Letter: Women’s Rights Matter

The Star led the campaign for Sheffield's Women of Steel statueThe Star led the campaign for Sheffield's Women of Steel statue
The Star led the campaign for Sheffield's Women of Steel statue
This letter sent to the Star was written by Sheffield Labour Gender Critical Feminist Group.

On July 20, The Star online ran an article about how the Women of Steel statue had been turned into a symbol of trans solidarity by members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

This was clearly in response to the recent picnic in the city centre held by us to celebrate the Maya Forstater ruling and as reported previously in The Star. We wanted to publicise and celebrate the fact that the law had recognised that women like ourselves, who know biological sex is real and immutable, have our right to be heard and not to be silenced or vilified for our views, which have been deemed by the courts to be “worthy of respect in a civilised society.” Our picnic was about celebrating that women’s rights matter.

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We believe that to “trans” the Women of Steel was utterly improper – the women that statue represents did not identify as men; it’s the very fact that they were women undertaking traditional men’s work that statue celebrates. To use them as a symbol of trans solidarity is to completely misrepresent history. DPAC talked of ‘cleansing’ the space which has chilling and tyrannical undertones, and readers need to be aware that references to unspecified hate crimes can include such acts as unintentionally ‘misgendering’ someone.

DPAC was further quoted as calling the suffragette colours ‘cute’; the women who carried out acts of civil disobedience at great risk to themselves and their families, and in some cases died for the rights of women to vote, would be spinning in their graves to hear the symbol of their struggles being referred to as ‘cute’.

But the most egregious part of the article is in the statement “The event comes after the sculpture was used during Trans Pride week by women in Sheffield who […] hold "so-called gender critical views" to express their opinion that trans women should not be able to access all-women spaces, a right that transgender women have under the UK law.” This is factually incorrect. The Equality Act 2010 allows for the provision of single sex spaces. This includes the lawful exclusion of those with the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ under the Act if it is reasonable to do so to protect the dignity and safety of women and girls. Self-identification into single-sex spaces is not legal in the UK.

We are frustrated and angered that the current UK law is constantly being misrepresented and undermined by organisations like DPAC and others who are being wrongly advised by the likes of Stonewall, who have been completely discredited and shown to be offering advice contrary to the law – Sheffield City Council has recently withdrawn from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme along with dozens of other organisations, but has built its diversity and equalities policies on very flaky and incorrect advice and it is important that people are aware of this.

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