Woman’s Place & Bristol University

In an open letter to Hugh Brady, signatories make unfounded slurs against Woman’s Place UK which we write now to refute and rebut.

Who are Woman’s Place UK?

We are a campaign group run by working women on a voluntary basis. We are from a range of backgrounds including trade unions, women’s organisations, academia and the NHS. We are united by our belief that women’s hard won rights must be defended.

We are against all forms of discrimination. We believe in the right of everyone to live their lives free from discrimination and harassment. Women face both endemic structural and personal inequality. This is reflected, for example, in the high levels of sexual harassment and violence against women and girls; the gender pay gap; discrimination at work. This is why sex is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act (2010) which we believe must be defended.

Accusations in the letter

  1. The open letter calls us an ‘anti-Trans’ organisation. This is not true.

We are not anti-Trans and we do not campaign against Trans rights. We campaign for women’s rights as they exist under the law, and with an expectation that any proposed change to the law must take women’s rights into account.

We work with a number of Trans people: Trans women who support our campaign have spoken from the platform and Trans people, as well as those who have detransitioned, have attended in the audience and spoken both from the platform and as part of Q&A sections of our meetings.

  1. The signatories assert their right to ‘openly express their principled opposition to bigotry and discrimination’

The implication is that Woman’s Place UK is behaving in a bigoted and discriminatory way. There is no evidence given for this because it simply isn’t true.

  1. “We further insist that Shall’s letter did not contain false information in stating that “A Women’s Place” provide a platform for hate speech.”

The accusation that Woman’s Place UK provides a platform for hate speech is also entirely without substance and we believe to be defamatory.

We do not tolerate hate speech.

This can be demonstrated from the films of speakers which we publish on our website and by over 1000 attendees at our many public meetings that have been held across the UK. Our meetings are live-tweeted at #WPUK.

One example given in the linked source was not a meeting organised by Woman’s Place UK.

Journalists have attended our meetings including Gaby Hinsliff who wrote about our Oxford meeting and Vonny LeClerc who wrote about our Edinburgh meeting.

We have had support for our demands from Jess Phillips MP. Sophie Walker of The Women’s Equality Party attended our London meeting and met with us afterwards. We have met with Lord Brian Paddick who found nothing we said was  ‘anti-trans rights’.

We have also had private meetings with other significant political individuals.

The signatories of this letter offer no evidence to support their slurs.

  1. The signatories claim “[Woman’s Place UK] is committed solely to campaigning against trans rights, as enshrined in legislation such as the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010.

This is demonstrably untrue. Not only is it not our sole campaign demand, it isn’t even one of our campaign demands.

From our inception in September 2017, our campaign has focussed entirely on women’s rights and our five demands have remained unchanged. They are:

  1. Respectful and evidence-based discussion about the impact of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act to be allowed to take place and for women’s voices to be heard.
  2. The principle of women-only spaces to be upheld – and where necessary extended.
  3. A review of how the exemptions in the Equality Act which allow or single sex services or requirements that only a woman can apply for a job (such as in a domestic violence refuge) are being applied in practice.
  4. Government to consult with women’s organisations on how self-declaration would impact on women-only services and spaces.
  5. Government to consult on how self-declaration will impact upon data gathering – such as crime, employment, pay and health statistics – and monitoring of sex-based discrimination such as the gender pay gap.

Our demands are here.

  1. Speakers at events hosted by “A Women’s Place” have propagated ignorant and harmful narratives through the use of offensive stereotypes, drawing a false dichotomy between trans rights and women’s rights, and misrepresenting both empirical research and current laws.

Again, this just isn’t true. No evidence is provided by the signatories.

  1. “The group has thereby played a role in creating moral panic about trans people’s role in public life, and contributed to atmosphere of fear and shame among trans people.”

This is a logical fallacy of the weakest kind. The signatories have made serious allegations that we have created a moral panic without providing any evidence that we have done this and then cited articles to prove there is a moral panic by people who think there is one.

Two of the sources cited as evidence for this make no mention of Woman’s Place UK at all. The only article which directly references us is an article written by Roz Kaveney and published in Red Pepper Magazine which is full of inaccuracies and falsehoods. At the time of publication, we wrote several times to Red Pepper to demand a right of reply. Shamefully, they refused to give it to us.

This refusal reflects a general failure by left and liberal media platforms to facilitate an open and honest debate. If anything has contributed to a moral panic it is that.

We are glad the signatories recognise the duty that Bristol University has to uphold the Equality Act (2010) and the Public Sector Equality Duty. This equality legislation entirely upholds the protected characteristics of women as a sex and our campaign is situated, and pursued, entirely within the law.

We have been shocked and depressed at the keen enthusiasm with which so many people are content to see women demonised, harassed, abused, threatened and assaulted simply for asking questions or asserting their rights.

Sadly, Woman’s Place UK members have become used to being misrepresented and slurred. At times, we have to had to seek legal advice and take legal action in defence of our reputations. It shouldn’t be this way.

We are extremely grateful for the academic signatories who have written to you publicly to counter the misrepresentation of Woman’s Place UK especially as to do so will undoubtedly expose them to the kind of harassment and threat to which we have been subjected.

Women have a right to speak out, to organise and to campaign for their rights. That is all Woman’s Place UK has been doing.

And, regardless of the slurs and hate directed at us, we intend to carry on.

June 2018