On International Women’s Day, we celebrate four wonderful women who inspire us
Four women have become an inspiration for Scottish women because of their enormous courage in speaking up for women.
Today we celebrate JK Rowling, Johann Lamont, Joan McAlpine and Joanna Cherry in a full-page advert in the Daily Record.
We celebrate them because despite the threats – often violent – they have received; despite the names – often vicious – they have been called; despite the opportunities they have lost, they continue to stand up for women.
This is true courage.
We live in a difficult political climate. The silencing of ordinary women speaking up about their experiences of womanhood and of being female has impacted us all. Which makes the words of JK, Joanna, Joan and Johann so much more valuable.
We invited women to share how they felt when they heard our four wonderful women speaking out and speaking up.
In 2020, Joan McAlpine – then still an SNP MSP – was chair of the Scottish Parliament’s census committee. She questioned the idea, unfortunately now a reality, that a male person could select the female category on the census form.
K says: “Listening to Joan speaking at the census committee meetings, I actually stood up and cheered at some of the points she made.”
V tells us: “Working in the violence against women sector since the whole gender reform furore started has been difficult. Women silenced into fear is not a form of feminism I can have anything in common with.
“When Joan McAlpine started to discuss gender versus sex in that committee room, it was like a veil being lifted. People couldn’t pretend that everything was as the gender ideologists wished it would be. The relief was palpable.
“The relief quickly resorted to rage as the torrent of hate was unleashed towards her in the most public way, which was clearly designed to get her to shut up. Thankfully Joan McAlpine is clearly a mouthy woman, too. It was a watershed moment, though, and I knew it was going to cost her more than harsh words.”
Liberated by a Twitter thread
The work of the census committee revealed that political parties and lobby groups in Scotland were intent on including men in the category of women. Many women were incredulous.
C recalls: “It was like I’d woken in a parallel universe where I didn’t understand the language. Why was safeguarding being dismantled alongside the attack on women’s rights?
“Urban dictionary was my friend. I spent so long on it thinking WTF does this shit actually mean. As a new councillor, I was cautiously testing the boundaries early on. Then Joan tweeted her legendary thread and I felt liberated.”
6 words we will never forget
Johann Lamont, then a Labour MSP, intervened in the debate regarding provision of forensic medical services to victims of sexual assault and rape.
She put forward a six-word amendment that read “For the word gender, substitute sex’”. This would help to ensure victims could request a medical examiner of a specific sex.
F says: “Johann’s six-words amendment gave me hope that all was not lost. And every time Joan and Joanna tweeted on the subject, I felt reassured that no, I wasn’t going completely mad, women’s rights really are under attack but we’ve got real strength on our side.”
During the debate on Scotland’s Hate Crime Bill, where women were excluded as a category but men who identified as women were included, Johann spoke out strongly in support of women.
Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, accused her of prejudice for trying to ensure women were not accused of hate by referring to males as men and using male pronouns.
F adds: “I felt so much gratitude for Johann. Seeing her in parliament call out Patrick Harvie for accusing women like her (and us) of bigotry was another punch the air moment.”
An advocate in parliament
Joanna Cherry is SNP MP for Edinburgh South West. She has spoken in the House of Commons about the necessity of sex-based protections for women and the importance of recognising sex for same-sex attracted people.
J says: “Every time Joanna tweets about women’s rights, it gives me a wee boost. I’m in awe of her ability to be measured, calm and clear. Hearing her speak and knowing we have such a great advocate in Parliament reassures me that my voice will be heard.”
A pivotal moment in the gender debate came in December 2019 when JK Rowling tweeted in support of Maya Forstater, the researcher sacked for expressing gender critical views.
V recalls: “I felt hope, pride and courage that we were not alone, that these brave women were speaking up for our daughters and their future, despite the onslaught of abuse they have endured. They won’t be silenced and neither will we.”
K adds: “JK Rowling articulated my position almost perfectly – dress as you want but don’t say women can’t talk about the female experience and don’t say single-sex spaces aren’t necessary in some contexts.
“Seeing the absolute vitriol she got for such a reasoned and balanced position showed me that nothing beyond complete capitulation is acceptable to the gender extremists.”
Measured and clear
B says: “I was delighted when JK spoke up. Her essay was so clear, so measured, so uncontroversial (I thought!). It summed up so simply what I felt.
“I was a bit naive and thought it might not attract the venom that it did. Because it really was sympathetic and reasonable. I think it gave other women courage to speak up and that’s the value of all the women quoted on our advert – courage really does call to courage.
“Hearing those women speak up confirmed for me that I wasn’t mad or bad and that I had a right to voice my opinion.”
M adds: “When JK Rowling spoke up, I was frightened for her because I knew the anger she would be met with. Even though I had seen the tactics used by trans activists to bully and silence women, I wasn’t prepared for the hysterical response.
“Men tweeting sexually explicit porn into her children’s book thread made it clear this was men’s rights against women’s rights. I was disgusted.”
Connected by our femaleness
Why are these women so important to us?
We, like the women we celebrate, believe women are those who have female biology and, that despite many different opinions, causes, interests and political affiliations, the strand that connects women throughout the world is that we are female.
We believe women’s rights should entitle females to advocate as a group without any intervention by men. History has shown us that men (no matter how they identify) do not always act in women’s best interests.
We believe women should be able to receive care from other women, that women should be able to have some spaces completely free from men, such as hospital wards, domestic violence shelters and spaces to recover from sexual assault.
We believe excluding males is not bigoted but an important part of enabling women to live safely and successfully in a world dominated by men.
We thank JK, Johann, Joan and Joanna for showing incredible solidarity and strength towards women. We salute these wonderful women today and every day.