On Saturday 26th Of February, Northern Radfem Network protested HMP Styal in Cheshire for a second time, in solidarity with a sequence of prison protests nationwide. Our aim was to drive home our disgust at male inmates being transferred to the female estate after declaring to prison officials that they’re somehow ‘transgender’.
This time round the weather was on our side, in contrast to our previous rainswept demonstration – which at least confirmed that Northern women rally whatever the weather. We had a solid turnout of 40 women, enough to catch the attention of a woman driving past who promptly pulled in to the prison grounds to thank us and to ask if she could join in, showing that far from being a niche corner of a culture war, this is an issue that’s rapidly rising to relevance for women from all walks of life. If you’re reading this, woman in the pink jumper (or anyone else for that matter) get in touch! We’d love to have you on board!
For twenty years I was employed by the West Yorkshire Probation Service and I specialised in the assessment and risk management of male sexual offenders, both in custody and in the community. I also conducted a number of reports and assessments at women’s prisons in the north of the UK.
When I retired, I thought that my concerns with public protection, safeguarding and the management of predatory and dangerous male offenders was over.
That was until the Ministry of Justice introduced a policy of “self identification” in UK prisons, for male prisoners with gender dysmorphia, autogynephilia or who claimed “transgender” status.
When I learned that male inmates who “identified as “women””, were to be imprisoned in jails that reflected their chosen “gender ‘, not sex, I became extremely alarmed.
I’m confident that I speak for every woman present today, if not every single woman in society, when I say that a custodial prison sentence is one of our worst nightmares. It goes without saying that it changes lives, and not for the better. All control is instantly relinquished.
Women inside have no financial security. The jobs we can get in prison earn just £10-20 per week. We rely on this being topped up by people on the outside sending us money, and we have no access to our own bank accounts. We’re in real danger of losing our homes because we can no longer make rent. We’re locked away from our families, our only contact is by letter and brief 10 minute phone calls. Visiting time is the highlight of our week and that requires a bureaucratic process of application. It can’t be stressed enough how emotionally taxing this is, to have contact with our loved ones regimented by factors beyond our control.
On the 23rd of January feminist activist Jennifer Swayne was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and displaying threatening or abusive writing likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Her crime? Putting up stickers drawing attention to the numbers of women killed by men in domestic violence incidents around the city of Newport. She was roughly restrained by police, causing her physical pain and what she describes as a “PTSD attack”, kept in custody for hours without her essential prescription medication, namely Lithium for severe bipolar disorder, and released to the streets of Newport at 3am, alone, without a mobile phone and in a mobility scooter. The police searched her home and took stickers, posters and academic books. She was released on bail on condition she posted no more stickers or posters within the boundaries of Newport.
Her date to present to the police station was set for the 24th of February, however as was seen in Marion Miller’s court case, her bail was later extended to the 11th of March. However in solidarity with Jennifer, I, along with about 70 others, the vast majority of whom were women, attended a planned protest outside Newport police station on the 24th.
At the end of January, women’s groups across the UK joined together to launch a series of protests at women’s prisons to loudly and visibly object and draw attention to current Ministry of Justice policies enacted in 2019 that allow men to simply identify their way into the female prison estate. Many women have come together to challenge this, and KEEP PRISONS SINGLE SEX has become a rallying cry. It’s insane that we should have to campaign for this but here we all are, doing exactly that.
I was present at the first protest, representing Northern Radfem Network and speaking as a former inmate of HMP Styal. All of the points I made that day remain pertinent – namely the lack of mental health provision, the epidemic of self harm and the extreme vulnerability of women in prison. Today I’m speaking again on behalf of my incarcerated sisters, and I hope my words represent their perspectives and fears whilst they are unable to speak out.
As the sun was getting ready to rise over the London skyline, I was over two hundred miles north trudging through the dark bleak rainy early morning of Yorkshire. A very typical day in the metropolis was dawning, but slowly, and surely, many angry women, and some male allies were making their way to the city. My journey was long, but the warm flask of tea and plenty of Tunnock’s Tea cakes made my squashed position next to the coach toilet more bearable.
My arrival in London was delayed due to road closures, but my enthusiasm for the protest spurred me on. As I approached Petty France the usual sights and sounds of the city were subdued and paled into significance by the thronging, banner waving and chanting of over one hundred and sixty beautiful women’s voices. We had converged together, with passion and conviction, to protest the MOJ’s decision to allow men to self ID into women’s prison. It is time for the MOJ and politicians to listen. It is time for the government to act. It is time to effect change.
When the Nottingham Women’s Corner event was announced by Kellie-Jay Keen (KJK), I started planning my speech. I wanted to talk about my life’s experience, and to state uncompromisingly, why I was in this fight against the erosion of women’s rights and why I stand up for the protection of children against the dangerous ideology of gender identity.
Once I’d finished writing the speech, I backtracked and decided that certain aspects of what I wanted to say about the divisions within feminism were so incendiary that they risked causing greater divides, rather than calling out existing divides in order to try to fix them. I’d gone off on a tangent and I was dissatisfied with myself. I was guilty of ranting.
On the morning of the event I woke up and decided that it was entirely likely that I might ad lib a speech if the attendance seemed low due to the forecasted bad weather. I mean, what sane person would travel to an event to stand out in the terrible torrential rain that was being predicted? Thankfully, I have never claimed sanity, so I was going anyway!
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m rarely short of things to say, and this particular subject matter can get my vocal chords chirping quicker than any other subject matter ever has. What’s more is that my passion for the subject matter, i.e., the protection of women and children, means that I don’t really struggle with getting fired up and vocal.
To herald a number of protests at women’s estates in the UK, led by Keep Prisons Single Sex, 30 women activists from:
Northern RadFem Network
Manchester Feminist Network
Women’s Rights Network
Sheffield Women of Steel
Answered the call from across the north of the country and descended onto HMP & YOI Styal with feminist banners, whistles, flags and shield-shaped placards to draw attention to the dangerous policy of allowing male convicts to self-identity as women and enter these estates.
On the evening of Friday 19th November, a group of women from the Northern RadFem Network, consisting of radical feminists from across the north of England, chose to congregate at The Harlequin on Nursery Street, to hold their first Christmas Social.
We chose The Harlequin to show support to a pub that has stood up for women’s rights against what can only be described as an onslaught by trans activists, who attacked the pub to try to discredit their business, because the pub owners opposed trans rights activist efforts to erode everything that we are as women. Efforts to corrupt and delete our language, to rename our body parts, to alter literally everything that shapes us as women.
Due to the spread of us all in the network, several of our members elected to stay overnight in Sheffield. This meant that a good many of us would be in Sheffield for the day on the Saturday and this represented a good opportunity for us to create an action event.
Here we are, nearly a quarter of a century in to the 21st century, and here I sit as a radical feminist, fighting for the right to call myself a woman, to call myself female, to be able to say out loud ‘Only women have a cervix’. What’s the reason for this ridiculous state of affairs? Well, it’s the great trans distraction. When our oppressors put on a dress and some lipstick and class themselves as more oppressed than women, and the rest of the world, seemingly, falls in to line.
Radical feminism stands in direct opposition to the notion of gender ideology. Radical feminists are gender abolitionists. The very idea that it is the nature of the clothes that we wear that causes our oppression is way beyond insulting. For the whole of my adult life I have worn the clothing that hangs on the rails of the assumed ‘male’ half of the shop. Yet, in wearing those clothes, it’s never magically protected me from the unwanted gaze or attention of a man that sees me as a possession to be taken at his will.
How can it be then, that if a male puts on a dress and some lipstick, they are suddenly so vulnerable?