is no diagnosis or evaluation process, I cannot see how this would work.

I am pleased the Cabinet Secretary emphasised that the Equality Act 2010 Single Sex Exemptions for women would remain in place. These exemptions are wide ranging. However, her emphasis on this was very different from the message being put out by the government’s third sector Equality partners. Scottish Trans Alliance, The Equality Network and their supporters have repeatedly said that transwomen can access single sex spaces already, and the exemptions are extremely limited. The TIE letter, which was widely publicised, also made this erroneous claim. This is wrong as many lawyers have pointed out. I hope they will now heed the Cabinet Secretary’s statement that women have a legal right to their own space and services. This is not just to ensure safety, but privacy, dignity and personal choice.

Unfortunately, because of a long running misinformation campaign, most organisations do not understand single sex exemptions and do not enforce them, hence the ludicrous guidance in Glasgow about allowing cross-dressing males to access female classes and changing rooms. I asked the Cabinet Secretary to review how the Equality Act works in Scotland and to issue guidance. She pointed out it is reserved, which is quite right. But there is no reason why the government cannot review how it operates to ensure women’s sex-based rights are honoured. I intend to follow up on this point in writing.

I hope the consultation examines the term “international best practice”. This term has been defined by trans activists, not women. Who decides best practice? Some of the countries that have introduced self-ID do not have strong women’s movements or women’s rights.  For example, Malta and Argentina have very restricted access to abortions. Ireland has extensive opt-outs from self-ID on the basis of sex. All this needs to be forensically examined. What we do know is that “internationally” women are only now fighting back against creeping sex self-identification caused by well-funded lobby groups capturing policy at high levels. The fight against this by women has just begun and Scotland is at the forefront.

Feminists believe gender is a social construct, not an inner feeling in one’s head. People should be able to express their gender in any way they wish, but their biological sex is immutable and important for all sorts of things, not least healthcare. But there is a more fundamental reason still why women have concerns. Gender identity presumes a set of stereotypes linked to sex, the idea of ‘boy things’ and ‘girl things’, which is not progressive.

Women cannot identify out of FGM or maternal mortality or the gender pay gap. Neither are we defined by our sex. One of the strengths of feminism since the 1960s has been women’s ability to organise as a sex class by excluding men. That could be everything from consciousness raising, assertiveness training, to political or cultural activity. Including males in these groups can change the dynamic as they have been socialised in a different way, have different experiences and, to put it bluntly, they can dominate. That does not necessarily change if they identify as female.

If women wish to welcome trans-identifying males into these circles then that is, of course, fine. But they must also have a right to exclude them if they wish. Women are socialised to be passive, accommodating and nice. They are pressurised to do things that make them feel uncomfortable. Feminism is about telling women to be assertive and stand up for themselves.

They should not be ‘gaslighted’ into putting male feelings before female rights.

And they should certainly not be pressurised into believing that a man who says he is a woman is somehow more marginalised than women themselves.

That just turns oppression on its head.

Joan McAlpine MSP

 

WPUK share the concerns of Joan McAlpine MSP that single-sex exemptions are underused and inadequately understood and that ‘international best practice’ has been used in an effort around the world to introduce legislation without adequate scrutiny .

We are pleased to hear the Scottish Government commitment to proper scrutiny and consultation. As McAlpine says, “it is a significant win for the unfunded independent grassroots female rights groups”.

Scottish women made this happen and all major political parties should pay attention to the strength of feeling amongst women voters.

Find out more about the grassroots female rights groups in Scotland:

Women and Girls Scotland

For Women Scotland

Scottish Women

Read the WPUK submission to on the Scottish GRA Consultation

 

Press coverage of 1970s equality laws

We have pulled together a second Twitter thread created by Lisa Mackenzie, a feminist and independent policy analyst. This thread summarises some of the press coverage surrounding the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

__________________________

Last month, I spent a couple of hours in the Women’s Library at the London School of Economics, looking through their archival material on both the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

IMG_0877First up, a column from The Times on 4 November 1968. It anticipates a conference that was to take place the following week in Church House, Westminster. “Its most controversial and exciting feature will be a discussion panel of which the chief member will be Barbara Castle.”

1968 was “both Human Rights Year and the fiftieth anniversary of The Vote, as well as the year in which women came out on strike for better pay”.

The article notes one of the objectives for the year was “elimination in Great Britain of all forms of discrimination against women”.

It ends saying “It is perhaps too much to hope that it will be the conference to end all such conferences but it could be the first united step on the road towards the ending of hostilities that none of us want.”

86DE4AD6-1D33-4256-847E-0FC48F0DF80D

Next a piece from The Guardian on 29 November 1973 framed around the Conservative Government’s consultative document containing proposals for ending discrimination against women (that would become the Sex Discrimination Act 1975).

 

Lindsay Mackie interviewed two women “about the way in which the liberation movement has affected their work and life style”.

She interviews 25 year old Linda from North London.

 

 

“I used to be full of middle class politeness, now I just say fuck it. I just won’t talk to men who are blatantly sexist, what’s the point?”

I like Linda.

 

IMG_0881

A piece in The Financial Times on 3 November 1973 considers the Consumer Credit Bill under which “discrimination on grounds of sex or race in the granting of consumer credit will be forbidden”.

The article states that “Sir Geoffrey Howe, Minister for Consumer Affairs, particularly had in mind in drafting this clause a greater measure of justice for women. The Government feels that women are often unjustifiably refused loans merely because of their sex.”

 

IMG_0882A huge piece of idiocy?

Jumping back a couple of months, The Financial Times reports (on 26 September 1973) that Enoch Powell attacked the Anti Discrimination Bill (that would become the SDA 1975) describing plans to set up an equal opportunities commission as “a huge piece of idiocy”.

 

IMG_0883

And now to a Guardian editorial on 18 September 1973 about the Conservative Government’s proposals to ban sex discrimination which they predicted that “the leaders of the Women’s Liberation movement will not like”.

The editorial notes that there were three Cabinet Ministers present at the press conference launching the green paper noting that “the Government’s popularity among women voters has slumped with the rise in the cost of living, particularly the jump in food prices”.

The Guardian sees that political reasoning aside, there is “an important social reason why a bill against sex discrimination is needed”.

Its view is that the aims of the Equal Pay Act 1970 cannot be achieved without tackling sex discrimination.

IMG_0884

 

Single sex exceptions

The news story on the same day mentions planned single sex exceptions. “It gives as examples foster mothers, jobs which demand authenticity – such as acting – institutions of single sex such as convents and places where communal living might require a single sex, such as ships.”

 

 

IMG_0885

An article in The Financial Times (18 September 1973) carries a photo of the three Cabinet Ministers who attended the press conference launching the green paper: Maurice Macmillan (Employment Secretary), Margaret Thatcher (Education Secretary) and Robert Carr (Home Secretary).

 

The FT also carries a piece on the same day entitled “What ‘women’s equality’ should mean”. Again, the writer expresses scepticism that “proponents of women’s liberation” will be happy with the proposals “for it is by no means a radical document”.

 

IMG_0886In a nod to what we may now call intersectional discrimination, the article quotes Ms Sonia Pressman Fuentes who says “minority group women may not know whether they are being discriminated against because of their race, national origin, sex or a combination of these reasons.”

 

(The FT feels the need to explain the use of ‘Ms’ here. “For the uninitiated. ‘Ms’ is the title adopted by ‘liberated’ women who will not accept ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’.”)

Another mention of the proposed single sex exceptions.

The writer also notes: “The trouble is that there is no serious provision for overcoming the notorious reluctance of many trade unions to end the sex discrimination within their ranks.”

 

The writer concludes stating his support for the Government’s willingness to retain single sex schools. To have sought to abolish single sex schools would have been “a statist, authoritarian approach”.

IMG_0889

Feminist Propaganda

He ends the piece stating his concerns about the impact of both parents working full-time (“the next generation will show up badly for it…the literature on maternal deprivation is fairly conclusive”). He is worried women may have been “led by feminist propaganda”.

Sigh.

 

For anyone who is interested, these are the archives I viewed:

Equal Pay Bill

Sex Discrimination Act

@lnmackenzie1

 If you enjoyed this thread, read Lisa’s earlier thread on about the origins of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975

 

Stand up, speak out: Julie Bindel

Julie Bindel is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and researcher active in the global campaign to end violence towards women and children since 1979. She is talking here at the 22nd meeting of Woman’s Place UK.

Watch the film of Julie speaking at #WPUKLondon

17F28786-3055-4413-9C85-37A56FA57B08

I want to first give a big shout out to Woman’s Place, one of the most principled feminist organisations anywhere.

And my next point is about the female penis. Last year I was in Australia doing a book tour. So there were feminists were at the book tour and those Australian feminists say it as it is.

We were complaining about the liberal press and in particular one feature in one particular liberal broadsheet. They were reporting on the case of Karen White, the sex offender, child abuser, natal man who suggested to the prison service that he was in fact a transwoman and ended up assaulting, sexually assaulting, women in prison. These are the most vulnerable, assaulted women on the planet. One line stood out for me: “Her erect penis was visible above her tights.” And this Australian full-on lesbian turned to me and said, “The only time that her penis should be used in a sentence is when a woman has castrated her rapist and she’s holding it up.”

So I want to start a brief whistle-stop tour of my experience with the “trans Taliban”. It was in 2003, when I wrote my first article and the year before the Gender Recognition Act.

In 2003 I saw a small report in a tabloid newspaper about a teacher who had left her primary school as Miss, and was returning the following term as Mr, having gone through sex reassignment surgery. The press said she had had a sex-change and I realised I had not read anything in the British press about the misdiagnosis or the madness of transgenderism. I decided, having found absolutely nothing in the press about it to date, to write a feature on the diagnosis of transsexuality, and how misogynistic psychiatrists in the 1950s had come up with the notion of being “trapped in the wrong body”.

They were, as we know, anti-gay and anti-lesbian and totally reliant on sex stereotypes
In the piece I quoted a forensic psychiatrist called Fiona Mason, who I knew to be a feminist and who was expert on the effects of sexual violence on women and girls. She said:

‘I can’t imagine assessing anyone suffering from a serious disorder in under three hours. It can take three years to assess patients with complex problems. The trouble with some private clinics is that the patients are just given hormones after an hour-long appointment, which can have an irreversible effect on the body.”

I quoted the best known psychiatrist for diagnosing transsexuality, Russell Reid, who some years later would end up being forced to stop practising by the General Medical Council after it was discovered that he took approximately 45 minutes to diagnose someone as transsexual, before referring them for surgery and hormones. Many of his former patients regretted going through sex change surgery, including my friend Claudia, a great ally, who was one of his victims back in the 1980s.

And here I have to say that we cannot possibly ignore the fact that many natal males who live as the opposite sex – with hormones and surgery – are also victims of this hideous medical malpractice based on women’s oppression. Some suffer through this, and I hate hearing language used to demean people who’ve been through this – who are, to some degree, victims of patriarchy.

I wrote:

“In 2000 Reid was involved in controversy over the condition known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), where sufferers can experience a desperate urge to rid themselves of a limb. Reid was one of the psychiatrists who referred two patients with BDD to a surgeon for leg amputations. ‘When I first heard of people wanting amputations it seemed bizarre in the extreme,’ he said ‘but then I thought, “I see transsexuals and they want healthy parts of their body removed in order to adjust to their idealised body image”, and so I think that was the connection for me. I saw that people wanted to have their limbs off with equally as much degree of obsession and need.”

In the 2003 piece I also mentioned children. I wrote:

“Particularly disturbing is the apparent impunity with which children are diagnosed with ‘gender identity disorder’. Mermaids, a support group for children and teenagers with GID, has seen a dramatic increase in enquiries since it opened its doors in 1993. Children as young as 14 are receiving sex-change treatment, including being prescribed drugs to block the onset of puberty. Transsexualism is the only psychiatric or medical condition where the patients can, to all intents and purposes, diagnose themselves.”

The next year I left my job in academic research to do journalism full time and was asked to write a couple of columns for the Guardian weekend magazine. I had heard about the hellish legal case that Vancouver Rape Relief had been going through for 10 years that had recently concluded in their favour. A transsexual male called Kimberley Nixon had taken out a case against this absolutely superb organisation and on a “human rights” ticket, claiming to have been discriminated against because he wasn’t being invited to counsel rape victims because he had decided that he was a woman.

It was clearly a setup because the day after it was politely explained to him that he could not play this role, the human rights organisation in British Columbia issued proceedings against Vancouver Rape Relief.

So when I wrote this column I was angry and I went berserk about the diagnosis of transsexualism, male entitlement and the sex stereotypes that transsexuality promotes. It was shared worldwide amongst trans activists on personal blogs and list serves. It was before Facebook and Twitter. A forum, Gingerbeer, which described itself as an online social group for lesbians to chat and share information in the UK, had a policy of including transsexual males who identified as lesbians.

My article was a hot topic of discussion for at least a year. I could see, on visiting the site that the trans lobby had plans to come after the feminists. The Guardian received 200 letters of complaint about the column and the reader’s editor wrote his own weekly column on the issue saying that it was wrong to have published it. My editor, Katharine Viner, defended both me and her decision to publish it.

The gay press began to vilify me. I received hate mail and death threats on a weekly basis from all sorts of quarters. It was also the misogynistic gay male movement that ran the gay press. This harassment culminated in 2008 in a 200-strong demonstration against me outside the Victoria and Albert Museum where Stonewall was holding its annual awards ceremony. I had been nominated for journalist of the year, and quite frankly had it not been for the fact that I found out about the nomination via Pink News – or Penis News – in a “shock, horror – vile transphobe Bindel is up for an award” I would have not even attended the event, being no fan of Stonewall.

I happened to be escorted from the tube to the venue by Brian Padick, now a Lib Dem peer but a whistle-blowing police officer, past the 200-strong crowd calling for my blood, death, rape, whatever.

I didn’t win. But I had already found out from one of the judges who was appalled at what had happened that I was a clear winner, but that they did not dare give me the award in case the trans-activists stormed the museum. So instead it was given to a heterosexual agony aunt who had never been a journalist. A fair alternative, no?

That demonstration galvanised the transgender movement in the UK. From then on, everywhere I went to speak about violence against women and girls, there would be some kind of protest, picket, or attempt to disinvite me. Not me speaking about transgender issues – though I did try and on occasion succeeded in having a discussion with transpeople who wanted a reasonable conversation.

In 2009, I was given the honour of being the very first individual to be officially no platformed by the National Union of students alongside five fascist groups. The motion at the conference that decided my ban contained the sentence, “Julie Bindel is vile”. My name was misspelled – who says we are not paying for a decent education.

In 2010 I accepted an invitation to speak at an event called “Queer Question Time” at a notorious “queer” venue called the Vauxhall Tavern in London. There I was. Dozens of them turned up outside screaming and shouting that I was a Nazi, a bigot, a fascist, etc, etc. That I was Hitler (it’s always Hitler, never Pol Pot. None of your mid-range dictators ever get a look in).  And then they came into the venue itself, shouted and heckled all the way through my presentations, with one trans activist throwing an object at me on stage whilst screaming in my face. I thought – I’m just walking out. The videos can be found on YouTube.

As I walked out there was a queue of gay men saying they agreed with me and I was right to speak up.

It happened outside of the UK also, such as when Janice Raymond, heroic feminist and author of the 1979 classic The Transsexual Empire and myself spoke at a conference in Denmark in 2011 about the abuse of women and girls in the global sex trade. The pro-prostitution lobby, which is indivisible from the trans-Taliban, turned up at the event.

Outside of the venue they screamed and shouted about how bigoted, violent and dangerous we were, and proceeded to bang on the windows whilst a sex trade survivor was speaking about being pimped age 15.

You know if you took the words “actual” and “literal” out of their rhetoric there wouldn’t be much left.

In 2014 I did a debate at Essex University on pornography organised by academics, so the NUS was not involved.

It was with Jerry Barnett, producer of some of the most vile and racist pornography – including a parody of the taxi-drive rapist John Worboys.

I was screamed at as a fascist who was “causing actual, literal harm to transgender students” and biphobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, homophobic and not a real lesbian.

He got a free pass. That’s when I started to use the word Orwellian.

Probably their lowest point was when they attempted to get me disinvited from a talk I had been asked to do in 2017 at the Salford Working Class Library, the only venue of its kind in the country, on growing up a working-class lesbian in the north-east of England. They hounded and harassed the volunteers at the library, blocked their phone line, targeted all of their sponsors and supporters, tried very hard to get their funding pulled, and when they failed, turned up on the day to scream and shout. Leftist poster-boy Owen Jones was asked politely to give support to the library and denounce the bullies, but he declined. The brilliant Lucy Masoud has named him Talcum X. Faux working class, or rather: woking class.

The Working Class Library, because it is run by brave and principled people, did not for one second consider cancelling the event or replacing it with another speaker.

Which leads me to my key point. We saw this coming a long time ago. Those very few women you could count on one hand, with high profiles in the women’s movement, warned of this.

Some of you were not involved because you are too young or because of circumstances. But you are all here now. And that that, in and of itself, is a brave position.

I mean, I heard about Nina Power. This is someone who at the time went along with “transwomen are women” and signed a letter denouncing some of us.  Now she is being attacked for, I quote, “uncritically attended a Woman’s Place meeting”.

During the time I was being publicly and visibly harassed and abused, aside from my brilliant and close circle of friends, most people kept their heads down. I would get emails from feminist after feminist telling me they agreed with what I had said. They shared my position, but of course dared not say anything because they would come in for the same treatment as me.

I would then get the liberals telling me, an out lesbian since 1977, that they could not possibly support my position against transgender ideology, because the trans-rights movement, as they saw it, was exactly the same as the lesbian and gay liberation movement back in the 1970s. They refused to accept that this was a men’s rights movement, underpinned by the most pernicious misogyny, and supported by men who could scream “bigot, transphobe” and the likes at me and still be seen on the side of the progressives.

And then there were the free-speech warriors who told me that although they personally despised my transphobia, they defended my right to say it.

There were good people such as Mary Beard, until she saw the light. And then Peter Tatchell.

This deeply offended me. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party member of Parliament for Brighton Paviliongave an interview to Penis News in which she expressed dismay at my bigoted transphobic beliefs.

And then there were the women’s organisations.

Fawcett Society published its report on the organisation’s position on “gender” – meaning transgenderism – in order to look like good girls and cover their backs. They used me as an example of feminist transphobia that they disapproved of, quoting from a report in Penis News – not something I had actually said – that was as pernicious as it was inaccurate. I complained, and the reference was removed.

When I hear women and men say to me that they couldn’t possibly risk going through what we have been through, I tell them that the purpose of the abuse against those of us who have spoken out.

It is to act as a warning. I wouldn’t have chosen to be in that position. But I am.

Since when were we ever a women’s liberation movement that decided to keep shtum and let a few other women take the shit?

It’s not about me. It’s about 20-year old women at university or on the estates – facing being abused raped, their drinks spiked, denigrated. We all have a duty – moral, ethical and political to stand up.

Since when did we capitulate in case we were sacked or in case we were thought of as nasty women? Yes, some women have more to lose than others. If they lose their job, they are in trouble and might not be able to feed their kids. So we feed their kids, we do what women throughout history have done, during the time in the 1970s and 1980s when our refuges were run by volunteers who had to have a whip round to buy the food to feed the women escaping violent men.

But they can’t sack everyone. The most reasonable people – someone like Nina Power – are being called fascists. This is the unreality.

So we do what feminists have done in countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia where they have no rights.

I have just come back from Uganda, where there is a 14-year prison sentence for same-sex encounters. It is much worse for women where lesbians are punishment raped, rejected by their families, live on the streets, and often pimped into prostitution, for being lesbians. What do they do?

They don’t go around saying, “I’m too frightened to speak out”. Uganda has the most vibrant lesbian feminist movement I know in the in global south. If they lose jobs then have to go to other women and say feed me. If we have to do that, we do that.

We can’t sit at the comfort of a computer screen.

Speak up.

Stop doing that anonymous thing. Stop saying, “I can’t say this.”

Yes you can.

When I was on the way to the airport leaving Uganda I thought I’m going to have the conversation on the trans issue.

I spoke with one fantastic lesbian activist. And she said, “You know that meeting we had with 50 lesbians. meeting 50 lesbians?”

Yeah.

“Well do you know why I nipped out for 10 minutes?”

No.

“Well there were four transwomen demanding to come in and we were all telling our coming out stories and you were interviewing everyone. So I said to them: ‘I know you hate me. I know you’re going to kick up a fuss. But go away. There are loads of transgendered places for you to go. Loads of LGBT places for you to go. ’This is a women only space.’”

And she said she was raised with nine brothers and she just wasn’t having it.

So let’s just not have it.

Julie Bindel

20th May 2019

@bindelj

 

 

 

 

 

Sex, gender & development: Maya Forstater

Maya Forstater is an independent researcher, writer and advisor working on the business of sustainable development. She has worked with a large number of organisations, including the New Economics Foundation, UNICEF and the Center for Global Development. This is the text of her speech for #WPUKLondon on 20th May 2019

Her Crowd Justice fundraiser can be found at https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/lost-job-speaking-out/

Watch the film of Maya speaking at #WPUKLondon

 

1CD71115-DB32-4BE1-99BD-34BD319D8D46.jpeg
Picture by Lily Maynard

My name is Maya Forstater. I lost my job working for an international development think tank for stating a gender critical viewpoint, and I am taking the organisation I worked for to employment tribunal.

A couple of Sundays ago I had the most momentous day, sitting on sofa in my pyjamas. I watched the crowdfunder that I had launched to support my legal case rise faster than I could have hoped. It raised over £60,000 in three days in mainly small donations including, I am sure, from many people in this room, as well as support from people such as Martina Navratilova, Sharron Davies and Tanni-Grey Thompson and people who know me in real life.

I am grateful for all of your support, which has allowed me to take the legal case forward, but I think, perhaps more importantly the strength of the response showed just how much support there is for making the law work for women on issue. The message that the success of the crowdfunder sent to me and to everyone watching it was “This matters”. “We are not going to shut up”. “And we are not alone.”

I am not going to talk about my case that tonight. What I am going to talk about is about how the issues about sex and gender relate to international development. This is based on a blogpost which I wrote (and drafts of which were part of what I was investigated for at work).

By International Development I mean government-to-government cooperation: aid, but also beyond aid: trade, diplomacy, human rights, advocacy for open government and democracy, migration and even international tax rules (which is what I worked on in my day job). It concerns the policies of the UK government and other rich countries, and also institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, and charities like Action Aid and Oxfam, and human rights orgs like Amnesty.

Increasingly all of these organisations are all thinking more and more about ‘gender’ in relation to international development. And by gender they mean sex

The Sustainable Development Goals have specific goals on gender – violence against women and girls, reproductive healthcare & economic.

By gender, they mean sex.

It is used as a polite synonym and also to encompass the expectations and constraints that societies impose on people because of their sex.

OXFAM just came out with a document calling for ‘feminist aid policies’ which highlights the reasons why ‘gender’ is recognised as such a critical issue in development:

  • At current rates of progress, it will take 202 years to close the ‘global economic gender gap’ (and by gender they mean sex).
  • More than half of the world’s women are legally restricted from working in certain sectors because of their gender (and by gender they mean sex).
  • It is estimated that 650 million women and girls worldwide were married before the age of 18, many of them facing violence and other severe violations of their rights.
  • At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation.
  • Thirty-five percent of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • Every day women do 16.4 billion hours of unpaid care work – at least twice as much, and in some settings ten times as much, as men.
  • Each year worldwide more than 200 million women want to avoid pregnancy but do not use modern contraception,
  • 25 million unsafe abortions take place.
  • Globally more than 130 million school-aged girls do not attend primary or secondary school.

None of this is to do with gender identity. These are things that happen to women and girls because of the way that society treats people because of their sex.

Organisations concerned with international development and human rights would struggle to articulate their goals, policies and research without a word to denote female people.

But as we know it is increasingly argued across Europe and North America, and by global elites that gender identity should overwrite sex as a legal and practical category.

Oxfam’s feminist aid document barely mentions the word ‘sex’, and I do not think this is accidental. Organisations working on gender and development are becoming coy about saying that by ‘women’ they mean, and have always meant, the female sex. They know it is controversial and few are willing to stand up for the biological definition of women, or even to hold open a space for clear, calm discussion.

Many influential funders such as George Soros’s Open Society Foundation foundation and international civil society organisations such as Amnesty International are calling for governments to allow people to change their legal sex at will, and to allow people to access single sex spaces of the opposite sex based on their gender identity. But none have promoted analysis or debate about how this would impact women and girls.

Others are just staying quiet – continuing to work on issues that affect women and girls and continuing to  say gender when they mean sex – and hoping that no one asks them to be clear.

When I raise this issue with colleagues in development, including those who work on gender issues, many say it isn’t a big deal. Debates on sex versus gender are toxic and controversial: what does it matter if they are not clear and explicit about the difference between ideas about gender identity and the reality of sex based oppression of women and girls? Where does it sit on the list of priorities of things that organisations should be concerned about, compared to big issues like climate change, humanitarian emergencies, corruption, economic development?

I think it matters.

Development at its heart is about organisations doing their job.

Countries become richer and people become better off  when there are more organisations, doing more complex jobs, better. And where people can influence the decisions which affect their lives. In other words; where organisations are accountable:

  • Schools teaching kids.
  • Universities building higher knowledge
  • Doctors and medics treating people
  • Governments and the firms they contract build infrastructure
  • Businesses investing providing products that people want and need, following rules
  • Governments collecting taxes, setting rules, delivering services.
  • Media reporting the truth

It requires ordinary people being able to hold these institutions to account.

If we can’t name things, and categorise them, and collect data. And speak the truth we can’t do this. And being able to name the difference between men and women is pretty fundamental.

If we can’t name basic truths it corrupts the heart of our organisations.

There are also specific reasons for international development organisations to find the courage and integrity to be clear about the difference between sex and gender identity.

Thinking about gender identity in international development and human rights organisations is often tied in with sexuality.

This reflects the fact that abuse and discrimination relating to transgender identity can be, in practice, an expression of homophobia. International development organisations are working to address the oppression and vulnerability of people based on what they call “SOGI” (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

Seventy-two states continue to criminalise same-sex sexual activity In some cultures gay men can be stereotyped as feminine, or as ‘failed men’; reduced to the status of women. In some cultures, men who have sex with men may get some acceptance if they adopt a feminine ‘third gender’ identity such as the hijras in South Asia.

But my understanding (and I’m not an expert) is that these identities are not akin to the idea coming out of elite Northern universities and debates in London and Washington which say that we must accept that “transwomen are women”.

When I talk to people working with these trans communities, in areas such as HIV and human rights, they say it makes sense to think about different groups, not to lump together the issues facing transsexual males with the issues facing women.

It is not at all clear that the way to address the very real problem of discrimination and violence against transgender people is to erasing the category of biological sex .

Human rights protections for people who are transgender do not depend on accepting the belief that men can become women. But rather to protect transgender status as a legal characteristic with its own protections from harassment and discrimination.

Secondly, this matters for international institutions in their work on gender (by which they mean sex), and in their own institutional cultures.

Development organisations are trying to shift from having headquarters in rich countries developing policy, and staff and partners in developing countries to implement it.

They are trying to turn that upside down – to support people to have power, control and agency.

These organisations already know they have hierarchy problems – white men at the top, diverse women at the bottom, and yet, in the name of equality and diversity, they are reinforcing this power dynamic by adopting the language and ideas of genderism.

This is not coming from the grassroots. It comes elite Northern Universities and it is being promoted as something which ordinary women must accept with “no debate”. I don’t think this is compatible with the idea of listening to women and respecting their agency. And I think it prevents us talking about and understanding structures of power.

It is polite to refer to people by the name and pronouns they request, and to treat everyone with dignity and respect. But inclusion does not demand that we forget about the power dynamics between men and women in society, or fail to notice when women are being told to be quiet and to be kind to protect the feelings, desires and status of male people.

Organisations, which say they are for participation and for giving power to ordinary citizens should pay attention to the upswell of grassroots, ordinary women standing up for the idea that sex matters, in the UK and around the world.

Human beings are a single species, and women and men exist around the world. The answer to these questions can not be the pragmatic one that some women are women because of their sex, and some are not. Development organisations think about women in developing countries are really talking about sex;  defined by biology, but at headquarters they define women as an identity based on womanly feelings.

Amnesty International for example recognise and promote the importance of single sex toilets in refugee camps. Yet at the same time it argues that allowing male people to self-identify into women’s spaces would pose no problem for women and girls in the UK.

So I argued in my blog  post: Human rights protections and public policies are needed both for women and girls, and for transgender people, whatever their sex. In order to do this we need to be able to talk clearly and openly.

I set out five principles to hold open a space for dialogue, debate and evidence on this in international development (adapting and borrowing from Women’s Place UK:

  1. Sex and gender identity are not the same. Be clear about what we mean.
  2. There should be open and evidence-based discussionon how potential policy changes will affect women’s rights, single-sex spaces, and safeguarding.
  3. Women and women’s organisations should be involved in policy debates. The human rights of transgender males should be protected, but it should not be assumed that the best or only way to do this is by undermining women’s privacy, dignity and safety.
  4. Data matters. Statistics on crime, employment, pay and health should continue to be categorised by sex. Information on gender identity may also be collected, but they shouldn’t be confused.
  5. People who express concern about impacts on women’s rights and women’s spaces should not be dismissed as hateful or bigots.

One of the things I said in the article was that you shouldn’t have to be brave to talk about this.

The more people who stand up and talk about it, the easier it is for the next people.

I only began to tweet and talk about it after reading and listening to so many people here.

And I thought because I worked at a think tank that does not take institutional positions and that supports academic freedom of speech I could talk about it.

But it turned out I was wrong. I don’t want this to be a cautionary tale, and I hope that what I am doing in taking the organisation I worked for to tribunal it will help to enable a whole lot of people to be a bit braver.

If I win my case will give some legal protection. But if more people speak up it becomes easier for others to speak up. If each of us speak up within our organisations, our professions and our communities we can turn this around.

___________________________________________

Post script: in the Q&A portion of the event a question was raised “Should women work ever work with the right?” This is the gist of what I said, and what I think (taking the liberty to polish it into what I wish I had said better).

The idea that sex exists is like the idea that gravity exists. It will be shared by people across the political spectrum. Women are adult human females, they exist across the political spectrum, and as feminists I think we should be concerned for all women. I try to follow the Mumsnet motto that we don’t throw any woman under the bus.

Women should talk to and work with whoever they feel like! I think that people need to make their own decisions about who they will work with and how. We all have different tactics and beliefs, and we don’t need to agree on everything to work together on some things.

This fight is going to take allsorts; we need to engage with people across the political spectrum, and with people who are not engaged in party politics. Many women feel politically homeless right now. We need the academics and the activists, we need the t-shirts, and the billboards. We need the carefully argued articles, we need the legal cases. We need people who can be talk seriously and carefully and we need the stunts and laughter. We need the women talking this through on Mumsnet, and in local groups, who are getting brave enough to speak up.

I think we can be clear about the difference between defending the definition of women based on sex, while rejecting the idea that gendered stereotypes are an inherent part of womanhood, and those conservative groups for whom ‘men are men’ and ‘women are women’ means upholding patriarchal ideals of masculinity and femininity. We can draw a bright line between wanting to give women more control and wanting to control women.

The principle that I am standing up for is the need for respectful, serious evidence-based democratic debate and disagreement on difficult issues– we need to hold open a middle ground for that.

Maya Forstater

20th May 2019

@MForstater

Thank you to Lily Maynard for the pictures

 

 

 

Authenticity & empathy: Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010, is the founder and editor Feminist Current, Canada’s leading feminist website and has published work in numerous national and international publications.

This is the text of the speech she gave at the 22nd meeting of Woman’s Place UK.

316EBE04-4F3A-4315-A822-992E151670B5
Picture by Lily Maynard

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about authenticity lately. We’re currently living in a culture wherein authenticity has been traded in for fakery. We support and reward virtue signalling and punish those who are real, those who tell the truth, those with integrity, those who insist on making political arguments based on critical thinking and what is right, rational, and ethical, instead of based on what is politically correct or popular.

I have a rather overzealous commitment to authenticity, which I think has played a sizable role in my insistence on pushing back against gender identity ideology and legislation. I know I have friends, or acquaintances, or friends of friends, or random internet followers with self righteous opinions who think maybe I should just back off of this. Or who claim I’m being ‘mean’ or unempathetic, because I continue to operate in reality rather than the fantasy land we’re told is the new normal, wherein black is white, up is down, and men are women.

But I see no empathy for women and girls on the part of trans activists, that is to say, those pushing gender identity ideology and legislation. What I see is bullying, threats, ostracization, and a misogynist backlash against the feminist movement and much of the work it’s accomplished over years.

I see no empathy for women who are now being forced to compete against male athletes in sport, essentially rendering women’s sport nonexistant, as they can no longer compete on fair ground, if forced to compete against men. I see no empathy for the female athletes speaking out against this reprehensible trend —  instead they’re being smeared and threatened. I see no empathy for the lesbians being bullied right out of their own events and communities, as the LGBTQxyz+++ whatever movement does nothing to support them, and in fact seems instead to support the men pushing them around and hurling verbal abuse at them, simply for asserting that lesbians are females who are attracted to other females, not heterosexual men interested in playing around with lipstick.

We held an event in Vancouver earlier this month, addressing the issue of gender identity and kids, and our venue — the Croatian Cultural Centre — received so many threats they had to file a police report, hire their own security, and bring in the Vancouver Police Department to keep protesters off the property. They, for once, didn’t blame us — women, feminists — for the threats of violence sent their way, and rather asked, with disbelief, how it was us the trans activists were accusing of being ‘hateful’, while simultaneously verbally abusing and threatening violence against the venue’s staff.

Somewhere between 150 and 200 protesters showed up, and stood outside with signs saying things like, “Support trans youth”, “Love and Solidarity”, “Love trans kids”, “be careful who you hate, it might be someone you love” and “love wins.”

All this branding around “love” has been incredibly successful, of course. We — women fighting for women’s rights, people fighting for the truth, those of us who insist on acknowledging that biology is real, that females and males are real things, and that, no, there is no such thing as a “female penis” —have been painted as hateful, intolerant, and bigoted, despite the fact that we are the only ones engaging (or trying to engage in) respectful, civil, rational debate and discussion, and being shut down over and over again.

Despite the fact that WE are the ones concerned about male violence against women and how gender identity ideology and legislation will hurt women, as well as kids, who are now being sent down a path towards hormones and surgery that will destroy their bodies permanently, simply because they don’t conform to sexist gender stereotypes, it is trans activists who have positioned themselves as caring and politically correct, and us as cruel and intolerant.

As I was leaving the venue after that event, the stragglers screamed at me that I had blood on my hands. Which of course I do not, and which, of course, is incredibly ironic considering how many times I’ve been told I should be murdered on account of my belief that you can’t change sex, and that it is not possible to be ‘born in the wrong body.’

I see no empathy in trans activism for the girls who will lose scholarships and opportunities to boys who can easily beat them in athletic competitions.

I see no empathy for women and girls who don’t feel comfortable with naked men in their change rooms at the pool. I see no empathy for youth being put on hormones that will have a lasting impact on them, including permanent sterilization, all to accommodate adults who don’t want to see trans ideology questioned under any circumstances.

I see no empathy for the women and their children who will have nowhere to turn if their local transition house is defunded on account of a women-only policy.

I see no empathy for Kristi Hanna, a Toronto woman and survivor of sexual assault, who had leave her room at Palmerston house, a shelter for recovering addicts, because she was made to share a room with a man, and did not feel safe.

I see no empathy for the 14 female estheticians who were asked to give a male a brazilian bikini wax, then dragged to court when they declined, saying they only offered the service to women.

I see no empathy for the girls allegedly predated on by this man, who is being protected by our very liberal, very progressive society that’s choosing to put male feelings and desires above all else, under the guise of ‘inclusion’, and thanks to trans activism.

Women and girls are being told they may not have boundaries. That they may not say ‘no’ to men. And this is what we are told it means to ‘choose love’. This is what we are being told is ‘feminism’.

Trans activism says women may not define their own bodies as female. That we may not have our own rights, services, and spaces, that ‘exclude’ men. It says gender stereotypes are real and innate, but the female body is a social construction. It says that ‘woman’ is based only on adherence to or an affinity towards femininity, something feminism has fought against for years.

So much of what women fought for over the past century is being rolled back, and progressives are insisting we all shut up and take it, because it’s ‘nice’, and of course, women must always be ‘nice’, even if it means putting our lives, autonomy, safety, opinions, and rights aside.

NOTHING about the trans movement is progressive and nothing about it is feminist.

I brought up authenticity earlier on, partly because I am sick to death of this social media based culture wherein we put forth personas we believe our audience will like, modeling perfect faces, lives, and thoughts, which I find incredibly boring and depressing, but also because I see this devaluing of authenticity as having an incredibly destructive impact on political discourse, and certainly it’s manifested itself powerfully in the trans movement.

I don’t believe that, aside from a few exceptionally delusional or troubled people, a majority of the population believes it’s possible to change sex. I don’t believe that all these so called progressives look at a man we call him ‘she’, and believe he is literally a woman. I don’t believe all these people claiming ‘love wins’ and insisting women be more ‘empathetic’ as they give up all their rights and spaces, while these activists spout vile, hateful insults and threats at us, are really very loving at all.

I think people are not telling the truth. I think they are repeating mantras and going along with ideas and policies in order to appease their Facebook friends. I think they value social status a lot, and are willing to give up ethics and truth in order to be liked. And I think it’s pathetic. I think that these people are throwing women under the bus and even selling themselves out in the process, knowing that they’re spouting lies for virtual cookies and using us all to fake politics.

And I refuse to be used as some kind of stepping stool for empty headed, cowardly hipsters — these extremely privileged people who have fetishized oppression, but have no idea what marginalized groups actually face and deal with on a daily basis, because certainly it’s not ‘misgendering’ that is keeping people poor and vulnerable — who can’t be bothered to read, listen, or think before announcing, boldly, that women with actual politics, who actually understand history, and who are  bold enough to take a stand against actual bigotry and oppression should be silenced, punched, or even killed.

The wrong side of history is an embarrassing place to be.

But unfortunately I worry that, by the time these people realize how much damage they’ve caused by going along with such a destructive trend, it will be too late. What does give me hope is all of you. This massive and growing movement of people standing up and saying ‘no’, we won’t take this silently and sitting down. This groundswell of people insisting on telling the truth, despite the fact that we lose friends, jobs, social status, and sometimes safety, for doing so.

And the more we keep doing it, the more will join us.

Meghan Murphy

20th May 2019

Watch the film of Meghan speaking at #WPUKLondon

Thanks to Lily Maynard for the pictures.

 

No room for racism or misogyny

We note the reports of a black woman being harassed and intimidated at the London May Day rally on Tuesday 1st May by a masked person and several white men who opposed her feminist politics. The victim was carrying a feminist banner with the slogan “woman = adult human female”. The victim has confirmed that during a barrage of verbal abuse she was called a “N****r” and a “black bastard”.

This appears to be confirmed by video footage .

It is a sign of the depravity of gender politics that certain elements of the left believe they can resort to racist and misogynist abuse in order to uphold their genderist ideology. The footage shows a verbal and physical attack meant to dehumanise a woman of colour in order to intimidate and silence her.

It is completely unacceptable that there are elements attaching themselves to the labour movement, built with the skill and dedication of many thousands of women, getting away with this putrid rhetoric whilst others stand idly by without intervention, refusing to acknowledge racist and sexist abuse or the harassment and intimidation of feminists.

Women who assert their sex based rights have always been part of the workers movement and need no one’s permission to celebrate May Day.

We call upon all labour movement bodies to condemn this racist and misogynist attack on a woman asserting her right to free speech. It is within the labour movement that we particularly expect to uphold standards of anti-racist conduct. Women have the right to assert a definition of womanhood without fear of harassment or abuse and we expect the labour movement to uphold these standards.

3rd May 2019

The origins of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975

We have pulled together a Twitter thread created by Lisa Mc Kenzie, a feminist and independent policy analyst.

Not everyone’s insomnia cure is to pore over Hansard archives but here follows a thread (which I might continue to add to, depending on future incidences of insomnia) about the origins of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It received Royal Assent on 12 November 1975 and is regarded as landmark legislation for women’s rights in the UK. Many of the principles contained within the Act have been carried over into later legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010.

The UN had designated 1975 International Women’s Year and there appears to have been a raft of work in the run-up to explore discrimination against women, as this excerpt from ‘The Official History of the British Civil Service’ (by Rodney Lowe) indicates.

Margherita Rendel states in 1978 (‘Legislating for Equal Pay and Opportunity for Women in Britain’) that there was an unsuccessful attempt to amend the Race Relations Bill (which would become an Act in 1965) so that it covered discrimination against women.

Rendel goes on to note that in each subsequent parliamentary session, attempts were made to introduce a private member’s bill on discrimination against women. They received increasing support in the House of Commons but were defeated.

Eventually the Anti-Discrimination Bill, defeated in the House of Commons, was introduced in the House of Lords in 1971 by Baroness Seear, a member of the Liberal Party. At this point, Seear was also President of the Fawcett Society.

Unusually, the Bill was referred to a Select Committee, which then took two years gathering evidence on the discrimination faced by women. It concluded unanimously that there was a need for legislation.

Rendel states that Conservative members of the Select Committee “angrily defended their report on the floor of the House of Lords against the attempts of their party leaders to denigrate their recommendations”. We now dive into a House of Lords debate on 14 May 1973… You can read the Hansard transcript here.

Baroness Seear kicks off the debate, first thanking the Chair of the Select Committee, Lord Royle. (You’ll note that what was the Anti Discrimination Bill has been renamed the Sex Discrimination Bill. I’ve not been able to establish the exact point at which this happened.)

Lord Royle starts by noting how procedurally unusual it is for a Bill to be referred to a Select Committee. (A similar process had taken place in the House of Commons. Hence his reference to “parallel activity in another place”).

Some frustration voiced by Lord Royle, who has read in the press suggesting that the Government did not intend to proceed with the legislation but instead introduce legislation of its own in the next parliamentary session.

The Minister, Viscount Colville of Culross  responds indicating that whilst the Government is “fully in sympathy with the underlying purposes of the Bill”, they have various reservations.

Interesting to note this comment from Viscount Colville: “the nature of discrimination on grounds of sex is different from discrimination on grounds of race. That is so both in scale and in history, though it may be that both have similar roots in prejudice.”

We can see origins of the single-sex exceptions and General Occupational Requirement (both features of EA 2010): “There are also likely to be many jobs where public taste or decency establishes at any rate a strong presumption in favour of the employment of one sex or the other.”

Next the Minister moved on to talk about education. Even four and a half decades later, still shocking to see these figures on the numbers of girls in education. But a reminder of what progress there has been too.

The Select Committee appears to have recommended that there should be a move towards the discontinuation of single sex schools. The Minister objects, saying: “The Government think it right that as much freedom of parental choice as possible should be maintained.”

The Minister expresses a hope that there will be a change in the “social climate” that enables girls and boys to study any subject they choose. (“In principle, I think it is a good idea that boys should cook and that girls should know how to mend fuses.”)

Ending his speech, the Minister then spends some time speaking about how to configure an enforcement body. Interesting to note that he also laments “the lack of guidance about the exceptions of which I spoke earlier”.

Lord Maybray-King (Labour) then asks why the Government has not sought to amend the Bill and the Minister replies confirming press reports that they intend instead to bring forward their own legislation, for which they will produce a consultative document “as soon as possible”.

Next up is Baroness Summerskill (Labour). She is evidently unhappy (angry?) to learn that the the work of the Select Committee is to be abandoned in favour of a Government bill down the line.

Interesting aside: Edith Summerskill was the grandmother of Ben Summerskill, who was the CEO of Stonewall from 2003-2014.

Back to the debate. Intervention from Lord Shackleton (Labour) who is unhappy with the Government position. He also says: “I find it quite extraordinary to use the fact that there are now more highly educated women than ever before as an argument that everything is all right.”

Lord Shackleton is adamant that a legislative approach is required to tackle discrimination against women.

Lord Reigate (Conservative), another member of the Select Committee, also expresses his exasperation at the Government’s plans, saying: “I hesitate to accuse my own Government of discourtesy, but I think that in fact we have been rather discourteously treated.”

He goes on to emphasise that he was not an enthusiast for a legislative approach, but that he changed his mind as he was “amazed by the degree and the wide field of prejudice which exists, and which exists most importantly of all to the damage of our economy”.

Baroness Wooton: “The principal difference is that in the case of race it is a discrimination of the majority against the minority, and in the case of sex it is a case of discrimination of the minority against the majority of the population of this country.”

Side note: Baroness Wooton studied Classics and Economics at Girton College, Cambridge from 1915 to 1919, winning the Agnata Butler Prize in 1917. She gained a first class in her final exams, but as a woman she was prevented from appending BA to her name.

Anger from Baroness Summerskill and Lord De Clifford that the Minister (Viscount Colville) did not intend to engage in the debate further. The Minister responds saying they are wrong to presume that the work of the Select Committee was in vain.

Baroness Seear re-enters the debate, emphasising that the Committee was of the wrong view that it had accumulated sufficient evidence that the legislation was required. She again advances the idea that single sex schools should be phased out in order to tackle sex discrimination.

She concludes: “I do not think there is any necessity to wait for a new vehicle to be brought forward by the Government. I maintain that the Bill now before the House, suitably amended, if you like, can adequately do this overdue task.”
Baroness Gaitskell (on Bill wording): “The word ‘suitable’ could be interpreted by women discriminating against men for a job, and vice versa; but I have a notion that it could more frequently be grasped by those men still hesitating to afford women equal opportunities with men.”
And then a very entertaining side swipe from Baroness Gaitskell regarding the attitude of Church of England Bishops to the campaign for women as priests (as reported in The Times that morning).
Viscount Hanworth says he agrees with the principles behind the Bill, but is not convinced of the need for legislation: “I do not believe one can change things very greatly just by setting up a Board and making penalties. What we are trying to do is to change people’s attitudes.”

His concluding remarks spark this very entertaining (!) exchange between him and Baroness Phillips (Labour). Side note: Baroness Phillips’ daughter Gwyneth Dunwoody would later become a Labour MP.

More discussion about language in the Bill and the way in which ‘suitability’ might be interpreted. Lord Gardiner shares an anecdote about a female candidate for Queen’s Counsel and the lack of toilet facilities for women. (Plus ca change…)
Baroness Summerskill dryly remarks: “…the stock answer of the Government is, ‘We always choose those whom we consider the most suitable’. Curiously enough, women are generally excluded.”
As they grapple with language, Lord Shackleton wonders whether there is a better way to phrase the relevant clause: “always provided that individuals shall be treated on their individual merits and not with regard to the generalised or assumed characteristics of their sex”.
Baroness Spear laments Lord Hanworth’s references in the debate to the “average woman”.

More discussion about the idea of a General Occupational Requirement and whether the Bill should contain an exhaustive list of occupations or whether it should evolve in line with developing case law.

Lord Conesford voices his concerns about the threat to single sex schools, whilst declaring his position as Vice President of the Girls’ Public Day-School Trust. He feels that outlawing single sex schools would be “a most illiberal, tyrannical and arrogant act”.
Concern from Lord Hanworth that the single sex school issue might be divisive on party lines is dismissed by Baroness Phillips (Labour), who explains that she had attended a single sex school and says that Lord Conesford “has argued this matter in his usual persuasive way”.
Baroness Seear (apologies for earlier misspelling – Hansard is wrong!) doubles down on her view about single sex schools: those currently in existence would continue but the Bill would prevent the creation of any new single sex schools.
“…there is the other very real point, that discrimination is rooted in education; it is the customs and attitudes and points of view put over during early life in school which so largely determine whether boys and girls will grow up as unconscious discriminators.”
“It is the unconscious discriminator, the discriminator who discriminates as a matter of course, with whom we have the greatest difficulty, not the person who is the all-out declared champion of the rights of his own sex.”
Lord Conesford presses on, refusing to withdraw his Amendment on schools.
Lord Platt: “I hope it is not too late to see whether I can stir up one or two people from various parts of the Committee, including perhaps the Bishop’s Bench, in order to elucidate a little more clearly the arguments for putting in this clause.”
This provokes Baroness Summerskill to (once more) take aim at the Church of England and its attitude to women: “Use women by all means, exploit their services, and far from giving them equal pay give them nothing.”
Lords Belhaven and Donaldson take issue with Baroness Summerskill’s tirade. Lord Gardiner disagrees, saying the Church, as an employer, should be in the scope of the Bill: “there is no reason why they should not conform to the ordinary law, as it will be, on sex discrimination”
At this point, the Bishop of Rochester chips in, albeit claiming he had not been prepared to participate in this debate. (It would be another two decades before women were ordained as Church of England priests.)
Lord Derwent (Conservative) states his objection to giving a Sex Discrimination Board powers of investigation because “The people of this country are getting fed up with the multitude of people who can interfere with them”.
Response from Baroness Seear (Hansard spelling gone AWOL again!).
Brief discussion about how a Sex Discrimination Board would be constituted before the debate closed. I hope to resume this thread at a later date once I’ve read later Hansard transcripts on the passage of the SDA.

Discrimination Against Women in the Name of Inclusion

We are re-publishing this statement from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter and would encourage our readers to send messages of support. They have had their funding withdrawn simply because some of their services are only available to people who were born female. A short article with an attempt to justify the move is here.

1. On March 14, 2019, at the end of a flawed and unfair process, Vancouver City Council voted to terminate the yearly grant given to us in support of our public education work.


2. Vancouver City Council’s decision is intended to coerce us to change our position and practice of offering some of our core services only to women who are born female. Our organization’s status as an equality-seeking group and our entitlement to serve women who are born female was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 2003, by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in 2005 and by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2007.


3. Vancouver City Council’s attempt to undermine our autonomy as a women’s group — to decide who we serve, who our membership is and who we organize with — also undermines the protections the law has granted us. Such conduct has no place in a democratic society.


4. Vancouver City Council’s decision to cut funding from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter is discriminatory. Many Vancouver City grants are given to organizations that deliver programs and support to specific groups of people such as Aboriginal youth, Chinese seniors, deaf persons and migrant workers. Rightfully, none of these groups have been challenged with the demand that they demonstrate “accommodation, welcomeness and openness to people of all ages, abilities… and ethnicities.” Such a demand of these organizations would be incomprehensible, as it would contradict the essence and purpose of their work. Yet, this is what is being asked of us under the guise of inclusivity. 


5. Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter is the longest standing rape crisis centre in Canada. Since 1973, our group has responded to close to 46,000 women seeking our support in their escape from male violence. Since we opened our transition house in 1981, we have housed over 3,000 women and over 2,600 children.
The operation of our rape crisis centre and transition house are forms of direct action, developed for women by women in the 1970s as a part of the second wave of the North American women’s movement. More than just providing immediate safety, we offer a place to group, analyze, strategize and fight back against male violence.


6. In addition to our frontline work, we put a substantial effort into public education, as it’s an essential tool for social change. We are intentional in organizing public education events that are free, open and accessible to all.


7. We are also active in national women’s equality reforms. In the past year, we appeared in the Supreme Court of Canada case of the murder of Cindy Gladue; we conducted cross examinations and made oral and written submissions as a party with standing at the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls; and spoke to the House of Commons of Canada and to the Senate of Canada on legislative reforms related violence against women.


8. We have no doubt that people whose behaviour is not consistent with the patriarchal socially imposed definition of manhood or womanhood, including transgender people, suffer discrimination and violence. Transgender people deserve and must live in safety and have the equal rights and opportunities that are promised to us all. When it comes to our services, we have a collective commitment to see to the safety anyone who calls our crisis line, including transgender people.


9. As part of ongoing efforts to discredit us, we were accused that we “do not support sex workers” (including by a Vancouver City Council member on social media).
Our services are available to all women who have experienced male violence. We provide assistance to women and girls in prostitution who have been assaulted by johns, pimps or men pressuring them into prostitution. We provide assistance to women who are currently being prostituted, women who are trying to escape prostitution, and women who have been trafficked into prostitution.


We understand prostitution as sexual exploitation and male violence against women. Prostitution normalizes the subordination of women. It exploits and compounds systemic inequality on the basis of sex, race, poverty, age and disability. Our analysis of prostitution as a harmful patriarchal institution and our commitment to abolition is derived from, and is reinforced by, the prostituted women who call us and the members of our own collective who have exited prostitution.


10. Being born female still means being trained, socialized and forced to submit to male domination. The fact that we are born female and raised as girls to adulthood as women shapes our lives in profound ways.


Male violence against us is a harsh but common experience, and in no way the only one. Our sexuality is controlled and manipulated — whether by punishing women for not being virgins, or by the promotion of pornography and BDSM as liberating expressions of women’s sexuality. Our reproductive ability is controlled and manipulated — whether through forced abortion and sterilization, pressuring women to get pregnant, or forcing women’s pregnancy through rape.


Being girls and women in this world often impacts both how we look and how we act in private and in public; what we are allowed to do, encouraged to do and rewarded for; and also what we are discouraged from doing, prohibited to do or punished for.


And from that place, in a woman-only space, with other women, who have the shared experience of being born without a choice to the oppressed class of women we come together to organize and strategize our resistance and our fight for women’s liberation.

In the last few days we have received many messages of solidarity and donations from around the world. We are encouraged and grateful for this tremendous support.


The Collective of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter