Guerilla Postcards from the Edge

Adult Human Female postcard at the Science Museum

What happens when you arm a group of women with ‘adult human female’ postcards and let them loose on the art galleries and museums of Britain? We found out.

As we look online at pictures of deserted city centres and closed public buildings, it’s strange to think that only weeks ago Britain’s public buildings were packed with visitors.

Not so long ago, in a galaxy that now seems far, far away, an initiative was launched to place ‘adult human female’ postcards in art galleries and museums all over Britain.

Each woman involved in the guerilla art project was sent a dozen ‘adult human female’ postcards. Their brief: to photograph the outside of their chosen gallery, plant the postcards in the giftshop, photograph the cards insitu and email the photographs to me, along with a short piece about their part in the action.

(I might even have had a gallery of my own).

Cards were distributed all over the UK. Women from London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Brighton, Newcastle*, Cardiff*, Manchester*, St Ives*, Glasgow* and Edinburgh had been enlisted to plant postcards in their local museums and galleries. Sadly, our postcard ninjas hadn’t finished their work before the lockdown came: now our public buildings are closed and our streets deserted, but some of those postcards still sit in the now silent, darkened galleries.

*Cities marked with an asterisk hadn’t completed before lockdown.

Although this article will be shorter than originally intended, we hope it still carries a powerful message: a woman is an adult human female, and women will not submit.

The Science Museum, London

Postcards were left in the gift shop at the Science Museum in South Kensington on at least 4 occasions during February and March, leaving some Mumsnetters to speculate as to whether the museum had agreed to stock them.

Mumsnetters spotted the postcards on February 9th and again on 21st. Comments on the thread included:

“I thoroughly approve of this guerilla action…

Are you sure they’re not official?…

A member of the public peruses the postcards at the science museum. Spot the AHF

Kudos to whichever brave woman put them there…

Can’t think of a better place for them than the Science Museum…

If I’d seen the postcards in the shop I would have tried to buy one …

It’s a stunning campaign, in my opinion. If the dictionary definition of the word woman is offensive, then that, in itself, is a headline worth shouting from the rooftops.”

So here is the story of the Guerilla Art Project, or Postcards from the Edge:  pictures of some of those postcards insitu and testimonies from the women who put them there.

 

Our postcard ninja visited the Science Museum in mid February and wrote this for us:

 

The Science Museum (special effect added to photo by Lily Maynard)

“The Science Museum was heaving with kids. It was that last month before we forego museums for parks, and then the parks for sofas. We had a mission! Not a space mission but one of enlightenment. To spread the news of the absolutely bleeding obvious. Science: surely the study of the world through observation.

In our bags, postcards.” Woman (noun) adult human female” they read.  

Innocent enough, but nothing is more powerful than the truth.

AHF at the Science Museum

The first place we slipped them into was the downstairs gift shop. The postcards surrounding them were diagrams of equipment and moon rock, carefully labelled and observed.  In Orwell’s  1984 he wrote that rejecting “the evidence of your eyes and ears” was the most essential demand of the regime.

Refusing to accept nonsense is always a battle worth fighting. 

 

Then we went up to the gift shop near the Wonderlab. This was far more aimed at young kids, with plastic toys and colourful rocks.

 

Suddenly I felt uncomfortable, as if stating the truth about our biology was somehow tawdry.

AHF at the Science Museum

But then I remembered a recent visit to the Natural History museum; very young kids walking through a model of a womb and looking in wonder at a giant foetus. After all, it’s how we all began. One of the most negative tactics of the ‘woke’ assault is the attempt to make women feel reticent to speak of the experience of womanhood as something linked to their bodies.  I decided I would not be diffident! I thwumped them down next to a picture of the world. Women, after all, are just under half the population.

In the kids shop there were books of fearless scientists male and female who have tried to persuade people, who didn’t always want to hear, of their findings based on the hard won evidence of their eyes, ears and equipment. Speaking the truth to the best of one’s ability,  I thought, is a tough job – but someone has to do it.”

 

“I’ve loved the Natural History Museum since I was a kid, it’s full of of dinosaur bones, stuffed birds and exhibitions. I’ve visited it with my own kids a lot over the years and I was happy to be a part of this action. What better place to state a biological fact than the NHM?

We visited the Human Biology exhibition where we were reminded of some simple biology.

“You inherited one complete set of genes from each of your parents. This means that for every gene you have two versions. One from your mum and one from your dad… In her life a woman will produce about 400 ova, usually one every month. A man however, will produce millions of sperm cells. Many more cells are produced than will ever be fertilised.”

Such terrible transphobia!  I put my postcards in the gift shop, they looked great.”

AHF at the Natural History Museum

 

City Museum & Art Gallery, Bristol

“Bristol has a really good museum and art gallery but I hadn’t been there for a long time.

There was an interesting exhibition on Magic on the ground floor near the gift shop.

There weren’t many people in the gift shop so it was easy to leave the postcards.

 

 

AHF at City Museum & Art Gallery

 

In the first floor gallery there is a painting of a little boy in a pink dress, painted by Robert Peake in 1605.

It’s of the young Charles I when he was Duke of York.

Charles was five.

Wearing a dress doesn’t make you a girl.”

 

 

The British Museum

AHF at the British Museum

“As I walked into the British Museum, I paused briefly to look up at the massive ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’ poster staring up at me, having to resist making a joke to my sister about the myths and realities of trans-identification, knowing that she would tell me I’d made that joke a million times before.

At the entrance to the exhibition, I placed a few cards in the ticket and program desk, feeling sneaky as I tried to place them quickly and discreetly, hoping that the man on the desk wouldn’t notice my quiet activism.

AHF at the British Museum

I then went to the gift shop areas, putting postcards with the ‘real’ postcards on the rack, waiting a moment and watching for any passers-by who might stop for a quick peruse of the artistic postcards the British Museum had to offer, in case they happened upon one of mine and found it interesting. However, no one walked past, and I wanted to get to my final destination so I could safely say that the museum had been TERF-ed.

AHF at the British Museum

 

I looked through the museum bookshop, picking up a few books about ‘gender fluidity’ that just happened to be right next to the feminist pieces, aimlessly flicking through them, then placing them back with a postcard on display. I left feeling fulfilled, my small part in the fight for our rights sitting above a book aptly entitled ‘Diversify: How to Challenge Equality, and Why We Should’.”

 

 

AHF at Tate Liverpool

 

“This pic is of the postcards I left at Tate Liverpool.

There is an exhibit currently in the gallery called Medical Mavericks, featuring a woman and two men.

https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/tate-exchange/workshop/medical-mavericks

Frances Ivens was the first female hospital consultant in Liverpool. Women’s history is important to uphold and share. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Ivens”

 

 

Museum of London

I’ve been to the Museum of London plenty of times, but this visit felt just a bit different. As I fingered the postcards in my coat pocket, I caught myself glancing round to make sure I wasn’t being watched.

After walking round a couple of the exhibitions, I went into the shop & browsed the postcard section at the furthest end from the counter, looking for the best place to put my cards. Then something else caught my eye – their display of Suffragette merchandise for International Women’s Day. Suddenly the location was obvious. Bending over to look at a book, I slipped my Adult Human Female cards in at the end of a collection of cards & leaflets, straightened & walked towards the exit at my normal pace.

AHF at Museum of London

As I was approaching the door, a staff member came up to me. “Excuse me…”

Oh dear… I stopped, forced a smile. “Yes?”

“We’re just doing a customer satisfaction survey.”

I breathed again & told her how much I liked their Suffragette merchandise.

 

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

“We were being told not to leave the house for other reasons on the 9th February.  A huge storm was threatening UK  that day, so as I set out to visit the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on that wet and windy Sunday morning the roads were really quiet. 

I parked my car in an empty street in the city centre then realising it was under a tree decided to move it to safety down the road. I was on a time limit, sadly, we were expecting friends for lunch (remember the good old days, when friends came to visit?).

I made it to the museum with only an hour on the parking meter.

I love Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, as you arrive at the entrance someone greets you in the entrance, although a short walk I was already dripping wet, as I blustered out of my wet coat I was actually relieved that this was a distraction from my self-conscious  red face. I was ridiculously apprehensive about this! 

So I’d agreed with a friend to take part in an action to place ‘woman- adult human female’ postcards into the museum and photograph them.  Sounds simple enough – but in practice it suddenly seemed a lot more complex, it felt like shop lifting in reverse!

The shop already had several people milling around so I chickened out and decided to use my hour productively and have a look around.

I’m usually enthralled by the pre-Raphaelite collection, or on my way to  an exhibition or the Edwardian tea room, but in my fluster this day I noticed for the first time a blue plaque. It’s in the main atreum so fuck knows how I’ve missed it all these years, commemorating an Edgbaston suffragette called Bertha  Ryland who in 1914 slashed a painting – wow she got a plaque – I certainly wasn’t up for slashing any paintings but I was  hugely encouraged, stickering the handrail in front of the plaque .

I then moved on to an exhibition about Birminghams protest and activism over the years, damn it was as if they wanted me to do something!, and damn I only had an hour on the parking meter and not enough spare funds for a ticket. 

So I did a really quick round of the exhibition, there was quite a a selection of  suffragette pieces, jewellery, articles and a lot to read – damn, limited time meant  I had to photograph to study later, (I promised myself I would return with more time –lol)- so I left Woman Adult Human Female cards on the plynth next to the descriptions of Bertha’s attack , There was a beautiful embroidered suffragette banner, I’m always a sucker for lovely needlework.  

Then moving quickly round I came to a cardboard sign saying Queer Muslim, #QTIPOC, My sexuality is not your fetish – Hmm that got my attention- the word Queer makes me cringe but I must admit I agree with ‘my Sexuality is not your fetish’ -well said.

There were placards from 2017 Pride , the artistry certainly didn’t compare with the suffragettes embroidery – the description card beside them explained they were from a support group but to be honest I was a bit confused by the alphabet soup part.  I wondered- will these be stored with reverence in the museums archive or do you think they will end up in the bin by mistake?  You could see that so easily happening!

AHF at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

By now I was in serious danger of getting a ticket, so I headed to the shop and was relieved it was almost empty – I was so pleased to put up the cards, and then actually manage a photograph of them.

I then bought several other cards, I like to support this amazing museum.

I doubt I will ever consider slashing a painting but my small act of defiance- of reverse shoplifting- felt briefly important in our ongoing fight to not be silenced and to stand for women.”

 

 

 

The British Library

“These postcards tell a true tale

woman = ‘adult human female’

In the British Library

they were put there by me

I sent the pictures to Lily by gmail”

AHF at the British Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London

“The National Gallery near Trafalgar Square houses paintings from the mid 13th century until 1900. On this visit I paid close attention to four paintings.

One of the most famous is Jan Gosseart’s ‘Adam and Eve’. Adam has just bitten the apple given to him by Eve and their naked bodies are newly covered by fig leaves.

It was downhill all the way for Eve after that, of course, God telling her, and all her female descendants thereafter that as punishment: ‘I will increase your trouble in pregnancy and your pain in giving birth.’

Metsu’s ‘Two Men with a Sleeping Woman‘ is a strangely haunting work. ‘Female drunkeness was both an object of amusement and an occasion of disapproval in 17th century genre paintings,’  informs the card next to the painting.

The gallery also houses Brugghen’s ‘Jacob reproaching Laban for giving him Leah instead of Rachel‘. The painting depicts an angry Jacob who, after labouring for Laban for seven years to be permitted to marry his beautiful daughter Rachel, is secretly fobbed off with the older and plainer Leah on their wedding night and – wait for it- doesn’t notice until the next morning.

Massay’s ‘An Old Woman’ (often called The Ugly Duchess) is another famous paintings in the gallery: a wrinkly-bosomed, troll-like, old woman dressed in the garments she would have worn in her youth. Viewers are told the painting is ‘probably intended to satirise old women who try inappropriately to recreate their youth’.

Of course, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Was it really Eve’s fault that Adam tasted the apple? Was the ugly old duchess supposed to just ‘let herself go’? Perhaps the sleeping woman was just trying to be a ‘cool girl’ and hang out with the boys? How did Leah feel about the secret swap? What did Rachel think?

One thing we can be pretty sure of is that none of them identified into this patriarchal judgemental bullshit.

AHF at the National Gallery

The gallery shop was busy and I had to wait a few minutes before the postcard stand was clear.

I put a pile of postcards into a space between some green foliage and a praying woman and, my heart beating just a little quicker than normal, made my escape.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brunei Gallery

“My cards arrived Monday and on Tuesday I got the bus to the Brunei Gallery. I hadn’t been there before, it’s on the list of museums on the ‘museum mile’ so I thought it would be bigger. I looked at some of the drinking vessels on display which were lovely but I couldn’t concentrate because I was so nervous!

AHF at the Brunei Gallery

I couldn’t see the gift shop at first.  Then I saw a tiny office packed with books from and about Asian culture. It was a bookshop and yes there were also postcards for sale!

I was so nervous about leaving the cards I stayed in there for a long time before I had the bottle to do it!

I was the only person in there other than a man at a small desk covered in books, papers and a computer. I was sure he was watching me so in the end I propped the cards up next to the others and left really quickly. I almost forgot to take a photo. It wasn’t easy for me to do this but I am glad I did.”

 

 

AHF at the National Library of Scotland, Edingburgh

AHF at Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

“The first two photos were taken in the National Library of Scotland which is the repository of wonderful collections of Scottish records, manuscripts and publications.

The third is in the Scottish Parliament gift shop. This was recently selling children’s books such as ‘I am Jazz’ to ‘celebrate’ something T. The Scottish Parliament and government have been captured by trans madness and will shortly be considering consultation responses on the government’s GRA proposals.

As the shop was recently selling ‘I am Jazz’ and other dangerous material, it’s appropriate that the correct definition of woman has been added to their collection.

I will replenish the supply.”

 

The National Portrait Gallery

“At the National Portrait Gallery there is a gift shop AND a bookshop so I left two batches of cards.  First I went to the bookshop and left some cards there in the women’s section. The book ‘Goodnight Rebel Girls‘ includes a story about a ‘transgender’ six year old – SIX YEAR OLD – boy called Coy Mathis, who got to use the girls’ toilets at school and celebrated by eating pink cake and wearing “a sparkly pink dress and beautiful pink shoes.” 

AHF at the National Portrait Gallery

This story is so very stupid and sexist that I felt quite angry leaving my cards which I put next to ‘Women Artists’, ‘Representing Women’ and ‘Women in Science’. They looked just right, as if they belonged there, which they did.

The bookshop also had children’s books about the Suffragettes and about women in science next to a book called ‘Queer Heroes‘ which tells that kids the crazy idea that they are ‘assigned a gender’ at birth is true.

AHF at the National Portrait Gallery

 

There was a card stand in the bookshop so I left some postcards there too.

I went to the gift shop afterwards where there was a whole section given over to  Suffragette-themed gifts. I left my cards among books, shopping bags and other things celebrating the Suffragette movement.

I left three lots of cards at the museum and I think the Suffragettes would have been proud of all the women that have done this.”

 

 

 

AHF at the National Portrait Gallery

 

The Victoria & Albert Museum

“I think I must have been feeling particularly vulnerable that day. I looked for solace in art. The V and A: the very name of the museum itself a panagyric to the heteronormative experience.

I was shocked.

Confronted almost immediately with a breastfeeding person whom it was assumed was of the female gender.

Surely if we are to sever the connection between the identity category ‘woman’ and female reproductive function there is no place for this archaic pro-natalist titulature?

I saw body after body, robbed of its right to self expression and defined only by its sexual organs.

I sobbed inwardly to think that these bodies, forced into life from cruel, hard stone will have been equally fixed to the gendered norms of their day.

Some bodies were even hacked so that all that remained of their identity were the crude renditions of their genitalia.

 

One piece in particular struck me : a young athletic person was pinned to the ground by a figure who had clearly been identified as male at birth and had chosen to cis-identify.

’He’ was holding the youth down and fairly forcing that young person to regard the tyranny of his biology.

Then, I enter the gift shop.

And there, among the postcards is an affront to every liberal thinking person. ‘Woman: adult human female’  it says.

 

AHF at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Buddha and Christ, both widely accepted to be non-binary, are in the row of postcards above and look down in pain.

A cat hides its face in horror.

Triggered, I look to the mandala postcard which hangs overhead, ‘Be kind, be kind’ it seems to say.  I go up to the till.

‘This postcard is pretending I don’t exist!” I declare, waving the hurtful atestation.

The person at the till’s eyes veer from the postcard to my breasts quizzically as if I were one of those reductive art works.

“I am they!” I proclaim. I see the assistant looking around warily for more of me.

“I’m afraid my colleague will have to help you. My shift is over and I’ve got to pick up my kids from school.” 

AHF at the V&A

Weary slave!

I pray for the bright future in which ectogenesis rids the human race of the word ‘mother’ and the word ‘woman’ can become a truly inclusive term.”

 

 

 

 

 

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

AHF at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

“I have the dubious privilege of living in Brighton, the wokest town in England. The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is famous for the ‘Museum of Transology’ and it’s most famous exhibit is probably the pickled tits.

It had been raining non-stop for two days and I was soaked to the skin because I gave my umbrella to a beggar at the cashpoint which seemed like a good idea at the time. So I didn’t feel like looking at the gallery today, I was too wet and cold. I just went straight into the gift shop and left my postcards.

I’m so sick of gender politics, honestly what a load of bloody nonsense.

Is this ok, should I have written more?”

 

 

National Museum of Scotland

“I juxtaposed my Adult Human Female cards with an image of the three queens from the 12th century Lewis chessmen for a number of reasons. Visually, it works well: an essay in monochrome. No-one knows why the queens looks so sad, but when you go and see them in their case, surrounded by warriors on foot and on horseback, by bishops with menacing crooks, and by large, stern-faced kings, they look brave and full of grief and very isolated in a world of men.

 

AHF at the National Museum of Scotland

The life of a 12th century queen was governed by having a female body: we may pretend that that is no longer true for 21st century women, but it would be a lie. And I wonder what their message would be for us, their daughters, separated by 900 years. We think their world was dark and superstitious, but I suspect ours is as bad if not worse.

I found doing this very powerful: I didn’t hide what I was doing, just placed the cards, stepped back, took a photo.”

 

So there we have it. Over a dozen galleries and museums displaying ‘adult human female’ postcards in all their glory. And you know what? The galleries and museums are just the tip of the iceberg. AHF postcards are quietly appearing in bookshops, giftshops and on postcards stands all over the place.

Because we all know what a woman is. And women won’t shut up.

 

 

You can order your own ‘adult human female’ postcards (slightly different to those on the left) from Standing for Women here.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

WOMEN SAY on Women’s Day

The right to free speech at Speakers Corner has ghoulish roots. It is the site where those condemned to die on the gallows at Tyburn were permitted to speak their last words in front of the crowds who flocked to see the hangings.

A brief history of Speakers Corner & Tyburn

Tyburn, meaning ‘boundary stream’, held court at the junction of two great Roman roads and first became a site for public executions in the 12th century. Crowds paid well to watch their fellow mortals swing: in the heyday of Tyburn up to fifty thousand people might attend an execution. Snacks and souvenirs would be sold: hangmen would even sell pieces of the rope used to dispatch the more notorious criminals. Ever wondered where the phrase ‘money for old rope‘ comes from?

In 1571, Queen Elizabeth had the gallows rebuilt into a spectacular three-sided structure, nicknamed the ‘Tyburn Tree’ (think Tudor multiplex cinema). Nearly 200 years later, in 1759, Catharine Knowland became the ‘last fruit of Tyburn Tree’ when she was hanged there for robbing a man of his silver pocket watch.  Thereafter the gallows was replaced with a smaller ‘portable’ structure: last used to hang a highwayman in 1783. The wealthy locals eventually became tired of the raucous crowds lowering the tone of the neighbourhood, and from 1783 public executions instead took place outside Newgate Prison, in the lane known as the Old Bailey.  This practice ended in 1868: thereafter hangings were carried out on the gallows inside Newgate. The last woman to be hanged in Britain was 28 year old Ruth Ellis in 1955, after she shot her violent husband dead.  The final hangings in Britain took place in 1964. Nonetheless, technically you could be hanged for piracy with violence or treason until as recently as 1998, and HMP Wandsworth retained a working gallows, tested every six months, until 1992.

 

Marble Arch early on Sunday morning

Now, a plaque and three oak trees mark the space where the gallows stood for so long: close to the busy traffic junction at Marble Arch, used by up to 6,000 vehicles every hour at peak times. 

 

 

 

On one side of the Arch is the entrance to Hyde Park, just a minute’s walk from Marble Arch tube station, and it’s there that you will find Speakers’ Corner.

 

Speakers’ Corner

Established under pressure from the Reform League, in 1872 the Parks Regulation Act officially set aside this part of Hyde Park for public speaking. As long as your speech is lawful, you can turn up any time and speak on any subject.

Women gather in Hyde Park in 1908

The Royal Parks website informs us:

“From 1906 to 1914 the suffragettes held large and small meetings in Hyde Park as part of their campaign for votes for women. In the summer of 1906 they had a meeting every week near to the Reformer’s tree. During the Women’s Day of 21 June 1908 250,000 women marched to Hyde Park to hear 20 different speaking platforms. In 1913 the Police banned the Women’s Social and Political Union from meeting in the park, but the suffragettes defiantly continued to do so.”

Christina Broom, press photographer, captures the Suffragettes – 1908

The Museum of London article ‘Photographing the Suffragettes‘ tells us, “At the ‘Women’s Sunday’ meeting in Hyde Park, Christina Broom, who was less than five feet tall, managed to manoeuvre a tripod and a heavy half-plate box camera through the packed Hyde Park… and captured the earnest camaraderie of the speakers and their supporters.”

 

 

So, following a great tradition of women who just won’t shut up, Standing for Women invited women from all over the country – and beyond- to have their say at Speaker’s Corner on Sunday 8th March 2020.

We didn’t have the elaborate hats of the Suffragettes photographed by Broom; but for much of the afternoon our heads were covered by umbrellas, as London’s impetuous weather decided to douse us with rain for an hour of the speeches.

 

I met with the organisers and helpers in a nearby café (no, not a Starbucks) a few hours before the meeting began. We planned and drank a lot of coffee. Lesley bought me a probably-not-very-vegan almond croissant which was absolutely delicious.

 

Suffragette Ribbon by Venice

A pile of bags, flags and signs had piled up in the corner when Venice arrived, accompanied by a large silver step ladder- which I’m assured is the preferred contemporary rostrum for the 21st century Speaker- and a box of beautifully made Suffragette ribbons with safety pins to hand out to attendees.

I could have sat in the cafe all morning, drinking coffee and listening to tales of feminist events and happenings from around the globe, but soon it was time to move out and head to the meeting point by Marble Arch itself, from which attendees would be directed to Speakers’ Corner.

I had made a placard myself for this event, a large vulva/vagina crafted from drapes of pale pink lining material, enshrouded by an elipse of black wool and sporting a satin magenta rose-clitoris.

Has everyone seen Lily’s vagina? etc… etc

I was absurdly proud of it as it was temporarily attached to the railings by the Arch.

The sky overhead was grey: rain had been forecast for around 11am but that time had been and gone and I was hopeful that it would stay away. The time was approaching noon and we were almost ready to begin.

You can see the livestream of the speakers here, on Posie’s YouTube channel.

 

A crowd begins to gather to hear the speakers

 

The police ask Posie to remove the flags from the park.

I noticed that a couple of police officers had wandered over towards the gathering and were talking to Posie. It was a very civilised exchange.

“‘We’re not saying you can’t have the flags at all,” one of them told her. “Just not inside the park.”

A couple of women repositioned themselves ten feet or so from the entrance.

 

woman with ‘adult human female’ flag

 

“Hello women!” DJ Lippy took to the step ladder to start off the speakers, reminding us that the hastag for the day was #womensay and that Julia Long was collecting the names of those who would like to speak. She noted that it looked like being a peaceful event: several of us had commented on the fact that there were no transactivists present, which I did think was a little surprising.

Retrospectively, of course, we know that they were saving their energy for yelling at women and chucking smoke bombs around in the vicinity of Grenfell Tower at the ‘defend me or expel me‘ meeting the next day, but that’s another story and one that I was not present to chronicle.

Julia Long

Julia Long

Julia began by wishing everyone Happy International Women’s Day, encouraging other women to take to the steps and share their own views and experiences, and thanking Venice and the women of Make More Noise for organising the event at the iconic venue of Speakers’ Corner where we could “stand in the footsteps of the Suffragettes: for whom Hyde Park was an absolutely key place for their campaign.”

Long pointed out that male power is at the heart of the issue of transgender rights and that talking about and acknowledging the reality of this is vitally important. She referred to two of Dworkin’s ‘seven aspects of male power’. Under patriarchy men have the Power of Self, and are ever wishing to expand it. These men see woman as a costume that they can use to expand their definition of their self and so violate ‘every space, every right, every aspect of language that we have fought hard for’. When women talk, Long asserted, we need to talk specifically about male power and domination and not start with a stream of apologies.

“No matter how small women shrink to be, what we have is always too much and will be taken away from us and we need to understand transgenderism in that context, with those insights. The small little patch of ground that we have is now being framed as too much.”

 

Dworkin also spoke about the male Power of Naming, and Long pointed out that if you control the language you control perception. A man claiming to be a woman is not only trying to force women into accepting his reality but also trying to control the way women perceive him. Long said she saw a lot of women falling into the traps set by male power and warned us to be aware that the transgender power over language had taken over all our institutions.

“In the words of Dworkin,” she concluded, “as Prometheus stole fire from the gods, we have to steal back the power of naming from those men.”

Maria Maclachlan

Maria Maclachlan

Maria greeted us all and told us that Speakers Corner, where she was assaulted by  transactivist Tara Flick Wood in 2017, was, “one of my favourite places in the world, a place of many good memories and one or two bad ones.”

As a teenager in the 70s she said she would look at the people on the soap boxes and think, “they’re insane… I never thought I’d be one of them.”  How, as a teenager, she saw a man staring at her, ‘with his penis proudly poking through his raincoat’. walking past him and into the underpass she said she was ‘terrified’ when she found herself trapped on the island. When transactivists shout outside feminist meetings she said she is always reminded of ‘entitled willy wavers who get off on trying to intimidate women.’

Maclachlan referred to the number of female senior politicians who were ‘supporting, excusing, enabling and even participating in… trying to silence other women” adding, “the one thing they have in common is their support for a policy that would reduce womanhood to an idea; a feeling, a performance.”

She spoke of the ‘harassment so many of us have had to endure’ and concluded that she might sometime feel despondent but that she never, ever felt like giving up.

“You only have to use a pronoun they don’t like for them to be blubbing into their babycham, talking about violence and murder – we use evidence and they do not… we stand for the truth and they do not; we are on the right side of history and they are not. Stay strong sisters!”

The crowd at Speaker’s Corner before the rain set in.

Dr Em

Dr Em

Dr Em wished us a happy International Women’s Day ad said she was exercising her Article 10, acknowledging the history of the Suffragettes and that women ‘had a long history of righting wrongs in this country‘. Who takes umbrage, she asked, with children having the right to grow up unmoslested? The current climate offers a perfect opportunity for grooming. Children with low sexual boundaries are talking with strangers online, being offered binders by strangers, handing out their addresses- and these strangers are being cheered on by our councils and education system.

“I am going to speak loudly and I will not shut up about how children are in danger and it is not ok.”

Kara Dansky

Cara Dancy

Less than a minute into Kara’s speech, the wind picked up and it began to rain. Someone moved behind her and held an umbrella over her head to offer some protection as she was wearing only jeans and a short-sleeved ‘WoLF’ T-shirt.

Seemingly unbothered by the elements, Kara told us that the title of her talk was ‘Women’s speech is a threat to male supremacy and that is a very good thing’. Men certainly knew what a woman was for the thousands of years during which they excluded women ‘from all aspects of civil society‘ and men did not pretend to be women when women were not allowed to vote. She said that as an American she appreciated the first amendment and acknowledged the importance of Speakers’ Corner in giving free speech to women in the UK.

“We need international solidarity on the issue of women’s free speech,” she asserted, whether those restricitions are being enforced by governments or by private entities like social media. Men know that if women are permitted to speak freely ‘the gig will be up’. She referenced the film ‘Iron Jawed Angels‘ about the American suffragettes and Alice Paul, who ‘learned a great deal from you British radicals‘.

‘Never stop speaking, women. Our speech is a threat to male supremacy and men know it. That’s why they are so afraid of our voices- and they should be.”

In closing she offered a message from WoLF co-founder Lierre Keith: “Never surrender!”

Marcia

Marcia

The rain let up slightly for Marcia, an American woman who, inspired by her visit to the British Museum, had compiled an alphabetical list of goddesses into a poem. You can hear her recite the poem 24.45 minutes into the livestream.

 

Jess from Norwich

Jess from Norwich

The rain returned for Jess from Norwich, who told us she is facing a disciplinary by the Green Party for co-organising a women’s meeting. Referencing her ‘adult human female’ hoodie, Jess said that when she realised “the dictionary definition of woman had become …  a political act of defiance, I bought the bloody sweatshirt.” 

Jess’s daughter ‘came out’ as gender queer aged 15. Now in her early 20s she has written about her experiences on the blog ‘Incessant Sentinel – Surviving the Cult of the Queer’.

As Jess finished speaking, our ears were assailed by a loud, high-pitched buzzing sound which continued for a few minutes.

“Some idiot’s trying to drown us out!” somebody called.

Anne Ruzlyo

Anne Ruzlyo

Unperturbed by the noise or the rain, Anne stepped up to the ladder and loudly informed us that she was going to talk about periods.

As a bus driver in London in the 80s, Anne, a Trade Unionist, spoke of the problems facing female bus drivers when public toilets were closed in the late 80s. Unions, mostly run by men, were unaware of the problem until it was brought to their attention. The stigmatising of women because of their bodily functions, she said,  increases when women are told they must share their toilets with men.

“That’s it, really,” concluded Anne, as the crowd applauded and her umbrella turned inside out.

Ever the optimist, she observed, Posie took to the stand with her sunglasses still on her head. Mine had fallen to the ground some time ago: I suddenly spotted them lying sadly beside a huge soggy plastic bag- a bag containing my giant vulva/vagina! Someone had brought it back from Marble Arch when the speeches began. I wondered if I could lean it against the railings behind the speakers. I sidled towards it, keeping one eye on the bags and space I was watching over, but it was no use. On top of it were several boxes and bags: short of tipping people’s stuff into a puddle I would have to leave it where it was.

A crowd of people had gathered to hear the speeches

Posie Parker

Posie Parker

“It’s not complicated” began Posie, “to recognise that someone with a penis is male and doesn’t belong in women’s issues, women’s rights and women’s spaces.” She continued that she was sick and tired of those who placated ‘porn-sick adult men’ who wanted to go into schools and corrupt children’s minds.

The wind blew even harder and Posie, confronted by the torrential rain and the crowd of drenched onlookers, broke off for a moment and laughed.

“It’s so awful!” She gesticulated at the weather, “I’m so sorry…”

“Just carry on!” someone called out.

“You need to take a stand, you need to stop being afraid,”  she advised, assuring us that wanting to keep such men away from children and out of women’s spaces, ‘doesn’t make you a bad person’.

“Keep naming men as men, never submit and never surrender!”

Suzy

Suzy

“Happy International Women’s Day!” Suzy greeted us.

Suzy is so concerned with gender identity teaching in schools that she has removed her primary age child from school and is ‘worried sick’ about her lesbian daughter’s ‘spaces being eradicated and her language being taken away from her’ when she goes off to university next year.

 

 

Kate

Kate

Kate told us that she had been training horses for 40 years.

“I have never come across a mare who has turned into a stallion, because they are mammals and it is impossible for mammals to spontaneously grow the sex organs of the opposite sex.”

In theory it would be possible, Kate speculated, to persuade a vet to inject her favourite mare with testosterone, slice of some of the horse’s flesh and form a tube to attach to her urethra. The result she said would be “an incredibly messed up horse- but she would not be a stallion.”

In practice, a vet would not do this, she concluded, and the RSPCA would prosecute her for animal cruelty. So- why are we doing this to children?

Rachel

Rachel

Rachel showed her ‘mother’ T shirt and said she wanted to talk about the conflict between women who are mothers and women who aren’t.

This conflict, she said, is created by living in a man’s world where everything we do is wrong and we are always made to feel inadequate, whether we are mothers or not. We should think about that and go forward in sisterhood. While not all women are mothers, she concluded, all mothers are women and you can’t be a mother if you’re not a woman!

 

Sheila Jeffreys

Sheila Jeffreys

Sheila said that after two decades of ‘bad times’, she felt she finally had a feminist family again. “Here you all are and it’s absolutely brilliant to see you.

Sheila has been involved in fighting porn and paedophilia since the 1970s and recalled the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) and the push to remove the age of consent, which was successfully fought. She spoke of fetishes and paraphilias as the ‘strange forms of abusive behaviours that cause terrible harm to women and children‘. These fetishes have became super-charged by the internet and the growth of online fetish communities has helped to normalise such behaviour.

Some men are masochistically excited by wearing women’s clothing and want to do it in the presence of women and children. “These men decided they wanted women and children to witness and to actually help them express their fetishes.” Others want indecent exposure to be legalised and objecting to it made a hate crime. Paedophiles are re-naming themselves ‘minor attracted persons’ (MAPS). She spoke of ‘communities of ‘rights bearing men’ who have the right to wave their willies at women’.

But you are all here today, she concluded and we are fighting back ‘hugely and very successfully’.

Jean Molloy

Jean Molloy

“Men have been silencing women for thousands of years and telling us that our voices don’t count and our words aren’t as valuable as theirs and we have to sit down and listen to them and let them define our reality … we will not be told by men what a woman is and we will not be silenced by those lunatics over there…”

Here she gesticulated towards a small group of noisy men’s rights activists that had formed to the right of us.

“…and we just won’t shut up and we won’t go away and we won’t sit down and,” she concluded triumphantly, “WE WON’T MAKE YOU A FUCKING SANDWICH!”!

Lynne Harne

Lynne Harne

Lynne introduced herself as ‘a lesbian grandmother’ with two grandaughters. She spoke of how teachers were being forced to teach gender identity in schools. Of young lesbians she said, “they’re being told that any girl who looks like a dyke is really a boy.”

She and others had applied for a grant to set up a young lesbian group but were turned down because they would not agree to admit boys who called themselves lesbians. The group was considering a crowd funder.

“Lesbians don’t have penises.” she affirmed. “Allow young lesbians to exist and not be erased.”

DJ Lippy

DJ Lippy

 

“If you get kicked off Twitter, get out into the real world, because this is what it’s really about!”

She’d wanted to do some comedy songs but no entertainment is allowed at Speaker’s Corner, so she told us a joke instead.

Cries of ‘more’ were met with another:

Manifesto, from the ‘Make More Noise’ blog

 

 

Now I have to talk about something more serious, she told us, and read out the ‘Make More Noise’ Manifesto.

You can read this and more at the ‘Make More Noise’ blog.

She also mentioned the existence of some stickers… if anyone has any photos of those in situ I’d be very interested for a forthcoming blog post.

 

 

Trans Widow

The next speaker described herself as a trans widow and thanked The Trans Widow’s Escape Committee for their help. You can view the website started by TWEC here.

She spoke of the father of her two children who ‘changed from being an intelligent, considerate, professional man into a raging, cut-off, incredibly isolated, rebellious teenager on a bad day… I have never seen a mental condition like this. I think the world needs to know about it, it is not something you would wish on your worst enemy. I think we should let children know what they are letting themselves in for when they read online about gender fluidity.”

Shelley Charlsworth

Shelley Charlesworth

Shelley urged us all to fill in the Consultation on the Scottish Gender Recognition Act, calling the reform “a terrible, terrible proposal” which would lower the time of self ID to six months before application and lower the minimum age to sixteen.   She reminded us that there was help filling it in, for example from Transgender Trend, and that if the changes are passed in Scotland, there may be a knock on effect here.

“Ban the Bill!”

Peggy Luhrs

Peggy Luhrs

Peggy is from Vermont and is a founder member of the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF). She thanked the women of the UK for their feminist work.

“Woman is not an empty category… feminism is something with a history and a reality.”  She compared American collonianism and the current collonisation of women; speaking of the war against women and of men’s “appropriation of women’s culture; even appropriating feminism for the sex desires of men.”

This issue, she said, is the most divisive thing she had ever seen in the women’s movement, destroying women’s organisations

“I do not cede the word woman; I do not cede the word lesbian. I do not cede feminism to transactivism that defiles the word, the history, the culture, the institution… these people had no part in building that movement, they’ve never built anything on their own they just want to take over women’s shelters, women’s places, women’s everything. It’s a parasitic movement and I’m sick of it and the authoritarianism it has brought!”

The tenacious crowd was undeterred by the wind and rain

Elaine Hutton

Elaine Hutton

Elaine informed us that a transactivist who calls women ‘TERFs, maniacs and an infestation,’ has written trans guidance which has been adopted by policy making groups for the NHS. The guidance, she said, doesn’t address the needs of women and advises that patients who don’t want to be on a ward with someone of the opposite sex should be ‘educated’, claiming the only reason for objecting to this would be because of ‘transphobia’. The guidance was supposedly passed with no risk assessment by Bristol NHS.

“This is happening secretly all over the country.”

Had it not been for Mumsnet, she said, this might have remained undiscovered. Now women have a meeting with the clinical commissioning group, and she will be speaking to them on behalf of the Lesbian Rights Alliance.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth

Elizabeth spoke about taxonomy, how we classify things into categories: animals, plants, organisms, so as to better understand them, but “for some reason women can’t have our own category”. This disassociates us not only from ourselves but from the earth. She also expressed concern for all those synthetic hormones that could be ‘pissed into the waterways and killing all the fish’. Last year, she suggested, the Green Party program had more sessions about being non-binary than it did about climate change.

Belinda

Belinda

Belinda stepped onto the ladder next. She said she hadn’t planned to talk, but what she wanted to say was she thought men could be ‘a huge ally in this fight‘. The vast majority of men, she said, are on our side and feel ‘as ashamed by it as we feel horrified’.  She added “We need to forget our differences and come together with men and stop slagging them off.”

“They need to speak up though, Belinda,” interrupted Julia Long. “They need to be not quite so shy as they’ve been up til now..”

“But I have heard non-stop slagging off of men, not just men who like to dress up as women.. all the time I’ve been standing here… We need to take some responsibility ourselves for what has happened… we need to join together with men and fight this horror.”

“Thank you Belinda, thank you!” called Venice. “Paula?”

Paula

Paula

Paula told us that Women United had launched a petition calling on the government to protect the sex-based rights of women and girls. She spoke of the inspirational SNP pledge, and the Labour Party Women’s Declaration that was launched on the full moon in December.

This was met with much werewolf-style howling from the crowd and from Paula herself.

Women from all political parties have put together pledges, she told us, so she and others have organised a cross-party group,  @WomenUnitingUK and established a petition to enshrine in law the words ‘woman’ and ‘sex’.  She said she hoped men would also sign it.

Janice

Janice

“I’m Jan from OBJECT! We object to anything that uses a woman’s body as an object. We are not men’s punchbags. We are not men’s cum-dumpsters and we are not men’s territory to be colonised and erased as they have done to so much of the world. We campaign on porn, prostitution, sex clubs, surrogacy and transgenderism.”

Many of us, she says, don’t want children when we are young. “Funny how when you’re 36 you want to pop one out.” Surrogacy is already a $44,000,000 business and will be further expanded once the trans-kids who have been sterilised decide they do want children of their own after all.

“Please don’t stop fighting against the patriarchy – it’s a many-headed hydra!”

Teegan

Teegan

 

Teegan hadn’t intend to speak but said she felt she should. She studied genetics at university so understands the differences between men and women. Even in scientific journals she said, ‘gender’ is replacing ‘sex’ and no one is paying much attention. We need to speak to friends and family about these issues.

 

 

 

Venice Allan

Venice Allan

“Okay, I’m going to take a picture… a pano… everyone get on their happy faces!”

Venice climbed up the steps and took a picture of the attendees. The rain had mostly eased off now and the sun was breaking back through, though most of us were still pretty soggy.

“Okay. Thank you so much for coming here today. I’m going to read this from my speech…”

 

After Venice had finished she stepped down and went to slip her speech back into her pocket.

“Oooo, can I have that?” I asked her.

“Sure.” She handed it to me – so here it is in its entirety:

“It is US who are being intimidated, harassed, investigated, suspended, sacked, sued, suspended and arrested for hate speech.”

Huge applause met Venice’s speech and cries of “Brava!”

Venice Allan

Her speech concluded, Venice told the crowd where we were going to warm up and have a few drinks. I looked around and was impressed at how many people had stayed right to the end, despite the terrible weather. Splitting off now into smaller groups, some drifted away, saying goodbyes, others remained chatting by the railings.

The handbags had been moved now and I slid my vulva/vagina creation out of the large plastic bag protecting it- thank you to whoever put it there, it was completely undamaged by the rain.

I was going out that night, to see Kate Tempest at the 6 Music Festival in Camden, so no pub for me. I had just enough time to pop home, drop my stuff off and change into something dry. Lesley and I decided to walk to Victoria together. We gathered our stuff and set off along Park Lane.

“That went well, didn’t it?”

“Yes,” I mused. “Really well. Although it’s a shame my vulva banner ended up with bags on top of it. I wanted to put it on display somewhere so it showed up on the live stream.”

“How many vehicles did you say drive around Marble Arch in rush hour?”

“About six thousand, why?”

“So, let’s half that because it’s a Sunday: let’s assume your banner was attached to the railing for what, forty five minutes?”

“Yeah. About that.”

“That’s 2,250 vehicles. I think quite enough people have seen your vulva for one day, Lily.”

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment