Deeds not words

by Olivia Hartley

(Cross posted from The Critic)

Shock horror! Yet another woman has been removed from a public position for worrying that men are infiltrating women’s spaces. You’d think that in the aftermath of Maya Forstater’s tribunal people would now be more cautious about dismissing women for holding gender-critical views or — God forbid — dare to voice their concern about men being let into women’s refuges, prisons, and other sex-based spaces generally reserved for females. Think again. 

In case you missed it, a story broke in The Times this morning that Joan Smith, a veteran campaigner who has fought to protect women and girls from violence and abuse, was apparently sacked by Sadiq Khan’s team at City Hall after raising concerns about the prospect of vulnerable females having to share spaces with transwomen — concerns she raised on behalf of charities funded by the mayor.

Funnily enough, before this all kicked off, Joan was busy writing an article for The Critic about women being written out of public spaces after a rather ridiculous advert emerged from TfL. Clearly, not only are women being written out of public life; they are being booted out of public positions too.

According to The Times’s article:

[Smith] wrote to Khan last year after he tweeted that “trans women are women” and “trans men are men”. Smith said that charities, funded by City Hall, felt under growing pressure to admit trans women who had not had surgery into their refuges. Smith wrote that trans women should have access to the services they needed but that traumatised female victims of male violence should not have to share safe spaces with “individuals who have male bodies”. Khan did not respond.

Joan then found out — apparently by email — that her position as co-chair of the Violence Against Women and Girls Board had been terminated. The Mayor’s office blamed her dismissal on “structural changes”, which is, to be fair to Sadiq, a rare bit of honesty. The Mayor, who boasts that he is the “proud feminist in City Hall” has been busy restructuring his office — to exclude the views of women. But he’s done in it a typical sneaky way: Joan can’t claim she’s been directly removed because she’s just told me that she’s been asked to stay on in a solely advisory capacity, but without any sway over agenda or policy.

That’s not to say Khan isn’t aware of women — it was he who banned the “Beach body ready” adverts and announced a London menopause policy — it’s just that the “proud feminist” doesn’t know what a real woman is. In his re-election campaign he couldn’t answer the question: “Do some women have male reproductive organs?” Any journalist worth their salt should ask him if the menopause policy applies to transwomen.

By contrast, Joan has co-chaired the Violence Against Women and Girls Board — a voluntary position — for the past eight years. She has written and researched at length about domestic violence and the abuse faced by women and girls every day. Sadiq Khan frequently urges Londoners to listen to the advice of experts, but on the trans issue he prefers to take the easy route and copy and paste Stonewall press releases rather than actually look after our interests.

Sadly, Joan Smith’s experience is just the latest casualty in the rollback of women’s rights.

The founder of The Positive Birth MovementMilli Hill was recently cancelled for daring to suggest that obstetric violence was something only experienced by women. Academics Jo Phoenix and Rosa Freedmen were also recently hounded by staff and students at Essex University for their own gender-critical views, although it appears as if the University belatedly saw sense and eventually capitulated, apologising to both professors for the very public witch-hunt they were forced to endure.

There are countless examples of women being hounded and silenced for speaking up for sex-based rights and it is beyond tiring. If all the women are eventually forced out of these roles, who will be left to fight for women’s rights? Judging by the ongoing situation in Scotland’s Rape Crisis Centres — where a male runs the show — the upper echelons of the women’s sector in the UK could soon be inundated with men. What a terrifying prospect.

Our “proud feminist” Mayor even had the audacity to don a suffragette banner with the slogan “Deeds not words”, which — thanks to this recent purge — is exactly how we’re going to judge him. Who cares about the “inclusive” platitudes printed in Tube stations about how London loves gay people, trans people and people of colour? We’re going to judge him on the sacking of Joan Smith, by email, after eight years of dedicated and unpaid service.

Khan obviously tolerates women — so long as they shut up and agree with him.