Lola Olufemi called for supporters of Womans Place UK to be investigated and excluded from a Women’s Liberation event. This is my response.
Below is Lola Olufemi’s statement, on grounds of which Selina Todd was deplatformed from speaking at the Women’s Liberation at 50 event held today.
Here is my response.
I am not an academic.
However I am capable of rational thought and logical analysis and debate.
Lola’s statement is riddled with inconsistencies, unsubstantiated allegations, fallacious arguments and false equations, as follows:
1. Lola asserts that “woman is an umbrella term”.
Woman = the word used to describe adult human beings with female sex characteristics. Trans activism seeks to redefine woman to include males who ‘identify as women’, but that is a disputed redefinition. Whether one agrees with this or not, the current dictionary definition, and the commonly shared and understood meaning of the term “woman” remains adult human female.
2. The term “woman” may have no meaning for Lola other than in terms of fighting the “underside of capital” or “death-making machines” (whatever those terms mean). But it has meaning for feminists because, without a word to describe ourselves, we cannot take action to fight the discrimination, exploitation, subjugation, abuse and violence that we face on account of our sex.
3. Lola claims she withdrew from the event because the organisers hadn’t “investigated” other speakers links to Womans Place UK.
Why should links to a sister women’s rights organisation be investigated? Women’s liberation is a movement of women and for women. The aim of the movement is to liberate women from male supremacy. All voices, individuals and organisations working towards that end must necessarily be included if the movement is to gather momentum and create much-needed change.
4. Lola says Womans Place UK is “transphobic”, but she provides no evidence to back up this allegation. Unsubstantiated allegations = defamatory smears. Female academics should not be levelling defamatory smears at other female academics. This is not sisterly.
5. Lola thinks the organisers should have excluded supporters of Womans Place UK from the event, despite Exeter College’s clear and declared support of open debate, academic freedom, and freedom of speech. Why does Lola get to decide which women are allowed to attend a Women’s Liberation event, and which should be excluded? Why is excluding women permissible if its Lola that’s doing the excluding?
How does Lola decide who is a woman anyway? Which women does Lola include as “under the umbrella” ? Or does Lola think that woman is no longer a term that actually refers to women? Does “woman” = anybody Lola says is a woman?
6. Lola talks about “trans exclusionary radical feminists”. This is a misnomer, as genuine feminism includes all females, including transmen.
It is also the basis of the “terf” slur – recognised as a term of misogynistic abuse by two UK judges, by the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, and by the Standards Commission for Scotland, and often accompanied with rape or death threats.
This term is offensive, and Lola Olufemi should not be describing women using offensive, abusive, misogynistic terms.
7. Lola claims that “white middle class feminists” are using their “social capital” and “gatekeeping power” to harass and threaten trans people, to oppose trans rights, and to claim false “victimisation”.
She says she has seen this at first hand, but once again, offers no evidence, only unsubstantiated allegations.
Whatever the colour of our skin, whatever our ethnicity, and whatever our class, women are entitled to meet, to speak up, and to organise and advocate – in defence of/for the advancement of our rights as a sex.
After centuries of subjugation, women still struggle to be heard and to have our concerns taken seriously, and women still suffer sex-based discrimination and violence under male supremacy. It is not “gatekeeping” to want feminism to centre female voices, and it is not “feminist” to castigate women for using any means available to advance our shared cause.
Women “claim victimhood” under male supremacy because we ARE victims — of discriminatory laws and practices from the sex pay gap to progeniture, and of sex-based violence including femicide, FGM, sexual abuse, rape and domestic abuse, perpetrated by males and upon females, at epidemic levels.
It is Lola – who doesn’t even want to define “woman”, who wants to “investigate” and exclude women who don’t share her opinions - who is refusing to “extend solidarity” to other women.
These are bad faith attacks on the real fighters in the women’s movement.
8. Women are not “hijacking” feminism by insisting that it centres the voices and concerns of female people. That’s what feminism is! Advocacy for the rights of the female sex, and the struggle to liberate female people from oppression under male supremacy.
If Lola wants a movement that centres other voices or all voices she needs to start her own movement, or join another movement.
But don’t call it Feminism. That one's taken.
9. Lola finds calls for sex-based rights “abhorrent”, but doesn’t “have time” to say why. That’s a pity, as calls for sex-based rights are the whole point of a movement to liberate the female sex. The campaign for votes for women was a campaign for sex-based rights. The right not to be raped in marriage is a sex-based right. The right to be paid the same as a male colleague in the same job is a sex-based right. These rights, amongst many others, are sex-based rights that have been fought for by earlier feminists, including the second wave feminists that Lola derides. If Lola thinks sex-based rights “abhorrent”, she is not a feminist by any definition.
10. Lola claims calls for sex-based rights are linked to the “alt right” and “scientific racism”, but – once again – Lola offers no evidence, none whatsoever, to back up her claims. She discounts the gender critical Socialist feminism of Womans Place UK, the support for gender critical feminism from the Communist Party of Great Britain, the critique of identity politics from groups like Southall Black Sisters, and the many, many black, working class, disabled, and/or lesbian women who support the gender critical feminist movement.
11. Confusingly, Lola acknowledges that “our material conditions as women are deteriorating”. This is completely at odds with her claims that woman is a vague umbrella term and bodies don’t matter. If woman as a term cannot be clearly defined, if woman no longer applies to “sexed bodies”, how do we know if conditions, let alone objective, material conditions, are deteriorating?
Are males who ‘identify as women’ aborted as babies because of their sex? Are they subjected to FGM? Are they paid less than other males? Are they denied equal access to STEM? (just to pick a few examples at random). How can we even measure whether discrimination is taking place if we can only use a vague “umbrella” term to define our parameters?
12. It is not lack of “imagination” that roots our oppression in our sexed, female bodies. It is male supremacy, targeting those of us who are members of the group Female – the group that is able to gestate, give birth, and lactate.
We are not “beholden to a rigid sex binary”. We are human females, targeted for oppression under male supremacy on account of our sex.
Sex is not determined by chromosomes alone. It is written into every cell and every organ of the body. Feminists stand in solidarity with all female people. That’s what being a feminist actually means.
13. Abolishing gender IS very much a central goal of feminism. All human beings, whether male or female, should be free to subvert or reject the socially constructed gender norms and codes foisted on the two sexes. No one should be “read as” a woman/not a woman because of how they dress or wear their hair.
Women in particular are subjugated and harmed by gender prescriptions that cast them as subservient, compliant, passive, weak, infantile objects.
Of course we wish to throw off these limiting and harmful constraints, which is why so many of us call ourselves gender critical.
Feminists wish for the liberation from oppression of all human beings.
But feminism is not the movement for trans liberation.
Feminism is the movement for women’s liberation.
As I said, I’m not an academic. But you don't have to be a genius to pick out the flaws in Lola Olufemi’s arguments.
What a travesty that somebody spouting this sort of bumbling, confused, self-contradictory, self-trumpeting nonsense got to call the shots on who was allowed to speak at the Exeter College Women’s Liberation event, and to exclude the reasoned, clear, passionate, knowledgeable voice of esteemed feminist and scholar of working class women’s history, Professor Selina Todd.
Thankfully, there are plenty of genuine feminist alternatives to this mishmash of men’s rights activism and postmodern queer theory genderism.
Shout out to Womans Place UK, FILIA, SBS Sisters, NIA, Centre for Women’s Justice, LGB Alliance – and to all the other women’s groups and organisations, and all the wonderful women (and a few men!), working together to support female sex-based rights and protections.
Solidarity, respect, and love – to all my sisters.