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Has Sadiq Khan sacrificed women? City Hall has finally given up on biological reality

Mike Marsland / WireImage/Getty


February 25, 2022   5 mins

Six months ago, I was abruptly removed as independent Co-chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board, an unpaid role I’d held since 2013. For more than a year, I had been trying to get an assurance from senior figures at City Hall that women’s refuges would not lose funding if they excluded men.

This might seem an uncontroversial policy for organisations providing accommodation for female victims of domestic violence — but that was far from the case. Research by Dr Shonagh Dillon, CEO of an organisation that supports victims of domestic violence in Hampshire, found that service providers “understood that they risked their funding if they spoke up in objection to trans women in female-only spaces”.

And so in the summer of 2020, I wrote to Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, warning her about the chilling effect of Sadiq Khan’s mantra that ‘trans women are women’ on organisations that might seek funding from City Hall. I didn’t get the clear assurance I sought so in October that year I wrote to the Mayor, asking whether he believes that single-sex spaces are lawful in certain circumstances and necessary for the protection of the most vulnerable women in London.

It should have been an easy question to answer: back in 2009, when he was a Labour MP, Khan voted for what became the 2010 Equality Act and its list of exemptions, one of which allows organisations to provide single-sex spaces. In my letter to the Mayor, I said we are entitled to know if he has changed his mind about a piece of legislation that’s vital for the protection of women. That was sixteen months ago — and he still hasn’t replied.

My sacking as Co-chair of the VAWG Board came the following summer. I was aghast at the insensitive way it was done — by email, on a Friday afternoon when the entire country was stunned by a horrific mass shooting in Plymouth the previous evening. The killings were carried out by a young man who appeared to be an incel, a phenomenon I had written about in Home Grown, my book on the links between misogyny, domestic violence and terrorism. I was in the middle of doing broadcast interviews, explaining the background to the harrowing events in Plymouth, when the email arrived from City Hall. Within days, more than 4,000 women had signed a petition calling for my reinstatement. They’re still waiting for the Mayor’s response.

At the time, Linden dealt with press inquiries, insisting that my removal was due to a restructure and had nothing to do with my views on transgenderism or any other issue. In a phone call, she apologised for the way I was informed and asked me to stay on as an ‘advisor’ to the board. I couldn’t see any point, given that I would no longer have any influence over the agenda. All the while, violence against women was reaching epidemic levels, with the number of rape reports in London climbing to a ten-year high in March 2021.

In that very month, Sarah Everard had been abducted, raped and murdered by a serving Met Officer. On the morning after Cressida Dick revealed the news that Ms Everard’s remains had been found, I received a phone call from Linden. Somewhat to my astonishment, she said she was calling to ask me what Khan should say about it. A few weeks later, I got another call from Linden, asking what the Mayor should say about VAWG during his campaign for re-election.

None of this inspired confidence in the regime at City Hall, to put it mildly. I kept on raising important issues, however, such as the Met’s egregious failure to identify sexual predators within its own ranks. I insisted that senior officers should attend the next meeting of the VAWG Board to tell us how they intended to deal with violence committed by police officers, and I called for a public inquiry into misogyny at the Met. I got no support from City Hall; suffice it to say that I wasn’t surprised by the series of scandals that culminated in Dick’s sudden resignation earlier this month.

After my phone conversation with Linden in August last year, amid a blizzard of emails cancelling all my scheduled meetings at City Hall, I agreed to write to her formally. I reiterated my view that the board needs a Co-chair who isn’t a salaried employee of the Mayor, and asked for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to my question about Khan’s support (or otherwise) for the crucial exemption in the Equality Act. In a pattern I’ve come to expect from the current administration at City Hall, Linden did not write back for five months.

In a letter that finally arrived earlier this month, Linden says that she and Khan “have always been clear that the commissioning of all of our services will be based on the best interests of the user”. But if we are talking about a women’s refuge, who is the user? Many of us would say it means natal women, but here is Linden’s answer: “It is vital that anyone seeking refuge is able to access the services they need and that women, including trans women, fleeing abuse from men should be able to access spaces where they feel safe”. (My italics.) If the Mayor intends to fund separate refuge spaces for people who are transgender, no one would argue with that. But does he?

I also doubt whether service providers will feel reassured by the legalistic language in Linden’s letter, which stands on its head to avoid offering an unequivocal endorsement of single-sex spaces: “Our approach in commissioning services does not penalise any agency that is working within the boundaries of the law
 No agency we fund is required to act any differently from the requirements of equalities legislation.”

So what happens if the board of a refuge has a different interpretation of the Equality Act from the Mayor? If the CEO refuses access to a male-bodied trans woman, prompting howls of outrage from activists, will her organisation be treated by City Hall as “working within the boundaries of the law”, or accused of transphobia? Would any service provider funded by the Mayor dare take the risk?

There is one significant revelation in Linden’s letter. In a major climb-down, City Hall now accepts that the VAWG Board needs an independent Co-chair. It’s back to the status quo, in other words — but I’m not going to be reinstated. Despite offering fulsome thanks for “the vital work you have done for women and girls through your role on the VAWG Board”, City Hall has been having discussions about appointing an “external expert”. Members of the board will be ‘notified’ when an appointment is made.

Forgive me thinking there is a bitter taste to all this. Khan went on supporting Cressida Dick, calling into question his judgement, long after I pointed out that the Met’s culture was mired in misogyny. Now Dick has gone and the country’s biggest police force has been left rudderless. Four and a half million women and girls live in London, where they face quite unacceptable levels of violence, yet the Mayor’s attachment to gender ideology appears to mean that no one at City Hall can talk about women without instantly adding ‘including trans women’.

More than ever, women in London need someone to stand up for their rights and make sure their voices are heard. As a feminist who believes in biological reality, that person evidently won’t be me.


Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She was previously Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board. Her book Unfortunately, She Was A Nymphomaniac: A New History of Rome’s Imperial Women will be published in November 2024.

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Deborah Anne Schut
Deborah Anne Schut
2 years ago

I shouldn’t be surprised but I am nonetheless disheartened by the fact that a well thoughtout article about how women are being erased and denied their private spaces, written by a woman who lost her job by stating the obvious was dominated by men complaning the she used the term incel (‘young man who appeared to be an incel’) who, incidentally, killed 2 women, two men and a 2 yearl girl.

guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago

I am really disheartened by your sexist comment.

Rach Smith
Rach Smith
2 years ago

Yes that is quite depressing.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago

My personal journey from labour voter to “far right” was to a large extent prompted by feminists relentlessly defending the ethnic minority mainly responsible terror attacks or grooming gangs with the excuse “not all XYZ do it”

So, no you can’t have it both ways, and one man claiming to be an “incel” and commiting a horrid act does not give you the license to use that label as a pejorative against all men.

And as for losing her job, that’s the outcome of decades of people losing their jobs for wrongthink thanks to “victim groups”
And turns out, now there is none left to speak for you.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

City Hall is a pointless and dangerous institution; everything it is responsible for is a mess; it is mired in stupidity and incompetence.
Time to do what was done before to solve this problem; abolish it

John Lee
John Lee
2 years ago

Mohamed Khan has no respect for women. That is part of his culture.

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
2 years ago
Reply to  John Lee

Hey – I said that and got moderated!!!!!

F Mcallister
F Mcallister
2 years ago

Doesn’t take much round these parts. I’ve been censored numerous times by this Cucked, shitshow of a website. They’ve got no problem with their readers being ‘unherd’.

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
2 years ago
Reply to  John Lee

Who is Mohamed Khan and what is his relevance to this article?

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago

Question. If trans women are women, then why do you have to call them “trans” women.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

The ironies are delicious. That said, I’m not sure this is causing tears of rage and handwringing in Nuneaton, Ilminster or Market Bosworth etc.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 years ago

In the UK there are around 4,000 refuges for women and only 22 for men despite, as Erin Pizzey documented back in the 1970’s, domestic violence perpetrated by women against men is as common as it is men against women, so a lot of men obviously need somewhere to go.

Last edited 2 years ago by William Shaw
Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Domestic violence incidents of women on men may be as common but they are not as grave in the level of violence perpetrated and in the consequences. There may well be a case that male victims of domestic violence are not probably supported, but making this a cause worthy of support is not helped by pretending that as many men are murdered by partners as are women.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago

Nonsense.
One third of deaths from domestic violence are men.
And you also ignore the fact that DV victims (male or female) most typically are subject to constant, repeated low level violence..or that men are rendered unable to retaliate or walk away because the law would always take their wife’s side, and soon his children to staying with an abusive mother.

The other interesting but us how men are the “strong” sex when convenient, but otherwise we are expected to believe women are equally strong physically when it comes to sports, military or how they are depicted in media.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

“… we are expected to believe women are equally strong physically when it comes to sports, military or how they are depicted in media.”
This is an interesting point. Perhaps the impression in the messaging is dictated by a Butlerian gender ideological position – that women are to be regarded as de facto men? Could the corollary of this be that, in turn guided by that same ideology, men should be regarded as de facto women?

Last edited 2 years ago by michael stanwick
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  William Shaw

What you’re saying may well be true, but I was addressing a particular quote from Ms Linden. In addition, I’m sure that you’re not advocating forcing abused men and women in the same facilities.

Rach Smith
Rach Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Yes there should be more refuges for male victims of domestic abuse. However, to say domestic abuse against men is as common as against women (even taking into account lack of reporting the crime) is patently wrong. The large majority of defendants in domestic abuse-related prosecutions in the year ending March 2020 were recorded as male (92%) and the majority of the victims recorded as female (77%, compared with compared with 16% who were male). The sex of the victim was not recorded in 7% of prosecutions.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rach Smith
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Rach Smith

Is there a difference in law between domestic abuse and domestic violence?

Rach Smith
Rach Smith
2 years ago

I think the general rule is that domestic abuse becomes domestic violence when the victim feels threat to life. So the women and men who are downtrodden and may have a history of violence against them prior to a relationship, may not acknowledge the threat to life as they are often in a coercive control situation, like Stockhausen syndrome. Having said that, the figures are quoted on Women’s Aid website and I am no expert.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Rach Smith

Thanks for the reply. My point was that the comment you were replying to was referencing domestic violence whereas your stats reference domestic abuse-related incidents. I was wondering whether the comparison between abuse and violence is a valid correlation/conflation when stats are involved.

Last edited 2 years ago by michael stanwick
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Rach Smith

I bet most violence against men is not reported though

Rach Smith
Rach Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Probably, there is always more ‘shame’ associated with a man suffering abuse.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

I’ve not been online much today, but checking in here I find that I’ve had two of my comments removed from the two threads I’ve checked. This thread in particular has seen a lot of censorship for apparently little reason.
I posted in support of the author, so will be contacting Unherd to find out who on earth has been creating havoc today.

F Mcallister
F Mcallister
2 years ago

Nothing new. I’ve been censored numerous times by them. My subscription finishes soon with these Cuckservative shills, then they’ll be getting the boot.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

Khan had no interest in the views of women who are not Labour members. His views on women’s rights are shaped by his ambition to win the Labour leadership.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

And not even all of them, I know women who are still members of the Labour Party who are not on board with Mr Khan’s agenda

guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago

Genuine question – Why are they members of the Labour Party?

guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago

I am mystified as to why asking why women have not left the Labour Party has received downvotes. Am I being punished for asking a question some believe should never be asked?

R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

In regards to your point on the census, trans activists have form doing that. The infamous US Transgender Survey relied on by policymakers allows one to take the survey as many as one wants, promises a prize for taking it and allows non-US ip addresses to take it. I.e. it is intentionally methodologically flawed to make the trans population look triple what it actually is. Expect similar insanity here.

As Suedonym puts it, “The survey, which is incredibly flawed, has been cited numerous times by other associated transgender lobby organizations — the Human Rights Campaign, the Transgender Law Center, the National LGBTQ Task Force, a litany of other lobby groups and the Democratic Party, all groups that use its statistics as crucial evidence for their argument that transgender people are the most oppressed minority in America.”

https://suedonym.substack.com/p/inauthentic-selves-the-modern-lgbtq

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

Perhaps the issue is really about how the term “woman” is being used? Khan is using the term “woman” in the gender identity sense, and using that gender meaning as the basis for his stance.
Those who are interested in protecting women-only refuges are therefore at a disadvantage when dealing with the rhetorical strategic redefinition, because Khan has divorced “woman” from its common, codified meaning as “adult human female”.
In my view, perhaps the way to counter such a strategy is to call the refuges female-only refuges. That explicitly links access to such spaces based on the criterion of sex, not some arguable meaning from gender ideology.
At the end of the day, as I see it, these spaces have to be based on sex, because lawful access to those spaces is governed how the law defines sex – that is, sex is biological and transgenderism is psychological (Corbett v Corbett).
For those who hold a GRC, that lawful access would have to be made on a case by case basis.

Last edited 2 years ago by michael stanwick
R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

I’d feel pity for the author’s situation if they weren’t a misandrist that calls young men ‘incels’ and expects to get away with it without criticism

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Some young men are incels though, and identify as such. What would you call these people?

Last edited 2 years ago by Billy Bob
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

If I understand it correctly, the status of being an “incel” is involuntary, so surely they do not deserve the “default hate” status that is dished out by others.
People who describe/identity themselves as incels are presumably just that.
I would call them people – as I would anyone else.
It is the act of constantly dividing and sub-diving people into silos that causes all this sh1te.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

The author effectively identifies being an involuntary celibate (incel) with being a mass shooter. She is actively working to demonise a group of men. I did post another comment but it has not appeared. I think it was because I used the acronym for trans exclusionary radical feminist – not in a derogatory fashion. The author has contributed to making the term incel a far worse slur but it is not banned.

Last edited 2 years ago by guadalv
Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
2 years ago
Reply to  guadalv

Thanks for explaining what ‘incel’ means. I have never heard the term &, quite frankly, don’t care if I never hear it again! All these new titles for everything is ridiculous. As others have said, a person is a person!

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I agree with all you have said about people being people and not being put into little labelled boxes, but as Billy Bob says they refer to themselves as “incels”, knowing all the baggage that comes with that designation, rather than “bachelors” or “unattached”. They may, indeed, be involuntaerily celibate (as are many women, of course), and it may be that originally the term was just meant as a discriptor, and the community was to give help to those wanting to navigate the treacherous waters of “dating”, but it seems to have morphed into something else, something from which any self-respecting youngman might consider distancing himself.

Last edited 2 years ago by Linda Hutchinson
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

I’m uncomfortable with the suggested concept of “passive morphing”.
Some people “actively” decided to turn it into a term of abuse.
On that basis, I’d suggest that those people who pervert terms such as these ought to change their behaviours – rather than their victims having to do so.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Was it tuned into a term of abuse or did the “community” morph into something else, or, to use the active tense, did some in the “community” turn it into something else? That is an actual question, I don’t know the answer as I’ve never visited the sites. I have, however, seen some rather unpleasant statements from some who call themselves “incels”, who could be a tiny minority, of course.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

I doubt that all incels joined any specific “community” – in the same way as all truck drivers in the Canadian Freedom Convoy won’t have joined a community of “far-right anti-vaxers”.
As you seem to suggest, it’s convenient for some haters to label all apples as bad – if one or two are found to be rotten.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

No-one really thinks incels all commit crimes, but a few do. I think it is an important descriptor especially as incels own the term.
There are lots of terms, some more derogatory than others
 cougars is a term used for women who are in a relationship with a younger man. I find it descriptive and amusing.
Too much wokedom
. Nah.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Incels and Terfs
 both slurs. Slurs of equal magnitude.
Ban both or neither, but be consistent.

Last edited 2 years ago by William Shaw
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Some people call themselves ‘incels’. Nobody call themselves ‘TERFs’.

guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

And terf was not originally a slur, just a descriptive.

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago

i think this is the article you refering too
https://thecritic.co.uk/fair-play-for-women-loses-census-appeal/

guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago

And could it be the author objects to trans women in women’s refuges because she is a misandrist.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

What happened to the earlier comments? From the ‘enraged’ Linda Hutchison for example?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Damn
 what did I miss when I was on the beach?

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
2 years ago

A whole lot of immoderate moderation, perhaps?

Last edited 2 years ago by Fred Atkinstalk
guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago

Completely agree. Maybe UnHerd could just put up the usual warning and disclaimer by the flagged comments rather than deleting them, or at least explain why they have been deleted.

guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago

I would also appreciate the upvotes and the downvotes being separated. I have looked from time to time and my overall score generally remains negative but there is variation so some upvotes must be neutralising (cancelling 🙂 ) some of the downvotes.

Last edited 2 years ago by guadalv
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago

Maybe they could offer a premium subscription that unlocks all the enraged, “offensive” comments.

I for one would happily pay up for that.

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago

If trans women are women, then why do we call them “trans” women.

Francisco Menezes
Francisco Menezes
2 years ago
Reply to  David Batlle

would ‘ding dongs’ be an alternative?

Andrew Sweeney
Andrew Sweeney
2 years ago

Pots, kettles, bl@ck..
Peoples Front of Judaea v the Judaean Peoples Front.
Hoist by your own petard.
Sit back with the popcorn.
Schadenfreude.
You sow what you reap.
Never saw this coming.
Smug – not me..

F Mcallister
F Mcallister
2 years ago

The Left eating their own. I’ve got no dog in this race. My feet are up and the popcorn bag is open.
Let the entertainment begin!

guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago

I have a theory. I could be completely wrong and would prefer to be. I think it is women who are disliking my posts because (from my experience) they prefer badmouthing people behind their backs rather than confronting them.

guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago
Reply to  guadalv

That is interesting. I too worked in a male dominated area and must have been very fortunate because I did not share your experience.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  guadalv

Just goes to show, we can’t generalise from our own experiences.

guadalv
guadalv
2 years ago

True. Though I am very interested in the innate component of human behaviour and I do think that group wise there are identifiable differences between the sexes which is not to say any member is typical. I think human nature is a constant. I think great literature recognises and identifies these constants which is why it is has remained relevant throughout the centuries and across cultures. I think there are negative behaviours associated with females and positives.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  guadalv

I absolutely agree that there are negative and positive behaviours associated with females, just as there are with males; all I’m aying is that it is often difficult to determine what is a general female(or male) characteristic merely from one’s own experiences, as I believe most of us move in very restrictive circles.