Opinion | Why 'Women Talk Back' should not be considered a feminist society


By Lowri Lewis, Opinion Columnist

Members of Women Talk Back!, a group which is meant to be supporting people suffering the ill effects of oppression, have chosen to become oppressors themselves.

It seems as though they can’t fathom the idea that other people may experience womanhood differently to them, and they embrace this ignorance. But if your feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s not feminism at all.

After being sanctioned by the SU last month for barring trans women from their events, the society quoted the Equality Act 2010 – of all things – in an open letter to the Minister of Education to protest this decision.

Despite the fact that trans women are more than twice as likely to experience domestic violence than cis women, Women Talk Back! decided that they would only allow cis women to take part in their discussions of male violence.

The outrage that I, and I am sure many other people, feel towards this anti-trans act has not abated in the time that’s passed since this incident. If anything, having the time to read the statements the society has released in full has only increased my frustration at the fact that they weren’t sanctioned more harshly.

If a group of people are willing to openly label trans women ‘male’, they’re past the need for the diversity training that the SU has made compulsory for them. I’m not convinced that they would change their minds even if they knew that gender reassignment is one of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act.

Trans women are more than twice as likely to experience domestic violence than cis women

They use this act to justify their transphobia, claiming that the ‘single-sex spaces’ it allows should exclude trans women.

If you simply can’t imagine that someone can be born a sex which does not align with their gender identity, then that’s an issue with you, not with them. And rather than educating themselves about the varying life experiences of others who identify as female, the leading members of Women Talk Back! have chosen to literally and metaphorically block trans women out from their ‘feminism’.

In doing so, they have inflicted ‘extremely harmful psychological injury’ onto these trans women. They haven’t expressed any regret for this.

I think it’s clear that the society deserves to face more severe sanctions than they have so far received

LGBT+ people are affected by a disproportionally high rate of severe mental illness compared with heterosexual, cisgender people. But Women Talk Back! simply don’t care that they’ve inflicted harm on a group of vulnerable people.

They don’t seem to feel any remorse. The society’s president was willing to go so low as to weaponise the issue of consent and women’s empowerment by saying that, in refusing trans women entry to their events, the society was making use of a woman’s ‘right to say “no”’.

If that wasn’t bad enough, they called the report which was made to the SU about their behaviour an act of ‘retaliation’. In actual fact, it was a courageous action from a community that’s tired of people refusing to accept their existence.

Society sanctioned by SU after preventing transgender women from attending women-only events
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In light of all this, I think it’s clear that the society deserves to face more severe sanctions than they have so far received. Of course, they don’t think so. They think that they’re in a situation that many women face on a daily basis – being talk over, being ignored. The name of their society expresses frustration at this exact situation.

But in this particular case, they are the ones ignoring a vulnerable group of people. They are the ones discriminating against other women, women who are experiencing a form of oppression that they don’t understand. That they don’t have to live through.

Members of Women Talk Back! need to learn that in situations like this, it’s better to step back and listen.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Lindsay LaMont

Do you think banning trans women from events was the right decision?