It feels like about 200 years ago I stepped down as a Labour Party CLP officer, and got stuck into the women’s rights campaign. Initially, I didn’t have a particularly articulate view of the conflict between women’s legal rights and Stonewall et al’s demands under the title ‘trans rights’, but I did have a very well-honed and well-practiced attitude to bullying and malpractice, and a healthy socialist scepticism about identity politics. Also, there were already signs that the ‘gender ideology’ that seemed to come with ‘trans rights’ was harming women and children. In Hastings, some of us felt we needed a debate, and at that time, there was only one organisation we could think of that would help us stage that debate…
20th June, 2018
Below is a link to Woman’s Place UK’s record of events. If you click that link, and scroll down to 20th June 2018, you’ll see the details of our meeting, four years ago come Monday, and some links to information and opinions that were flying around it in my town.
That was when, in conversation with people like Kristina Harrison and her associates (for a trans perspective) and the TU women (Kiri Tunks, Megan Dobney and others) for a women-in-politics perspective, I began to develop a view on the conflict of rights situation, and thanks to people like Philippa Gregory and Jeni Harvey, I learned about why women need the legal rights they have, and for those rights to be implemented more effectively, and also how ubiquitous the resistance to women claiming their rights is (and was, and always has been), and about how it isn’t surprising, given how sexism works, that a lot of people either can’t see, or pretend they can’t see, how the current demands for trans self-ID and gender-identity (or whatever the next made-up buzz word will be) would compromise women’s legal rights, if enshrined in law.
Here are the speeches from that 2018 meeting…
They were followed by comments and debate from the audience of around 90 people. Those people included straight, gay and trans, male and female, young and old – mostly Labour Party or trade unionists, and most of them had come along because they were aware that a debate was needed, but that it tended to be bullied off pitch or turned into a row whenever anyone attempted it. In fact, some had come to our meeting BECAUSE Hastings Pride and Hastings Rainbow Alliance had put out a notice warning people not to come to the meeting. (Why try to stop them? Because an open debate, with a range of views expressed, would damage their frail brains? Or because the gender-ideologists already knew that, if women are allowed to talk freely, they tend to end up pro women’s rights?)
“It’s a toxic debate”? “It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other?” – I don’t think so. That same summer, those two LGBTQ+ organisations had a meeting under the auspices of Hastings Momentum, to present what they thought we needed to know. Did we warn people off it? Did we lie to venue managers to put them off holding it? Did we issue threats, or attempt to protest the meeting? No, we did not. A couple of the women working with us politely went along to listen, and reported back to us. It’s not six of one and half a dozen of the other now, either.
If you’d like to know how things have gone since then, click the links below the pictures in The back story to read/hear a bit about my journey, and how the campaign is going (or else scroll on down to The Remainders of Party Politics to read about where I think we’re at now.)
The back story
Brighton Labour Party Conference, 2019 – I’d been on the women’s campaign for a year or more, and this is me talking about what I had experienced (sorry if I look/sound a little stranger than usual – trying to talk closely into two mics without buzzing them, and trying to enunciate clearly enough to be understood over a bunch of Momentum yobs kicking the window and shouting abuse is not that easy)…
Women were flocking to the movement, and re-learning about real feminism (that stupid pre-fix ‘gender critical’ gets added because people have forgotten that real feminism IS critique of ‘gender’). The meetings were getting bigger, and better-informed. I started 2020 by presenting a workshop at a conference 1000-women strong…
By now, the yobs were trying to interfere, with ANY women’s organisations that had failed to be dictated to, not just the ones specifically about women’s legal rights. FiLiA 2021 attracted well over 1000 women, for a weekend-long feast of networking, learning and internationalist feminism.
by this year, I was feeling really proud of how the women’s movement is growing, to the extent that people who oppose the movement are complaining that I go on and on and on. So I thought I’d say a little something to them…
And to bring us right up to date, here’s the latest manifestation of the bullying campaign in my town, which helped to remove one, possibly two, socialist women from our council in May – and a report from Cardiff, where things are a bit different.
So where are we at now? The woman’s movement grows and grows – but the ranks are mainly swelled by women who have left party politics and trade union work, or reduced their engagement with their parties, often for the same reasons Ruby and I did. Within party politics are people who avoid controversy and say what Stonewall et al instruct them to say. If you ask them about it, many will say they do agree with us “to some extent”, or that they do support us, “privately” but they say politics is better if they keep their seats/roles than it would be if they spoke the truth and let themselves be drummed out (like we were, because they didn’t help us).
Wow – self-confidence or what? (Feel free to say what.)
“They came for the courageous, but I am not courageous…”
I wonder if any of my lefty friends are ready to consider that this is exactly what the neoliberals wanted. Here’s a parable: One of the things you have to do to gain entry to the United States – even on a holiday visa, is answer a load of questions that begin “Have you ever thought about…?” for example, “Have you ever thought about joining the Communist Party?” Obviously, to gain entry, you have to say ‘no’.
I put it to you that no-one can remember EVERY THOUGHT THEY’VE EVER HAD. Can you? Really? Even every passing, idle thought? I put it to you that no honest person ever entered the USA on a holiday visa or any other kind of visa, just people who are good at thinking what they’re told to think, and nothing else.
The remainders of party politics
The same is now true of UK politics. That is what they wanted. Those who remain in politics are people who lie, people who dissemble, people who trot out the slogans they will be rewarded for saying, people who think their seat is more important than their manifesto, or than honesty, or than the principle of standing up to bullies – in other words, obedient, corruptible people. Oh, well done.
There are a few groups of mainly women (Lesbian Labour, Labour Women’s Declaration, Gender Critical Greens, the cross-party Women Uniting team) who are still diligently battling for honesty within the parties on women’s issues – good for them. But on the whole – well, just look at this from the parliamentary debate on the ‘Conversion Therapy Ban’ proposal this week…
Here you see Jeremy Corbyn being his usual determined, empathetic self, and a couple of brave young socialist women glaring determinedly at the opposition, yes? Is that what you see?
On the other side, you have the enemy, yes? Some older Labour Party women, and some Conservative women, who have been patiently trying to explain – this is not ‘gay lib two’. No serious person is in favour of ‘Conversion Therapy’ for anyone. The reason many people are asking for a halt to the ‘Conversion Therapy Ban’ Bill, or at the very least, the ‘trans’ part of it, is that 1. it is poorly thought out and poorly worded, and so likely to cause unintended harm, mainly to women and children, and 2. Can we please wait for the full Cass Report, because then, for the first time, we will have solid evidence to go on about what is happening to women and children who declare as trans or non-binary. You see, up until now you, and everyone, have been basing your reactions on the hype and the dramas and the misinformation Stonewall, Mermaids et al have been putting out.
Here is an example of what the people asking to Halt the Bill are trying to stop…
…and again and again, around those posts, articles and YouTube testimonies to what is going wrong for so many of these young people, we see signs of how the gender-ideology people run their activism…
Sound and Fury
In that video clip above, Corbyn is trotting out empathy and familiar ideas – completely irrelevantly, because the stories of ‘detransitioners’ get hounded out of the conversation, so he does not know who is at risk, or what the risks are. Meanwhile, the two young women, Zara Sultana and Nadia Whittome provide the fury – they are so busy glaring angrily at the women across the way that they are not listening. Corbyn doesn’t need to listen. He’s a mature, straight man, he’s not in any danger from all this. Sultana is particularly astonishing here – does she not claim, sometimes, to speak for Muslim women and girls? Does she not know the harms the gender-ideologists’ denial of single sex spaces does to them? But both Sultana and Whittome exhibit our biggest problem.
The ‘trans rights’ campaign has tapped into an easy seam to work – make young women hate old women. Tell them not to listen to the old women. Make men just listen to the pretty young women. (Oh sure, some young women have the ‘wrong’ ideas too, but they can be bullied into silence. Young women tend to be vulnerable to that).
Keir Starmer has successfully lined up his new, toothless Labour Party alongside the Tories in “sensible” land. By refusing to listen to why women’s and girls’ rights matter, the left have placed themselves out there on that old stand labelled “looney left’” Oh, well done. Stop blaming right-wing saboteurs. You did this yourselves. Consider this, though – when team Starmer were busy kicking out lefties, they didn’t, on the whole, go after the feminist groups. They were thinking of them as a useful foil for you to show yourselves up against.
It didn’t occur to them that perhaps some of those women were not just feminists, but also courageous socialists. Now those women are close to being the only socialists still active in the party. If you still have any hope for the Labour Party left, do you think maybe you might try audibly supporting those women?
I won’t hold my breath. Sometimes, we despair, we think the USA will achieve nuclear wipeout, or the corporates will achieve irreversible climate meltdown, or the right-wingers will have us all in prison camps, before any of you will allow women to work and speak freely again, or even leave us alone so we can get on with the necessary radical politics … but despair isn’t the end. You get bored, if you sit around in despair, so we tend to get up and get going again quite quickly…
Mainstream politics is no use to us. Party politics is farce. Never mind, the women are organising elsewhere. We won’t fail, we can’t. This is not voluntary. Once women see what we have to lose, what’s happening to our kids, and what will happen if women stop fighting, we do not stop.
If you want to help fix this, check out Woman’s Place UK, Fairplay for Women, Women’s Rights Network, LGB Alliance, the Gay Men’s Network, Sex Matters, Transgender Trend, Labour Women’s Declaration, Lesbian Labour… there are plenty more groups out there – obviously, I mainly know about groups for socialist women, and please forgive me if I’ve left out your favourite – there are so many now — but if you’ve just decided this all matters, you’ll find at least one in that list, or one like it, that you can join, whoever you are.
We will not stop. You can admit that, and join in, whenever you’re ready.
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