Abuse and Women’s Rights

The following was posted as a long thread on our Twitter account 29 June 2020:

The past 24 hours have seen another fab thread from @jk_rowling which, inevitably, resulted in further abuse. However, senior politicians in Scotland have been more focused on promoting a post from Teddy Hope, a non-binary member of @theSNP.

The unverified account from Hope about a meeting which took place several months ago has been countered by members of @WomensPledge who were also present.

Nevertheless, a number of the great and good of Scottish politics and third sector who ignored the grossest misogyny targeted at @jk_rowling@joannaccherry
@JoanMcAlpine@JennyMarra@JohannLamont@elainesmithmsp etc have lined up to express support.

Where, one wonders, was their solidarity for the women who have received the most frightening abuse in the last 2 years in Scotland, where, they claim, there is no place for hate?

FWS newsletter mentioned political meetings in run up to the consultation for members who wanted to discuss legislation.

Unlike our opponents, we simply want Teddy, Emma et al to answer questions and have a civil open conversation.

We thought today would be a good opportunity to remind people of the history of our campaign & what happens when women try to have reasonable conversations about the biggest proposed shake up of women’s rights in a generation.

As content or trigger warnings are, apparently, de rigueur, here is ours – perhaps with more justification than some.

In Feb 2018, Women’s Spaces in Scotland (the forerunner to FWS) and WPUK organised a meeting in Edinburgh. The meeting was protested by Sisters Uncut and Edinburgh Action for Trans Health.

They had covered faces, screamed at women going in to the meeting and carried placards likening women to fascists. In the venue speakers contended with the noise as protesters banged pots & blasted horns.

At one point, a speaker told of the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. When women asked the protesters to halt the din in respect for a survivor, they answered that they “didn’t care”. Speakers had to be escorted from the meeting by the police for fear of assault.

After the meeting, the venue continued to be subject to abuse. The stream of harassment and negative reviews would, they were told, cease if they gave any money they made from the event to Edinburgh action for Trans Health. Most would class this as extortion or blackmail. It should be observed that EATH do genuinely believe that they are above the law.

In January 2019 the FWS meeting was again subject to a campaign of abuse. All through the day, the venue was bombarded by increasingly frightening threats – as a consequence, we had to quadruple security on the night.

Once again, the meeting was protested. The individual Cathy, quoted in the Guardian saying there needed to be “mutual respect”, reacted badly to the article, claiming this benign quote misrepresented their views.

In fact, Cathy took to Twitter to berate the journalist and say they said that the women of FWS needed to be silenced by force.

Sisters Uncut who released details of the venue that resulted in the extreme abuse, demanded that women’s rights groups like FWS be kept out of politics and off Scottish streets.

Cathy, of course, later attempted to assault Julie Bindel as she left the meeting at Edinburgh University in June 2019. Three security guards were needed to drag Cathy off.

Prominent Scottish political voices tried to retro-justify or minimise the attack, including Duncan Hothersall who was a co-founder of Equality Network – a group which is supposed to represent lesbian women as part of its remit.

Meanwhile Grant Buttars, president of EUCU made defending the protest as “peaceful” his priority rather than condemning the assault. Women were filmed arriving & abuse shouted as they left. A transsexual was told to “die in a fire”, presumably in name of defending trans rights.

The meeting itself was open to all and questions were answered respectfully. This did not stop protesters in the hall setting off stink bombs and misrepresenting the event in the student paper.
Like all meetings, the video is available.

A politician who came and asked probably the toughest question of the night, said he found the meeting “respectful, informative, and useful to a legislator.” He was forced to apologise by his party for engagement.

How, one wonders, does the “civil” engagement to which certain individuals are recent converts happen if women’s orgs, or indeed anyone, opposed to change are not allowed a seat at the table?

Prior to the event, EUSA liberation & Lighthouse Books ran a campaign of harassment, including against members of EU staff. Feminist and human rights campaigners were accused of putting “lives at risk.” alongside the hashtag “weareeverywhere”

Also present outside the event and standing with the sisters Uncut group was an individual who had been cautioned for threatening violence towards women in our group in March 2019.

This threat to “throat punch” caused significant distress to women in the group. Not least because, contrary to the post, it was not spur of the moment due to a public leafleting. The picture had been lifted from another site & no women were out that day.

In the aftermath of this threat, many went into overdrive defending the individual and blaming us for contacting the police. This included Ellie Mulreany who was an official at Trans Pride Scotland and who wrote a long defence of VAW on the official TPS FB page.

Along with others in Scotland, they used the fall out to make violent threats against women and politicians.

We also received emails from individuals, including one with an extremely frightening history, known to members of our group. This said “Rest assured you are on my radar now” and “I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around sometime”

The level of abuse became so terrifying that we reached out to Scottish Trans Alliance and begged them to intervene. We had documented evidence that many of those attacking us so graphically were, or had been, connected to STA in an official capacity.

Moreover, we knew that EN/STA were a major funder of the event. Tim Hopkins refused to intervene. A group directly funded by @scotgov was happy to remain a major sponsor of an event whose officials were openly abusing and threatening women on social media.

When @JoanMcAlpine invited Meghan Murphy to speak at parliament, Meghan was denounced as “transphobic” for her tweets regarding J Yaniv by many, including Patrick Harvie, co-convener of @scotgp who had previously tweeted a scurrilous article about Joan called “weekly wanker”

Mr Harvie used his platform at Pride that year to claim the parliament “platformed transphobic hate”, causing a great deal of panic amongst a group of lesbian feminists and allies who were hoping to enjoy a peaceful day out.

The accounts by women from the day were widely read and shared (see also on our blog post). Although there were also those who were still revelling in the fact they had threatened and abused women.

Edinburgh University attempted to hold another meeting in Dec 2019. This time the meeting was cancelled due to safety concerns – despite 9 security guards, women’s safety couldn’t be assured.

Staff Pride Network had a heads up before the event and their members deliberately tried to sabotage the event by registering for multiple tickets and making spurious reports to Eventbrite.

Needless to say, multiple events in favour of GRA reform at the University were not attacked by feminists in like manner. Academics at @EdinburghUni began to talk of their fear of walking across campus.

Concerns about academic freedom at Edinburgh University and the undue influence of a group dedicated to targeting academics who refused to comply with gender theory were expressed.

A meeting planned to be held in Scot Parl in Nov was likewise subject to attacks – including, again, from Cathy who said the politicians should face repercussions for hosting events and if not through official channels then they would “take it into their own hands”.

In Sept 2019, Magdalen Berns, co-founder of FWS died at the age of 36. Her friends had to witness the most repulsive comments, including gifs of skeletons dancing on graves and variations on Magdalen ‘Berns’ in hell and comments about her grave being a unisex toilet.

We know a website exists bearing her name dedicated to playing ‘Ding dong the witch is dead’. No, we aren’t going to link to it.

In her final days, we received an email from a local individual with a troubling obsession with Magdalen, posing as a journalist. This person had previously posted pictures of women in FWS claiming they are Nazis.

Nevertheless, this person has been praised by SNP researcher Jonny Kiehlmann and quoted approvingly by journalist Stephen Paton who has said that baseball bats used to threaten and intimidate women at Pride should be “put in context”.

Keihlmann, BTW, has long history of making abusive comments about our group. Only two hours ago he was, yet again, abusing us & calling us a “hate group”. Why? For saying that women are allowed to defend themselves against the allegations of Teddy.

It is true that random nutters are ever present on Twitter. However, we are not dealing here with lone incels in Alabama. The people who have subjected women to abuse under cover of trans rights are in Scotland, yet our politicians and our funded orgs remain silent.

We call upon them to state that censorship, authoritarianism and, above all, violence is not acceptable. Condemn malicious & inciteful accusations or spurious allegations about funding which are used to excuse violence & abuse. This should not be tolerated.

We ask you to stand up for women and our rights. We will not stop fighting for women despite the cowardice & duplicity of some in highest office or funded by the Scottish tax payer.

Twitter isn’t the real world and we will keep going.

Opponents rely on attempting to silence us with threats.

We will keep engaging openly and honestly with the women (and men) of Scotland and we will win, because the more we are heard, the greater our support.