Engender AGM

At Engender’s AGM on Saturday, the CEO, Emma Ritch made an interesting comment: “I would like to be clear here that Engender is not funded for a huge amount of engagement and are not presenting our work as advocating on behalf of the members or as representative of women. The colleagues at the Scottish Women’s Convention are funded in this way and we are glad to hear from members but our work is quite technical. I would not want to give the impression that membership privileges certain perspectives above others.”

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Women’s Rights and Academic Freedom – Part 2

On January 21st we published this blog post telling the sorry tale of how the University of Edinburgh is systematically promoting an uncritical acceptance of gender identity ideology, while allowing critical discussion of that ideology to be closed down. We included in that post nine questions we sent to University managers, some of which related to the postponed event on gender diversity in schools, and some of which related to the wider questions about academic freedom raised by the Guardian article on 14/01/20.

At the end of last week we received an answer from Gavin Douglas, Deputy Secretary of the University. His email, which would appear to be a circular one since we know others have received identical mails, answered none of the nine questions we’d asked. Nor did it indicate that university management have any interest in dealing with the problems documented in our last blog post.

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Women’s Rights and Academic Freedom

According to the tenets of gender identity ideology, every individual has an inner gendered self which manifests as gender identity (a sense of maleness or femaleness) – and this gender identity is the only accurate way of categorising an individual as a man, a woman, both or neither. Under this ideology, biological sex is reduced to a social construction and only gender identity is real. Such a way of thinking clearly has major implications for women’s rights which have been won on the basis of sex, and for the education and safeguarding of children.

You might think that universities are the very places where ideologies with far-reaching consequences can be critically examined, where arguments and counter-arguments based on evidence can be advanced, and where respectful discussion about ways forward in fields like law, criminal justice, health, education and social work can take place. But you would be wrong.

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Funding Conditions

The Scottish Government funds organisations working towards the outcomes in their Equally Safe policy for eradicating violence against women and girls. Funds were last awarded in 2017 for a three year period to 85 organisations, including 33 Women’s Aid groups across the country, who each received an average of £148,000 per year.

A Freedom of Information response uncovered the following Eligibility Criteria which outlines the conditions that each organisation must meet before submitting a funding application.

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LGBT Youth Scotland – Freedom of Information Request

In 2017, guidance for schools was published by LGBT Youth Scotland, entitled “Supporting Transgender Young People: Guidance for Schools in Scotland”. While its aim was to help schools support children who identify as transgender, the publication was heavily criticised for its failure to consider the specific rights and needs of girls and the negative impact that many of the recommendations made within the guidance would have on them. The production of the guidance was funded by the Scottish Government and it carries the Scottish Government logo prominently on its front cover. Despite this, the Scottish Government were reluctant to take any responsibility for the guidance stating, in response to the sustained criticism, that it would be inappropriate for them to review the guidance and that it had the full support of Ministers. However, in June 2019 the Scottish Government unexpectedly announced their decision to replace the LGBT Youth Scotland publication with guidance produced by the Scottish Government. This post explores the reasoning behind this decision, what we know about the development of the new guidance so far, and LGBTYS involvement.

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Police Scotland

Following Joan McAlpine’s Paliamentary Question on 13th March which discovered that Police Scotland and the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service both record incidents on the basis of self-declared gender identity rather than sex, one of our members sought further clarification.

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Glasgow Life

The Herald article from 22 April 2019: “Cross-dress males to be allowed in women-only gym sessions in Glasgow

Following the justified uproar over details of its transgender inclusion policy coming to light in this newspaper article, Glasgow Life issued a statement on 24th of April which not only fails to reassure female customers, but exemplifies the problems local authorities create for themselves when they hand over policy making duties to partisan lobbying organisations.

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Engender

Engender, who describe themselves as Scotland’s feminist organisation, have published an open letter following criticism of themselves and other officially funded women’s groups by MSP Joan McAlpine.

Engender’s opening gambit is to announce that they “neither ‘represent women and girls’, nor make any claim to.” This is quite an admission from a supposedly feminist group and rather begs the question what purpose Engender serves. They state that their “expertise comes from feminist scholarship, evidence drawn from delivery of services and programmes, and work with women and a wide range of women’s groups.” It would appear that Engender’s rather rarified expertise is from a rather narrow version of third wave feminist scholarship, while their “wide range” of women’s groups excludes all those who disagree on points of policy. We should note here that Forwomen.Scot members include those with decades of front line feminist activism – including at Greenham and Faslane and those who campaigned for gay rights when the stigma of AIDS overshadowed the community –  as well as lawyers, academics, medics and those involved at the coal face of women’s services.

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