RadFem2013 vs the MRAs: what really happened and who’s the baddie?

For the second year running, the RadFem conference has lost its venue. It’s been difficult finding out the long and short of it, as the conference organisers are claiming that men’s rights activists (MRAs) are responsible, and the MRAs are also claiming victory, and there’s little from the London Irish Centre itself. The RadFem2013 line is that they were subjected to harassment from MRAs, while the MRAs claim that they spearheaded a campaign. I’m not going to link to any statements from either, as both are, in my view, hate groups.

Unfortunately, the only statement I could find from the venue itself was unhelpfully in the Times, hidden behind a paywall, which means that both RadFem2013 and the MRAs can continue to push their own narratives. Luckily, I can get behind that paywall, so here’s what the venue had to say (ETA: Screenshot of the Times article part 1 and part 2, courtesy of @WeekWoman):

“Quite a few of the complaints were from the transgender community and then a men’s group came along the other day to hand out leaflets about why the event should not be held here.

“While our commercial bookings subcontractor [an events firm called Off to Work] has a certain amount of freedom to use the centre when we are not using it for cultural events, if it comes to the charity’s attention that an event goes against our policy, then we will point it out to them.

“We did some research into RadFem and discovered certain language was used and some statements were made about transgender people that would go against our equalities and diversity policy.

“We have discussed with our subcontractor Off to Work how to avoid such confusion in future and have strengthened our internal communications as a result.”

Well, that clears matters up nicely, and thank you, London Irish Centre, for clarifying what actually happens. A pity I couldn’t find this important information anywhere else except behind a fucking paywall.

So, it appears that for the second year running, the venue pulled out because of RadFem2013’s transphobic stance, where, once again, trans women will be excluded from attending. Speakers at the conference include academic transphobes like Sheila Jeffreys, and more dangerous transphobes like someone whose name I am actually scared to mention because she has a history of endangering trans and queer folk because the hate runs so strong in her. This is not an exaggeration. That person has a habit of doxxing anyone she suspects of being trans, calling employers, and sometimes even schools of trans and queer folk. If anything, London Irish Centre are understating matters when they say that the RadFem2013 conference goes against their equalities and diversities policy. To some women, the RadFem2013 conference organisers and speakers are a persistent and dangerous threat.

But does this make the MRAs the good guys here? Fuck no. Their beef with RadFem2013 went as far as “waaah we hate feminism”. They merely opportunistically used the trans exclusionary nature of the conference as an excuse to push their own agenda. They’ve made their own problem clear in their correspondence with London Irish Centre–at least, the information they’ve provided online. And much of it is tedious concerns about misandry, and the Waahmbulance Service must be pretty stretched about this.

Of course, that MRAs might be driven to picket feminist events is a cause for concern. This is something that trans activists and feminist allies never did, mostly because we’d all planned to do something nice that day, something that didn’t involve sitting indoors listening to bigotry (last year, I sat in the sun and ate ice lollies and read a good book). We shouldn’t not object to MRAs showing up and picketing a feminist event just because this particular feminist event was direly oppressive. Now they think it works, they might just do it again, and that’s the last thing we fucking need.

From their own words, it looks like the MRAs consider trans women to be their allies for exactly the reason RadFem2013 organisers think trans women their enemies: both sides fall prey to the fictitious narrative that trans women are really men. In another life, these two bands of bigots could be friends, and were they to put their resources together they would become even more terrifying. I hope RadFem2013 giving MRAs the credit for something they didn’t do isn’t the beginning of an alliance forming.

In amid the hubbub of claims of responsibility, though, once again the work of trans activists is erased. It was trans activists, after all, who did the bulk of the dialogue with London Irish Centre, for it is trans activists who would be harmed by this conference going ahead. No platform for fascists, the activists said, and eventually, the venue listened. It was not the MRAs with all their spite and noise who won this. It is people who have been–or fear they will be–affected by the hate spouted by RadFem2013.

The narratives presented by both RadFem2013 and MRAs serve only to obfuscate the truth: that feminism is moving on from bigotry and gaining strength by the day, and the bigots are running scared as they feel their dominance slipping away from them.

Further reading:
UnCommon Sense: TERFs, MRAs and lies about trans people.

UPDATE: The booking agency have also given the MRAs credit. Read more here.

Note: Comment thread is, of course, moderated as best I can. I might have had a few slips, but I’m going to be careful right now. Stay on topic, and if you’re from either of the hate groups discussed in this post, your comment isn’t getting through, because no platform for hate. This is my space, not your personal place for airing grievances. 


40 responses to “RadFem2013 vs the MRAs: what really happened and who’s the baddie?

  • veritas

    honestly – my view was that the RadFems viewed the trans* activists as The Same as MRA- because they view trans* women as men, they viewed them as MRA, only not THE MRA. i could be totally wrong though.

    • stavvers

      Entirely possible, and utterly fucking hideous😦

      • TomWaitsForNoMan

        I’ve have read TERFs calling trans activists “MRAs” many many times, especially on she-who-shall-not-be-named’s blog. That they would lump them together here is unsurprising.

      • Hailey

        Even in my country (in Latin America) feminists aligned with this radfem transphobic bullshit are calling trans* activists who oppose this obviously transphobic views as “infiltrated” and “MRAs”. So I don’t doubt for a minute that they see us as the same as them.

    • tristan

      From what I understand, this is 100% on the money. Looking at some of the quotes from Trans-exlusionary feminists (collected at http://theterfs.com/2013/03/02/terf-quotes/ ) you see this opinion a lot.

      A certain Radical Feminist (possibly the same one who went deliberately unnamed) recently tweeted that exact sentiment: MRAs and Trans Women are basically the same thing.

      Having followed the MRA movement with open-mouthed astonishment and disgust, they’re one of the most casually brutal transphobic groups I’ve ever encountered.

  • Jo (@jonanamary)

    Last year, I’m told that RF2012 took place at Birkbeck. As a BBK student, I was horrified by this, and wish I’d made more of a fuss at the time.

    I will write to the SU and let them know that RF2013 has no place at BBK. I will also raise the issue with the LGBT officer.

    A university should not be used as a venue for hate speech.

    • stavvers

      This sounds like a good idea, and I hope that BBK listen.

    • Kerry

      REALLY. Oh, I wish I’d known that. It certainly won’t be happening again.

      *puts BBK Women’s Officer hat on*

    • Cicemer

      As I’m given to understand, they met up in the student bar at Birkbeck. The University and Union weren’t informed of their presence at the time, otherwise action would likely have been taken.

      *Disclaimer* – was not there, simply passing on what I’ve heard from reliable people who were.

  • Harriet R (@geekyisgood)

    Thank you so much for clarifying what happened.

    This is offtopic, but related, so feel free to ignore, but I wondered if you’d heard anything about Lawrence University and Lairre Keith? She was due to give a talk on Earth Day but the organisers disinvited her when they discovered she’d said really transphobic things in the past. I found out about it on Twitter from Liz Kelly tweeting a link to a TERF blog (*shudders*). I can’t find any other info on it, but TERFs are framing it as an attack on academic freedom and democracy.

  • Draxar

    As a side note, when I googled the London Irish Centre (trying to remember if it’s the one on Gray’s Inn Road, but that’s Welsh not Irish), it’s been reviewed by someone saying

    “Allows itself to be used by radical feminist groups advocating violence and human rights abuse towards all men.” (and further stuff)

    And since that’s the only text review the place has, that’s what shows up when you mouseover the place.

  • Matthew Smith

    I did a little bit of investigation regarding the roster of speakers at RF13 (before they took most of the site offline, as they did when their venue pulled out last year) and discovered that one of the speakers is one Lierre Keith, the author of a book called “The Vegetarian Myth”. A brief look at her appearances page shows that RF13 is not there. Has anyone looked at their other supposed confirmed speakers and asked if they really plan to attend, let alone speak? You can reasonably assume Sheila Jeffreys will be there, but what about the others? (It is a fairly common tactic of sectarian conference organisers to pretend to be more inclusive than they really are by claiming that a speaker you thought was opposed to them was going to be there.)

    • stavvers

      Last year, there were similar questions raised about the speaker from Southall Black Sisters–whose name currently escapes me. She pulled out in the end.

      And yes, I wouldn’t put it past them to pretend they’ve a bigger speaker list than they do!

      • Tr0ll0caust

        I apologies if my post is unwelcome .

        If you take a quick look on google, there’s video of Lierre speaking at conference called “Radfem Reboot 2012”. Brennan was also a speaker at this conference and if I recall, it was at the very least being heavily promoted by her clique.

        Additionally, a majority of the speakers and organisers at Radfem 2013 can be fairly easily identified as members of that same online clique if you’re willing to spend some time googling.

  • Matthew Smith

    I’ve contacted Lierre Keith and Femi Otitoju (@pinkfemi) to ask if either plan to attend (all the diversity stuff on Femi’s site suggests that she might not want to be seen with this bunch of bigots). Will post the results here if there’s a reply.

  • Korhomme (@Korhomme)

    Some of the simplest, most naive questions are the hardest to answer; just what sort of person do you have to be to be a radfem; what attributes do you need? Genotype, phenotype, gender, socialisation? I can see problems with all of these.

  • Kane Almsivi (@KAlmsivi)

    Fuck me, the world doesn’t have enough problems without gender-based hate groups pushing their warped ideology around? Lets give both groups what they want, which to all intents and purposes is sterilization. Either learn to live with each other or fuck-off back to the rocks you crawled out from.

    Bollocks.

  • Boostick

    Perhaps I’m oversensitive, but the wording of this statement is troubling:

    the complaints were from the transgender community and then a men’s group came along the other day to hand out leaflets about why the event should not be held here

    To me, that reads as “Trans people were complaining to us, the usual stuff, but then a men’s group came along and so we decided we’d better check this whole thing out”

    It’s as if the issue only became a legitimate concern when men joined the fray.

    Add to that the comment above saying that the Irish Centre is hosting groups that perpetrate “human rights abuses against men”. Always the men, those poor, podi things.

    TERFs are fucking awfut, MRAs are filth. Dangerous, unhinged filth, many of whom have actively abused (physically, sexually, emotionally) women and kids.

    People need to remember that their enemy’s enemy is not their friend. Trans mozwomen and SOFFA’s still need to be vigilant about the threats MRA groups pose.

    I’m worried that a precedent hass been set. Don’t want feminists to gather? Easy! Protest by showing “evidence” of their bigotry. I know the frothing radfems dug their own grave, but other groups? Well we all know that a website takes ten minutes to churn out, and that site can be made to appear as if it’s the views of anyone you want. MRAs could use that fact to smear any target in their sights.

    Clearly we need to shore up defences against these MRA hate groups, because who knows who might be next in their sights?

    • leftytgirl

      But the MRA’s aren’t the ones who got it canceled in the first place. That’s the point of the article: the MRA’s are claiming they got it canceled because they are desperate to find a way to validate their worthless misogynistic garbage.

      • Boostick

        Yes, that’s why I pointed out that the wording troubled me, because the whole “Men started complaining so we checked it out” slant gives MRAs the credit, and the power of thinking they got it cancelled. Yes? So now, empowered by what they think is a victory, they’ll no doubt redouble their efforts against all feminist and activist groups.

        • leftytgirl

          I think you might be reading too much into that statement. I didn’t get the “once the menz got involved we took the complaints seriously” thing out of it at all. I just read it as recounting what happened. Two groups complained, they looked into it, the complaints from one of those groups (trans people) stood up to scrutiny, so they canceled it.

  • Boostick

    Whoops, don’t know where that random “moz” came from! So “trans women”, not “trans mozwomen”!

    Weird. This phone is possessed.

  • StacyJane

    I am trans and I condemn harassing RadFems. I was not born a woman, I became one. I am a different kind of woman. All kinds of women have a right to have a conference without me. The world, no less women of all people, owe me anything. This is why I have many women friends. I don’t insult them and call them gross words like CIS. I am trans because I transitioned so that is why I have a prefix. Women do not need a prefix. We already know what they are, they are women. I strongly condemn what I see happening online. My trans sisters continaully shame me by harassing and pushing these women around. I like being a trans woman that’s why I don’t act like a man and look to bully women around because of a conference or a music festival. Has the trans community gone mad? Have we no shame? Will we all stand by and watch our trans sisters abuse women just because they can and we have support of people who have no idea what it is we actually do to these women? So what if they want a conference? What the hell does it matter to me? Trans women have conferences and they don’t bug us. If they did we’d start to hate them just like they have started to hate us. That is not transphobia that is human nature. Trans women’s beauty pageants do not allow women to compete they don’t break out balls about it. If we are all women then why don’t we allow women to compete with trans women? I find this section of the trans community will be our downfall and I promise you a backlash is coming. You all want to behave like tyrants when you get a little power, just watch how quickly things can change. You show your true nature when you have a drop and I for one find myself hanging my head in shame when I see how my trans sisters behave holier than thow. Shame on your my trans sisters. SHAME ON YOU.

    • Maeve

      I am a cis woman. There is nothing that I find at all offensive about the word cis. It is a statement of fact. My gender is congruent with the sex I was assigned at birth. It is only offensive if you consider the prefix a threat to the concept of cis being normal. I find you calling the word cis ‘gross’ to be rather more offensive.

    • Luvlymish

      I am a cis woman. As soon as you use the prefix trans to define your womanhood beyond that of ‘woman’ I need to use the prefix cis to define mine.
      I think assuming that ‘cis’ is some sort of perjorative shows a lack of understanding of the English language. It’s derived from the Greek meaning staying the same, just as trans is derived from the Greek meaning changing.
      Your suggestion I do not need a prefix but that you do suggests to me that you think of me as a ‘real’ woman but yourself as not; if you want to define yourself as a third gender – or dispute the gender binary then why use the term woman at all? I am cis and you are trans but we are both women.
      If you see trans women pushing cis women around then your experience is different from mine. Transwomen are subject to far more abuse than cis women, abuse like that found in the language of RadFem. Until the women who are transphobic get over themselves and admit their privelege in this situation (and stop acting like so many anti-women men) then you are going to find us all in situations where women-haters – who don’t care whether you were born cis or trans as long as you currently define as a woman – will take advantage of the splits within our community.

    • Boostick

      How do you feel about the word ‘heterosexual StacyJane?

    • Andi_G

      Is the term ‘trans’ equally as gross as cis? Why are you not shaming people who refer to you as trans, for the grossness of that particular prefix?

      As for your “they don’t bug us”, how are you ignoring the article which you are replying to? They do ‘bug’ us. Janice Raymond literally wrote the words “I contend that the problem with transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence”. How is that not ‘bugging’ us? Sheila Jeffreys has stated “transgender surgery should be considered a human rights violation”. How is that not ‘bugging’ us? In conclusion, you are utterly wrong.

    • farishcunning

      Thank you for this comment; I find it very refreshing to see word not seething with aggression and entitlement.

      I want to ask a very sincere question, and I hope you all will bear with me. Some prologue: I am a very butch lesbian. I often get called “sir”, and even one of my young grandsons says “That’s a boy” when he looks at me. I have been looked at funny and questioned in restrooms. But I do not consider any of this hate speech, oppression, or abuse. It’s just other people’s perceptions, and doesn’t affect what I know about myself.

      So here’s the question (finally): why do you care if people say you are men? What is hateful, oppressive, or abusive about it? If you really believe in your heart you are women, what difference does it make what other people say? Why is it so important to you to force others to agree with you? Can you see how that might be viewed as male behavior?

      When other people misgender me, I don’t let it affect my day. I don’t try to get them in trouble with their boss or get in their face. I know who I am. It doesn’t matter a whit if they don’t.

      I hope you can enlighten me about this. I’ve never been able to get why trans find it so important to coerce the world into reflecting back to them only what they themselves want to see. If YOU know who you are, isn’t that enough?

      Thanks a lot for hearing me out.🙂

      • Jack Artagan Mackenna

        You haven’t been constantly misgendered since birth, your legal documents and such likely reflect your identity, people probably won’t use your lack of gender conformity as an excuse to kill you.

        So you have absolutely no right to tell other people how they should feel about being misgendered.

  • Roz Kaveney

    Dear StacyJane,

    For the last forty years, a particular faction within feminism has harrassed trans women and men whenever it has had the power. Trans women I know have been outed in their careers; pressure has been put on queer and feminist employers to sack women for being trans; trans women and men have had their identities published on the net along with personal photos presented in a demeaning way.

    The lovers of trans people have been threatened with ostracism.

    Trans women have been denied access to rape crisis centres. Anti-trans feminists have formed what objectively amounts to alliances with right-wing men to deny trans people access to medicine and to public toilets. Trans medical care has been described as a human rights abuse.

    The same faction denies the autonomy of women in the sex industry and only helps sex workers fight violence if they renounce sex work altogether. It claims that bi women and BDSM women are deluded, sick and handmaidens of the patriarchy.

    No one is stopping them meeting but it is legitimate to ask that they not take over safe spaces with rules against equality and hate speech, and subvert their safety.

    As to the idea that a backlash is coming, this is a claim/threat regularly made by anti-trans rad fems who want to pretend that they are still winning the actual argument. Like a lot of trans women, I prefer to make alliance with the other women whose rights RF12 and RF13 aim to destroy,

    Roz

  • jemima101

    AS a sex worker, bi woman and submissive i had a whole host of reasons not to want this conference to go ahead. I wrote to the Irish center highlighting the general levels of bigotry and prejudice the listed speakers exhibited. I have wished quite a lot recently that some of the pressure could be taken off my trans *sisters by people realisng that is is not just trans* women they hate, but all women who do not fit their view

  • Arkadia Moon

    Sadly, I think the TREFs will only start to lose their death-grip on their transphobia when they realise it’s getting in the way of their getting laid.

  • Matthew Smith

    @TheRealSGM has posted a statement from the organisers via one “Ruby Fruit”, specifically attacking your “bog entry”, as she calls it, here.

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