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Helen Steel's statement about being assaulted on Saturday

(93 Posts)
christinarossetti Thu 02-Nov-17 20:05:26

Wanted to start a new thread about this because it's so important.

Helen's statement is on her Facebook page. Search Helen Steel.

What happened on Saturday was horrific. Sharing her statement and messages of support much appreciated.

pigsknickers Thu 02-Nov-17 20:17:27

I just skimmed through it on fb (breastfeeding a wriggly baby) and am now dancing with joy inside to discover that one of my heroes, Kate Evans is gender critical smile (sorry missing the point slightly I know)

IndominusRex Thu 02-Nov-17 20:21:59

Can you share a link?

pigsknickers Thu 02-Nov-17 20:26:05

If you're on fb just search her name, she's the top result. Can't do links on dodgy phone sorry

OlennasWimple Thu 02-Nov-17 20:27:31

Here's a link to the FB page that says "Here is a statement", but I can't find the actual statement IYSWIM

Bucketsandspoons Thu 02-Nov-17 20:39:06

Brilliant statement from Helen. flowers

SerfNTerf Thu 02-Nov-17 20:48:07

Here's the images of her statement smile

Anlaf Thu 02-Nov-17 20:51:24

It's now on a site

pisacake Thu 02-Nov-17 21:02:14

That's a fucking awful way to post a statement.

I was in the process of writing a longer article around the events at the Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday, but I am also trying to stay on top of the rest of my life while dealing with the horrendous bullying of people around me which is underway by some trans activists and allies. I have been traumatised by my experiences on Saturday and by events since, resulting in a lack of sleep and inability to concentrate. I wanted to complete the longer article, but as lies are being circulated by those who attacked me, I feel I have to put out a shorter statement now.

When I refer to trans activists in this statement I mean people who are activists on trans issues, I do not mean that all of them were trans, nor that they represent the views of all trans identifying people.
For those who don't know what TERF means, it is an acronym for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, but whatever its origins it is currently used as a term of abuse to dehumanise women and so excuse violence and bullying against them.

I thank everyone who is taking a stand against bullying and I urge more people to stand in solidarity too. Those trans activists and allies who are carrying out the bullying can be defeated by growing numbers of people resisting that bullying. This will facilitate a proper space for the concerns of women and trans identifying people to be discussed.

Short statement on the facts:

• The Tories are planning to amend the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to include Gender Identity as a protected characteristic in law. This does affect women and as such, women have a right to express their views on this issue.
• I am aware of three leaflets which were distributed at the Bookfair. I did not actually write or distribute any of them, but I supported other women's rights to distribute them. The first leaflet I heard complaints about is available here:
• None of them call for violence against trans identifying people, obviously I would not have supported them if they had.
• Refusing to validate other people's belief systems is not the same as threatening to harm them.
• Bullying people to force them to accept your views does harm people.
• If you think that other people should not be allowed to question your ideology, it makes you an authoritarian NOT an anarchist.
• Women are oppressed in our society on the basis of our sex, those who deny this perpetuate that sexism.
• It is a basic concept of progressive politics that oppressed groups have the right to organisation and autonomy in their fight against their oppression.
• l intervened to stop the bullying of two women who were distributing leaflets about the GRA at the Bookfair and who were surrounded and being threatened by trans activists. Women's voices have been silenced throughout history, which is why so many people have internalised misogyny and the assumption that women's concerns are unimportant.
• Half an hour later, I was surrounded for over an hour by a baying mob of around 30 trans activists who shouted misogynistic abuse in my face and at others, and who would not leave me alone. This included: ugly Terf, fucking Terf scum, bitch, fascist and more. That kind of behaviour should have no place in anarchism or any other progressive politics
• Despite that provocation, I did not at any time threaten or assault anyone. No trans activists were threatened by anyone else in my sight or hearing.
• While I was surrounded. I saw a man's hand moving towards my face and when it was within inches of my face I blocked it and pushed his am away. He then started shouting that I had assaulted him and I should be thrown out.
• Some of those in the baying mob tried to stoke anger and division by calling me a snitch, making false claims that I had filmed them assaulting a feminist at Speakers Comer and had handed that footage to the police. Footage of the incident is available and actually shows me intervening to protect the victim of the assault, not filming it. The videos embedded in this article show what actually happened, please do watch them and see the truth for yourself:
• Their claim of 'snitch' in the circumstances is obscene in any event - when you assault women you do not get to claim the moral high ground by complaining that they have reported your behaviour to the police.
• Those in the mob asserted that the leaflets setting out women's concerns about the GRA should not be handed out because they amount to violence against trans people. They then used this to justify actual physical violence and intimidation. They didn't care about the distress caused to others in close proximity, including children. Nor did they care about the trauma they cause to women by surrounding us, threatening us and using violence to silence women's voices, repeating the patterns women face throughout our lives when reporting sexual harassment or assault or other sexist behaviour.
• Women's experiences are always erased - we are asked what were we wearing at the time, what did we say and do. Always the message is; as a woman it's your fault, shut up. So what's new here?
• It is absolutely ludicrous that anyone could think that the behaviour of the mob was justified in any way by my actions or those of other women. That is victim blaming. People need to take a reality check.
• Progressive people need to call out sexism. male dominance and violence and stop protecting sexist behaviour. Those offering support to bullies need to stop appeasing sexist behaviour.
• Nonsense claims equating feminism to fascism are an insult both to feminists and to those who have endured racist and state violence under fascist regimes.

Of course I believe that all trans identifying people have the right to live their lives free from harassment and abuse, as does everyone. But I note the double standards that while women are repeatedly told to explicitly affirm that right, there is never a requirement on those advocating for trans issues to acknowledge the level of violence and harassment that women face or to state their opposition to sexist abuse, or to challenge the outrageous statements made by some trans advocates which repeatedly deny women's experiences and silence women's voices. This is a power imbalance based on the long held expectation in society that women should be subservient.
It is notable that a statement issued a few days ago calling for groups to boycott the Bookfair in future, makes no mention of sexism or of women's rights or for the provision of women only meeting spaces. There is no acknowledgement at all that women are subject to oppression, sexual violence and harassment on the basis of our sex. It appears that those who have signed the statement are in denial about women's experiences in much the same way that the rest of society is. Only the recent and snowballing reports of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, Parliament and via #MeToo have started to awaken people to reality. It is time those who signed up acknowledged that reality too.

The Anarchist Bookfair organisers do a huge amount of work to facilitate an amazing event which allows thousands of discuss ways to improve society for the benefit of all. The self entitled mob attacking women for leafleting thought they had the right to dictate who could say what in that space rather than arguing their views and listening to the counter arguments to develop critical thinking. They need to think again.

I am lucky to have so many friends and comrades who put themselves in the line of fire to protect me, I thank them for this, especially those who were assaulted and abused. I also thank everyone who has sent messages of solidarity and support which are enabling me to get through this horrendous experience. I include in my thanks those trans identifying people and supporters who may not agree with my views but who recognise the importance of women being able to speak too and are resisting the intimidation they face from people claiming to act in their name.

I want to add that a couple of people have commented that while they agree with women being able speak n these issues, they feel that in a few places the wording used is not helpful. The problem with requiring leaflets to be perfectly worded before they can be distributed is that it excludes very many people from being able to express their opinions. Only the confident will feel able to speak. It particularly excludes those born female who are generally socialised from a young age to keep quiet about their views and so are less confident about expressing them. Perfection is certainly not a qualification used to prevent men from speaking. And ultimately, who decides what is right? That is the purpose of having debate, so we can all clarify our thinking.

Helen Steel

christinarossetti Thu 02-Nov-17 21:20:11

Thanks for your editorial comments, pisacake.

I see other posters just got on with searching.

pisacake Thu 02-Nov-17 21:28:36

I think we cross-posted. It took a while to run the OCR and clean up the output.

wrappedupinmyselflikeaspool Thu 02-Nov-17 21:34:29

What a fantastic statement that has made my day. Off to see if I can share it on Facebook. So glad I wasn't at the book fair this year because I usually take the kids and it sounds like this was pretty frightening. How could they scream at her for an hour? So much sympathy and solidarity with her and all the women involved in this.

QOFE Thu 02-Nov-17 21:36:51

"How could they scream at her for an hour?"

I can well believe a bunch of pumped up woman hating young males could and would do this. I'm not even that surprised that nobody stopped them. Looks like nobody wanted to be tainted by association angry

christinarossetti Thu 02-Nov-17 21:42:51

The statement mentions 'friends and comrades who put themselves in the line of fire'. She was protected from being assaulted.

PencilsInSpace Thu 02-Nov-17 22:49:56

That's a brilliant statement.

Helen Steel has been a heroine of mine since she taught me not to give my dinner money to bullies in my early teens (McLibel) She's gone from strength to strength since then and if I'd known she was at speaker's corner I'd have shaken her hand. She's one of those people who seems to get a fuckton of stuff changed for the better while somehow remaining in the background herself, despite the high profile of some of the cases she's brought.

From everything I've read, her treatment at the anarchist book fair is absolutely shocking. How fucking dare they surround her like that as a mob and intimidate her for over an hour when she did nothing wrong? How dare they pretend that's a lesser violence than handing out flyers about women's rights?

The mob who did this appear to have no proper understanding of male violence against women, how it operates or what it means in practice. If they did they would understand that it is they who are perpetuating it.

hipsterfun Fri 03-Nov-17 00:55:26

Because Facebook can fuck right off, I’ll have to leave a message of love and solidarity here for Helen and hope she’s reading.

ChattyLion Fri 03-Nov-17 07:54:01

What a brilliant statement. flowers

Natsku Fri 03-Nov-17 10:05:48

Excellent statement.

Natsku Fri 03-Nov-17 10:06:18

Its actually got me raising my head above the parapet on facebook now (which is scary)

GuardianLions Fri 03-Nov-17 11:56:15

What a fantastic statement from Helen Steel - such clarity even though she must be terrified.

HornyTortoise Fri 03-Nov-17 13:07:54

The treatment she has received over this is disgraceful tbh, but not shocking. I am so glad prominent figures are starting to speak out over this issue now.

Anyone else seen the ridiculous versions of the bookfair story that are going around twitter? I saw a version which had 'terfs' literally throwing disabled people out of toilets and shouting at children ffs.

HornyTortoise Fri 03-Nov-17 13:09:25

The activists seem to have agreed on a false version to give out too. As they all reckon they saw the same thing, but in different words. Like the attempt to make out Maria attacked the 3 men. Less and less people are taking them at their words now though it seems. About time, as they are amazing at spin and lies. Seems to be the only thing they actually are good at, besides intimidating women.

Natsku Fri 03-Nov-17 14:15:44

Have you got a link to those versions horny?

HornyTortoise Fri 03-Nov-17 14:29:08

I don't as they were pretty much just random posts on twitter, though one was definitely typed up in statement form. Will have a look later on.

A lot of the false versions blaming 'terfs' for all manner of ills have been posted on here though

And the thread in general should show the lengths some are willing to go to to pretend that it was all the 'evil terfs' fault, rather than as usual, TAs

Natsku Fri 03-Nov-17 15:52:58

Bloody hell, they are really trying to justify the violence in that thread.

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