This is male violence against women

Today is White Ribbon Day, the start of an annual 16 days of activism opposing violence against women. 

Politicians, celebrities and business leaders will make laudable declarations to “end violence by stopping the silence”. But many will remain silent, or even excuse or encourage the escalating campaign of intimidation, threats and violence against women who speak up for the privacy, dignity and safety of women and girls. 

JK Rowling wrote in 2020 about the “trans activists who declare that TERFs need punching and re-educating”. 

“TERF” stands for “trans exclusionary radical feminist”. It is a catch-all insult for any woman who says that sex matters, and it marks her out for social ostracism, workplace complaints and threats and violence in public places.

Rowling said: 

“We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced. Back in the 80s, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls. Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now.”

This is not just online nastiness, and it is not only about words. Nor is it a case of “both sides are as bad as each other”. This is a campaign of intimidation that glorifies, incites and excuses male violence against women. 

We have compiled evidence: 48 incidents over the past five years. Bomb threats; assaults; urine poured over the doorway of a woman’s workplace; women surrounded, shouted down and called c**ts and b**ches by masked men; school-girls spat at; older women pushed to the floor; lesbians intimidated at Pride marches; academics requiring protection from security officers on campus; women followed down the street by large groups of men shouting obscenities. Trans-rights activists who have held up signs in public places calling for “TERFs” to be punched or decapitated. Women who have needed a police escort to leave a pub after a quiet drink because a mob chanting trans slogans has gathered outside. 

This is misogyny writ large. And it is a triple attack on women.

The violence and intimidation are an attempt to silence women from speaking about the risk posed to the single-sex spaces and services that are supposed to protect women and girls when clarity about sex in law and policy is lost. 

The voices, events, films, books and meetings that the violent thugs seek to silence are those of women trying to carefully and compassionately articulate the problem and find solutions that protect women and girls at their most vulnerable. 

Despite the legal judgment that people with gender-critical beliefs are protected against discrimination, if they depart from the mantra that “trans women are women”, many face harassment at work and complaints that put their job at risk. 

When frontline workers, professionals, policy-makers and academics are afraid to talk about the reality of the two sexes, women and girls are harmed. 

Rapists have been put in women’s prisons and women’s hostels. The NHS has a policy of putting men who identify as women (or merely claim to be “non-binary”) in women’s hospital wards, including locked mental health wards. 

If a woman asks for a female doctor, nurse or care assistant she may find herself faced with a man who identifies as a woman. If she objects she may be lied to, abused and called a bigot. 

The same can happen if she needs to be searched by police, in prison or by a security guard. 

Female survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence need female-only spaces and services in which to recover. So do homeless women, women battling addiction and alcoholism, female offenders and women whose families are in crisis. These groups overlap. As criminologist Jo Phoenix emphasises, studies show that anywhere between 66% and 95% of women who are convicted of criminal offences have suffered head injuries, with the overwhelming majority caused in adulthood by male partners.

But the women who work in these services have been terrorised out of speaking up for female-only services, and out of saying “no” to men who want access based on their declared gender identities. The funders of these services, both public and charitable, pressure those who manage them to deny that there is any problem. 

The system of safeguarding developed to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults from abuse, harm and neglect has been hollowed out by the taboo on speaking truthfully about the two sexes.

Perversely, when women speak up about this issue online or in public, they face not only threats of violence but police visits and investigations that frame their resistance as bigotry. Their cases are handled by officers and prosecutors who have been trained by Stonewall and other trans lobby groups to view them as hateful and discriminatory: as not only “asking for it” when they are abused but as criminals for daring to speak about that abuse.

Over the next 16 days, Sex Matters together with Women’s Declaration International will be highlighting the intimidation, threats and violence that women face when they speak truthfully about the two sexes and stand up for sex-based rights

We have published a timeline of intimidation and violence (you can also download this as a pdf) and a video.

This month we took our letter, signed by nearly 15,000 people, to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. We will be sending detailed evidence to the Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, and to His Majesty;s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services. 

Join us by sharing our messages on social media, share this post and our timeline to tell people what is happening and donating to support our campaign.