On Monday, I went to a meeting in London. I have set out, four times in the last two days, to do a write up. Each time, I went into high-energy, high-speed mode, and ended up with half a dozen pages of what was mostly a rant aimed at my CLP, and other organisations that claim to know the meaning of solidarity.
They are of course, organisations that I support wholeheartedly, in everything except their confident belief that they can shush hundreds of thousands of women when something is seriously worrying those women.
Fortunately, I don’t have to publish my rant. Helen Lewis has saved me a lot of bother, and done a pretty good write up here.
So I’ll just add this: for the last two years, whilst ducking and diving a hail of abuse, some from virtue signallers, some just plain misogynist abuse, we’ve been out there trying to explain what women’s sex-based rights and needs are and why, in the face of austerity, rape culture and an alarming return to misogynist practices we thought had been consigned to history, women’s rights need to be bolstered and extended, not disregarded in pursuit of a great big LGBT funding pot and a warm, righteous feeling. We have a problem that needs discussing, and the opposition are saying #nodebate
The Women’s Manifesto
After two years talking women’s rights, we have quite a lot to discuss. The Manifesto covers areas which people don’t naturally think of when you say “women’s rights” but issues around economics, working practices, crime and justice, and many other things cannot be dealt with fairly in law without good, solid information about life as experienced by women and girls. And you can’t get that information unless your data is clearly sorted according to sex – not gender, or gender identity, or anything else that makes the basic facts of female and male life invisible.
That’s the nub of it, really. But then there is what we’ve been through…
One of the speakers on Monday was Julie Bindel, who discovered sooner than most of us what happens to people who say “no, I don’t think this transgender ideology is progressive”. On Monday though, several hundred women came together who had experienced the bullying, the slander, the myriad attempts to undermine and intimidate dissent that Julie has dealt with for years. And a resounding “no more” was buzzing through that room from the very first words spoken.
If you still think “there’s no smoke without fire”, and that there must be something wrong with Woman’s Place UK, because so many people have said there is, please read this transcript of historian Selina Todd’s speech. She reminds us how every women’s campaign that ever changed the world for the better was vilified in its time. The habitual misogynists team up with whoever is holding women back, and mud flies until women get so angry they start throwing things back – and then they are labelled harridans.
It’s much the same with workers’ rights. Selina knows this, working class history is her speciality area. Selina also described how modern education has shaped much of what our young people are taught into individualist, neoliberal ways of thinking, where trying to change the world is written off as impossible, and all you can do is look after number one, and try to change yourself to fit.
But so many women have pushed back against that idea in the last few years. Maya, pushed out of her job for speaking her mind, set up a crowdfunder in order to launch a legal challenge based on the Human Right to belief and expression. It hit its target in hours, and doubled it in a few days. Thousands of women rushed to put in whatever they could afford. The same happened when Venice Allen and Linda Bellos needed funds to defend themselves against a preposterous charge aimed to silence them, and when Jennifer James and others decided to challenge the Labour Party over women’s representation.
And we always turn up – when someone needs backing, we turn up. All over the country. That’s why we’re not necessarily always around for your meetings these days.
We are many
The movement is here, it is numerous, vibrant, and it is not going to go away. Monday was a watershed moment. The subject of left or right came up at Monday’s meeting. Almost everyone in the room (I heard one dissenter in that 400 or so people) agreed that we don’t want to be associated with right-wing organisations, as our accusers often claim we do – but a groan of derision went round the room when ‘the left’ was mentioned, because most of us have been at best ignored, at worst seriously ill treated by our lefty organisations. I say to those organisations now – just look at the Women’s Manifesto. It is infused with socialism, it has so much in common with Labour’s 2017 manifesto. Do you not want an army of enthused, emboldened women out campaigning with you? You are going to have a hard job doing without them. Don’t end up, like Owen Jones, “on the wrong side of history” when it comes to women’s rights.
Leeds Spinners’ now famous embroidered banner, made in response to Owen Jones’ claim that the women’s campaign is “on the wrong side of history”
Over the last two years, we gender-critical women have been frozen out, we have been abused and slandered, we have been bullied, we have been seriously frightened, occasionally attacked, some of us have been suspended or sacked from this or that, or arrested for we know not what – and on Monday, we found out that we have come back not just stronger, but wiser, more united and more joyful. So you see, it’s hard to imagine what could stop us now.
NB sorry I haven’t given you pics of the hundreds of women who came together on Monday night – our gatherings include those at risk from domestic violence, and those whose employers still think being gender-critical is a sacking offence, so crowd photos are, sadly, not on. I’ll show you some crowdfunder shots instead…
Donors to Maya’s fund included internationally famous sportswomen and one of the founders of Stonewall.
4 responses to “The women are back in town”
It’s a shame that whilst you decide to definitely exclude women who are not on the left you include men on the left, the same men that pimp out women, that champion surrogacy and mutilate kids bodies.
What should have been a women’s movement has become a socialist movement with a hint of woman, this is not what I signed up for. I will no longer be supporting woman’s place even though I’m on the left, because all women are more important than the left. The left has abandoned women with all of us in it who were powerless to stop it.
I don’t agree with this “watershed moment” either, that seems quite conceited, and no more brilliant than Martina joining the fight or Sharron Davies getting involved and standing firm, Amy in a Mankini at the ponds, Speakers corner, Posey saying transwomen are not women on live TV, fair play getting 50,000 people to sign the GRA consultation.
Jo, I am sincerely sorry if this looks like a competitive statement to other women’s groups. That really was not my intention – although I specifically chose NOT to call it ‘A Woman’s Place is back in town’ because the gathering was so very obviously a significant coming together of women from all the groups, and I wanted to add that feel to the title. I know there is a number of women who see a competition going on but I assure you the vast majority do not, and many attend actions by all the groups – I do – and I would like to impress on everyone that the ‘our team, your team’ attitude, although very human and therefore very tempting, is a terrible distraction. It is the size and vocal exuberance of that crowd, and the presence of women prominent in other groups, that put the note of triumph in my writing.
I think Posie Parker’s ‘adult human female’ campaign was a stroke of genius.
Gods, I know We Need To Talk and I’m grateful to those who led the way in that.
The Man Friday actions are inspired.
I went leafleting on Fairplay for Women’s tremendously effective campaign during the consultation. In fact, Nic williams, Fairplay’s primary spokewoman, was at the meeting.
There were transwomen at our meeting from other gender-critical groups, both those for women generally and those for transwomen specifically. Heartfelt gratitude to all those transwomen who have spoken out on this issue. NB I don’t like calling transwomen men – it’s rude. They are males who have chosen not to live as men so, as long as they respect and support women’s right to gather exclusively when they need to, as a sex-class, then I respect the idea that transwomen don’t want to live as, or be called, men.
And men – yes, men. Fighting patriarchy is not about fighting men, it is about fighting a system that sets us against each other and gives women often fatal problems. I admit that’s an easy mistake to make, because of course the campaign must be led by women, and of course women, like all disadvantaged groups, must insist on their right to gather as a class when they need to – but that’s the whole point, isn’t it. The Equalities Act has exemptions for such groups, and all socialists should understand the importance of that, for the sake of equality. That’s why we need a group that focuses on putting right that mirage of ‘progressiveness’ some would-be socialists have promoted in lefty organisations – it is every bit as bad as the faux socialism, better described as chivalry, that leads some people on the right to apparently support our stance.
So – to be clear, I am sincerely sorry if anyone sees this a competitive challenge. I am profoundly grateful to all the women’s groups – Resisters all, for their variety as much as anything, and I support lesbians’ right to “get the L out” if they need to – because variety is what allows ALL women to join in the campaign. We may indeed be helping to solve some political divides because, although WPUK is founded by, and is to a great extent a gathering place for, socialist and trades union women, there are all kinds of views amongst us, and I personally have benefited from finding myself working with women with different views on other social, cultural and political issues.
It IS good to talk – We Need to Talk. I’m sure I haven’t managed to get nearly all the groups in there – and that’s the marvel. The number, the growth and the variety of women’s groups that we now have across the country, allowing everyone to find a group that suits them.
Is there any particular reason you erased Meghan Murphy from this event?
Only my memory, Anne. I asked a couple of people for photos I thought affective, and would have added info to them but didn’t hear back, then forgot.