Violence and aggression from men is familiar to too many women, individually and collectively. Groups meeting to discuss key issues that impact on women, particularly in connection with gender identity ideology, have had to contend with increasingly extreme aggression – from loud noises drowning out women’s voices, through threats of rape and other violence on placards or shouted, to attempted and actual physical attacks.
Labour Women’s Declaration has experienced such aggression at public meetings we have held – fringe meetings at Labour Party annual conferences, and our #ExpelMe Rally in London in February 2020, just before CoVID stopped such events for two years. Many other groups in the UK and around the world have been met with similar attempts to prevent women speaking and meeting together, with some quite horrifying levels of threat and violence.
Over the last weeks, several serious incidents have happened, of different scale, but illustrating the universality of the attacks. The Standing for Women events, in Australia and then Aotearoa New Zealand, were attacked in appalling ways, and, closer to home, the launch event of the Lesbian Project, in London, saw such a threatening crowd at the building that women had to be escorted out in small groups by a side door. Woman’s Place UK’s Education for Women’s Liberation conference in February 2023 saw protesters banging on the windows during sessions and verbally abusing attendees. Screenings of the film Adult Human Female have attracted intimidating protesters, and, notably, a screening held by Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom in December 2022 had to be cancelled as aggressive young men obstructed attendees from entering the lecture theatre where it was to be shown.
We unconditionally condemn all such efforts to silence women who attempt to make our voices heard, even when we disagree with aspects of their views, and we tweeted our condemnation of the violence seen in Auckland a few days ago. In this spirit, we also decided as a collective working group to sign a letter co-ordinated by the Sex Matters team which called on the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to express concern to the New Zealand High Commissioner about the violence experienced at the Auckland event convened by Kellie-Jay Keen of Standing for Women.
The Standing for Women policy of allowing any woman to speak at their open-air meetings has proven to be an excellent way for women’s voices to be heard, but it has also provided some people we regard as opponents of women’s rights an unchallenged platform. We offer solidarity to all women in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand who are fighting for their rights, including those gender critical feminists who did not support the approach of Standing For Women.
We are aware that some of our supporters, like some in our working group, would have preferred us not to have signed the Sex Matters letter, while others will be surprised that there was any difficulty. Our collective decision was based on expressing solidarity with all those threatened with violence for peacefully expressing their views, regardless of our levels of agreement or disagreement with what they say.