Women Speak Scotland was set up by a diverse group of women in Scotland in response to the abuse heaped on J. K. Rowling when she publicly acknowledged the existence of biological sex, and expressed her viewpoint that this fact is important and forms the basis of many women’s experiences of their lives. Like many other women, she has faced threats and insults for speaking out in defence of women’s existence, our rights and our interests.
We believe it is essential to stand up and speak out in the face of increasing attacks on women’s rights and protections in many areas of life, including legal, social, linguistic and cultural spheres.
We have watched attacks on women in public life who dare to speak out. We have seen friends and colleagues threatened or intimidated into silence, some losing their jobs or being “no platformed” as speakers, whilst more general public discussion is shut down. We have seen organisations and women we love destroyed by relentless bullying and even threats of violence.
Women Speak Scotland recognises the importance of women’s lived reality and our experiences as females, and the validity of concerns about the health and safeguarding of children.
Over the last few years there has been a sudden expansion of the gender identity movement. We fully support trans people to live their lives as they wish, without fear of prejudice, attack or discrimination. Unfortunately, a small but vocal section of this movement has launched an attack on the concept of ‘woman’. This has been gaining ground in many areas of life.
Like J. K. Rowling, we believe our lives have been shaped by being born female. We reject the societal stereotypes and expectations that so often work against us. This is made much more difficult because of the way the very word ‘Woman’ is being eroded in some quarters. Instead, we are being reduced to dehumanising bodily functions and body parts. Increasingly we are being referred to, even in official documents, as “menstruators”, “pregnant people” or “uterus havers”.
Those who attack us would like to redefine the word ‘woman’ as anyone, male or female, who says they are a woman. In this definition there is no requirement for a male to engage in a meaningful process to legally change gender, or undergo hormone treatment or surgery to be treated as a woman. This means that any male would only need to state he is a woman to gain access to women’s safe spaces such as rape and domestic abuse services, or gym changing rooms. It would also give them access to the small number of jobs and official positions that are only open to women. Often this restriction is for women’s safety and reassurance, such as the staff of refuges for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Other times it is to help overcome the effects of years of discrimination which have led to women being under-represented in many spheres of life. At its most absurd, this redefinition of what it means to be a woman allows males to compete in women’s sporting events, giving them a huge advantage, and it makes a mockery of the reasons that sports are segregated on the basis of biological sex in the first place.
Women Speak Scotland – Time to speak out!
We refuse to be silenced, legislated out of existence, or reduced to descriptions of our bodily parts or functions. Women have the need and the right to talk about our bodies and our lived experience of being adult human females. We reject the notion that women’s rights and protections must inevitably be sacrificed to accommodate any other group. We demand the right to conduct free and respectful discussions of women’s rights or gender identity, whether in academic institutions, political circles, on social media, or in voluntary organisations. We absolutely oppose the no-platforming, abuse and harassment of women who stand up or speak out for women’s rights.
We encourage all women and men who support free and respectful discussion to stand up for women’s rights before we lose them completely. We welcome additional signatures to our open letter in support of J. K. Rowling. We understand that some people are unable to make a public statement of support for women’s rights because of fears about their physical safety, employment or other areas of their life. We would welcome hearing from you too, and would only publish your comments anonymously.