by Raquel Rosario Sánchez
Monday, 5
July 2021
Campus Wars

At Bristol University, feminists are under attack

We are being punished for insisting on our sex-based rights
by Raquel Rosario Sánchez
Credit: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media / Getty

The campaign for women’s equality at the University of Bristol has been a long and protracted struggle. In 1913, when students formed a Women’s Suffrage Society, 300 students vandalised the Women’s Social and Political Union office and attacked the women with missiles and eggs after militant suffragettes burned down a sports pavilion in the city.

Fortunately, such violence no longer occurs, but the battle for women’s rights continues. Earlier this year, the Bristol Student Union sanctioned the feminist society ‘Women Talk Back!’, of which I am president, for excluding trans women from female-only talks and debates about rape and sexual assault.

Unlike the historic suffragettes, we didn’t break the law in the course of our activism: quite the contrary. We merely insisted upon our sex-based rights, in accordance of the 2010 Equality Act.

Women Talk Back! welcomes everyone to our public events with renowned feminist speakers, but our consciousness-raising meetings are limited to the female sex. This is to protect women’s right to privacy, safety and dignity while discussing sensitive subjects like male violence, sexual abuse and reproductive rights.  

The decision by the SU to sanction our group is part of a broader campaign waged against feminists at Bristol. Back in February 2018, the SU put forward a motion entitled “Prevent future trans-exclusionary radical feminists -TERFs- from holding events at the university.” The word “TERF” is an acronym for “trans-exclusive radical feminism”, and is often used as a slur to silence dissenting women. 

After we affiliated as a group, the SU then rewrote the definition of women in their bylaws: “All who self-define as women, including (if they wish) those with complex gender identities that include ‘woman’, and those who experience oppression as women.”

In March 2020, our society held a meeting on ‘Boundaries and Feminism’ and trans activists demanded that we allow a male student into our meeting. We refused, citing the law, which resulted in a student complaint to the Bristol SU. Now the SU is forcing our members to participate in mandatory “diversity and inclusion” training and I have been ordered to step down as president. 

The treatment of Women Talk Back! is reflective of how feminists in senior positions within academia are suffering at the hands of trans activist students: in Oxford, History Professor Selina Todd requires security to attend her classes. In Edinburgh University, former rector Ann Henderson faced sustained campaigns of abuse with little institutional support. 

But nobody is more vulnerable within academia than students and early career researchers — and it is for that reason that I am suing the University of Bristol for facilitating bullying and harassment against me.  

None of the 70+ members of our feminist society have any intention of complying. We will not be emotionally blackmailed nor coerced into breaking down our boundaries. Women have a right to say “no” and that is exactly what we will do.

Raquel Rosario Sánchez is a writer, researcher and campaigner from the Dominican Republic

Join the discussion

  • Couple of thoughts
    Firstly you can’t demand that we pretend that women are equally strong as men, and any gaps in outcome must be “sexism” (though of course, majority women in teaching and college admissions are fine)

    And then start whining about those nasty, big men when it suits you.

    We are relentlessly bombarded with the “woman strong” message in media, kids are fed that in school….

    It’s amusing how women need separate sporting categories but are also deserving of equal pay.

    And secondly, you do know black men are multiple times more likely to commit violence, and muslims dominate rape gangs in Europe…so let’s start with them shall we?
    And suddenly what’s acceptable to say about men become racism….

  • I’ve not yet encountered a feminist who wasn’t, on close inspection, anti-men. The reason is simple: women obtained the same legal rights as men decades ago, but instead of wrapping itself up and saying “mission accomplished” the movement moved on to campaigning for unequal rights.
    That is, by definition, anti-men. To be feminist today is to be anti-men and in denial about it – there’s simply no way around that. Every feminist ends up saying things that are untrue, delusional or both because it’s a fundamentally immoral movement at its very core, pretending to be something moral.
    This article shows this clearly. The author thinks she’s a part of the “campaign for women’s equality” but also that this is compatible with “insisting upon our sex-based rights”, even though equality means there are no sex based rights. She states her meetings “welcome everyone” then immediately clarifies that men are banned, which is the exact opposite of welcoming everyone, and that this is OK because the law allows them to do so i.e. it gives women more rights than men (good luck with banning women from groups on the grounds of a “right to dignity”).
    She ends by complaining that she now has to undergo “diversity and inclusion” training … gee, just like the rest of us are forced to do. The difference is the majority of people who are forced through this training aren’t actually sexist, whereas this person writes whole articles complaining she’s not being allowed to be sexist! I very rarely agree with D&I training but apparently we found the sort of person who might actually benefit from it!

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