Statement on the Government’s Commitment to Protect Women-Only Spaces
On 14 June, the Sunday Times reported that in response to a public policy consultation which took place in Autumn 2018, the UK government has decided to reject a reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The proposal, to permit sex self-identification in law, was championed by the Conservative government and became the source of contentious debate on the issue of sex-based rights and ‘gender identity’ policies. We look forward to reading the particulars of this decision in due course.
At Women Talk Back!, we welcome the government’s commitment to protect women’s rights as they are enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, including the right to single-sex spaces and services, such as ours. The Labour Party also acknowledges the importance of this provision, having pledged to protect it under its most recent manifesto. Therefore, we are delighted to see cross-party support for spaces like our Feminist Society.
We note with concern the unacceptable virulence and violence aimed at feminists, in an attempt to prevent us from standing up for women’s sex-based rights, and we identify the imminent danger of patriarchy's oldest trick in the bag: “divide and conquer”. As a single-sex feminist student society, we categorically reject the misrepresentations which seek to portray this issue as “a generational divide” between older and younger feminists. We established Women Talk Back! in 2018 precisely because, as young women, we craved a women-only space where we could centre and discuss our lives in an environment that was pluralistic.
In response to this onslaught, we invite all women involved in activism to stay alert. Although we know that feminism materialises differently for each woman, depending on her context, at the core of the movement is our duty to end patriarchy so that women and girls can live our best lives, free from oppression. At Women Talk Back!, we are in pursuit of global liberation from all forms of patriarchy. We therefore centre all women who experience misogyny, but who may also face racism, anti-lesbianism, classism and other forms of structural discrimination that arise from male domination.
Our invitation is to remember that supporting and fighting for a particular cause should not come at the expense of another group of people. The abuse and intimidation of feminists is both misogynist and anti-democratic: that type of behaviour has no place in politics, nor in broader society.
By fighting each other, only patriarchy wins. Together, we are stronger.