A litany of myths, misrepresentations and misinformation

The following response to an article by Roz Kaveney in Red Pepper from Womans Place UK was originally published on Facebook after Red Pepper declined to publish it.

Woman’s Place UK: A Right of Reply

Woman’s Place UK rejects outright the litany of myths, misrepresentations and misinformation contained in Roz Kaveney’s article. To refute them one by one would make for tedious reading. Suffice to say that Woman’s Place UK is not transphobic; has not engaged in or supported any abuse; has not been responsible for posting offensive images or flyers; and is not actually running a campaign against the GRA. Neither has Venice Allan ever been a part of Woman’s Place UK (a fact she has stated publicly).

Woman’s Place UK is made up of people from a range of backgrounds who are rooted in trade unions, women’s organisations, academia, the NHS and other walks of life and who are determined to defend women’s hard won rights.

We are against all forms of discrimination. Transgender people should have the same rights as anyone else to be free from discrimination, to access the services that they need and to be treated with dignity and respect.

The demands of Woman’s Place UK, as outlined in our launch statement are quite specific and quite clear. We want:

  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 for 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.

We have held one meeting to date (in Cambridge) and have another planned in Manchester. A speaker from Woman’s Place UK spoke at a fringe organised by others at Labour Party Conference in Brighton. *

We reject Kaveney’s account of the incident at Hyde Park. In fact, it was this incident (clearly shown in this footage) that resulted in the creation of Woman’s Place UK.

Some of our members were there and they witnessed the unprovoked attack on a woman who was trying to attend a meeting which had to be relocated because of intimidation and threats. We were horrified that women were being prevented from discussing sex and gender and resolved to make sure these discussions would take place.

Women are routinely silenced, defamed, threatened, trolled, harassed and even physically assaulted for daring to engage in a discussion about the possible consequences of a legislative change. They are ‘doxxed’ and their employers are contacted via Twitter and urged to fire them. The accusation of “transphobia” should not be used to shut down women’s voices.

We are campaigning to ensure that women’s voices are heard on a question which affects them.

We do this because the Women & Equalities Select Inquiry failed to call in any women’s groups or feminists to give evidence in person.

We do this because so many other structures are failing in their responsibility to make sure women are heard.

We do this because it is the only way we will come to a progressive position which upholds the rights of everyone and allows us to move forward.

Woman’s Place UK

* We have been asked by Venice Allan to clarify further that Woman’s Place UK were not involved in the organisation of ‘What is Gender?’ held in London on 13 September and ‘Debate Not Hate’ held in Brighton on 27 September. We are happy to do so. Both these events were organised by a small team of women, including Venice Allan, none of whom are or have ever been involved with Woman’s Place UK. We also have no association with ‘We Need to Talk about the GRA’ held in York on 8 November, or any forthcoming meetings, organised by Venice Allan.

Protection of Women and Children’s Rights

An open letter to the leader of the Labour Party.

Dear Jeremy Corbyn

I am an ordinary working woman. I come from a trade union, Labour voting family – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I have always voted Labour and I have been involved in anti-racist, gay liberation, pro NHS, feminist and trade union campaigns since I was a teenager. I have been a member of Labour and Momentum for some time. I write now, with a great deal of sadness. I have already written to my local MP but received back only a standard reply which did not address my concerns. Yet my experience tells me that what I write here represents the views of many ordinary women and men in this country.

As a woman and as the mother of a young woman, the protection and rights of women and children must be one of my priorities. Protection. not just against domestic abuse, rape, sexual exploitation, inadequate care services, degrading and demeaning representations and work underpayment but now against the demands, distortions, lies and claims of what appears to be a science-denying sect sweeping aside the safety of women and children and, which is apparently supported by yourself and the Labour Party. I refer of course to the very well- funded and, well organized, movement that claims that science, in the form of biology, is an illusion, and that only reported personal feelings determine whether one is a man or a woman.

As a feminist I do not care what gender role or fantasy people choose to act out as long as it does not harm others. I have no issue about the behaviour of transmen (adult women who claim to be men), cat people, dog people, baby adults or any other group because they neither threaten others, nor take away the hard fought for rights of other vulnerable groups. But I am concerned about fully intact physical males jeopardizing the safety of women by claiming the legal right to self- identify as a woman and to enter any female only space – changing rooms, domestic violence asylums, rape crisis centres, and women’s prisons and, to physically endanger and, in some cases, to actually seriously injure, women in women’s sports teams. Men who claim the right to take funding and positions meant by law to go to women. As part of a reality based community, I am concerned that the Orwellian erosion of meaning in our language will lead to a decline in our ability to debate and reason. Increasingly acts of male sexual violence rape and murder are being reported as female crimes, distorting facts, statistics and our understanding and analysis of crime. I am concerned that at the very time when the world needs science to defend the earth against global warming and the destruction of our natural habitat, science is being left undefended and undermined.

I hear claims that transgender people experience oppression and persecution, to which I am totally opposed. You pat yourselves on the back for being inclusive whilst women who try to broaden the debate away from the hostility of social media into the real world are subjected to abuse, intimidation and silencing. But you are too late to silence the debate. Feminist women and their male supporters will continue to look at the evidence and to question, whether we can vote for a Labour Party that is intent on destroying the rights of women, and the safety and health of our children by proclaiming that a transgender woman is a woman simply because they say so. A party which appears to be advocating gender rather than biological sex as the determinant in accessing female only services and spaces. A party whose spokeswoman, in the form of Emily Thornberry, on national TV weakly shrugs, smiles and says that she “doesn’t care” about men using women’s facilities. A party which consults only transgender activists -not women, -not de-transitioned people – not transsexual groups – about sex, gender and the consequences of transitioning confused and non-conforming young people. And which encourages people who are, biologically and legally, men to represent women on, and in, women’s posts and panels.

I fear that the Tory party will eventually pick up crucial votes from women swing voters on this issue and I do not want to see another Tory government attacking ordinary people’s living standards, destroying our NHS and destroying our environment. And yet who can women – who can I and my family – vote for, now that the Labour Party is throwing away our rights and threatening the safety of our children. How can Labour women vote at all? Is the Labour Party for the many? Because right now, it seems, it is for the few.

Yours sincerely,

Jan Oliver