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Worthy of Respect

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

“The Claimant’s gender critical belief is not unique to her; it is a belief shared by others who consider that it is important to have an open debate about issues concerning sex and gender identity.”

Justice Choudhury

Forstater V CGD

'After two years of legal battles, Sex Matters co-founder Maya Forstater achieved a landmark legal ruling that looks set to change the direction of the sex and gender debates in the UK, and provide legal protection for gender-critical people against discrimination and harassment.'

It states unequivocally that gender critical views are worthy of respect, and those who hold them are protected against discrimination and harassment - not only in the work place, but in their universities, colleges, political parties and services. Full statement.

A full statement fro The Old Square Chambers can be read here.

This has come a little over a year since JK Rowling tweeted in support of Maya Forstater.

The tweet was a succinct, compassionate, feminist statement. A statement in defence of a woman who believes she was discriminated against for holding the basic materialist view that sex is real and #sexmatters.

In one tweet, JK brought the protest against the roll back of women's rights into the mainstream.

The resulting attempted cancelling of JK was in many ways a replay of what happened to Maya. Like Maya, JK’s tweet was misrepresented, condemned, and then sold to the baffled as having some nefarious and sinister hidden meaning.

What had played out on a small stage with Maya, was now about to play out on a grand scale. It was the moment that the vituperative descriptor ‘TERF’ went mainstream, and the wider public were equal parts baffled and horrified.

The consequent abuse directed towards JK Rowling represented a defining cultural moment. An extreme version of gender activism came under the spotlight, and trans activists tried to sell its core beliefs to the mainstream. The assertions that were demanding consensus can be roughly boiled down to two parts:

  • ONE Basic feminist tenets or any material statements about sex are inherently transphobic/‘anti-trans’/trans-exclusionary/bigoted/aligned with Nazism or apartheid (no really)/‘White feminism’/literal violence and responsible for the deaths of trans people.

  • TWO There can be #nodebate. This is not up for discussion. The totalitarian idea that any discussion of the issues (or any rebuttal of the the beliefs set out in Part One) is also transphobic and the very act of discussion is responsible for literal violence. When questions are raised they are shut down with baffling (and often misogynistic) thought limiting mantras.

The threat of the ire of ever-vigilant would-be consumers prompted trusted organisations, charities, celebrities to join the mob and condemn JK as transphobic. A secondary school even renamed a house that carried her name. Confusion reigned as those new to this subject looked on and wondered exactly what JK did that could be so bad. What could justify the onslaught? (Her compassionate clarifying essay can be read here).

No one was really sure. If you asked exactly which words were problematic, there was no clear response - but it was clear that it must have been bad ... so bad that we couldn’t even talk about it.

And this is the crux of the Forstater ruling.

In a little more than a year since JK's tweet, the courts have ruled that gender-critical feminism (aka feminism) is not hateful and that the viewpoint that feminism is hate speech is not in line with that of the law. The viewpoint that has led to the horrendous abuse and subjugation of so many women in recent years, Maya and JK Rowling amongst them.

Justice Choudhury ruled that Maya’s tweets and 'gender critical' beliefs were worthy of respect and were not anti-trans. Moreover her views are considered to be a ‘reasonably held belief in law’.

‘“The Claimant’s gender-critical beliefs, which were widely shared, and which did not seek to destroy the rights of trans persons, clearly did not fall into that category.“

Justice Choudhury

And this is crucial. In short it means we can talk about it.

It means that women can actively discuss their rights, their analysis of sex and be protected not just at work, but by their university, political party, service provider etc.

It also means we can challenge Stonewall 'law' in our workplaces. We can confidently tell our refuge that we want a woman therapist or single-sex space. It means we can talk freely about legislative change that impacts women in our political parties without risking expulsion.

In Maya’s own words:

"Be braver today than you were yesterday"

Maya Forstater

Watching the backlash against JK gave broader society a glimpse of what feminists had been shouting about for years. The level of harassment targeted at women shocked even those that have little time for women and ‘our issues’. The curious and brave started to ask questions. The media started to report and they started, at last, to listen.

It was common knowledge amongst feminists that advocating or discussing these issues (for example single-sex prisons on a public platform) would result in no platforming and an accompanied public smearing campaigns. These campaigns would typically look like threats of violence, 'open letters' and the like. Too often they would result in actual violence, urine and swastikas at your office, dead rats nailed to the doors of single-sex rape crisis services and in the case of Prof Selina Todd a body guard.

These horrific accounts were now flooding mainstream broad sheets. Reports more fitting of Gilead than the UK.

What emerged from this was the simple truth that what women (and some men) were asserting was not hateful and were both evidenced and meaningful. Far from there being ‘an attack on trans rights’ (which nobody wants, we are proud the UK has some of the best protections in the world for trans people) it is, in fact, women’s rights were being rolled back on a large scale.

And then came the #ReidhoffReport (here). Commissioned because of the shocking treatment of Professor Jo Phoenix (Open University) and Professor Rosa Freedman (University of Reading) by the University of Essex. (Read more here).

They suffered a litany of indignities; no platforming, threats, defamation and the like. A flyer was circulated in the University bearing an image of a cartoon character pointing a gun and the words “SHUT THE F*** UP, TERF, Prof Freedman (a Jewish scholar) who was due to speak on a Holocaust round table event was dis-invited and her views likened publicly by a University official to Holocaust denial.

What was revealed by the report was shocking. That, in short, there was an Institutional failure caused and compounded by the University's policies introduced as a consequence of signing up to Stonewall's Diversity Champion scheme.

It is evident that once loved and trusted organisations such as Stonewall have consistently misrepresented both the discourse and the law. Their Diversity Champion scheme demands organisations to change their policies, not in step with the law, but as the Report states 'the law as Stonewall would like it to be'. Stonewall has a lot to answer for and use both tax payer money and money raised from their Diversity Champion Scheme to lobby for ‘sex’ and ‘single-sex exceptions' to be removed from law.

So what has the Women's Equality Party had to say about any of this………….?

In short, very little.

There has been a deafening silence from WEP's elected officers thus far. When Maya lost her initial case, they said nothing. When they piled on JK, they said nothing. Time after time when women were bullied, harassed, no platformed, physically attacked, expelled from political parties and sacked they said nothing.

The Party has still made no comment or statement on Forstater V CGD ruling. This doesn't look good. The judgement date was known. The outcome (either way) clearly strikes at the core of our Party.

Our concern, as a caucus, is that WEP may not realise the significance of the ruling. They may not even fully understand it.

Those (including NGO's like Stonewall), who would like to silence women on this issue have repeatedly misrepresented every aspect of the case. Despite a clear ruling and clarification of the facts even post judgement this continues.

A frustrating natural consequence of WEP's #nodebate and their sidelining of feminist women, is that no alternative views in the Party are heard. This creates an unhealthy organisational culture, exasperated when this particular issue consistently misrepresents the GC/feminist analysis.

A tale of two tweets

Shortly after the judgement, Sophie Walker, WEP leader until early 2019 made a clear and unequivocal tweet statement re women's rights. Later that day our current leader Mandu Reid added her voice to twitter too. We hope WEP can reflect on how differently the two tweets were received, we offer no further comment.

Returning to Mandu's tweet, what has WEP actually done to facilitate a culture of respectful discourse? What has WEP done to protect against the harassment of women with gender critical (feminist) views?

Again, very little, and if the truth be told, WEP has previous.

In 2017, our VAWG spokesperson Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans was removed from her role as Spokesperson for the statements she made on the Moral Maze:

"A genuinely progressive society would allow boys and girls to be whatever they want to be so I am absolutely perfectly happy if boys want to wear dresses…. but the problem comes when we decide that the child is genuinely internally and in some sense not a boy but a girl and that is where we get into trouble. So, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with a boy’s body if he wants to wear a dress.”

In Heather’s own words ‘I was expressing the view that gender is a social construct while sex is a biological reality which families and society invest with meaning. While I believe adults can define their gender in whichever way they see fit, more caution should be exercised when it comes to the medical transitioning of children.’

One or more Party members complained and claimed the following

  • "Discrimination against transgender people”

  • “Lack of suitability to represent the party”

  • “Fundamental disagreement with the core values of the party

When Heather discussed these events at a feminist meeting, a fellow party member (not attending the meeting) described her as a cancer, calling for her removal from WEP:

So whilst we welcome our Party Leader promoting a balanced discourse, we must point out that WEP is a Party that censured an elected officer for taking a balanced and evidenced gender critical position. Yet took no action against members who personally abused her for it.

As a Caucus this is just more of the same.

When we brought a motion to Conference asking WEP to make a clear commitment to upholding the SSE's in Equality 2010 we felt the full weight of the Party. The motion was misrepresented and party rules were bent and procedures were broken in a sustained and successful effort to shut it down and avoid a vote. See here and here.

In our party, members that refer to us as 'neo-fascists' in WEP forums can do so with full protection of the Party (See here). An elected officer at Conference declared the Caucus a 'smokescreen' with a sense of complete impunity (a smokescreen for what we can only guess).

Yet when Mandu was abused we made a public statement expressing our solidarity with her. Why?.......

Because even without a court ruling, we know that women with reasonably held beliefs are worthy of respect.

So exactly what can we do - as women and WEP members- to also be deemed worthy of respect?

We turn to the courts.

Thank you Maya

If you are a member of WEP and would like to join the Caucus please subscribe for updates and details of how to attend our next meeting with Mandu Reid.

If you would like to rejoin WEP be assured that the Forstater ruling protects you from harassment and discrimination within the Party.

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1 Comment

I was a founder member of WEP and happily paid my dues...but I cancelled this year when I discovered that it didn't,alongside lib dems, greens and the labour party, support womens rights of safety and fairness in a patriarchal society.

Astonished and wait for further developments from the party before I rejoin.

How daily rapes, murders and other mistreatments of women have no weight against the feelings of men who wish to be seen as women completely baffles me. No one wants to hurt anyone's feelings (especially women!) but more importantly we wish to protect women and girls from predatory men and unfair competition...else what are we feminists for? Of course not all males are a threat to females...but many…

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