Categories
Book reviews Politics Uncategorized women

How are your borderlines?

Ambling down the road outside the hotel, having a last fag before bedtime, and I see legs. There’s a bloke standing behind those overhanging bushes. Swivel on my heel, natural as can be, because my intention, obviously, was to walk precisely that far then march smartly back to the hotel. Contemplating the fact that I only noticed me doing that because I’m at a feminist conference this weekend, and issues such as how women automatically live on the defensive the whole time are front-of-mind.

To slip over the edge

Would be like

To carelessly write

Over the edges of this paper.

– Emma Humphreys

As I walk up the path to the hotel door, now on ‘safe territory’, I become sure that bloke was just a bloke, having his last fag before bedtime, just like me. I try to remember if I have this problem at home – have I ever been ‘on my guard’ outside my home during a last-fag-before-bedtime meander? Panic raises its head and asks if it’s needed, as my mind bumps and flumps between night time moments outside everywhere I’ve ever lived, and I can’t actually put my finger on where I live now.

Within these four corners

And sharp pointed edges

I shall contain my composure

Using available ink.

– Emma Humphreys

I don’t often think I’m going mad, because the concept has never made much sense to me but there you go. I do occasionally wonder if I’m drowning in a storm with my feet on dry land. I remember at the last feminist conference I went to, Dr Jessica Taylor telling us about ‘borderline personality disorder’, and how that would appear to be the establishment’s current best stab at explaining the state of women reacting to a lifetime of being used and abused.

This blog post I am writing is here to recommend to you the book ‘The Map of My Life’ by Emma Humphreys, but also to be careful when, where and how you read it. The mission – the mission of women like Harriet Wistrich, Julie Bindel, Dr Taylor and many others – is to break through and explain to the world that those women – the trafficked, the prostituted, the products of dysfunctional families – that the ‘crimes’ of those women should not be judged, as courts have judged in the past, against ‘what would a reasonable man do’, they need to be judged in the understanding that just about every woman who ends up in court via ‘the sex trade’ is behaving as you would expect a chronically mistreated and traumatised person to behave, if they are a person who knows of no direction home, whose life has given them no way to distinguish between a new friend and the next tormentor.

It is brilliant, the way this story, via Emma’s writings and poems, and commentaries by her friends and legal team, is presented so that it gradually unfolds for the reader how women like Emma might appear at first glance, what they might tell you, and what truth might begin to appear when you find a way to see it. It was the attempt to digest that crystalising knowledge that caused me to forget where my home is, outside that hotel that night. It was not a nice feeling. Please read this book, please do – but not when you’re tired, or easily frightened. (It’s like replacing the cover on a duvet – easy, as long as you’ve been warned to get a firm grip on the corners before you start thrashing around).

And now that I’ve found

Just where my borderline lies

I shall search for nothing more

Than the freedom to feel and write.

– Emma Humphreys

The lines I have reproduced here are from Emma’s poem, ‘The Borderline’ which appears in this astonishing and important book.

Find out more about Emma Humphreys at Justice for Women.

Categories
activism Book reviews Corbyn Labour Politics Uncategorized

Still doing politics

Notice to those doing whatever it is they are doing in Westminster: politics has left the building – mind you don’t get left behind.

Thank you, LabourBAME Hastings and Hastings and Rye Labour Women’s Forum for an excellent gathering and an excellent supper in Hastings last night. Thank you, speaker Marc Wadsworth for reminding us that you don’t wait until you know you can win – you keep pushing, and you advertise your attempts. That’s what brings more people to your banner. And above all, thank you to the guy who not only produced supper but gave what I considered to be the best speech of the evening – about how everyone joined the Labour Party when Jeremy Corbyn called them, and about doing politics before, and after, being in the Labour Party.

Marc Wadsworth is an award-winning Black rights campaigner, writer, broadcaster and BBC filmmaker, a founder of the Labour Party Black Sections, and not one for giving up.

Message to all the people who’ve lost faith in their political parties/groups: there are still PEOPLE out there, people who gathered for Corbyn, and learned to be activists. Don’t wait for ‘a new party’ – Marc Wadsworth reckons there’ll be a new party if and when the unions decide to get behind one, otherwise it’ll lack working class strength. Lost faith in the unions to stand for working people? Well, don’t sit there thinking your TU won’t do it, start local and start pushing them.

Message to Labour’s Socialist Campaign Group, and all lefty organisations: a lost motion is not a defeat – a lost motion is a campaign starting point. Tell them what everyone wants, then tell everyone what they said ‘no’ to!

Yes, Labour Party Conference was a depressing experience for those still trying to do socialism or democracy in the Labour party but Wadsworth reminded us of the example set by the new General Secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham. She didn’t go to Labour conference. She didn’t have time – because she was out there agitating for workers’ rights.

The politics of the 99% is about people. It’s about health, housing, environment, and work, because they are what people need. It’s about sex, race and class, because they are the weapons of the enemy. If our politicians aren’t working on the problems real people face in this country, they aren’t doing politics. We are.

The real politics is happening out on the streets and (in this case) in restaurants.

The best political meetings do not have to be party-political.

For my taste, the best political meetings involve radical books.

https://www.peepaltreepress.com/books/comrade-sak

And it helps if they include a damn good supper and a rousing international socialist flavoured speech by the guy who made your supper.

If you’re after good food and good company, check out the Jali restaurant in Hastings.

If you’re after an inspiring read about perseverance in radical politics, check out Marc Wadsworth’s book.

If you’re after the hope that seemed lost a while back, check out LabourBAMEHastings – or whoever has the heart to still be doing politics where you are.

Categories
activism Corbyn Labour media Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

Why politicians are stupid

Never mind Starmer, Johnson or any other besuited blaguers. This line from Ceri Williams, in the informal, ‘thank you and good night’ speech at the end of an unofficial fringe meeting, was, in my opinion the most important utterance of this year’s entire political conference season.

It’s like when you go to Spain with the phrase book. He was okay to … order the coffee but when they asked him, did he want tea – oh my god. Because he didn’t understand the language.

[context and video of the speech below]

In the UK, political parties negotiate a manifesto – in effect, a shop window – that presents their core policies to the world. How it’s negotiated and by whom differs from party to party, but it’s the manifesto – or at least the publicly amplified gist of the manifesto, that allows people (and politicians) to consider which party they want to support/be a part of. All politicians need to do is familiarise themselves with the main points of their current manifesto and they would always be capable of coming up with at least a basically coherent reply to questions about all their party’s policies.

That’s the theory.

One of the many reasons Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership years scared the pants off the establishment was that he was working towards a situation where everyone would get an opportunity to contribute to the Labour Party manifesto, and Labour MPs would work according to that manifesto. He didn’t get anywhere near that in reality – but the prospect of it terrified them.

What really happens

Politicians follow their noses – they scent what the leader of their party wants, what their most lucrative donors want, what the media want on any given day, and try to sound ‘on the button’. This is why journalists and reporters can have lots of fun when they want to knock down a particular politician by seeking a currently contentious issue, and trying to think of a question their victims may not yet have been rehearsed to answer.

That tactic didn’t work on Jeremy Corbyn (until after Starmer’s Brexit stitch-up prevented him speaking plainly) because like most honest people, he’s not afraid of saying ‘what do you mean?’ or ‘I don’t know’. My all time favourite was when a reporter asked him ‘are you a Marxist’ and he replied, ‘I don’t know – I haven’t read everything Marx wrote. Have you?’ [Interpretation: do you know, or care, what being a Marxist might mean? Shall we have a real conversation? About why you are asking me that question?]

Another one I liked was when he was asked if he knew what the women’s campaign was about. He said, ‘I’ll ask my friend Linda Bellos.’ [Interpretation: don’t be afraid to talk to people with a range of views, even ones who are currently contentious. That’s how you learn.]

They’re all the same

Other than the occasional honest broker who slips through the net as Corbyn did, most politicians spend their time ducking, dodging and blaguing, trying to interpret every question they’re asked according to the requirements of the day. It’s why people say ‘they’re all the same’, it’s why politicians generally are neither useful nor valuable – and it’s the clue, for anyone who wants to really look into it, that should lead you to the conclusion that politicians are not especially powerful.

They are servants – but of what? Of whom? If we are to save any of the things that we really care about, that’s the question to answer, and we need to take the fight to the people who really hold the power.

The reason Ceri Williams’ comment about phrase books is so significant is that it flags up exactly how and why politicians get caught out. Rather than sitting shouting at the telly when they talk uninformed ‘phrase book’ politics, we need to switch off the telly, leave the newspaper in the shop, and choose between actively educating our own MPs on what matters to us, and pushing them towards real debate, or going round them and solving our problems by creating and building movements ourselves.

The speech 

[Context: Ceri is talking about the violence and threats to a meeting two years ago which provided witnesses to what women have been putting up with in our communities … ‘as women and men who are arguing to retain our existing rights in law,’ because for years now, politicians have not seen fit to get their heads round this highly relevant and very contentious issue]

” … and it’s that silencing that has led Keir to look such a twit when he was asked a question. We can help you Keir. We can help you not make an idiot of yourself. We’ve asked you all week ‘don’t be a Davey’ because Marr made Davey look an absolute idiot about ‘adult human female’, that that’s a bad thing to say and [Starmer] had been no doubt briefed to answer that question possibly a little bit better, but that didn’t [happen]. He [Marr] said ‘is it transphobic to say that only women have a cervix’ and he’d not practised the script because …. we have asked for a meeting for two years now. We’ve offered him half an hour we think we could in half and hour explain how he could start thinking about the conflict of rights and talking about it in a respectful and helpful way so we can move forward about it in the Labour party. …”

The basic lack of knowledge in this particular case is that the politicians queuing up to die on the hill of that question didn’t realise it was a question about female people.

Categories
activism Labour media Politics prejudice women

Back to reality

Well I ain’t in the Labour Party any more and I am really enjoying re-discovering speaking my mind. Here are three things that need saying everywhere and often, and that it’s damned hard to say in the Labour Party.

Anti-semitism?

Be VERY careful what you say about anti-semitism, and think very carefully about what you hear said. We are living in times where the resurgence of the far right with all their pernicious lies are growing confident, so you may well come across angry and frightened Jewish people. They deserve respect, credence, support and protection.

Our politics is HIGHLY toxic so you are JUST AS likely to come across bloody good actors crying wolf, and people weaponizing anti-semitism claims. They need to be called out every time.

Tricky, isn’t it. If you’re not sure which one you’re dealing with, keep quiet and carry on listening, and seek out hard evidence. Don’t risk adding to the harm being done.

Sometimes, your own best comrades who have seen through con after con can be completely blind-sided by this one.

Transphobia?

Be VERY careful what you say about transphobia, and think very carefully about what you hear said. We are living in times where the resurgence of the far right with all their pernicious lies are growing confident, so you may well come across angry and frightened trans people. They deserve respect, credence, support and protection.

Our politics is HIGHLY toxic so you are JUST AS likely to come across bloody good actors crying wolf, and people weaponizing transphobia claims. They need to be called out every time.

Tricky, isn’t it. If you’re not sure which one you’re dealing with, keep quiet, carry on listening, and seek out hard evidence, don’t risk adding to the harm being done.

Sometimes, your own best comrades who have seen through con after con can be completely blind-sided by this one.

Racism? Sexism? Misogyny? Homophobia? Class hate? Delusional extremism?

There is no doubt – absolutely no doubt – that we live in a pernicious, capitalist, PR-weilding culture the drivers of which are world-class masters at using sex, race, class and fear of difference to divide and rule. These are the prejudices and attendant cruelties that are happening to millions of people, every single day and they go both in plain sight and in disguise. These are the issues we need to understand and work on.

Pay attention – question your own beliefs and assumptions (even the “virtuous” ones). I do this every day, and I’m very good at telling others to – BECAUSE I know enough to know that there are still things I’m missing and getting wrong. The worst thing about realising you’re being conned is the attendant realisation that half of what you assume you know is probably wrong.

Sometimes, your own best comrades who have seen through con after con can be completely blind-sided by this one. Sometimes, people you’ve learned to see as your friends on one issue are your enemies on another, and vice versa.

Try reading some of Caitlin Johnston’s stuff on ‘the dominant narrative’ if you get lost in the smoke and mirrors. You know what finally made me leave the Labour Party? This:

The worst divide in the Labour Party

It is the divide between those who know Starmer’s team are liars and manipulators who just stole the party, and don’t care

and those who know Starmer’s team are liars and manipulators who just stole the party, and do care.

Inside or outside the party, please help us climb back to politics based on reality.

Reality

Left and right wingers, black, white and other ethnic and national groups, women and men, all kinds of people can have healing human contact moments across every possible divide EXCEPT “confabulation” – that is, the pathological, persistent denial of reality.

This song has been in my head for a while now – let’s give it a re-run, and dedicate it to party politics!

Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel

Categories
Labour Politics women

The Cervix Question – how difficult can it be?

David Lammy has just demonstrated as clearly as anyone ever did why we say ‘men don’t listen to women’.

Are women ‘dinosaurs’ who are ‘hoarding their rights’? This notion of Lammy’s was beautifully illustrated by Alex Kenny on t’internet…

… but oh my goodness, Lammy really was the star of men making idiots of themselves over The Question.

Star drivel: “It’s probably the case that trans women don’t have ovaries but it’s probably the case that a cervix is something you can have following various procedures and you know treatment and all the rest of it.”

David, the vast majority of trans women do not have surgery at all, and most of those that do go for boob enhancement. There is not a doctor alive who can ‘make’ a cervix. If a certain person who appears on telly a lot really does have one, and carries out their threat to show it on the telly, it will be in a jar. We can only ask anxiously after the welfare of the woman they got it from.

“1 in 4 trans people commit suicide” David, no they don’t. These mythical suicide and murder stats get worse every time they’re gossiped onward. PLEASE read the Samaritans guidelines on chattering about suicide.

For those who have become confused

Thanks to Dr Emma Hilton for this really useful diagram…

The cervix is the portal of the womb. That incredibly tough organ that holds your baby in place for nine-and-a-half months and then manages to be supple enough to let the baby through into the world when it’s time. There is no ‘treatment’ – other than swiping some other woman’s innards and doing all that immune-suppressant stuff – that can make a cervix happen in a male. That is NOT the sort of thing the NHS gets up to. When people say they have ‘transitioned’, it *might* involve taking hormones or having surgery to make them look like the opposite sex. It is not magic. People are not clown fish. People do not change sex.

MPs don’t think about women

I did find a *few* people online who have offered sensible responses to The Question which, of course, is really about female people who don’t want to be called ‘women’ – trans men, non-binary people and possibly others – you see, the reason those MPs got in such a mess trying to answer The Question is because it didn’t occur to them that it might be about the OTHER HALF of the human race…

Good answers to The Question:

Dani Ahrens on Twitter

Lesbian Labour on Facebook

and Alex via a Google doc

Men don’t listen to women

Such a cliche, isn’t it. and to be fair, Lammy was far from being the only Labour MP talking twaddle about female body parts during conference. I suppose, if the subject had just hit him out of nowhere and he’d never thought about it, one could forgive him but I know that women from his constituency have been to talk to him about this, and got all the ‘tea-on-the-terrace’ treatment, so the only explanation for his nonsense is that he simply did not listen to a single word they said.

As MP after MP opened their mouths and proved they knew nothing on this topic that’s been worrying women for years, we can at least see why Keir Starmer’s comment of choice was ‘it should not be said’. Trouble is, this very, very worrying issue, that tens of thousands of women have been talking about, writing about, campaigning about and being told to shut up about is, according to Lammy, a marginal issue of interest to no-one (except women, of course).

That’ll be why they forgot to consider women as stakeholders when they first started considering changing the rules about single sex services and exceptions.

Thank you, @terfasaurus @Astrid_Arroway for the dinosaur

Thank you, Dr Emma Hilton for the useful diagram and the following advice. @FondOFBeetles

Categories
activism Corbyn Election Labour Politics

I have invented retrospective resignation

I believe people are allowed to join in politics. I joined the Green Party when the BBC said Nigel Farage could be all over the telly all the time because his then party had more members than the Greens. So did around 60 000 other people – people want to have an effect in politics.

I joined the Labour Party along with hundreds of thousands of others because Ed Miliband let people join in, and then Jeremy Corbyn gave them hope of honest, humane government. The establishment responded by pulling every trick in the book to make sure nothing like the Corbyn years ever happens again.

Dear Labour Party,

The Labour Party is the most toxic, abusive, dishonest and disabling organisation I have ever had the misfortune of being a part of. You – and when I say ‘you’, I mean your administration and most of your MPs have lied, cheated and bullied your way through every situation I have experienced as a member. You fluffed the EU referendum debate by failing to believe people were capable of being given information and making a decision for themselves. Jeremy Corbyn tried to give us a proper debate. You called that ‘indecisive’. You made the ‘left, right or broad church’ debate about the party itself impossible to resolve. You made it impossible for socialist Jews to do their politics at all, and you have bluffed and blustered on the undeniable conflict between women’s rights and Stonewall’s demands for trans people, gaslighting and frustrating members, whatever their views, so utterly and for so long that many can no longer get along with each other at all. You have done serious harm to a large swathe of the population – and that’s without even getting into government.

This week, you expelled one of my constituency’s delegates, a politically experienced, honest, honourable socialist Jewish woman, slap in the middle of conference. Here she is at the 2017 conference, reacting to the scheming and manipulation our CLP faced that year…

…and here she is at this year’s conference.

Leah’s expulsion is just one injustice. Pretty much every lefty CLP in the country can tell a similar story of their efforts being frustrated.

Retrospective resignation

Apparently, you have expelled Leah retrospectively, for having dealings in the past with an organisation you have just proscribed. Well, let’s see if *that* works both ways. I am resigning retrospectively. Please return all the subs I have paid since Kier Starmer and his team screwed the General Election with their Brexit means Remain manoeuvers, instead of allowing the people a clear choice.

Here is the General Secretary Starmer imposed on us, explaining why he abandoned the principles he claims he has to get rid of socialists, especially Jewish socialists ( Recording via Vox Political ).

And here is what he was pulling out all the stops to destroy ( Video via Jeremy Corbyn )

Now, I know you think it doesn’t matter, you think we’ll all have to campaign and vote for you because we want to get rid of this lousy government. Well, you are wrong. Many of us have noted that, in effect, you are a part of this lousy government. There are other ways a population can express itself and get its way, and we will find them. You can’t break the hearts of millions of people and expect to get away with it. For a start, if you continue to be anything but a force for good in this country, there will be hundreds of thousands of members, ex-members and ex-supporters seeking to provoke by-elections against you at every opportunity.

Please examine your conscience – yes, even if you’re only a casual worker disinterestedly doing a stint in the Labour Party office, skim-reading this letter. Examine your conscience, ask yourself if your kids have any hope of a future. You could give things a good hard shake and give the Labour Party the dose of honesty it needs, and we could be comrades once more.

I have cancelled my direct debit and await the return of the subs you took whilst pretending to be our Labour Party.

Yours Sincerely,

A Red Green Non-Party-Political Person

A reminder to my friends, comrades and sisters everywhere: keep doing politics, keep networking. We are many – they are few.

How to do politics…

Categories
activism economics Housing media Politics Privatisation women

CRISIS!

From “argh, toilet roll!” to “argh, petrol!”

A mild disturbance in the supply of absolutely anything we’re used to buying every day has more political impact than, say, people losing their homes, children going hungry, abused women being locked up with male sex-offenders, asylum seekers drowning in the channel, the govt selling our services and infrastructure to foreign businesses, climate change wrecking our world before our grandchildren can live out their lives – any of the things I’ve ever tried campaigning about, really.

Attention seeking

I don’t think answers like ‘people are stupid’ or ‘people are greedy’ help much. It’s about where most people’s attention is, most of the time. Most of us usually have our heads down, ploughing through ‘what needs doing’ in the face of a huge range of obstacles from lack of funds to people not answering phones to illness and disability. Everything that disrupts the battle is a ****ing nuisance to throw ourselves at in determined fury.

Do you remember all those extraordinary ideas, songs, lectures, meetings and above all community support projects people thought up in response to lockdown?

Time to think

The time people need in order to think reappears when everyday buzz, pressures and demands stop. Those people we briefly learned to call ‘essential workers’ just had to go on working ( some called lockdown ‘where the middle class stay home and the working classes bring them things’ ). Those whose lives were already in extreme difficulty – for example in insecure housing, in prisons and refugee hostels ( not the homeless though – the government briefly made the effort to ‘get people off the streets’ ) – all those people really had their noses rubbed in how bad things are…

… but the salaried classes, the service, financial and what have you workers – all got used to not being able to go where we want or buy anything we want at a moment’s notice, and started THINKING.

So I’ll be getting on with the community organising, the networking and the educating and the production of books, more aware than ever that these are the vital political acts. How about you? Have you thought of any other things we can do….? (comments section below)

Just keep thinking about how this government, the government that does not care one jot about destroying businesses and jobs, or creating poverty, or stranding the old and the sick, was so desperately, desperately keen to avoid another lockdown. What is it they’re scared of?

THINKING.

PS This blog started life as an FB status post, and got the following comment, which struck me as absolutely on the button…

Aaron McConnell wrote:

In an individualistic society, most of the time we’re encouraged to live in our own heads. And on those occasions where the problems of others manage to permeate our thoughts, we’re also encouraged to think “oh well, they must have done something wrong”, and at that point the concerns and suffering of others can be dismissed as fair because they’ve brought it upon themselves. Taken to an extreme, that logic starts to sound like: “everyone on benefits is an undeserving scrounger… except me, when I was made redundant through no fault of my own.” We’ve all heard that kind of thing.

The anger and panic you allude to in this article I think springs from that mindset. When people who think like that find themselves swept up into a crisis that wasn’t of their making – and they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong – the first explanation they reach for is that someone else must have messed up; and the consequences of that mistake are falling unjustly on the people who had no part in making it. That prompts anger, and creates a strong incentive to blame others.

It’s very easy to ignore something when it’s not affecting you directly.

Categories
activism Hastings Labour Politics Uncategorized women

Another community activist says farewell to Labour

Guest blog: Julia Price

Julia Price joined the Labour Party in 2015, in south London. She canvassed for Labour in local elections and for the Mayor of London election in May 2016 when the Labour candidate, Tooting MP, Sadiq Khan won.            

After moving to St Leonards in 2016, she helped with canvassing in 2017. That same summer, she became closely involved in the local campaign to save St Leonards Crown Post Office. She canvassed and campaigned for Labour’s Parliamentary candidate, Peter Chowney in June 2017, when Peter came within 346 votes of Amber Rudd, the sitting Tory MP, massively reducing her majority. 

In early 2018 she was a council candidate for Labour in West St Leonards. She campaigned and canvassed in this ward and across the borough. She came within 56 votes of winning the West St Leonards ward for Labour.

She canvassed and campaigned almost daily in the December 2019 general election.

In March 2021, Julia sent Labour the following message:

Julia’s Farewell to the Labour Party

I have cancelled my monthly Direct Debit to the Labour Party. It is with sadness and regret that I would like to ask you to cancel my membership. There is no longer enough to keep my allegiance, my respect and my belief in the Labour Party. Too many betrayals of too many good, loyal, hard-working Party members, and especially of Jeremy Corbyn. Too many witch hunts. Too much betrayal of women. Of women MPs in the House and of women’s rights. The signing of the so-called Trans Pledge. The Party’s acceptance of the gender ideology mantra: trans women are women. They are not. They are trans women. Trans men are trans men. All respect to trans people and may they live their lives safely and well. But biology is real and women as a sex class have protection under the Equality Act 2010. The Labour Party offers no support or protection to women who are aggressively silenced and vilified by trans rights activists who operate throughout social media and on university campuses, in CLPs and in workplaces.

Silence on the risk to children

No attempt to protect children from the capture of trans ideology; it has taken this Tory government to do that: to ban puberty blockers to under 16s without a court order. It took a detransitioning young woman, Keira Bell, to take the Tavistock Clinic to court and win a High Court judgement against them in December 2020. Then there was the subsequent CQC-judgement of the Tavistock Clinic as Inadequate in January this year. A 4000% plus increase in the decade to 2018 of young teenage girls seeking to transition. Being referred to start medical pathways after only one or two gender identity clinic consultations. No time spent considering their sociological and / or psychological backgrounds. A concern expressed in a report by Dr David Bell, ex staff governor and psychologist at the Tavistock.

Shocking dishonesty

The shocking news in the leaked report last year that the executive and others in the Labour Party were so anti Corbyn that they actively worked to snag and disrupt the GE campaigns of 2017 & 2019. Working against hundreds and thousands of Party members like me who were out practically every day, knocking on doors, canvassing and campaigning hard for a Labour victory.


This is dishonourable, uncomradely conduct. It is not what I thought the Labour Party was about. I no longer wish to be a member.


I have met many wonderful people during my five and a half years of membership. I am grateful for their comradeship and friendship. I wish them well.

Editor’s note: Julia is one of the many Labour Party women who worked so enthusiastically for socialism in that hope-filled time between 2016 and 2019, but are now leaving the party. She received no reply to her farewell statement.

Categories
activism Book reviews book shops Politics Uncategorized women

Really useful feminism

Why we should all read Julie Bindel’s new book

I’ve been wondering why feminism grabbed me so much the second time I looked, but not the first.

I remember feminism going on around me when I was a teenager. I had a vague idea it involved a lot of arguments about whether you should shave your legs or not. A couple of decades later, my daughter told me she’d had the impression for years that she couldn’t be a feminist because she likes dressing up, cooking and being a mum.

In the 70s, I couldn’t do feminism because I didn’t like dungarees. In the 80s, I couldn’t afford the ‘power dressing’ and then in latter years, I thought I couldn’t be a feminist because my partner was a bloke, and because the ‘feminists’ I saw on telly all seemed to spend their time making pointlessly rude and embarrassingly flirtatious swipes at men. And anyway, those somewhat boring organisations like the Fawcett Society and Labour Women’s Network were constantly bashing on about whether female execs in London were earning enough tens of thousands more than me, yet.

And then Stonewall tried to get women’s legal rights repealed. A new kind of women’s campaign (new to me) came along. I was so angry, so involved, and so excited, talking to so many great women, helping to put together ideas for the Women’s Place UK manifesto, getting involved with the Women’s Liberation Conference, and to top it all, I’d discovered FiLiA, with its glorious weekend every year of women singing, women cooking, women dancing, running businesses, making friends, building communities and doing politics, women escaping and traveling the world as fugitives, then coming together at last, singing, cooking, dancing, making friends, running businesses, building communities and doing politics.

People ask why women get so ‘obsessed’ with the sex based rights campaign, why we never ‘come down off it’. Well you know, there’s more to it than that. For those of us who were relatively new to feminism, the women we met on the way told us about real feminism, and Woman’s Place, and all the other organisations the benighted like to call ‘anti-trans hate groups’ set women’s worlds on fire. It’s VERY exciting. (Apparently, last time around they called the women’s groups ‘anti-men hate groups’.)

Read Julie Bindel’s REALLY exciting new book, and discover proper feminism. As she explains, the stuff that went mainstream – liberal feminism, they call it, IS boring. Radical feminism isn’t feminism only more so, it’s the growing, sustaining root of feminism. In manifestation, it’s any aspect of feminism that’s not acceptable to the establishment.

We don’t want half the seats at the table,’ says Bindel, ‘we want to break the table.’

Feminism is about rescuing and standing with fugitives, it’s about learning and teaching, about fighting back, about community politics and addressing the problems that are so big mainstream politicians barely dare touch them.

Buy the book, go to FiLiA. Get angry, get serious, get excited. You can sing, dance, make friends, dress up and cook as you go if you want to. You can also make up your own mind as to whether you shave your legs or not. You decide, it doesn’t matter – but you might have some interesting conversations over coffee about why mainstream society thinks such things matter so much.

Just read the book, in fact read all her books, and her journalism. I am!

Video: Julie Bindel in conversation with Claire Horchan

The book…

Categories
Hastings Labour media Politics Uncategorized women

Anatomy of a witch hunt

A newly elected councillor (let us call her Councillor A) abstains in a council vote to make another councillor (let’s say Councillor B) Deputy Mayor. No news there, you would have thought.

But when news gets out, the inevitable speculative social media posts appear, quickly escalating to accusing not just Councillor B but every councillor who voted for her of transphobia.

After a flurry of statements, demands for more statements, and local press articles, Councillor A finally makes her accusation, on social media. She writes:

"In May I abstained from voting for Councillor [redacted] to be deputy mayor on grouns of conscience following her posting several social media posts that contained anti trans sentiment, as well as her refusal to accept the Equality Act as a valid document and her refusal to support the party policy on Self ID in conversation with myself."

Let us take these acccusations one by one. No evidence has been offered, as far as I know but…

 ‘several social media posts that contained anti trans sentiment’

I assume this is a reference to her once sharing an invitation by a women’s group to respond to the Government’s public consultation on GRA reform. (that’s the Gender Recognition Act) I’ll give details of why tens of thousands of women did that later in this blog.

‘refusal to accept the Equality Act as a valid document’

As far as I know Councillor B fully supports the Equality Act, friends tell me she emphatically supports it, and has said so whenever asked, whereas I now hear that our CLP wants to ‘reform’ the Equalities Act, with Councillor A’s full support.

‘refusal to support the party policy on self ID in conversation with myself’

Fellow party members are pretty sure Councillor A herself was among those who declined (which I guess amounts to refusal) to support the party policy on sex-based rights in a recent Labour Party meeting, so she obviously knows supporting every line of party policy in every situation is not compulsory – indeed, it would be unrealistic to expect anyone to go with every single clause of it.

So we’re left with two counts of having to prove a negative, and one question as to an alleged conversation. I personally worry about the content and tone of an alleged conversation that leads to someone having to ‘refuse’ to support an item of party policy.

Councillor A’s accusation is then shared to a large local social media group by the local CLP secretary who writes:

Various individuals on social media pages and the local papers then go to town on the council’s ‘trans rights problem’.

Do we have a story here? Well, there is the press release from the local Pride organisation, stating that ‘one councillor knew of her views on the trans community’, and Pride claims to know about, but does not reproduce, offending social media posts, and it then goes on to refer to ‘posts like the ones shared by [Councillor B], combined with bigoted think-pieces in legacy media…’

Still no actual evidence. What is meant by ‘legacy’ posts? – is it screenshots taken from one, often private, group later posted in public? Whether or not we *should* legally get to see such things and whether they have anything to do with Councillor B is another matter but, so far, to my knowledge, we haven’t been given any evidence.

But no matter, the social media storm grows, causing fallings-out, and refusals by various people to work with various other people, and most recently producing demands that councillor after councillor repeat Stonewall’s mantra, ‘transwomen are women’ and ‘trans men are men’.

=====================================

That, as far as it goes, is the story. It led to major, I would say actionable, accusations from the stage at Sunday’s Pride do. Over the last four months, representatives from Pride/HRRA have been approached by the council both privately and on public record and, when they seemed concerned, they were invited on several occasions to make a formal complaint with relevant links but neither HP nor HRRA have done so, nor have they or the councillor who made the public claim offered any evidence for their concerns.

Update 06/09/2021: Because I was told there are accusations of the council not communicating, I investigated this and found that reps from HRRA had discussions about the situation with an ex-councillor and current councillors, including the council’s equalities lead, and extensive email exchanges. They were offered the means to produce evidence and complain officially. They did not want to do this.

=====================================

Many people are asking, as they often do on the subject of the sex and gender issue…

Why does it all get so nasty?

To answer that, I now need to explain why tens of thousands of women shared invitations to respond to that Government consultation on GRA reform, and also why so many people seem to think the women’s groups who did so are ‘anti-trans hate groups’.

It’s because…

Initially, the government did not consult – they appeared on course to accept Stonewall’s advice that all they need to do to give trans people what they wanted was to cancel the sex exemption in the Equalities Act.

An excerpt from Stonewall’s submission, and a link to details…

https://womansplaceuk.org/references-to-removal-of-single-sex-exemptions/

According to Maria Miller MP, who was dealing with the issue at the time, there was no opposition apart from ‘some people purporting to be feminists.’ There proved to be a large number of purporters, because women were realising that we had a conflict of rights developing if the GRA were reformed to allow for immediate sex self ID – that is, to allow anyone, for any purpose, to be treated in law as the opposite sex on their say-so – not because they had ‘transitioned’ or ‘had the op’ or had a medical condition that their doctor said required it, just on their say-so.

The mantra-like phrase ‘trans women are women, trans men are men’ is the campaigners’ iteration of that idea. Is there a problem with that? At the moment, the Equality Act has 9 separate exemptions. One is for ‘gender reassignment’, and is there to protect trans people. Another is for ‘sex’, and is the legal basis of women’s rights. If, however, ‘trans women are women’ is enshrined in law, the sex exemption becomes meaningless, as does the Sex Discrimination Act.

It also has repercussions for single-sex attraction – another protected characteristic in our Equality Act. Differences of opinion as to how that might work have led to some people feeling there’s a conflict that makes separate groups for same-sex attracted people necessary, an idea that others find so abhorrent that it has led to several instances of gay and lesbian people getting drummed off Pride marches in recent years.

In both those cases, giving ‘self ID’ or the concept of ‘innate gender identity’ legal standing takes away the legal tools that women need to deal with issues arising from their sex – their biology – because they are ‘adult human females’ – that is the dictionary definition of what we are, and became one women’s group’s campaign call in response to ‘trans women are women’. That’s why it is now called ‘hate speech’ by trans rights activists. That’s another blinder against women. Misogyny is not, so far, considered a hate-crime aggravator, so when things get heated, only the slogans from the women’s side of the campaign can be called out as ‘hate speech’. Even as things stand now, trans people are better protected in law than mere women.

The GRA consultation

I was one of the women who filled in that consultation. I said something along these lines:

Trans women are trans women. They are protected in law. They have the same human rights as everyone else. They should be treated with dignity and respect, just like everyone else. They are protected in law from discrimination, and we should all contribute to their being allowed to live their lives, call themselves what they want, dress how they want and believe what they want, just like everyone else. Also, like everyone else, they deserve better health and social care provision than they are currently getting so yes, I daresay the GRA does need reforming but not in a manner that disables women’s sex-based rights. One law should not be set up to trump another.

‘There is no conflict of rights’?

We are often told that. My CLP set out to pass a motion supporting trans rights, saying there was no conflict of rights. I suggested that in that case, they should also support sex-based rights in the motion. They refused, saying I was being ‘provocative’. Well, when I say they refused, my amendment was lost by one vote.

It has recently been demonstrated (in a court case concerning male sex offenders assaulting inmates in female prisons) that the balance of rights as it stands now is already detrimental to women – here’s the relevant part of the ruling, and a link if you’d like the details…


https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2021/1746.html

So women have good reason to stand by our own definition of ourselves. Here’s a twitter-thread from Jeremy Corbyn’s former policy manager, listing the issues we still need to resolve before self-ID is feasible…

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1430569612748414977.html

The fact that we still have all this to do is the reason the Labour Party manifesto states an intention to ‘work towards’ rather than instantly grant, self-ID.

Stonewall, Pride and the rest of them are not happy with the wait but their only alternative strategy seems to be demanding that everyone repeats their mantra, and periodically making a public attack on a woman, bullying her in a way that generally makes the majority stay quiet, for fear of being the next target.

Another mantra they love to hear repeated is

Trans rights are human rights

What does that mean? It’s true that trans people have the same human rights as the rest of us – that includes the right to our own beliefs, the right to express those beliefs, and a right not to be bullied into accepting and parroting others’ beliefs. No-one has to say ‘trans women are women’. The fact that some of our councillors responded to Councillor B being publicly bullied by queuing up to agree to ‘trans women are women’ is unnecessary and (in my view) an abject failure to defend a colleague from the witch hunters. If that’s what they believe then, as demonstrated, it is their right to do so but they might like to think about the recent Forstater case decision which confirms their duty in law to protect their colleagues from harassment and discrimination for their beliefs. That includes the right not to believe something, and protection from compelled speech.

Maya Forstater announces the result of the court hearing:

Excerpt – ‘This created a legal precedent that people should not face discrimination or harassment at work or as users of services because of their beliefs about sex and gender identity.’

How do we solve this?

Ultimately, the only solution – for trans women and for natal women – is to dump the societal demands of gender (so everyone feels free to dress, behave etc as they need to) and put an end to male violence, so women do not need to be cautious about male access.

That could take a while though so, in the meantime I suggest there are two options: either absolutely everyone must shut up about women’s rights, and repeat the mantras whenever they are required to do so or else councils should stop giving good money, humble obeisance and regular sacrificial victims to Stonewall, Pride et al. I’m sure they could find a better way of showing off their commitment to equality and diversity.

Which solution do you prefer?

=========================

=========================

Further info:

The Labour Party Manifesto 2019, page 66

"nsure that the single-sex based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision." - 2019 manifesto, p66

When the women’s campaign first came to the media’s attention, Jeremy Corbyn, then leader of the Labour Party, had this to say: “People are free to campaign within the party and publicly, of course they are, and raise these issues and have that discussion.” – Jeremy Corbyn on the Andrew Marr Show, 28 Jan 2018.  That seems to me to be the least one would except in a country that has laws protecting freedom of speech and belief – not that any of our current councillors have taken part in any such campaign, as far as I know.