By Lola Venegas.
J.K. Rowling was not the first one. But the high-profile reputation of the author of the Harry Potter saga took the discussion out of social media and into the mainstream press. Many then learned that, by saying “only women menstruate” or “people’s sex is real”, Rowling joined the long list of feminists accused of transphobia.
The impossible-to-defend accusation was followed by boycotts of her books, campaigns to have them burned, and even the withdrawal of copies from some public libraries or the removal of the writer’s name from a London primary school. The latest episode is recent: in December, Warner Bros hid Rowling’s name from the trailer for the film Fantastic Beasts 3.
J.K. Rowling had been «cancelled». Or at least they had tried to.
Like her, and in her own words, “many, many women have been subject to campaigns of intimidation which range from being hounded on social media, the targeting of their employers, all the way up to doxing and direct threats of violence, including rape. They and their families have been put into a state of fear and distress for no other reason than that they refuse to uncritically accept that the socio-political concept of gender identity should replace that of sex” (J.K. Rowling’s tweet on 22 November).
Over the last few years I’ve watched, appalled, as women like Allison Bailey, Raquel Sanchez, Marion Miller, Rosie Duffield, Joanna Cherry, Julie Bindel, Rosa Freedman, Kathleen Stock and many, many others, including women who have no public profile 4/8
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) November 22, 2021
Women, feminists, from all walks of life, although the most recent and loudest cases of cancellation have taken place in the academic and university field. Their sin: to question the self-ID laws of legal sex; to defend that sex is real and immutable, that it cannot be chosen at will and that the concept of “woman” is at risk if we accept, as trans activism demands, that feeling like a woman is enough to be a woman.
In November 2021, Kathleen Stock, Professor of Philosophy, resigned from her post at the University of Sussex following allegations of transphobia and several acts of violence: the university campus was plastered with posters calling for her dismissal and ringleaders made angry speeches, set off flares, wrote graffiti and held up placards urging her to quit.
The accusations intensified following the publication of her book Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism, in which she develops a critique of the idea of “gender identity”.
Stock claimed to have been the victim of “medieval” ostracism for writing about biological sex, gender identity, women’s rights and transactivist demands.
Professor Jo Phoenix, labelled a transphobic, has spoken out in favour of keeping prisons single sex
A few weeks after Kathleen Stock’s resignation, Jo Phoenix, Professor of Criminology, quit her job at the Open University after a months-long campaign of harassment and no support from her university. Labelled a transphobic for her views critical of the transgender doctrine, she has spoken out in favour of keeping prisons single sex, pointing out the problems that arise if biological males are admitted to women’s facilities.
Professor Phoenix had already experienced the wrath of activists at the University of Essex a few months earlier. Her lecture on the possible tensions within the criminal justice system over the presence of trans-identifying males in women’s wards was suspended due to student complaints.
At the same university, in June 2019, Professor Michele Moore was the subject of a campaign to have her removed from the editorship of the journal Disability and Society. The reason? Her informed opinions on the causes of what is known as rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD), which particularly affects girls (7 out of 10 cases).
“This attack on her is a deliberate and concerted attempt to silence and intimidate Michele but it will also have a silencing effect on anyone who wants to critique or question ideologies which affect our young people”, said feminist organisation Woman’s Place UK.
In October 2020, a transgender student at University of Oxford launched a campaign, signed by some 500 students and alumni, calling for the sacking of professors Selina Todd and Senia Paseta. This was in response to their appointment to lead the Women’s Equality and Inequality program at the Oxford Martin School.
The transactivists’ campaign did not succeed, but Professor Todd has sought protection from the university because of the threats she has received. In 2020 she was excluded from the 50th Anniversary of the first Women’s Liberation Movement conference at Ruskin College, Oxford. Self-described on her website as a “gender critical feminist”, Todd has repeatedly denied accusations of transphobia. On the issue of self-identification, she says that: “After months of research, I concluded that this position would harm the rights of women, because so often what is being asked for is free access to women-only spaces.”
Campaigns to prevent feminists from speaking about women’s rights have been commonplace in British universities.
Germaine Greer, author of The Female Eunuch, was vetoed by Bristol University’s student union in 2018. Students took a vote to prevent anyone from speaking who argues that identifying as a woman is not the same as being born a woman. The union passed a motion to “no-platform” so-called trans-exclusionary radical feminists.
Also at the University of Bristol, Raquel Rosario Sánchez, a PhD student and chairwoman of the feminist group Women Talk Back, was reported in September 2021 by the student union for denying a trans-identified male entry to a women-only event. Activists have demanded that Raquel Rosario resign and have barred her from joining the committee of any other affiliated group at the university for two years.
Activists have insisted that all Women Talk Back members undergo “diversity and inclusivity training”
Union officials have banned Women Talk Back from holding women-only events and have insisted that all members undergo “diversity and inclusivity training” that will focus on the importance of allowing males to attend previously women-only events.
The feminist group considers its meetings to be protected under the 2010 Equality Act, which allows for single-sex spaces as long as it is considered a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. On this basis, Women Talk Back will sue the union and defend its right to hold events without the presence of biological males.
In 2018 Raquel Rosario made a complaint of bullying to the University of Bristol for repeated attacks by trans activists who considered that the student’s participation in an event organised by the feminist organisation Woman’s Place UK in defence of women’s sex-based rights was a hostile gesture. Raquel Rosario came to fear for the continuity of her scholarship.
Outside universities, women have also been fired or had to resign from their jobs because of unfounded accusations of hate or transphobia.
The best-known case is that of Maya Forstater, who summarises her experience as follows: “I have spent the past two years trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare. It all started at the beginning of 2019, when I lost my job at an international development think tank for saying that sex matters: that being male and identifying as a woman is not the same thing as being female.”
“When I sought legal representation to file a claim against my ex-employer, two major law firms refused to take my case, with one dropping it just days before I was due to launch a crowdfunding appeal because of concern about ‘transphobia’. When I complained to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, it said that it was not a breach of professional standards to vet and reject clients. In the meantime, I looked around for another job in the international development sector, but was told I was too controversial to employ.”
Maya lost her case in the Employment Tribunal but subsequently was awarded a favourable decision recognising that her claim that sex is real is supported by the Equality Act and the right to free speech.
Journalist and columnist Suzanne Moore, a feminist, progressive woman, winner of the prestigious Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2019, left The Guardian in November 2020. She herself explained the reasons: “If writing about women’s rights and women’s experiences qualifies as transphobia… If you were bullied by 338 colleagues, what would you do?”
Explaining the reasons for his resignation, Moore told UnHerd:
“The censorship continues and I cannot abide it. Every day, another woman loses her job and a witch-burning occurs on Twitter. My fear is not about trans people, but an ideology that involves the erasure of women — not just the word, but of our ability to name and describe our experience. We are now cervix-havers, birthing parents, people who menstruate.”
Today, if you don’t believe that sex reassignment is a real thing, you may be forced to quit your own company. In December 2021 Rosie Kay resigned as choreographer and director of the Rosie Kay Dance Company following accusations of transphobia by “non-binary” dancers, after months of an investigation process which she has described as “unfair, opaque and horrific” and which is still ongoing.
The dancers considered Kay’s comment on Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, a novel in which a male aristocrat transforms into a woman, to be transphobic. The choreographer told some of the dancers present at a dinner party in her home that Woolf knew that anyone can change sex in their imagination, but you can’t change sex in your real body.
Kay was forced out of her company and is no longer able to access her social networks and bank accounts.
Putting feminists out of work and livelihoods is often the result of cancellation campaigns.
Since 2019, Allison Bailey has been investigated and targeted for arguing that biological sex is innate and that only women can be lesbians. Bailey, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers, is one of the founders of the LGB Alliance, an organisation that promotes lesbian, gay and bisexual rights and does not include the “T” in its acronym.
As a result of complaints that Bailey’s stance was transphobic, her employers announced that they would launch an internal investigation. A few months later, she sued her law firm and the LGBTQ+ organisation Stonewall for their attempts to control free speech and “to silence and vilify women like me who have genuine concerns about how its approach to trans inclusivity conflicts with the protections, safety and dignity of women, girls, children and LGB people” (Allison Bailey on her website).
When Allison Bailey launched the crowdfunding for her case against Stonewall in June 2020, the CrowdJustice platform took it down because of complaints from activists. At that time, it had already raised more than £60,000.
The work of artist Jess de Wahls was removed from the Royal Academy’s shop because of its “transphobic” views, according to their statement in June 2021. De Wahls believes that a woman is an adult human female. And she embroiders womb patterns. Criticism of the Royal Academy’s decision prompted the institution to backtrack, so it apologised and reinstated de Wahls’ work.
The organisation Sex Matters declared in defence of de Wahls: “This is belief discrimination, and breaches Jess de Wahls’ rights under the Equality Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Also, some professionals who have raised concerns about how self-identification policies affect children have been harassed or dismissed by their employers.
Take the case of Sonia Appleby, children’s safeguarding lead for UK Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which runs the Gender Identity Development Service. Between 2017 and 2019, Appleby raised concerns with the Tavistock about the practices of some doctors who were too quick to prescribe hormones to children with gender dysphoria. She asked to assess whether the children had underlying problems – such as sexual abuse – before prescribing hormone treatment. Tavistock’s reaction was to ignore these warnings and ban workers from talking to Appleby. Finally, she sued her employers for ‘detriments’ she alleged she suffered at the hands of the Trust and, in September 2021, she won in court and was awarded £20,000 in damages. According to the judgment, she was “seen as hostile” and subjected to “quasi-disciplinary” proceedings after raising her concerns with managers at the Tavistock and Portman Trust.
Katie Alcock was expelled from GirlGuiding after she exposed the organisation’s policies, which allow boys who self-identify as girls to use girl-only spaces.
Women face a Newspeak used for concealing reality
In healthcare, censorship and harassment have been targeted at critical women, using a Newspeak that erases women and women-only biological processes.
Milli Hill, best-selling author and founder of the Positive Birth Movement, a grassroots network of support groups for pregnant women, says she was “cancelled” for suggesting that obstetric violence during childbirth is committed against women, not against “birthing people”, and that she experienced “extreme bullying” after making such comments on social media.
The harassment began in November 2020, when Hill claimed on her Instagram account: “It is women who are seen as the ‘fragile sex’, and obstetric violence [medical interventions performed during childbirth without a woman’s consent] is violence against women.”
Hill was subjected to a torrent of hate messages and campaigns to boycott her books. One comment read: “We shouldn’t be buying her books. We shouldn’t be gifting them. We shouldn’t be quoting her. We shouldn’t be following her. She had dangerous opinions, beliefs and views.”
In response to the harassment, Hill has decided to close the Positive Birth network, which had 400 support groups internationally.
She is the latest in a string of feminist childbirth activists who have been ostracised for voicing concerns about supposedly inclusive language that excludes women.
In 2015, US midwife Ina May Gaskin, a book author, lecturer and trainer who has been called the world’s most famous midwife, was accused of being a transphobe for signing a letter calling on the Midwives Alliance of North America to reconsider the term “pregnant individual” in its Core Competencies document and bring back the word “woman”. A campaign on change.org even called for May to be removed from conferences and debates.
In 2019, Lynsey McCarthy-Calvert, a trained non-medical companion to mums-to-be and spokesperson for the non-profit support group Doula UK, was fired from her job for claiming that only women can have babies.
McCarthy-Calvert posted a photo on social media that read: “I am not a ‘cervix owner’, I am not a ‘menstruator’, I am not a ‘feeling’. I am not defined by wearing a dress or lipstick. I am a woman: an adult human female.”
A group of activists lodged a complaint with the non-profit support group Doula UK, claiming her post contained “trans exclusionary comments”, including the description of a woman as an “adult human female”.
The list of women harassed, reported and cancelled by trans activist campaigns is long. It includes, among others, names such as Abigail Shrier, whose book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters was banned from advertising on Amazon; Julie Bindel, one of the few journalists writing about transgenderism in the first decade of this century, has been compared to Hitler, banned by several students’ unions and assaulted by an activist at Edinburgh University; Kate Scottow, arrested in her own home for a tweet in which she used male pronouns instead of female ones, imprisoned for hours and finally acquitted after months of harassment; Marion Miller, questioned by the police on charges of having threatened an individual on Twitter with a noose that was in fact the image of a suffragette ribbon. The crowdfunding account to cover Miller’s defence was closed by the platform.
But they are not the only ones: Rosa Freedman, Professor of Law at the University of Reading, targeted and threatened with rape for speaking out against sex self-determination; MPs Rosie Duffield (stigmatised in her own Labour party for saying that only women have wombs) or Joanna Cherry, ousted as spokesperson for the Scottish National Party, among other reasons, for her clear defence of women’s rights in the face of transgender demands; and also the feminists Natasha Chart, Dominique Christina, Libby Emmons, Linda Bellos, Meghan Murphy and Posie Parker, who were vetoed by the New York Public Library in January 2020 and their lecture ‘An Evening with Cancelled Women’ was suspended.
Dominique Christina, Libby Emmons, Linda Bellos, Meghan Murphy, Posie Parker, and myself, are apparently too alarming for the New York Public Library. So they will not take our money to rent a hall for a private event, where we planned to talk about women’s rights.
— WoLF (@WomensLibFront) January 12, 2020
And in Spain?
In our country, attempts to cancel women who are critical of the doctrine that denies the validity of sex have come later and are linked to the opposition of feminists to the self-ID laws presented by the Ministry of Equality.
In Spain, too, we already have cases of women who have been fired as collaborators in various media, and here, too, complaints have begun to be lodged with the courts. None of these complaints – most of them brought by organisations, but not only – have been successful. As judgments in the UK have already pointed out, freedom of speech protects those who defend that sex is real and immutable and those who argue that making legal sex change available to the whole population, without the requirement of being transsexual/suffering from gender dysphoria, violates women’s rights. British women have won every single trial, but the punishment is the process itself and the stigma of being accused of hate crimes.
*Lola Venegas, is a journalist and a member of the Alianza Contra el Borrado de las Mujeres (Alliance Against the Erasure of Women).Original article