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A week of triumph and setback for English feminists

28 October 2021

WPUK Prisons conference

A dangerous precedent has been established in English higher education. Kathleen Stock, a philosophy lecturer at the University of Sussex, has been forced out of her job by a small group of masked protestors who had been demanding her sacking because she believes that while people can adopt any gender identity they want, biological sex is immutable. This recent article gives some of the background, but the key facts are that the personal pressure became overwhelming and a woman who states what virtually everyone knows to be true was left with no option but to resign.

The University and College Union and sections of the far left were complicit in this outrage which now leaves every woman with the same view in jeopardy. And of course, what happens in England will inevitably happen in an Irish university.

But women in England are fighting back. Around 600 bought tickets for a central London meeting organised by Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) on how the prison system not only punishes the poorest and most damaged women in society. A running commentary on the meeting can be found on WPUK’s Twitter feed and the videos will be posted on their website.

Last year only two women received sentences of more than ten years in the whole of England. By contrast, almost two thirds of women receive sentences of less than six months, so it’s clear that they aren’t there for the serious violent offences many men serve time for. Male prisons are also full of damaged, vulnerable people whom the system is failing but that is no argument for housing some of them, including sex offenders, alongside women.

Women get locked up mostly for the crimes of being poor and damaged and many are in a cycle of trauma, drug abuse and theft for which they receive no meaningful support. Data from Scotland show that 86% of them have had a serious head injury.

Jo Phoenix, another academic who’s been harassed because of her views, said what virtually every woman knows to be reasonable:

"We should demand of our government that they apply the provisions of the Equality Act to women's prisons... Single sex exemptions exist because we know the truth about male violence."
Prison has now become a front line in the battle to defend single sex spaces for women which are protected by that legal safeguard.

Keep prisons as single sex spaces

The current position is that a man without a gender recognition certificates (GRC) who self identifies as a woman can be placed in a woman’s prison. Half of the women who serve time in British prisons have experienced abuse as a girl or an adult. Being in confinement with a man with the subsequent lack of privacy and the sense of constant threat.

In 2019 here were 129 males with no GRC who claimed to be transgender in the male estate. 57% of these men had at least one conviction for a sexual offence. This is a much higher proportion than that for men in the general prison population and it’s self-evidently wrong to house these men with women. If they have their own vulnerabilities they can be placed in units in male prisons. They should not be protected by being locked up with potential victims.

Alison Bailey, a speaker at the meeting said:

“Women are used as support beings for transwomen- to affirm their identities. This is the primary reason men are going to the women’s estate.”
This was confirmed by testimony read to the meeting from women who’ve served time in prisons. Their language was blunt but their indignation was real.

This meeting again gave the lie to the idea that gender critical feminists like WPUK are socially conservative. All the speakers were warmly applauded when they criticised the class and sex discriminatory nature of the prison system. Frances Cook made the case for women's sex-based services in the community to provide support to women who would otherwise be in prison, an insight she attributed to her feminism.

Inevitably there was a tiny protest outside. While attendees at WPUK events are used to being on the receiving end of sexist and misogynistic abuse this one was distinguished by its overt racism. The irrational hatred which can be seen in videos which are being widely circulated doesn’t deter them. Coming hot on the heels of the recent FiLia conference the hundreds of women in the hall asserting the right to same sex spaces was another sign of the emerging British feminist movement.

The left in Britain and Ireland have badly misjudged this issue. Trans rights are human rights, but women understand the difference between identity, how people present socially and biology. Irish universities are much the same as British ones. Somewhere a woman is thinking that she will be the Irish Kathleen Stock and prisons in Ireland are just as hellish as British ones.

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