Masked mouth, red hair and pleading eyes: the photograph of a young activist forced onto the ground at last Saturday’s vigil in remembrance of Sarah Everard is arresting. A perfect illustration of the boys in blue protecting their own, it is reminiscent of the manhandling of the suffragettes by clod-footed coppers. But the young woman photographed has far more in common with the thuggish police officers holding her down than might be imagined; both are part of authoritarian groups with a record of attacking the right to free assembly and protecting aggressive men.
Wrong-footed by media-savvy protesters, the police were made to look like fools when they refused permission to the group Reclaim These Streets to hold the vigil. The activist group Sisters Uncut took up the baton and accounts seem clear: the event was largely peaceful until the plod lumbered in to disperse the crowd.
I know a number of women who went to the vigil. One, a GP with two daughters, told me:
In the same week as Sarah Everard was murdered, Lorraine Cox was also killed. The man who murdered her chopped-up her body. These are not random attacks; this is male violence which runs along in the background of all our lives. We need to stop pretending this is ‘gender neutral’, or that god-awful phrase ‘gender-based violence’. This is men maiming, raping, brutalising and killing women and girls.
Without question, in publicising the event Sisters Uncut have drawn more attention to the pattern of male violence and the under-funding of women’s services than many more established groups (Boris Johnson chaired a meeting on Monday of the government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce with a focus on violence against women and girls). But riding on the skirts of Sisters Uncut are some distinctly iffy values including the defunding of the police and the right of male rapists to be legally recognised as women.
Somewhat ironically given the furore over the police action, Sisters Uncut have repeatedly tried to prevent the peaceful assembly of women with whom they disagree. Those whose speech they deem a threat are feminists opposed to the sex industry and people with concerns about the impact of trans ideology on sex-based rights.
It is fair to ask just how grassroots the so-called ‘sex worker’ and ‘trans rights’ groups actually are
Sisters Uncut are not alone in this; both the right to buy sexual consent and the right to self-identify one’s gender have become sacred tenets to the mainstream left. It is almost darkly comic that today’s Citizen Smiths are campaigning on the same side as billionaires like pornographer Richard Desmond and financier George Soros. As an aside, considerable funding has gone into promoting these positions through philanthropic organisations like the Open Societies Foundation; as such it is fair to ask just how grassroots the so-called “sex worker” and “trans rights” groups actually are. Interestingly, there have been a spate of far-left protests against feminist groups over the past few years, the most recent and shocking example was the assault on anti-sex trade campaigners and sex-industry survivors in Paris on International Women’s Day.
Sisters Uncut have targeted a number of feminist groups over the past three years in attempts to prevent them from meeting to discuss the (now shelved) reform to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). In 2018 I spoke at an event organised by the group Woman’s Place UK (WPUK). At the last minute, the hall that had been booked pulled out after pressure from groups including Sisters Uncut, leaving WPUK scrambling to find a new, secret venue. Less than a year later and a group called We Need to Talk also organised a discussion of the GRA, this time activists from Sisters Uncut surrounded the venue and blockaded the stairwell in an attempt to stop the event from going ahead. Many other women’s groups across the country report suffering harassment and intimidation from Sisters Uncut activists.
One of the most egregious examples happened last February when a branch of Sisters Uncut in Manchester protested against women who had taken to the streets to dance as part of a global action to raise awareness of sexual violence. Sisters Uncut believed the feminist groups who had planned the event were not “trans inclusive”. One of the women who organised the dance in Manchester is a long-standing activist called Belstaffie, she told me:
They [Sisters Uncut activists] were full of hatred for the women who dared demonstrate against rape and rape culture. Most of the women were survivors of rape. They were told that it was not connected to transgenderism, but they didn’t care and continued to impose themselves on us and put their flags aggressively in our faces to hide what we were doing.
Sisters Uncut are also proud to champion the rights of violent men who identify as women. In an attempt to draw attention to the deaths of women in custody, Sisters Uncut produced a list of 179 people “murdered by the state”. Bryndís Blackadder, a Scottish feminist campaigner, told me:
Sisters Uncut compiled a list of victims of police but they included violent male criminals, some who committed suicide in jail, in the tally of female victims. They have described these suicides of extremely violent men, murderers and child rapists, as ‘murdered by the state’. These include Martin / Jade Eatough who raped and kidnapped girls, Jenny / Jonathan Swift who was awaiting trial for attempted murder, Joanne / Edward Latham who was already in prison for murdering a woman when he tried to kill another inmate, and serial child rapist Nicola / Gordon Cope.
This is not the first time Sisters Uncut have protested against the administration of justice to violent men. In 2018 they supported a young male trans activist, Tanis Wood (aka Tara Wolf), who was convicted of assaulting feminist Maria MacLachlan. Before the assault Wood had boasted on social media of a desire to “fuck up some TERFS [Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists].” In court MacLachlan was reprimanded by the judge for not referring to Wood with female pronouns.
When it comes to the right of people to self-declare their gender identity, Sisters Uncut find themselves on the same side as the Metropolitan Police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Ministry of Justice; the latter three have all paid for membership of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme (though it seems this year the CPS have allowed their membership to lapse).
I would rather take my chances with the state’s bully boys than the woke, authoritarian misogynists of the far left
Sisters Uncut seek any opportunity to advance their beliefs which, despite the veneer of feminism, seem to focus on “anti-carceral justice”, the total decriminalisation of the sex industry (including pimps and punters) and the right of people to self-identify their gender. In an article for Byline Times, Sisters Uncut were quoted as saying: “There was a sense of solidarity at the vigil. There was a feeling of deep sadness of grief and mourning, not just for Sarah Everard but for all women and gender non-conforming people killed.” One wonders which “gender non-conforming people” they were referring to, as thankfully there have been no recorded murders of transgender people in the UK across the past two years. While it’s unseemly that Sisters Uncut have capitalised on a sincere out-pouring of public grief to advance a niche political agenda, it is no different from other political groups.
Looking back at my own past in activism instantly collapses the moral high-ground I’d like to claim. Over the course of a summer holiday, I moved from pony club to politics, throwing my 15-year-old self into the Socialist Party. In my mind, by trying to flog papers on rainy pickets I was supporting the workers who were losing their jobs at Longbridge; I couldn’t fathom why they didn’t feel the appropriate level of solidarity with a middle-class Marxist from the Cotswolds. Looking back, I am not ashamed of my interest in current affairs, but I do bitterly regret using people’s lives to make cheap ideological points.
One has to wonder who would benefit from the abolition of prisons, the decriminalisation of the sex industry and the right to self-identify gender; to my mind it is the misters, not the sisters. I have no great love for the police and little faith that the criminal justice system works for women. Nonetheless, I would rather take my chances with the state’s bully boys than the woke, authoritarian misogynists of the far left.
Sisters Uncut were approached for comment on this article but were unable to provide a quote due to capacity.
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