by Selina Todd
Friday, 24
September 2021
Reaction
07:15

Labour’s support for single-sex spaces is too little, too late

It is no longer the party for women that it used to be
by Selina Todd
MP Rosie Duffieldhas decided not to attend the Labour conference because of fears for her security

Labour should be the party for women. In 1975, a Labour government introduced the Sex Discrimination Act and statutory maternity pay. The 2010 Equality Act began life in a Labour manifesto. But recently it hasn’t been clear that a future Labour government would define women in a way that makes sense to anyone with a basic grasp of biology, let alone advance their equality.

Party activists and prominent MPs claim that men’s exclusion from women’s changing rooms, hospital wards and sports is ‘transphobic’. Labour backbencher Rosie Duffield’s support for women’s sex-based rights provoked threats. The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, remained silent.

Until now. This week, Starmer’s spokesman announced that Labour will ‘support the implementation of the Equality Act, including the single-sex exemption which allows the provision of women-only spaces’. Upholding the Equality Act was a 2019 manifesto pledge, and considering that the current leader of the party has abandoned the majority of the other pledges, this seems to be quite a significant commitment.

Starmer clearly hopes this announcement will keep those on both sides of this debate quiet. His spokesman later clarified that Labour would only support single sex provisions for women ‘in specific circumstances.’ But voters will want to know what these are. Starmer’s 11,500 word vision for Labour’s future, released this week, offers no additional clarification. He mentions women just four times: once as the victims of poverty, and three times as victims of harassment and domestic violence. Hopefully this means he understands the need for single-sex public toilets, changing rooms and refuges, but it would be good if he said so.

Before ridiculing the Conservatives’ ‘bizarre obsession with what happens on university campuses’ — a dig at the government’s Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill which aims to end no-platforming — Starmer should get his own house in order. Two years ago, a public meeting organised by Woman’s Place UK (a group led by socialists and trade unionists which campaigns for women’s sex-based rights) was subjected to violent protests by activists at Labour’s 2019 conference. This year, Rosie Duffield has decided not to attend the Labour conference because of fears for her security.

Left-wing men are fond of saying that this ‘issue’ (the safety and legal standing of 51% of the population) is of minor concern to the electorate. But Labour is behind in the polls, and the Liberal Democrats and the SNP — parties that have already committed to shredding women’s rights for a slap on the back from Stonewall — have fewer women supporters than men.

Voters know that sex matters, and that saying so is not bigotry. 68% of Britons believe that discriminating against a person on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity should be illegal where access to employment, education, housing or social services is concerned. But less than a quarter believe that transgender athletes should compete based on the gender they identify with, rather than with others of their natal sex.

Ignoring sex doesn’t make sex-based discrimination and harassment go away, it just prevents you from dealing with it. Keir Starmer should reclaim Labour’s history of standing up for women’s rights. Otherwise the spectre of Jo Swinson — who was unable to define ‘woman’ on BBC Radio 4’s Today show , and shortly afterwards lost her seat and her leadership of the Liberal Democrats — may return to haunt him.

Selina Todd is Professor of Modern History at Oxford University. Her website is selinatodd.com 

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Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

There was an interesting Unherd TV interview of David Shor, a Democrat pollster who pointed out that in pandering to extreme liberal positions the Democratic Party risked losing traditional Black and Hispanic voters who were more socially conservative to the Republicans and that the vote was a lot closer than the Electoral College outcome suggested.
If labour pander to the transgender lobby, a numerically small sector of the voting population, they risk alienating otherwise traditionally Labour leaning women in far greater numbers. The idea that muscular ex-men will end up dominating women’s sport and can freely enter traditionally women’s only spaces may satisfy Stonewall ideologues but is bound to alienate a significant portion of otherwise Labour leaning women and even men who can see the problem.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
1 year ago

The Labour Party was established to represent the interests of working class families. It is now just a plaything for the more frivolous elements of the middle class. That Selina Todd expects its present membership to engage in a serious discussion on woman’s sex-based rights surprises me. I would advise Rosie Duffield to tear up her membership card, send it to Starmer and sit as an independent MP.

Last edited 1 year ago by Terry Needham
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

 a future Labour government would define women

This is where identity politics leads you: you become unsure what a woman is and hence you need a definition.
These people are literally insane. They’re as ignorant as plants.

George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

“These people are literally insane. They’re as ignorant as plants.”

calm down on the Herbophobia please Jon, many Labour members identify as vegetables

Last edited 1 year ago by George Glashan
Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I am a woman and I can define myself.

R S Foster
R S Foster
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

…as you say…when founded, the Labour Party represented the majority of the population…they are now representing a small proportion of a tiny minority – a very long established Dutch clinic dealing with Gender Dysphoria reckoned one in ten thousand men went the whole hog and had the op…so that’s a total of 3,000 across our whole population, a great many of whom want to live quietly as women without attracting attention to themselves.
So how many people of our 60 million are driving this discussion? Probably just a few hundred..!

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

What will eventually defeat the current “Progressive” ideology surrounding sex/gender is that its ideas are manifestly contradictory. To fully support one facet of this pernicious and divisive ideology puts you on the wrong side of another facet. If you stand up to support feminist rights you fall foul of trans-rights etc etc
Given the propensity of id-pol adherents to try and cancel any who dare to challenge their precepts, the whole movement becomes an Ouroboros – the mythical serpent that eats its own tail – though in the case of these activists it would possibly be better to describe a variant on the Ouroboros – as a monster that disappears up its own backside.
Frankly, for the good of society, it cannot come soon enough.

G A
G A
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

It has to run out of steam on its own. You can’t defeat it proactively. Look at the recent fuss in Australia where a netball team made up of boys trounced the completion – all of whom are girls. There was no resistance to this but now normal people are aghast. Eventually reality slaps the narrative in the face.

George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

respectfully Paddy i disagree, all these groups follow the Marxist “logic” of the most oppressed is King, these womens movements dont stand a chance, they had their time in the sun as the most oppressed. this isn’t like an Ouroboros its more like a spider when it’s eggs hatch and they devour the mother. the trans movement will be king until and even more oppressed group is invented and in turn that will eat the trans movement.

Last edited 1 year ago by George Glashan
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  George Glashan

After the ‘weirdness’ of transgenderism, I wonder what the next ‘oppressed’ group will be? I shudder to think. Left-wing ideologues seem intent on shattering all kinds of taboos.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Paedos?

George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

They are already one step ahead of you Andrew D they are being rebranded as Minor Attracted People,

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Groan, why doesn’t that surprise me. Me, I’m Miner Attracted – especially with blackface!

George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Then you are going to love the Prime Minister of Canada, that man loves being in blackface more than the Minstrel Shows did 

Last edited 1 year ago by George Glashan
David Yetter
David Yetter
11 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

When an ideology bases itself on the notion that objective truth is an illusion and that all there is are power relationships, one should expect contradictions. The Party will demand that you believe 2 + 2 = 5, except of course when the Party wants an engineering project to work, in which case 2 + 2 will need to be 4.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago

We’re told here that the SNP and Lib Dem have fewer women supporters than men. I suspect the same is true of Labour. Never has it been easier for the Conservatives to remain in power – just avoid insulting the 51% of the electorate who are women (as well as the majority of men who support them).

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew D
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

Labour should be the party for women. In 1975, a Labour government introduced the Sex Discrimination Act and statutory maternity pay.

Pffffffft. Neither of these cost the state a penny, that’s why (they just increased taxes on the private sector to pay for the maternity pay).
The costs were actually borne by employers.
In 1988 a Conservative chancellor abolished the farce whereby married women were a line item on their husbands’ tax returns. This did cost the state money.
And Labour voted against it.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Why am I not surprised?

Clive Mitchell
Clive Mitchell
1 year ago

“ a future Labour government would define women”

It says something about the madness of the times we live in, that in the 21st Century, someone would feel this to be necessary.

It’s enough to make a grown man despair.

David B
David B
1 year ago
Reply to  Clive Mitchell

I know, right! The very idea of a “future Labour government” makes this grown man despair.

Clive Mitchell
Clive Mitchell
1 year ago
Reply to  David B

I perhaps should have been clearer. You deserve the upvote!

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
1 year ago
Reply to  Clive Mitchell

Try being a grown woman!!

David Morley
David Morley
1 year ago
Reply to  Clive Mitchell

I think the lancet has already done this. Adding in, for good measure, woke talk about “bodies” rather than people.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
1 year ago

Given the current explosion of violence against women the protection of safe spaces for women is more vital than ever. It is almost possible to view current attacks on these spaces as a perverse form of misogyny, I really hope it is not so.

David Morley
David Morley
1 year ago
Reply to  Alison Tyler

Alison – could you provide a reference for the current explosion of violence against women.
I mean, as opposed to high profile, but rare cases which feature in the press. I’m not disputing this – though I’m sceptical – I’d just like to see the figures that show the problem is both large and getting worse (ie an “explosion” as you put it).
I’m also not sure it really has anything to do with “safe spaces” for women. I assume the bulk of violence is DV – which doesn’t generally take place in public toilets or changing rooms.

G A
G A
1 year ago

This reminds me of former democrats in the US who write endlessly about how they need to reclaim the party and still describe themselves as ‘liberals’. As in those cases, this situation is a logical path in liberalism.

Janice Turner, for example, still cheers for labour. Yet the party hates her.

Forget the Labour Party. It’s not for you anymore. It’s moved elsewhere and it’s not coming back.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

This article unwittingly exposes the many fallacies of the rights movements today.

Note that it keeps talking about tackling ‘sex based discrimination”, but then ironically, repeatedly assumes that’s equivalent to “women’s rights”….
Hence domestic violence means only the 50% of DV with female victims, etc.

Worth reminding that the biggest benefits to women have come from working people’s movements or technological improvements that benefited both women AND men – such as the right to vote, which I am sure was quite overdue for those millions of men fighting on the western front.

And yes, you have to be painfully middle class if you believe the party of Rotherham and Rochdale would transform into the party of women based on what they say about women’s toilets.

David Morley
David Morley
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Yes – playing fast and loose with history, facts and concepts is not a new thing. Hard not to feel that many who are entering the trans debate just don’t like it when the tactics they themselves used are turned on them.