Eddie Izzard uses the ladies loo in Sheffield

It’s about a man’s power over women

Artillery Row

On Thursday, 29 September Sheffield Labour Party hosted a fund-raising event featuring an evening in conversation with Eddie Izzard at Crookes Social Club in Sheffield. Eddie has recently confirmed a desire to stand as Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Sheffield Central which will shortly be vacated by Paul Blomfield who is stepping down. Izzard has not yet been formally selected by Labour.

As a Sheffield Labour Party member, I am sceptical of Eddie’s proclaimed love of all things Sheffield, which appears to have come upon him with some vigour of late as he poses with police or holds forth on issues of Sheffield’s buses. The buses are a really important issue for Sheffield people, but I don’t think Eddie has much call to clamber aboard public transport carrying some of his estimated net wealth of $20 million. I sniff an ego looking for a new vanity project. Our beloved city of Sheffield is not a “project” for Labour to hand over to a bored, millionaire bloke in outdated knee-high boots, trying to reinvent himself as both a woman and an MP. 

We weren’t enlightened or entertained, we were outraged

Eddie fairly recently announced that he is a going to live “in full girl mode”, whatever that might mean, and wishes to be addressed using “she/her” pronouns. This came after years of being happy to declare himself a “transvestite” and challenge gender stereotypes, by wearing dresses and lipstick. Now he does exactly the same thing, but expects everyone to believe he is actually a woman. I don’t have to concur with that belief and my belief, that men can’t change sex, is worthy of respect in a democratic society. I don’t capitulate to compelled speech and would find this article impossible to negotiate unless I was truthful and use “he”. He is not a woman. 

The journalist Julie Bindel and I attended this event to see what Eddie had to say and had both submitted questions around issues of women’s rights being in conflict to Izzard’s right to self-identify as a woman for this parliamentary seat. We didn’t expect them to be asked but thought that we would at least be entertained by a professional comedian, even though our concerns as feminist women were ignored. In the end we weren’t enlightened or entertained, we were outraged. 

We had taken seats at the front of a room containing around 300 people, many of them women. The bar had a long queue and people seemed in good spirits. As Julie and I became more irritated at the long wait for Izzard’s appearance on stage, I suddenly spotted a man being ushered through a curtain at the side, shielded by two women. I realised as he was whisked into the women’s toilet that it was Eddie Izzard. I told Julie. We both swore proficiently. It was hard to believe that, in full view of the large audience, a man would be assisted to the women’s toilet by two other women. These women were smiling sycophantically and held the door open for him in a supreme act of betrayal to women of the UK, who have a right to single sex services under the Equality Act 2010

The “gentleman’s” toilet was just a few feet behind me. I decided to photograph Izzard coming out, again with women bowing and scraping at his feet. I tweeted the picture to horrified men and women. One user said, “It’s like a cat spraying up a wall isn’t it? He’s marking what he thinks is ‘his’ territory”. Another said, “There used to be a name for men hanging around women’s bathrooms”. Some were disappointed in a man they had once admired. Some were angry and demanded to know why I hadn’t got up and asked him to get out. 

We don’t need to make exceptions for Eddie Izzard

Women are enraged about men crossing these established single-sex boundaries and rightly so. It does not stop at a wee in the ladies and I don’t think it was ever going to stop there once the “trans rights” juggernaut had fired up the ignition. Women are right to stand firmly against the steady creep upon our right to single-sex space. Women have looked the other way about men in their toilets for decades, out of a societally imposed sense of politeness, but many of those women were still uncomfortable or angry even whilst saying nothing. 

Eddie uses the women’s loo in the same week that John Stephen Dixon was sentenced to twelve years in a women’s prison. Dixon is a prolific male sex offender, now calling himself “Sally Ann”, who sexually assaulted five girls and two boys aged between the ages of six and fifteen. It is an unthinkable insult to all women to place such a violent male offender amongst incarcerated women, arguably the most vulnerable women in society, who are convicted of largely petty crimes. The majority of these women have experienced male violence throughout their lives. Now they will face the violence of institutional misogyny. 

The loss of women’s rights starts with looking the other way for an Eddie Izzard and ends with a society that doesn’t flinch at placing a male sex offender in jail with women. They are two ends of the same gender stick. Not all trans identified men are violent offenders, but some are. Because of this we must exclude all men from those spaces designated as single-sex for the safety, privacy and dignity of women. We don’t need to make exceptions for Eddie Izzard or any other celebrity. Or any other man, because Eddie Izzard is a man. 

I think Izzard knew how controversial it was to use a facility designated for women. If you are the “star” of any show, you know that all eyes are on you and entering that female toilet with all our eyes upon him was an arrogant assertion of power over women whose rights he cares nothing for. He knew it was a powerful act with a powerful message. He may be arrogant but he is not stupid. 

Women are not stupid either, and women vote. The Green Party has already selected its candidate for the seat in Alison Teal. She is a woman known for expressing gender critical views but also for fighting to save Sheffield’s trees. Eddie may not breeze into the parliamentary seat as confidently as he breezed into the Ladies. 

As Julie and I left, we had one last thing to say. Eddie was bloody boring. 

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