Babies versus the black bloc

Women were once again being told to shut up in Brighton last week

Artillery Row

Those attending the Standing for Women meeting in Brighton last Sunday were met by a group of protesters determined to silence them. Some were kitted out in black bloc, the paramilitary uniform worn without irony by  “anti fascists”. The relentless barrage of chants and the proximity of the protest meant even those of us standing within a few feet of speakers were barely able to hear their words. Of course that was the intention. A group of women determined to speak. And a group determined to drown their voices. 

A pervasive environment of witch-hunts

The desire to silence dissent and enforce orthodoxy on gender ideology is so entrenched that not even a baby escaped being denounced as a “little fascist.” The video footage of this jarring incident is worth watching. It has inspired social media parodies which highlight the sad, grim absurdity of this behaviour.

More disturbing than the splenetic scenes in Victoria Park were the first hand accounts of women who had encountered rigid, doctrinal intransigence on these issues from inside the Establishment institutions where they work. 

Alison Eden is a Lib Dem District Councillor in Teignbridge Devon. She is committed to the party and has ambitions to advance her political career by becoming a parliamentary candidate. However, she is concerned her future prospects are stymied and she risks excommunication. She describes a pervasive environment of witch-hunts, fear, and enforced silence. She explains that the party’s upper echelons have adopted gender ideology as an “Article of Faith” and are purging the party of dissenters.

The paralysing dominance of new orthodoxies

This evangelical fervour is not only incompatible with the party’s stated principle of “liberty” and “freedom of thought,” it has a curiously 16th century valence. Alison uses religious imagery to describe this oppressive atmosphere. When I ask why she came to the Brighton meeting, she cites Natalie Bird. Natalie was recently expelled from the Lib Dems and banned from standing for any position within it for 10 years. Her crime? She wore a t-shirt displaying the words “adult human female” to a meeting. Alison says: “We’re living in a time when the zeitgeist is becoming more totalitarian.” She will not be silent.

One of the most powerful speakers described how a robust safe-guarding policy delivering single sex accommodation in hospitals has been undermined by the clandestine insertion of Annex B. What is Annex B? It potentially enables men to be placed on female wards. This speaker works with people after spine or brain injuries. Her concern for this vulnerable group of patients is palpable.

She asserts that “spineless policy makers” have capitulated to “ideologues,” and in doing so increased women’s exposure to risk when they are particularly vulnerable in a public hospital. This is a serious, consequential issue. Why has there not been more media scrutiny and open debate? Why are discussions about this hobbled inside her workplace, the NHS? 

If you have lived in an autocratic society as I have, you understand that self-censorship, topic avoidance, silence are survival tools. It is shocking to find the UK lurching in this direction.  On Sunday in Brighton women from diverse backgrounds stood up to say that is not a paradigm they wish to emulate. Serious issues require serious discussions. Not the paralysing dominance of new orthodoxies.

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