Written by Dr Ruth Livingstone
It was April Fool’s Day, and I set off early in the morning to buy a copy of the Daily Mail. I hadn’t bought a paper for years, and certainly not the Daily Mail. So, why the rush?
I’d heard rumours on Twitter that the Mail was about to publish something BIG in support of the Women’s Rights Network and our campaigns.
And, there it was. A prominent feature on the first page with the faces of three of our wonderful women’s activists: Caroline Ffiske, Maya Forstater and Heather Binning. In bold, was the heading, “The brave women launching what they call ‘the most significant female movement since the Suffragettes’.”
The meat of the story was inside.
Under the banner headline, “Respect my sex if you want my X”, Maya, who co-founded the organisation, Sex Matters, was allowed to lay out our case across a double page spread. Starting with, “Can a woman have a penis?”, Maya went on to describe how this simple question seems to throw our politicians into a turmoil. Politicians have become too cowardly to speak out to defend the rights of women. “Bravery is in very short supply,” says Maya.
Standing beside Maya is Caroline Ffiske of Women Uniting, a group which contains women from across the major political parties. And, on the other side, is our very own Heather Binning, who brought together groups of women into a movement which has snow-balled into the Women’s Rights Network.
This combined force – Women Uniting, Sex Matters, and Women’s Rights Network – is formidable in strength and determination. It contains women (and some men) from across the political divides and from many different backgrounds. But one of the things all these women have in common is we agree on a fundamental fact: women cannot have penises.
“Inch by inch, our hard-fought rights are being eroded,” warns Maya, and goes on to say, “Every rule and policy that says something is for women is being changed, so that it’s now for people who ‘self-identify’ as women, whatever their sex.” But our right to single-sex environments and single-sex services are of huge importance, especially when it comes to safeguarding vulnerable women and children.
Politicians aren’t listening to women and say this isn’t an issue on the doorstep. With the launch of local-authority political campaigns across much of the country, now is the time to prove those politicians wrong.
Elections aren’t occurring everywhere, but Wikipedia has a map and a handy list. 2022 United Kingdom local elections - Wikipedia Use this to find out if your local area is holding elections this May.
Why bother with local elections? They aren’t very important, are they?
Well, yes, they are. Local elections matter because local authorities provide many services where our safety, privacy and dignity are at risk, such as changing rooms, toilet facilities, refuges, women’s services, local sports, and children’s services.
Maya says, “When candidates come knocking and ask, ‘What are you concerned about?’, this is your opportunity.” Ask your local candidates the difficult questions they don’t want to answer, and explain why these matter to you.
What is a woman? What is more important, sex or gender? Can you protect our rights to single-sexed spaces? What are you doing to safeguard vulnerable women and children?
If nobody knocks on your door, find out who your local candidates are, and email or write to them. Guidance on what questions to ask, and how to put your concerns across, can be found on our site at Respect My Sex where you can also find links to a template for writing an email. Additional information and a list of doorstep questions can be found on Respect My Sex! - (women-uniting.co.uk).
Or, if you prefer to be more direct, just ask that pesky question, the one they don’t want to answer.
Can a woman have a penis?
Spread the word on Twitter, on Facebook, and in conversations with your friends. Use the hashtag #RespectMySex.
Remember, these next few weeks are crucial, because politicians are actually listening to what their voters are saying. We women are a powerful force. Let’s show them we’re angry – no, we’re furious – at being ignored and disrespected.