Julie Bindel caught my mood exactly when she wrote “The week Britain finally came to its senses on trans extremists and cried... ENOUGH!” in the Daily Mail. After years of being mostly ignored and misrepresented in the media you could almost hear the collective gasp of disbelief as the British public finally woke up.
It’s been coming for a while, of course, and maybe we should ask why it took so long?
The Karen White incident should have demanded collective action, but unfortunately it was just a reminder that women in prison really are some of the most vulnerable members of society; when bad things happen to them most people just shrug their shoulders and look away.
Some newspapers have covered the issues quite well, of course, and some mainstream media columnists have been excellent – Janice Turner, Suzanne Moore and James Kirkup deserve a special mention. Why wasn’t the message getting through? Partly, I think, because the message sounded so insane, so unbelievable, so counterintuitive that most people probably thought they had misunderstood or that the writers were just wrong.
That’s changed forever, now, mostly because several things happened one after the other, and people haven’t had time to forget in between. The dots are being joined.
Sport was the first of those things, and in particular the prospect of Emily Bridges racing against Laura Kenny. When Laurel Hubbard competed in Tokyo last year the world should have peaked, but despite the interest generated by GB’s Emily Campbell picking up silver there was no outcry. The obsequiousness of the BBC commentary team and the poor performance by Hubbard made Hubbard’s presence tolerable, it seems. The UK coverage of Lia Thomas (a US male swimmer who competes in women’s events) has been far less deferential. People could clearly see that this was not OK, so they were primed to object when the press identified Emily Bridges as a candidate for team GB women in this summer’s Commonwealth Games. The very public withdrawal of Bridges’ licence to compete was welcomed by most of those taking an interest.
The fact that many more people had been watching, that men were now taking notice and the mainstream press were interested created the perfect conditions for the next step. Interviewers were again asking questions that (some) politicians can’t answer:
What is a woman?
Can a woman have a penis?
It’s not exactly rocket science, and no moderately intelligent four-year-old would struggle. But the leader of the opposition was reduced to throat clearing embarrassment along with most of his front bench. The Conservatives have their own cohort of MPs who can’t answer, and the Liberal Democrats and Green Party are in the wilderness on this one.
Seeing them struggle, and with local elections on the horizon, women’s groups of all political persuasions and none organised the “Respect My Sex” campaign that kicked off on 2nd April with a London meet up. The WRN Press Team did a brilliant job creating press interest, and it wasn’t out of the papers for more than a week.
Being the face of this campaign takes courage. Maya Forstater has shown that courage over the past three years as she has been through three court cases and achieved the landmark ruling which confirms that gender critical views are worthy of respect in a democratic society. Caroline ffiske has been subject to ruthless vilification by the #BeKind brigade – it’s no surprise to anyone that the kindness is expected to flow only one way. That Heather Binning was willing to be the third member of this excellent group knowing what she was letting herself in for speaks of exactly the courage called for by Millicent Fawcett.
WRN members – ordinary women across the country – have stepped up to be the feet on the ground of the campaign. We are leafletting, talking to people, asking canvassers our honesty questions. We are getting the message on to the beaches and into the townhalls, with ribbons, cards and our voices. We are being heard.
And now we have the damning admission by the police, with the full approval of the National Police Chiefs Council, that for them “gender identity” trumps women’s rights to safety, privacy and dignity. Whether those women are police officers or members of the public. Another brave woman, WRN’s Cathy Larkman, wrote to the police asking for clarity on who can search women, and was completely transparent about who she is and why she was asking. She has made their incendiary response public, and the press are making sure everyone knows about it. Thank you, the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Telegraph, The Express, and GB News.