sisterhoodispowerful

Radical Feminist Resistance

A UK GUIDE FOR NON-LAWYERS ABOUT PROTECTING WOMEN-ONLY SPACES: June 2016

HOW LEGISLATION PROTECTS WOMEN-ONLY SPACES AND SERVICES:
AN OVERVIEW

by Louise Whitfield, Public Law Specialist and Partner at Deighton Pierce Glynn

Click here for a PDF version of this legal briefing

INTRODUCTION

This briefing is designed to highlight the existence of legal protections for women-only activities, spaces and services to help ensure that these rights are properly understood and to avoid misinterpretation that may threaten their existence. The following topics are dealt with below:

  • Summary of what is and isn’t covered by the Equality Act 2010
  • When discrimination is lawful
  • Women-only associations
  • When discrimination against women-only events is unlawful
  • The legal responsibilities of public bodies

This briefing does not detail all the protections available under the Equality Act 2010 for all groups in all areas – or set out the principles which underpin the Act – except where it is relevant to the rights of women. It is designed to be understood by non-lawyers. Further information is also provided in appendices in terms of the specific provisions of the Act and other resources.

 
WHAT IS AND ISN’T COVERED BY THE EQUALITY ACT 2010

The Equality Act 2010 is the main piece of law in England, Wales and Scotland to protect particular groups from disadvantage or unfair treatment*. It bans discrimination against certain groups in certain activities. Discrimination essentially means treating people less favourably because of a “protected characteristic”. A protected characteristic means someone is entitled to legal protection on the grounds of a particular feature, for example their sex.

The list of protected characteristics is set out in section 4 of the Equality Act and can be found in appendix 1 of this briefing, along with definitions of the main types of discrimination that are relevant: direct, indirect and harassment.

Biological sex and gender re-assignment are two of the relevant ‘protected characteristics’ as they relate to women-only spaces and services.

The specific areas or activities covered by the different parts of the Act that are relevant are:

  • services and public functions
  • premises
  • work
  • education
  • associations

Anti-discrimination laws do not cover anything else you do or plan to do. Private activities are NOT covered by these anti-discrimination laws.


*1. The Equality Act 2010 does not apply in Northern Ireland which has a range of different pieces of legislation prohibiting discrimination.

WHEN DISCRIMINATION IS LAWFUL

Generally, the Equality Act doesn’t allow for discrimination against those with ‘protected characteristics’ who want to use a service. However, there are exceptions in certain circumstances.

If you are providing a service, you can provide it for women only under paragraph 27 of Schedule 3 of the Act (which is set out in Appendix 2). This states that if the targeted provision is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim and the services meet ONE of six conditions (for example only people of that sex need the service), it is lawful to provide it to women only. You can find all the conditions in Appendix 2.

In addition, paragraph 27 makes clear that, if a public body exercises a public function relating to the provision of a single-sex service, they are also covered by these exceptions. This covers “back-room” activities and decisions, about administration, management and finance. So a local authority funding a women-only refuge can do this lawfully; or they can let women’s groups use their buildings or facilities to provide women-only services.

The examples for lawful single-sex services given in the notes that were published with the Equality Act include the following:

• a cervical cancer screening service to be provided to women
only, as only women need the service;
• a domestic violence support unit to be set up by a local
authority for women only but there is no men-only unit
because of insufficient demand;
• separate male and female wards to be provided in a hospital;
• separate male and female changing rooms to be provided in
a department store;
• a massage service to be provided to women only by a female
massage therapist with her own business operating in her
clients’ homes because she would feel uncomfortable
massaging men in that environment.

Women’s projects or organisations may find guidance from the Equality & Human Rights Commission useful. This is because they explain how it is lawful to provide single-sex services; (see the link in Appendix 4 to “What equality law means for your business”, specifically pages 16 and 17).

Paragraph 28 of Schedule 3 of the Act also makes it lawful to refuse to provide single-sex services to someone on the basis of their gender reassignment. Again
this needs to be objectively justified – the provision of single-sex services must be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The example given in the explanatory notes that accompany the Equality Act is as follows:

“A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual
assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as
they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to
do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This
would be lawful.”

This issue is also covered in the EHRC’s guidance at page 17 which is relevant to women’s projects or organisations providing single-sex services: “Although a business can exclude a transsexual person or provide them with a different service, this is only if it can objectively justify doing so”. “Objective justification” means that you have a legitimate aim (a good reason) for providing a particular service, and that making it women only is a proportionate (reasonable – not ‘over the top’) way of meeting that aim. For example, a domestic violence organisation might have a legitimate aim of ensuring women feel safe because otherwise they will not want to access the services, and it would be proportionate to restrict your service to females to ensure that it is effective.

A WOMEN-ONLY ASSOCIATION

Women can lawfully associate together in different ways. A formal association is only covered by the Equality Act if it has more than 25 members and a membership system involving a process of selection and rules. If a group has fewer than 25 members, or doesn’t have rules, the group isn’t affected by the Act, so for example you can run a book group or have a private party however you like. A group of women wanting to come together informally at a private gathering is not in breach of the Equality Act if they decide to turn away men.

This is set out in the guidance from the Equality & Human Rights Commission called: “What equality law means for your association, club or society”. At page 11 it gives examples of “a book-reading club run by a group of friends; a walking club which anyone who finds out about it can belong to; a choir which is open to anyone who works at a particular place but where no approval is required to join” and then states: “This sort of informal ‘club’ is not covered by equality law at all.

Ordinarily if a women-only association has more than 25 members and a membership system, it cannot discriminate against people on the basis of a protected characteristic, as this is prohibited under the Act, but there are exceptions.

Even if the group you set up is a formal association, with membership rules etc and has more than 25 members, you are not discriminating against someone if membership is restricted to having a particular characteristic: a women-only association does not discriminate against a man by not letting him join. You can also restrict guests to people with particular protected characteristics. This is the exception that is set out at paragraph 1 of Schedule 16 of the Act (see Appendix 2). The notes that come with the Act explain:

“This paragraph allows an association whose main purpose is to
bring together people who share a particular characteristic (such
as a particular nationality, sexual orientation or a particular
disability) to continue to restrict membership to such people, and
impose similar restrictions on those who can exercise the rights of
an associate, or who can be invited as guests.”

WHEN DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN-ONLY ACTIVITIES IS UNLAWFUL

If you want to run a women-only event or service, you cannot be discriminated against by another service-provider on the basis that you are women. If an organisation or company managing a venue refuses to let you hire it because you want to hold a women-only event this would be unlawful discrimination by them against you. Under section 13 of the Equality Act 2010, it is discrimination – when providing a service – to treat someone less favourably because of their sex. Therefore, someone running a venue or providing another type of service cannot refuse to let you book it because you are a woman wanting to run a lawful women- only event or service.

By letting you make a booking, the venue provider is not discriminating against anyone else. You are being provided with the premises on the same terms as any other organisation. You are being treated the same as any other hirer, and not in a different way because you are women, so there is no breach of the Equality Act 2010 and therefore no discrimination against anyone else. Men cannot claim that the venue owner letting you use the venue for a women-only event is somehow discriminating against them; this is incorrect in law.

THE LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF PUBLIC BODIES

A public body, or an organisation exercising a public function, must meet the public sector equality duty set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (which is set out in full in appendix 3). This means that public bodies – for all their functions – and anyone else carrying out a public function must have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate discrimination and harassment of women;
  • Advance equality of opportunity for women;
  • Foster good relations between women and men (including tackling prejudice and promoting understanding).

Advancing equality of opportunity for women includes having due regard to the need to:

  • Remove or minimise the disadvantages women suffer;
  • Take into account women’s needs that are different from men’s needs;
  • Encourage women to participate in public life and other activities in which their participation is low.

Examples of when the public sector equality duty applies include:

  • Local authorities considering funding women-only groups
  • The continuation of single-sex services provided by an NHS trust
  • Development of policies and guidance by central Government
  • Decisions that only affect one person, such as an application to the council for housing

With all these examples there has to be due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment of women. There must also be due regard to the need to advance equality of opportunity for women. Public bodies must assess whether there will be an adverse impact on women of a particular decision or policy. They must then decide if that adverse impact can be avoided entirely, reduced or somehow mitigated, or is justified. Other public bodies that must comply with the equality duty include the police, NHS trusts and government agencies (e.g. HMRC).

What “due regard” means in practice

Having “due regard” means considering something proportionately to its relevance to women’s equality. Some issues will be highly relevant to women’s equality (e.g. council provision of free childcare because it has such a significant impact on women’s ability to work etc), while other issues may be less relevant (e.g. a council’s arrangements for waste collection, as that’s likely to have the same impact on men and women and their equality). Issues that are highly relevant for women’s equality will need careful consideration by the public authority so that they have “due regard” to the needs set out in the equality duty (see above).

The Equality & Human Rights Commission explains this in their guidance called “Technical Guidance on the Public Sector Equality Duty: England” (revised in August 2014). At page 19, paragraph 2.20, it states:

“How much regard is ‘due’ will depend on the circumstances and in
particular on the relevance of the aims in the general equality duty to
the decision or function in question. The greater the relevance and
potential impact, the higher the regard required by the duty.
[emphasis added]

Meeting the equality duty for different groups with different needs

Meeting the public sector equality duty will sometimes involve a balancing exercise on the part of a public body. If there is more than one group to consider in terms of equality then ‘due regard’ should apply to all groups affected. The rights of one group of people with a particular protected characteristic cannot trump the rights of another group. The public body should look at the best way it can eliminate discrimination and harassment, and advance equality of opportunity, for all people who have any of the protected characteristics. There is no hierarchy as to which are more important. Having due regard in respect of equality for one group should not be at the expense of another group protected under the Equality Act.

Attempts to end discrimination for one group must always take into account the on-going statutory duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment and advance equality of opportunity for all other groups.

For example when the Law Society took steps to meet the needs of some Muslim clients who might approach their solicitors for advice when they wanted a Sharia- compliant will, the Law Society failed to think about this in terms of gender equality. They should have considered the impact on women when they drafted a practice note on this issue and circulated it to members with no recognition of the potential discrimination that could result. When concerns were raised with them including their failure to comply with the public sector equality duty in terms of gender equality, the practice note was withdrawn and the Law Society issued an apology.

Some public bodies have misinterpreted the Equality Act to mean that they have to treat everybody the same and provide the same services to all different groups. They have misunderstood the public sector equality duty and failed to recognise that they should have “due regard to the need to take steps” to meet women’s needs that are different from men’s needs (see section 149(3)(b), Equality Act 2010). They have also failed to consider that they may need to take steps to remove or minimise the disadvantages that women suffer.

A case study from real life

The case that service-users from Southall Black Sisters (SBS) brought against Ealing Council gives some useful examples of these points. It was all about how support services for people fleeing domestic violence were funded and provided.

The Council rated the services provided by SBS so highly that they wanted them to be available to everyone. So they decided to change how they funded domestic violence support services and how those services should be provided. The Council announced that the new service provider must make the same services available to men and women, from all ethnic backgrounds. The specialist providers in Ealing pointed out that they couldn’t provide their service to men for a variety of reasons. They explained that women would not feel safe; that the service wouldn’t be as effective and so on. The Council backed down on this point at an early stage. They recognised that they had been mistaken to insist that the services be provided to men and women. This is an example of effective lobbying by the women’s sector when faced with a misinterpretation of the equality duty by a public body. The Council thought that they had to provide the same service to everyone but then realised this was incorrect.

However, the Council continued to say that one provider – or one consortium – must provide the same services to all women from all ethnic backgrounds. Initially they did not even check whether this would have an adverse impact on black and minority ethnic women. The Council thought that providing the same generic service to all women would be just as good. They did look at this issue after they’d taken their decisions but the judge said this was too late. The judge also made clear that it was lawful to provide specialist services for different groups with different needs. In fact, he said that this might be necessary to ensure the equality duty is met:

“Ealing’s mistake was to believe … that such [specialist] services
could only lawfully be provided by a single provider or consortium to
victims of domestic violence throughout the borough. It appreciates
that it was in error and that in certain circumstances the purposes of
[the public sector equality duty] may only be met by specialist
services from a specialist source.”

This approach applies equally to the provision of women-only services when public bodies are making decisions about those services. They need to think: how will this decision help to eliminate discrimination and to advance equality for women? Do we need to take steps to remove or minimise the disadvantages women face in this area? How do we take into account women’s needs that are different from men’s needs? How do we encourage women to participate in public life and other activities where their participation is low?

To comply with the public sector equality duty, the public body must gather the information they need to answer these questions. They must then analyse their findings to assess the impact on women. Then they must make a rational decision based on those findings. If they fail to do so, they have breached the public sector equality duty.

CONCLUSION & SUMMARY

  • It is lawful to provide women-only services
  • It is lawful to organise women-only events
  • It can be lawful to exclude men and those with gender re-assignment status and others on the trans spectrum in specific circumstances considered on a case by case basis as set out above
  • It is lawful to have a women-only association
  • It is unlawful for another service provider to refuse to provide services to you because your event or service is only for women
  • It is lawful to ask anyone you like to a private event and to exclude anyone you want to exclude

Some women and women’s organisations have received contradictory information about the points covered in this briefing. If you are concerned about legal action because you are protecting women-only spaces and services, then the following points may be useful:

  • If someone says you are acting unlawfully by excluding them, you should provide them with copies of the Equality & Human Rights Commission’s guidance which explains the law and why it is lawful to exclude people in certain circumstances (see page references above and links in appendix 4).
  • If someone threatens you with legal action because you have refused them entry to an event, or refused to provide them with a service, they should put this in writing to you and give you the opportunity to respond before they start a court case against you; this gives you the chance to get legal advice on the specific situation and/or re-assess whether you need to change your decision.
  • Legal aid may be available for individuals needing advice about these issues or you may be able to negotiate a fixed fee for some initial advice if legal aid is not available.
    The Equality and Human Rights Commission may be able to assist (see the links in appendix 4 for their website which has contact details).

Louise Whitfield, Deighton Pierce Glynn June 2016

APPENDIX 1: EXTRACTS FROM THE EQUALITY ACT 2010,
Part 2 – key concepts

Section 4: protected characteristics
The following characteristics are protected characteristics — age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.
Section 13: direct discrimination
(1) A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.
…..
(6) If the protected characteristic is sex—
(a) less favourable treatment of a woman includes less favourable treatment of her because she is breast-feeding;
(b) in a case where B is a man, no account is to be taken of special treatment afforded to a woman in connection with pregnancy or childbirth.

“Direct discrimination” on the grounds of sex means treating
someone less favourably because they are a woman, for example
stopping someone using a service because they are a woman;
direct discrimination can never be justified but there are
exceptions. 

Section 19: indirect discrimination
(1) A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if A applies to B a provision, criterion or practice which is discriminatory in relation to a relevant protected characteristic of B’s.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a provision, criterion or practice is discriminatory in relation to a relevant protected characteristic of B’s if —
(2.a) A applies, or would apply, it to persons with whom B does not share the characteristic,
(2.b) it puts, or would put, persons with whom B shares the characteristic at a particular disadvantage when compared with persons with whom B does not share it,
(2.c) it puts, or would put, B at that disadvantage, and
(2.d) A cannot show it to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
(3) The relevant protected characteristics are — age; disability; gender reassignment;marriage and civil partnership; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.

“Indirect discrimination” on the grounds of sex means having a
provision, criterion or practice that puts women at a disadvantage in
comparison to men; for example having a policy that only full-time
workers get promotion when more women than men work part-time
so women cannot get promoted; indirect discrimination can be
justified if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Section 26: harassment
(1) A person (A) harasses another (B) if—
(a) A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and (b) the conduct has the purpose or effect of—
(i) violating B’s dignity, or
(ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.
(2) A also harasses B if—
(a) A engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, and
(b) the conduct has the purpose or effect referred to in subsection (1)(b).
(3) A also harasses B if—
(a) A or another person engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or that is related to gender reassignment or sex,
(b) the conduct has the purpose or effect referred to in subsection (1)(b), and
(c) because of B’s rejection of or submission to the conduct, A treats B less favourably than A would treat B if B had not rejected or submitted to the conduct.
(4) In deciding whether conduct has the effect referred to in subsection (1)(b), each of the following must be taken into account—
(a) the perception of B;
(b) the other circumstances of the case;
(c) whether it is reasonable for the conduct to have that effect.
(5) The relevant protected characteristics are — age; disability; gender reassignment; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.

“Harassment” means when someone engages in unwanted conduct
related to a protected characteristic (in this case sex) and the
conduct has either the purpose or effect of violating the other
person’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading,
humiliating or offensive environment for them.

APPENDIX 2: EXTRACTS FROM THE EQUALITY ACT 2010,
Schedules 3 and 16

Schedule 3, Part 7: separate, single and concessionary services etc
Single-sex services

27(1) A person does not contravene section 29(*), so far as relating to sex discrimination, by providing a service only to persons of one sex if—
(a) any of the conditions in sub-paragraphs (2) to (7) is satisfied, and
(b) the limited provision is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
(2) The condition is that only persons of that sex have need of the service.
(3) The condition is that—
(a) the service is also provided jointly for persons of both sexes, and
(b) the service would be insufficiently effective were it only to be provided jointly.
(4) The condition is that—
(a) a joint service for persons of both sexes would be less effective, and
(b) the extent to which the service is required by persons of each sex makes it not reasonably practicable to provide separate services.
(5) The condition is that the service is provided at a place which is, or is part of—
(a) a hospital, or
(b) another establishment for persons requiring special care, supervision or attention.
(6) The condition is that—
(a) the service is provided for, or is likely to be used by, two or more persons at the same time, and
(b) the circumstances are such that a person of one sex might reasonably object to the presence of a person of the opposite sex.
(7) The condition is that—
(a) there is likely to be physical contact between a person (A) to whom the service is provided and another person (B), and
(b) B might reasonably object if A were not of the same sex as B.
(8) This paragraph applies to a person exercising a public function in relation to the provision of a service as it applies to the person providing the service.


*2. Section 29 prohibits service providers from discriminating against someone who wants to use their service.

 
Gender reassignment
28(1) A person does not contravene section 29, so far as relating to gender reassignment discrimination, only because of anything done in relation to a matter within sub-paragraph (2) if the conduct in question is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
(2) The matters are—
(a) the provision of separate services for persons of each sex;
(b) the provision of separate services differently for persons of each sex;
(c) the provision of a service only to persons of one sex.

 
Schedule 16: associations: exceptions
Single characteristic associations

1(1) An association does not contravene section 101(1) by restricting membership to persons who share a protected characteristic.
(2) An association that restricts membership to persons who share a protected characteristic does not breach section 101(3) by restricting the access by associates to a benefit, facility or service to such persons as share the characteristic.
(3) An association that restricts membership to persons who share a protected characteristic does not breach section 102(1) by inviting as guests, or by permitting to be invited as guests, only such persons as share the characteristic.
(4) Sub-paragraphs (1) to (3), so far as relating to race, do not apply in relation to colour.
(5) This paragraph does not apply to an association that is a registered political party.

APPENDIX 3: EQUALITY ACT 2010, SECTION 149
149 Public sector equality duty
(1) A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to—
(a) eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act;
(b) advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
(c) foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
(2) A person who is not a public authority but who exercises public functions must, in the exercise of those functions, have due regard to the matters mentioned in subsection (1).
(3) Having due regard to the need to advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it involves having due regard, in particular, to the need to—
(a) remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by persons who share a relevant protected characteristic that are connected to that characteristic;
(b) take steps to meet the needs of persons who share a relevant protected characteristic that are different from the needs of persons who do not share it;
(c) encourage persons who share a relevant protected characteristic to participate in public life or in any other activity in which participation by such persons is disproportionately low.
(4) The steps involved in meeting the needs of disabled persons that are different from the needs of persons who are not disabled include, in particular, steps to take account of disabled persons’ disabilities.
(5) Having due regard to the need to foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it involves having due regard, in particular, to the need to—
(a) tackle prejudice, and
(b) promote understanding.
(6) Compliance with the duties in this section may involve treating some persons more favourably than others; but that is not to be taken as permitting conduct that would otherwise be prohibited by or under this Act.
(7) The relevant protected characteristics are—
age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.
(8) A reference to conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act includes a reference to —
(a) a breach of an equality clause or rule; (b) a breach of a non-discrimination rule.

APPENDIX 4: OTHER RESOURCES
The Equality & Human Rights Commission
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is Great Britain’s national equality body. They safeguard and enforce the laws, including the Equality Act, that protect people’s rights to equality, dignity and respect. The Commission produces guidance about how the law works and how to comply with it. Useful guidance in this area includes:

On its website the Commission describes its work as follows:

“We are an independent statutory body with the responsibility to encourage equality and diversity, eliminate unlawful discrimination, and protect and promote the human rights of everyone in Britain. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation – these are known as protected characteristics.

Britain is fortunate to have a strong equality and human rights legal framework to protect people from discrimination and violations of their basic rights and freedoms. However, the experiences of many people across England, Scotland and Wales often do not reflect what is set out in law. It is the Commission’s role to make these rights and freedoms a reality for everyone. We use a range of powers to do so, by providing advice and guidance to individuals, employers and other organisations, reviewing the effectiveness of the law and taking legal enforcement action to clarify the law and address significant breaches of rights.”

Although its resources are limited, the Commission has some capacity to investigate discrimination and take enforcement action where appropriate. They can also sometimes fund cases, or take court action themselves. Their home page has contact details: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en

Other guides on single sex services
More examples and materials to use can be found via the following links: http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Making-the-case-for- women-only-July-2011.pdf
http://thelondonvawgconsortium.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Best-Practice- Briefing-Equality-Act.pdf

FEMINIST URBAN DICTIONARY

Feminism, true feminism, is about subversion. It’s about naming the truths of male supremacy. It’s about connecting with women so we can collectively fight for women’s liberation.

This basic message is becoming lost because there’s currently an all-pervasive humanist/liberal approach to feminism, masquerading AS feminism, which is plastered across social media.

I want to be part of a movement which ensures that the basic message about what feminism really is, does not become lost. With that goal in mind, I’m going to start collecting online (and herstorical) feminist phrases/abbreviations and feminist descriptions of male supremacy. I’m going to start a # hashtag on twitter and invite more suggestions because I can’t remember that many.

FEMINIST URBAN DICTIONARY

NAMALT: ‘Not All Men Are Like That’: When women name the uncomfortable truths about male violence, 9 times out of 10 they will receive this kind of response. It’s almost inevitable

MANSPLAINING: When a man patronisingly tries to explain to us something we know better than him or when any kind of male explanation is not needed and is unwelcome

MANSPLAINED: (as in ‘he mansplained me’): When a feminist describes the process of a man talking over her, and explaining something simple to her as if she was unable to understand for herself.

“Not my Nigel’/’My Nigel is different’: This has been going on since forever; when women critique the male caste, a het woman often produces an unnecessary qualification that her male partner/boyfriend/husband is unique and ‘special’. (Hint: he really isn’t). The word “Nigel’ has become synonymous to mean (het) men. Usually sarcastically used when a het woman is intent on dominating a feminist agenda with stories about her ‘Nigel’ and how great he is. (Hint: He’s not and/or we don’t want to hear – we’re busy overthrowing patriarchy)

‘My Nigel’: any man a het woman is involved with.

Radical Lesbian Feminist: A female who actively makes political connections between their love for women and their fight against compulsory heterosexuality/male supremacy. They understand that sexuality is a social construct and fight the ‘born-that-way’ narrative.

Political lesbian: A woman who becomes connected with other women politically, emotionally and sexually via developing a feminist consciousness.

Separatist: A female who will not willingly associate with males; despite the myths, this does not include where we buy our groceries or who employs us

Womanist: An alternative description for women-centred politics. Frequently used by black feminists in the 1980s/90s in order to make a political point about the domination of feminism by white women.

TERF-IS-A-SLUR: The word “TERF” is used against feminists who describe how women’s oppression is connected to female biology (e.g. how birth, pregnancy, menstruation is treated within a male supremacist society) and, increasingly commonly, used against any woman who refers to the relevance of female biology in any context, whether she’s a feminist or not. The word ‘TERF” is frequently accompanied with abuse and threats. Many feminists have equated it with the word ‘witch’ from the past.

‘HANDMAIDENS’: shorthand for when women betray other women in order to defer to men/male supremacists. Not keen on the term myself for various reasons there’s no space to go into. But, still, it’s used quite a bit so here it is.

‘Gaslighting’ When a woman’s reality and lived experience/knowledge/observation is denied/reversed/repackaged. Male supremacists use it all the time and, sadly, women locked in hostility with each other, use it too. It’s an anti-feminist tactic.

‘Spinster’: A reclaimed word from the past which means an unmarried woman. Used particularly ferociously after World War 1 when so many men were killed and more women were free to lead independent lives. Male supremacy re-constructed this freedom by depicting single women as ugly and unattractive and ‘on the shelf’. Today’s ‘spinster’ rejoices in her freedoms.

Queer Alphabet Soup: A send up of the trend to add more and more letters to an unfathomable growing list of alleged disadvantaged groupings – an individualistic approach instead of an analysis about how some groups oppress others (i.e. male supremacy reigns at the expense of the caste of women)

Pomo: Shorthand for the ideology ‘ post modernism’ which underpins queer politics and transgenderist politics. Post modernism is at the other political spectrum to feminism because it promotes and celebrates individualism whereas feminism recognises that power rests with specific groups and the ways they use their power to control how society is structured.

#feministurbandictionary

NB: I did have a little google but I couldn’t see that anyone else has already done this; not in urban dictionary form. If someone has, please link and I can include the link in this blog post.

A day of truce – imagining freedom

Reclaim the Night Perth, Australia

In 1983 Andrea Dworkin spoke to male activists about a day of truce, asking for a single 24 hour period in which male sexual violence against women ceased. Stating that equality between men and women could not coexist with rape, she said:

“And on that day, that day of truce, that day when not one woman is raped, we will begin the real practice of equality, because we can’t begin it before that day. Before that day it means nothing because it is nothing: it is not real; it is not true. But on that day it becomes real. And then, instead of rape we will for the first time in our lives–both men and women–begin to experience freedom.”

When I discuss the idea of a truce with women, the response is that this is never going to happen, that it is simply not possible. Men rape women every minute…

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If full decriminalization will protect women in prostitution from these men… why do these men want it?

I have nothing to say about how disgusting it is that male violence and power is so blatantly glorified in this way – including by organisations who allege they stand for ‘justice’ internationally

A Trick Of The Trade

     The Argument

The Nordic model? It won’t work. You can’t decriminalize women and girls but criminalize the men who buy sexual access to them. It drives prostitution underground and puts them at risk of violence. Decriminalize ALL aspects of the sex trade to protect women and girls against violence and exploitation.”

Human rights group Amnesty International is currently risking everything it stands for to endorse The Argument. But if The Argument is true, why do violent and exploitative men want decriminalization?

LikeRedHeads

‘LikeRedHeads’ is the name used by a man on the Toronto Escort Review Boards (TERB). He has written over 1000 posts on the site, including reviews of the women he pays for.

He is John No.9 in The Invisible Men Project (Canada). [Read the full review here]

If the Nordic model would just facilitate him doing this to women, and full decriminalization would stop him – he must support the Nordic model. Right?

Actually…

1. He petitioned against…

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Thoughts on “Intercourse”

Another 21st century woman who brilliantly articulates how unpacking compulsory heterosexuality as an institution of oppression can lead to making political and personal leaps for womankind.

not who they say I am

Transcrit from the Andrea Dworkin Conference “Not the Fun Kind” – Ruskin Anglia University – Cambridge

A few years ago I read Intercourse or rather I tried. I read the first chapter which I remember finding so powerful, insightful, revolting. and then once again like every time I read her work, being totally radicalised by what was written and the strength of Dworkin’s language.

I started chapter 2, “Skinless” and something I never experienced before happened. I was reading but it was wrong, I understood every words but I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand what she was saying , I didn’t understand what she was talking about. Suddenly the language I knew, I was able to speak write and read, made no sense, what a strange feeling. I stopped reading the book not quite sure what was the problem and went on to other things. My life took over…

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A John Called Hatrick: Case study of one of the men tolerated by Vancouver Police Department and Surrey RCMP

Men can openly ‘boast’ about their violence towards women and no one does anything – even with legislation in place

A Trick Of The Trade

“Back to Surrey and cruise the Leigon, hmm nice ass on the corner and big tit’s too. It’s an older crack-ho, very impatient wants to score rock, fuck, I drop her where I find her no mood for that shit, I would have gone for the Hatrick but with someone worthy not that fuckin thing! Did learn something to-nite, 7-11’s are a good hunting ground. I picked up a real doll a few weeks back in the one at Royal Oak. Just check em out as you cruise by, if there is some hottie in there that looks like she might go, it pays to ask. You can check em out in a safe environment, all the Ho’s go in there at some point durring the nite. I will be keeping a close eye myself, happy hunting!”read the full review

Hatrick

The author of the above review is a long-time…

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On leaving the trans cult

Purple Sage

When I came out as a lesbian, it was during the time of inclusion, when more and more letters were being added to the LGBTQ alphabet soup because every sexual minority needed representation. It seemed obvious that we should include everyone—since we face ostracism ourselves we know how awful it is to be excluded. We wanted social justice, we wanted love and respect for all minorities. No matter what new letter was added to the “queer” acronym, we included them without question. I met people of all sorts during my time in university—gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, asexuals, gender fluid people, etc. I believed in us working together and gaining acceptance from straight people. During this time I also started learning about feminism. At first, the various feminist bloggers I was reading didn’t seem so different from each other. But over the last few years, we have become divided by…

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HOW PATRIARCHY GENDERS PERSONALITY TRAITS AND FEMINIST SUBVERSION

Human personality traits, which anyone is capable of experiencing, are assigned to the social construction of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ in order to reinforce male supremacy. From birth, women are assigned personality traits which are traditionally supposed to keep us compliant and controlled, such as co-operation, gentleness, kindness. They firmly place us in a subordinate caste. We are conditioned, controlled and punished unless, and until, we display these traits. From birth, men are assigned traits which will reinforce male superiority such as domination and aggression. They firmly place men in a dominant caste. Men are taught to dominate and dismiss women and to fight with each other over women as commodities in order to determine who is top of the pile. These traits, we are taught, are ingrained in each gender leading to women as submissive and men as ‘naturally’ (sic) dominant. Women adopting masculinist traits leads to a reinforcement of this system because those individuals merely reinforce the whole premise that domination of one human over another is inevitable (or, rather, that individual women can dominate other women). Subversive herstorical feminist projects have sought to turn on its head assumptions that personality traits, which are seen as traditionally ‘feminine’, are to be devalued. Instead, the projects sought to value, respect and elevate particular personality traits assigned to women e.g. empathy, understanding, care-giving. It is no coincidence that motherhood, carers of adults and paid work in the care sector are unpaid/among the lowest kind of paid work possible under capitalism. That is because these traits and conditioned skills are essential for a compassionate society but are assigned to ‘femininity’ and, therefore, are as under-valued as possible. It is feminist, therefore, to value traits and skills which are about social cohesiveness above a male dominated world where men fight, kill, murder and rape in their millions.

We used to think that if only men could cry and individual women could do male jobs patriarchy could be overturned. We now know that it’s far more complex than that – assigned personality traits according to gender are embedded in institutions, structures, societal rewards and punishments ensuring that masculinist ways of behaving are rewarded and ‘femininity’ reinforces female subordination.

Nowadays, many women think that reinforcing masculinist behaviours in themselves, and other women, is a good thing because, they argue, they are breaking free of the bonds that hold them. All that happens is that the concept of ‘masculinity’ as a superior way of constructing society, is reinforced and women as a caste are still imprisoned by it (even if some women find ways of expressing masculinist personality traits and are no longer punished for it). Outside of patriarchy, kindness, compassion, empathy, honesty would be traits which hold communities together; they would prevent ‘otherness’, they would prevent war and rivalry; they enable societies to work together for the common good as opposed to individuals vying against each other. Socialism says little about the role gendered traits play in upholding unequal, masculinist societies. Feminism of old said a lot and women began communities and activist projects which actively sought to tear down male notions of superior masculinist personality traits and behaviours. Away from men, and their conditioned assumptions that domination and control is ‘inherent’, women began finding alternative ways of community-building. The danger for women, conditioned to be ever-kind to those in need, is that part of the package is to put men and others before ourselves and the caste of women. Being stuck in ‘femininity’, as opposed to breaking relevant personality traits free so we can create alternatives to patriarchy, is an ongoing challenge for us.

There is, of course, a second aspect to ‘femininity’ which, these days, is where both feminist activism and queer theory/transgenderism focuses. It’s about the outer trappings of ‘femininity’ – long hair, dresses, any outward social signifiers that someone is a woman, not a man. These trappings such as bras, high heels, tight or short dresses are designed to restrict and control women and are a different method of reinforcing male supremacy over women. If we can’t run because what we wear restricts us, it’s as if we’re held in a trap, ready and waiting for our captors. Radical feminism seeks to abolish all these trappings which is why we are often viewed as ‘gender non-conforming’ when we practice rejection of male-identified ’femininity’ as individuals. Other feminists have written extensively about this so I’m not going to labour the point other than to confirm I strongly agree with a rejection of ‘femininity’ in this context.

One of the many issues we have with transgenderism (the ideology and practice of claiming it is possible for men to transition to become women) is that, too often, it is the outer trappings of ‘femininity’ which dictates that transition. Either they say they’re more comfortable aping these ‘feminine’ trappings rather than those of ‘masculinity’ or that the ’feminine’ trappings are innate within them. And, when they say they ‘feel like’ a woman, they almost always mean ‘femininity’ which (radical) feminists reject wholeheartedly as a tool of our oppression. What doesn’t accompany the outer ‘feminine’ trappings, is personality trait conditioning along gender lines. M-to-F have often lived many years conditioned as boys and men; learning that when they speak they should be heard and that aggression gets them places under patriarchy. That behaviour is almost never abandoned after transitioning and nor can it be easily unlearnt after a lifetime of conditioning. Consequently, abuse, threats of violence, successful silencing of radical feminists about anything to do with female liberation are rife among anti-feminist transgender activists (AFTAs). That is the dangerous context of the male supremacist notion that personality traits should be socially constructed along gender lines.

Some younger feminists, who’ve not been through these years-old debates, such as the ones briefly outlined here, have interpreted all this as me saying that ‘femininity is empowering’. Greenham and other feminist community projects, where we tried to do things together cooperatively, carefully and kindly, seem now to be lost. I strongly urge a move away from radical feminists trying to re-enforce masculinist notions such as hierarchy, cruelty, ‘doxxing’, ‘calling women out’ activism-by-ego, ’trolling’ other feminists, pretence at being ’neutral’ in the face of feminist arguments and the rest. It’s horrific and adds to the ‘toxic stew’ which is patriarchy. This is NOT the same as a failure to hold ourselves and other women to account for anti-feminist behaviours, especially when done in the name of feminism.

Reclaim The March! Statement from Radical Feminists on what occurred at London Reclaim The Night 2014

November 24, 2014

reclaim banner2

What happened when radical feminists raised awareness of male transgender violence at the London Reclaim the Night, 2014:

Note: The London Reclaim the Night March claims to be women-only, whilst also stating on its website that  ‘trans women’ (sic) are welcome.

A group of radical feminists, all of whom have attended RTN for many years, and several of whom have been involved in organising women’s marches, attended the London 2014 RTN to assert the right of women to organise autonomously and to raise awareness of violence perpetrated by male transgenders. They carried a banner stating ‘Reclaim the March: Reclaim the Night is for WOMEN’ and placards highlighting the need for women’s services to remain women-only. Some of the group distributed flyers giving factual information about violence perpetrated by male transgenders, and highlighting why it is vital that women’s services and women’s marches remain women-only.

While on the march:

– a radical feminist was approached by three hostile women who tried to snatch her leaflets away and the police had to intervene for her safety.

– the radical feminists were met with considerable hostility and antipathy from trans supporters

At the rally following the march:

– the compere opened the rally by emphatically distancing the organisers from the radical feminist group, stating that there was only one official RTN leaflet, and that they were not responsible for any other leaflets being given out on the march. In our recollection, this is unprecedented at any London RTN. She then proceeded to stress that ‘transwomen’ (sic) are welcome at RTN, and that any other sentiments did not reflect the policy of the organisers. This was met with hearty applause and a strong sense of disapproval of the radical feminist presence and message. The compere also then advised anyone who had experienced harassment or felt intimidated as a result of the leaflets to inform a steward or police officer: the imputation of this statement was that the radical feminists had been harassing and intimidatory. This was a gross misrepresentation of what had happened, since none of the radical feminists had harassed anybody, and in fact it was one of them who had been harassed and intimidated. The radical feminist group pointed this out but were ignored. The compere’s tone conveyed a sense of apology for and disowning of the radical feminist presence on the march: one of the radical feminists objected to this, but was ignored.

– later at the rally, one of the radical feminists vocally protested the double standards of one of the speeches, which condemned some forms of male violence while failing to acknowledge the realities of violence perpetrated by male transgenders, or to challenge the condemnation of those who had called attention to these realities on the march.

Our thoughts on what happened:

The support for transgenderism and antipathy towards radical feminists at a march that is purportedly against male violence against women is extremely disturbing. We believe this testifies to a lack of understanding amongst feminist communities of the harms of transgenderism and a reluctance to acknowledge the realities of violence perpetrated by male transgenders, even though these are well-documented. We also believe it testifies to a fear around speaking out. While there were women at the rally who were privately supportive of radical feminists taking a stance on transgenderism, these women remained silent in the public arena – no doubt due to the climate of fear around this issue, and the extreme hostility that meets any woman who is vocal about it.

Over the years, many leaflets have been handed out at RTN marches. Some of these have been supportive of the exploitation and abuse of women in prostitution. We note that our leaflet is the only one to have been singled out and publicly denounced by a representative of RTN. We find it strange that women who support prostitution and the sex industry are not met with such hostility, and are allowed to march and attend the event unhindered, when sex purchase is violence against women. We also note that there is a strong line of consistency between the pimp lobby, the porn lobby and the trans lobby.

The silencing of women speaking out against the harms of transgenderism and male transgender violence cannot continue. We need more courageous actions like those in evidence at the London 2014 RTN. And we look forward to support from our sisters.

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[Read more about this action here: http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/breaking-news-reclaim-the-night-london-2014/

WOMEN-ONLY SPACE DISCUSSIONS AT A FEMINIST GATHERING: A RADICAL FEMINIST ACCOUNT

Some women have been gathering together for 3 years at a UK event called ‘North East Feminist Gathering’. Previously, the agenda seemed quite clearly centred on women’s liberation. This year, there was a turning off course where, as with other ‘feminist’ conferences and gatherings, anti-feminist rhetoric is mistaken for feminism. A failure to name male supremacy and, instead, promote anti-feminist ‘queer’ politics was an underlying theme. Some radical feminists, having enjoyed the women-only event previously, decided to go anyway to ensure that radical feminism was not marginalised and misrepresented.

A few days after the gathering an anti-radical feminist account was put out in public on tumblr. One radical feminist attendee gave a different version. As a radical feminist, it is my aim to ensure radical feminism is better understood. For that reason, I am publishing her account (with permission of course).

There were two workshops held which are important to radical feminists, politically. These were: ‘why women-only space is important ‘and ‘trans-inclusivity in women-only spaces’. ‘Women-only space’ is at the heart of radical feminism. We cannot fight for our freedom with our oppressors in the room. See, for example: http://www.feminist-reprise.org/docs/support.htm

The radical feminist position is often misrepresented in hostile environments. Radical feminists did not make a coherent decision to go to these workshops. FACT. Many of us turned up feeling that we needed to do so, not knowing others were going. Women-only space is important to us; of course we are going to go where the debate is. I attended on my own. Others decided not to go at all.

The only account out in public about this event was written by 1 of 4 members of the Newcastle university ‘feminist’ society. This society on facebook is very queer-identified. Queer theory upholds, and reinforces, ‘gender’ and radical feminism seeks to abolish it. ‘Gender’ is a socially constructed vehicle designed to ensure women’s subordination under male supremacy. There is a clash of beliefs. The women’s account is a total exaggeration and misrepresentation.

In the first workshop, a radical feminist did walk out of the workshop.  She raised her voice generally in the room, not directed at the mbt person whose behaviour had distressed her. She said: ‘I’m going outside for a fag. I can’t stay in this workshop and watch a young, black woman be spoken over’. Radical feminists believe that those who are male-born are conditioned to accept, and expect, male privilege as members of the dominating caste. The young black woman herself did not feel personally silenced. There are issues about whether it is appropriate for those with one structural oppression to get angry, and speak on behalf of, a member of another oppressed group. That is not peculiar to radical feminism. In fact, it’s far more common among queers who operate on the individualistic level almost entirely.

There were non-radical feminists in the workshop who said during the discussion that they felt uncomfortable in relation to transgenderism and yet didn’t feel able to critique it. They felt able to say this with the language radical feminism gives and because they were in a space where it was allowed to be said alongside other views. FACT.

At the beginning of the second workshop, the transactivists present said they would not be offended by anything said. The transactivist facilitators were polite and facilitated well. They wanted honest dialogue. They invited honest conversations. They did not insist on pronouns. They said they would not be offended by that. Generally, the workshop was not heated.

I am afraid this is more propaganda from trans allies this time as opposed to transactivists themselves. Their understanding of feminism was limited. Many younger women told us that they are frightened to question the trans issue but that they are uncomfortable with it. FACT. I did refer to one mbt as ’he’. That was in the context of what the transactivists had said at the beginning.  No one said anything at the time. I usually try to use names but sometimes it’s impossible and I am not giving up. My reality. I get called a ‘lady’ and no one bothers that that offends me.

The main challenge in the second workshop was by a young woman. She said she is not a radical feminist. The workshop undertook some group work. The question posed was how should trans inclusivity sit within feminism. Of course, some of us said it did not. The workshop was presented by the facilitators as an open dialogue and so we expressed our views. The women who were most anti criticism of transgenderism were not making feminist arguments. Queer theory has leached on to a variety of ideologies and de-radicalised them. Those espousing queer theory will, nonetheless, argue that that’s not what they are doing.

I believe anti-radical feminists are trying to use a feminist conference to undermine and attack radical feminism. Some radical feminists believe we should only organise separately. I believe we should do that and be involved in the conversation. I hope that some women will now be open to radical feminist views as a result. When they met us, they were pleasantly surprised and interested in a critique of transgenderism from a radical feminist perspective. Some women have not got the language to express what they instinctively feel – that there’s no such thing as a ‘female brain’, for example.

In the anti-radical feminist account (which we are not linking here), the author states: “I felt just as unsafe as I would have in a room full of angry, misogynistic men.” Really? I don’t think so. Angry, misogynist men use violent and threatening imagery and, perhaps, real threats aimed at women. There were no threats aimed at anyone in that room. There were powerful emotions. Political disagreement becomes ‘putting other women down’ in this individualistic world of queer theory where everyone must feel ‘safe’ except radical feminists. Survivors of male violence find the misuse of the words ‘safe space’ offensive. It means a safe space from being, or feeling, threatened, personally, by those with structural power.

Some of us have been talking about the use of the word ‘unsafe’. Political debate has to have an ‘edge’ and certain robustness since challenge is essential. There are, of course, debates to be had about the most effective ways to challenge someone or a situation. What feminists can’t do is allow the concept of ‘safe space’ to silence differing political viewpoints. At no point were the ground rules, agreed at the beginning of the event, said to be broken or called in during either workshop. It is true only two slides were shown during the ‘trans inclusivity’ workshop. Some radical feminists thanked the transactivist facilitators. Some talked about having a day’s conference so that the entire debate could be out in the open – both sides of it.

Four women. I repeat FOUR women are now misrepresenting the whole experience. The account by the women involved in the Newcastle ‘feminist’ society is ageist in places. Some women who were vocally critical of transgenderism were younger and didn’t identify as radical feminist. They were speaking with their hearts and instincts. In feedback, I represented a view that unrelated women felt unable to explore their true feelings without being labelled ‘transphobic’. Women in that small group stated that they were happy for me to represent their views in this way. These women were not ‘middle-aged’ either. Many younger women have expressed a viewpoint that it is ageist to dismiss critical views of transgenderism based on age. Criticisms exist about transgenderism from women of all ages.” 

NB: the account of the radical feminist walking out has been changed following feedback from other radical feminists present

FURTHER INFORMATION

The transactivists who ran the workshop had this to say:

Emma and I (Tara) would like to thank everyone who attended our workshop today regarding Trans Inclusion. It was an emotionally charged session, but worthwhile dialogue was opened on this contentious issue.”

Their opinion backs up the radical feminist account published on this blog, rather than the tumblr ‘horrific gathering’ viewpoint.

You can read their comment yourselves on face book public page:   

http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=847503168623832&id=467168359990650

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