by Raquel Rosario Sánchez
Monday, 5
July 2021
Campus Wars
15:25

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

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Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

I just wonder why you thought the ever-leftward drift of student union positions would reach a certain point that suited you, and then stop?
Women have made it illegal for men to organise anything expressly for men only. Yet you still feel entitled to organise things for women only. And you’re then outraged when some loony lefty tells you that they, not you, will decide who you admit to your womanclubthing, that it will include men, and that you have no choice, recourse or right of appeal.
Why did you think this wouldn’t happen? Did you think there’d be one sex that can do what it likes (women), and another that just has it done to it and is expected to applaud (men)?
You’d need a heart of stone etc

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

To bar someone from your golf club or masonic lodge is hardly the same thing as to bar men from places for vulnerable women.
From your argument, given that racial distinctions cannot be made, you can’t complain if a trans wishes to enter your toilet.

ralph bell
ralph bell
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Forcing men’s clubs to admit women has been one reason for their demise and the knock of affect of loneliness and despair for men. Men and women should both be entitled to their own spaces or shared spaces.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

A “consciousness-raising meeting” of like-minded women getting together to applaud abortion is not a “place for vulnerable women”.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Sorry, I don’t buy it. If a whole group of women feels threatened by one man in their midst, why do they want to join a men’s club and be the one woman amid a group of men? How is the former threatening but not the latter?
It’s nonsense – it’s transparent, blatant female exceptionalism. You want equality except where you don’t, i.e. where the inequality benefits you; in other words you seek advantage while misrepresenting it as fairness. You want to have your cake, and eat it, and applaud yourself for being fat.

Helen Hughes
Helen Hughes
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I hear a lot of frustration from some men here on this issue, which I presume comes from a place of hurt – not being seen, heard, honoured? And at the same time I think I’m a bit out of the loop here. Which male-only arenas have been invaded by unwelcome women who have been forced on them in recent years? This is a genuine question: I evidently don’t move in these circles. I’m also hearing the lumping in of women who have got stuck in the role of victim, which I totally accept happens (as it also does with men), with those who really are the victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence by men. I sense this needs some differentiation. I really don’t know if there are comparable situations where a group of men have been abused in this way by women.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Hughes

There are still three Cambridge University colleges that admit only women (New Hall, Newnham, and Lucy Cavendish). There are none that admit only men. Thus women are privileged with 1,000 places that are open to women only, while the other 8,000 or so are open to women and men.
There are gyms that admit only women including one in London that – I am not making this up – describes itself as an “independent, women only gym [that] champions inclusivity” – meaning that it doesn’t, I guess.
If you Google “forced to admit women” you get 31,000 hits (change “women” to “men” and you only get 13,000, and a large number of those are articles about women being “forced to admit men who identify as women”).
Why should women be allowed women-only spaces when men are not allowed men only spaces?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Hughes

It is mostly an almost totally disingenuous ‘argument’ Helen, there is for obvious reasons little equivalence between men-only and women only spaces in most cases. And men do not really want to join women only institutions.

I do question why the Boy Scouts have become ‘The Scouts’ while there is still a separate Girl Guides. The proximate reason is that the two separate organisations made different decisions. However it does result in an imbalance which can seem ‘unfair’. There is a danger of unnecessarily over protecting girls.

I’d go on the basis of evidence, very unfashionable I know, as to whether it is a good idea or not to have separate sex youth education and organisations.

brian.stanley
brian.stanley
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Hughes

At the same time, I really don’t know, but I sense that I am also hearing that you are evidently, totally, genuinely, out of the loop here on this issue

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Who said that any one of them has, or supports, a woman’s right to enter a men’s only space?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Who said any women wanted to join a men only club? As we know from fairly recent news, a few clubs however such as the Presidents Club blatantly encouraged obnoxious values and disrespect to women which would not be acceptable under almost any political dispensation.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I suspect this argument is made in bad faith. So you do really believe that any single sex institutions should be prohibited? If you can’t see lots of legitimate reasons for women-only facilities, you must really be willfully ignorant of social reality, which includes the vast majority of violent crime and coercion is carried out by men (not by most men), only women undergo childbirth etc etc. I can’t recall various right wing culture warriors (or whatever) campaigning against the existence of the Women’s Institute. And sex differences in humans are also real, unlike a lot of claimed so called gender differences. (Gender doesn’t in any meaningful way mean anything other than sex anyway). And as usual with these extreme comments, the fact claims are dubious. ‘Women’ have not made men only spaces illegal. Social change and formerly men only institutions now allowing men is a different matter.
It is often a matter of context whether or not an organisation should be open to a narrower or wider group of people.

I’m a gay man, sometimes I want to be with other gay people, we have some cultural frames of reference, maybe even on a trivial level want to flirt, it is not a threat to anyone else.

The point is, everyone’s civil and social rights in wider society should be protected, not that everyone has to go to the same clubs and institutions. I have no problem if straight men, for example, want to self-organise.

Feminists don’t have a problem with trans people, they have a problem with men, with no transition carried out or even intended, to be able to invade womens’ spaces. It is a hidden form of misogyny.

The analogy with the trans issue is that a straight person claiming to be gay comes to a gay society – why would they do this? I can’t think of any good reason other than to make the sort of point you seem to be making and presumably to cause, or be willing to court trouble.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
brian.stanley
brian.stanley
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Brilliant opening sentence!

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
1 year ago

Good to see students fighting back against the ‘Woko Haram’ extremists.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

You get an uptick for Woko Haram 🙂

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

They got their hand bit by the radicals they have been feeding and now feel all aggrieved.
Glad to see it. Hoist by your own petard, as it were, and I just hope you anti Western Society groups get some of what you are terrorizing us normal people with so you can see tearing that which is decent and normal down is not always usefull.

Radical gets bitten by super-radical they created, hahahaaa

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Oh rubbish. Many women have long been at odds with trans activists. You need to get out more

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Good reply Lesley, so I read the links above, and indeed this group are not ‘WOKE’ in the normal sense at all, but very much radical and sharply defined. I was very much wrong about that side of things. from their literature:
“These days, radical feminists are perhaps most immediately worried about our oppression by the transgender movement. Transgender activists are engaged in a society-wide campaign to define women out of existence, to take away the few legal rights we have managed to wrest for ourselves by denying that women exist at all, except as an idea in men’s heads that men can appropriate for themselves. While the trans juggernaut is truly terrifying, it is only the newest flavor of male oppression of women.

Because men never tire of finding new ways to control, own, and torture women, radical feminism is necessary.”

So, wow, this group is not transgender inclusive at all, and I was wrong – but they do carry wokeness in other areas to an extreme.

I back their struggle in this 100%. But then I do think if you are utterly radical concerning every societal norm from all history EXCEPTING the trans issue, it is understandable if not everyone gets the nicities of your position right away. I went to the link in the article and read it all pretty much, and wow, it is a wild bunch of positions, and is very clear on what Sex means as a condition, and that it is not fluid. (and that it is divided completely into oppressor and oppressed)

But them I am a very Masculine Man. I work in construction and in jobs where the people are exceedingly macho. I have pronounced ideas on masculinity – I have lived in many societies and many different groups, including extreme ones, and am totally comfortable in my high testosterone self. So in many ways I am the male version of this group, and I wonder what they would feel about my hyper maleness – is it right that I am such, as I am the male sex, and I just am what I am, from a very long and weird life, and being born male.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Sanford, a lot of feminists are not extremists and a lot of feminists are not at all woke. Also a lot of feminists are not anti-men…..

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Sanford, someone reported my post to you…. Maybe it was too aggressively feminist!

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
1 year ago

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!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Wish I could give you more upticks

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Er, because there are lots of issues where women are still hugely disadvantaged by society, not least by sexual and physical assault, a very poor conviction rate etc. What exactly is your beef?

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

No one should be “forced” to undergo

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

No one should be “forced” to undergo, diversity and inclusion training. It’s like religious conversion at gunpoint.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

Doctrinaire bigots oppressed by other doctrinaire bigots.
They deserve each other.

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

These radicals didn’t. I’m an old radical and I support them!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Well done to the author and the women who are standing up for their hard won rights in the face of trans activists. And (it would appear from the comments on pages like these)… some men who seem to think that it isn’t fair that women want and deserve their own safe spaces, like separate public toilets, separate prisons and separate competitive sports.
Almost all physical aggression and violent crime is perpetrated by men, a fact that it seems some men are unaware of. Clearly if I want an equal opportunity to access a job, then I am entitled to ask for some separation when physical power dynamics and physical safety enter the equation. Thankfully I know many men who have the discernment to figure this out.
Congratulations also to the women who are trying to protect children from being allowed to be preyed on, from being subjected to increasingly p*rvy behaviour in previous safe spaces (think the very recent Wi Spa incident in LA) and who are fighting hard to prevent children from being transitioned at a young age.
And well done for standing up to the Woke lunacy.

Last edited 1 year ago by Lesley van Reenen
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

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….

Last edited 1 year ago by Samir Iker
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I find your strawman comment is aggressively crammed with ‘trigger’ words like ‘demand’, ‘whining’, ‘relentlessly’, ‘amusing’, ‘racism’ which just further discredits your entirely unreasonable argument more than the content alone.
To single out one of the many things I could single out – how is this in any way logical “It’s amusing how women need separate sporting categories but are also deserving of equal pay.”
I am going to guess you don’t rate women very highly and am not going to respond to you further.

Last edited 1 year ago by Lesley van Reenen
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

So let’s take the one thing you singled out:
What you imply is, it is logical for
a. women to have separate sports categories because they are too feeble to compete with men
b. Women to then demand equal pay because how dare someone suggest women are not as good as men.

Feminism in a nutshell.

And yes, all the histrionics about trigger words and being “mean” about women?
Don’t rate women who use those tools. Thankfully know some women who don’t, and I do rate them.

Last edited 1 year ago by Samir Iker
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

I thought he was spot on

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

Almost all physical aggression and violent crime is perpetrated by men

By a tiny, tiny minority of men.
Furthermore, crime is committed disproportionately by ethnic minorities. Eg in the UK blacks are 3% of the population but 10% of the criminal convictions; whites are 87 and 80%, making blacks 3.6x likelier to be criminally convicted. Asians are 1.5x likelier. Are you a stern critic of black criminals or is it only white men you demonise?
And by the way, men are 50% likelier than women to be the victim of violent crime.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago

Two plus two equals five if the party says it does, Winston.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago

People with female reproductive organs (PWVs) face a serious and ubiquitous threat from people with male reproductive organs (PWPs). This is why ‘people with female reproductive organs only spaces’ are necessary. They should not be compromised. Any PWP who truly identified with PWVs would understand this perfectly well. The fact that many who claim to identify thus do not, and moreover organise militantly against it, shows how serious the danger is. The mystery to me, as a PWP, is why so many PWVs do not see the peril they are in.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Smith
Kirsten Walstedt
Kirsten Walstedt
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Do you mean men and women?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

“Speak English, thou German dog”, as the farmer said to the Frenchman.

Or are you taking the p*ss?

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

I see what you have tried to do there and it is a possible solution to this impasse. The problem is some people will self -identify as having female reproductive organs and its back to square one. The problem is that none of this is based on fact, its all based on feelings. I’m only surprised that students have not yet self identified as the university chancellor and kicked out those who oppose them.

Helen Hughes
Helen Hughes
1 year ago

I am pretty shocked, reading the comments below. Whatever the merits or lack of them of this article, the language used about women by men on here leaves me feeling quite anxious. Without exception you sound hurt, frustrated, angry, bitter – and unable to express these emotions in a way that I can empathetically listen to. I am actually shaking as I write. Would you be able to take out the adjectives and judgements and express yourselves without projecting what you are feeling onto others? If the response to this appeal is more judgement and use of negative adjectives, where does that get any of us? You are conforming to the stereotype that feminists acuse you of, so we all just go round in circles. Blaming and shaming women for speaking out, whether you agree with them or not, is just going to get them more defensive and angry themselves. Can any of you men commenting below attempt to steel-man this article, or even what I am saying here?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Hughes

Feminists mocked chivalry from the 1960s onwards. We now have men who consider themselves women physically threatening women.Chivalry was a way Western Society persuaded men to curb their base instincts such as violence towards women. Often the toughest men are the most chivalrous; for example Irish foremen in the construction who would not allow men to swear in front of ladies, let alone make any improper sexual comments. The inability of male academics to protect ladies from violence just shows how chivalry and good manners have declined in universities.
From the French Revolution onwards, the Left have mocked gentility, good manners decorum and chivalry. Good manners is way society imposes a discipline on those who are stronger and better at fighting, who otherwise would impose their will on the weaker, be they women, children and the old. If we remove chivalry we arrive at the warrior cultures such as Vikings, Huns and Mongols where might is right.
Chivalry was hard won and only began to appear in Western Europe after about 1050 AD. The reality is that for a society to develop chivalry is usually time consuming and can be easily lost; the twentieth century proves that.

David McDowell
David McDowell
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Hughes

‘Hurt, frustrated, bitter and angry’ perfectly describes contemporary feminism.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 year ago

When she sue’s I hope she loses and is forced to pay costs. She might just grow up and start appreciating that there is more to life than hurt feelings or using the law to bully other people into stopping doing the very thing that the movement she represents has done for many years to others.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

I am pretty much an antifeminist, but I hope she wins. We are on the same side on this, and could do with some allies who cannot be dismissed too easily as old, cishet males. My enemy’s enemy is my friend, right? Besides the trans lot are definitely the worse bullies, these days

Gunner Myrtle
Gunner Myrtle
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

This is definitely a case of the revolution devouring its young. But we have to support the free speech and other rights of gender critical feminists and others we don’t like very much – or we just become the mirror image of the authoritarian left. Maybe some of them might even get the message that taking away other peoples rights is a dangerous game.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It’s like WW2 on the Eastern Front, or the Iran-Iraq War. I want them both to lose.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
1 year ago

Do you know, or have any idea, how many trans women attend the university?