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For posterity - start of Women's Liberation 50th anniversary conference, transcript

(64 Posts)
pombear Sat 29-Feb-20 17:05:47

Because it was so gob-smacking, and I wanted to keep it for posterity, in case it disappears from the live stream. As much as I could make out from the recording:

Initials used :

Tracey Walsh (TW) organiser, at lectern
Cathy (C) organiser, at lectern
Dr Katherine Bradley (KB) at lectern
Julie Bindel (JB) (in the audience)

Part One

TW: The emphasis is this is a safe space for people to come and talk. Nobody has been banned from the event, nobody has been asked not to come, it’s open to everybody, it’s an inclusive…

JB: How about Selina Todd? Selina Todd was de-platformed less than 24 hours before this event

TW: OK..

JB: As someone who’s been de-platformed for 16 years because of this nonsense. I’m telling you this is cowardly capitulation. We do not do this to other feminists. Everyone in this room knows (applause) When we have a woman who is not a member of the National Front, she’s not a fascist. She is not Hitler. How can we do this to women who have given their lives to advocate for disenfranchised women, I do not know. It’s a disgrace, and I’m sick of this cowardice, and you should hang your heads in shame for giving in to this lot.

TW: OK, OK, thank you for your, and of course you are entitled to your opinion. And I just want to say that it’s a space for people to have…Selina Todd was very welcome to be here. She was asked to be here,

JB: No she’s not, she was…not when you’ve been told you’re not allowed to speak.

TW: I will talk to people if you want to talk about this afterwards but I don’t want to detract…

JB: No one wants to hear us…Selina Todd speaking

? : She was speaking on behalf of the History department, she was not a speaker on any panel.

JB: …she was on the programme

TW: She was, right so, just just to clarify Selina was here as a delegate and was, and asked if she could say something, say thank you on behalf of the er History Faculty, in a professional capacity.

JB: so why did you feature her on the programme?

OP’s posts: |
pombear Sat 29-Feb-20 17:06:57

Part Two

JW: So the History Faculty have given a statement. So I’d like to read that out. The History Faculty is pleased to support today’s commemoration of the Ruskin conference of 1970. We’re firm supporters of the women’s movement and we think the 1970 conference was, and is, an inspiration to us all. We cannot accept the exclusion of our respected colleague Selina Todd from speaking at the event and that we feel that we, we must, erm I, this is on behalf of John Watts, the chair, I must withdraw from the celebration. As an academic department, we simply cannot condone the no-platforming of people who hold and express lawful views. We believe it’s always better to debate than to exclude. This seems to us a key principle of 1970 and we are sorry that today’s event has taken a different path. (applause)

As a faculty we recognise the enormous courage shown by trans people in their struggle to gain recognition and we have learned from talking from, to them. We want our faculty to be a welcoming, respectful, inclusive place for trans colleagues and students just as for all other kinds of people and we’re ready to work for that. We recognise that it’s not always straightforward to balance the rights of women’s, women with the right of trans people, but we believe that the way forward is for all us to talk to one another. (applause) So that’s from John Watts, who is the chair of the History Faculty.

JB ?: So why did you no-platform her?

TW: I want, I don’t want to detract from the amazing women who are about to talk to you about, about their, about the conference, the original conference. I wanted to say thank you to those wonderful women who were here…

(Interjection – not JB): Why was she no-platformed?

TW: She was asked if she would mind passing over the two minutes to her colleague John. They were both on the programme to say thanks on behalf of the History Faculty. Because we had to make a decision, we were put in a difficult position because a boycott had been called of the whole event and people had started to pull out.

JB ?: So you caved in to bullies? …that’s bullying.

TW: Well I certainly feel like I’m being bullied at the moment by, by women.

(Crowd calls of ‘no you’re not’)

TW: So can I just say thank you

(Crowd interjection – Julie again I think – women’s history, and women’s development, of women’s history, but this is happening now. How can you celebrate history when women historians are being told by other women historians that they can’t speak?)

TW: She was never a speaker.

*from audience – JB?*: I am one of about five women’s historians in this country who were told not to speak out on this issue …everybody else has been cowed into silence

TW: Can we have, can we have these discussions throughout the day?

(audience discussion inaudible)

TW: She’s not barred from the conference, she was invited. We spoke to her last night and told her she’s still welcome to come.

(audience inaudible)

OP’s posts: |
pombear Sat 29-Feb-20 17:08:03

Part Three

TW: So does anyone know where Selina is? OK Well if someone wants to, I mean that’s…can you tell her that it’s two minutes to say thank you on behalf of the History Faculty.

Audience: We’d like to hear about..

TW: We don’t have time for that, no, we don’t have time for that.

TW: Right, listen, she was never here as part of the conference to speak about her experiences. If you look at our programme, our programme clearly says 15 minutes, introductions and thank you and Selina was to say thank you for two minutes just as Catherine is going to say thank you on behalf of Oxford Women’s International Festival and Jeri is going to say a few words on behalf of the History Faculty…

Erm, sorry, Exeter College, sorry Jeri, I’m er, yep, so and that’s, that’s all Selina was going to say and then she was going to be a delegate. What do you mean it’s not true? Right, do you know what, I can’t do this…

KB: Can I just intervene, sorry, I’m going to intervene…

JB: how do you think it feels for Selina, who got money from the college for this event, who organised the publicity, through me, who used to be the most dangerous woman in Britain, but now it seems it’s Selina Todd. How do you think it feels a feminist who’s advocated all her professional life, an activist all her life on behalf of disenfranchised women to be told that she is too dangerous and vile to speak…

C: Nobody said that.

JB: That’s exactly what’s happened, and you know it.

C: No (conversation between orgs) So just to be clear, er, it was myself who spoke to Selina last night after we had had er, conversations with various people involved. Erm, the choice was a really, really difficult one. The organising committee was put in an almost impossible situation where one of the choices was to cancel this event entirely.
(audience – why? )

C: Because people were pulling out of the event. So

JB?: What reasons did they give?

C: …because Selina would be speaking. So Selina, as Tracey has said, was asked to speak for two minutes on behalf of the History Faculty. It was not a panel, she was not sitting on a panel, she was not giving any kind of presentation. Each of the other sessions of plenary are 45 minutes.

JB: why then did people say they would pull out if she wasn’t de-platformed. What is so terrible about Selina Todd for speaking for two minutes not even on a contentious issue?

C: So we had this conversation and we came to a compromise whereby we would absolutely not going to deny Selina access to the conference as a participant.

OP’s posts: |
pombear Sat 29-Feb-20 17:08:56

Part Four

JB: On what grounds did they say they would pull out?

C: Well that is not for me to say. All we knew, as an organising committee with many, many other things to deal with yesterday, that this is was what was being discussed.
Well, OK, so, the other option was for all of us to come here, of the organising committee, and turn people away and we didn’t feel that that was the right thing to do…
Because the conference wouldn’t have worked without our speakers. And even though we are working as nimbly as we can, we couldn’t have plugged those gaps to make it a viable event.

(audience inaudible)

C: Well I’m, I’m, I’m sorry, I don’t think this is an appropriate place to share that. I phoned Selina back last night and asked, and said I was very happy to have a further discussion. I asked specifically would she come in her role as a participant and was John Watts going to come along and take that two minute slot. She did not reply. So I was very willing to have further discussions with Selina and go into this, and she did not phone me or Tracey back last night. Erm, I think we really need to get on now, and these debates can continue during breaks and during lunch.

(audience inaudible)

C: Yes, I think someone went out, I believe, and asked her to come in as a participant in the audience, is that not right? OK, to come and say her two minute speech on behalf of the History Faculty. There was an overwhelming vote that that should be the case, but that is the topic.

Someone has been out, I don’t know if she came back with them.


No, so if you look at the, so Tracy had, so Tracy put a lot of work into the ground rules, which are there. And I believe that, you know, we have a broad range of people here. We can debate, if people don’t agree, then they put up their hands and they say so. Erm, if anyone feels that any of the ground rules are being broken, sorry, can I finish please, if anyone feels that any of the ground rules are being broken than please challenge that during all of our debates today. Yes? Sorry, this woman had her hand up first.

(audience, mostly inaudible): ...threats of violence, I think this is very scary…

C: So just , so I was the person who had (audience inaudible ) sure

(audience inaudible)

OP’s posts: |
pombear Sat 29-Feb-20 17:10:03

Part Five

TW: Can I say very quickly that when I first met, and had lots of great meetings with Selina about the history faculty’s involvement and some of the students are here today, which is great, erm, some of the tutors had signed up to come and along as well, which is fantastic. Selina warned me that when she speaks at events she needs security. And she openly said that. And reiterated that again yesterday to me and said, “I told you when we first met that I need security” So we discussed that as a group and said OK, we are aware of that. So I think saying that well, you know, whoever was saying that it’s, it isn’t right that in any space that we, anyone should need to have security. But we were very much aware in the back of our minds that boycotts had been called, that people were threatening, people have pulled out, already. We have lost speakers already today (audience) So we had to make the very difficult decision between, as Cathy said, who, who, if you like then, to say you’re giving in, who do we give in to?

(Audience inaudible)

TW: So people have, people make their own choice whether they want to come or not. So people have withdrawn from the conference. For, for reasons. And some of those reasons that people have withdrawn from the conference which, unfortunately, nobody bothered to contact any of the organisers directly. It all came through the wonderful social media and through third parties. So, which I find really disappointing. At the very last minute. And I want to reiterate, that Selina was, a, was very welcome to be here. I wanted her to be here. She is welcome to be here. But can we just please, can we understand that she wasn’t speaking on a platform. So she hasn’t been no-platformed. She was, she asked if she could say a couple of words on behalf of the History department as Professor of Modern History at Oxford University, about the History Faculty.

(audience Q)

TW: People demand, demanded that she was asked not to come to the conference and we refused. We said we will not tell anyone they cannot come to the conference. So we asked her if it would be OK rather than the two of, rather than her and John spending two minutes between them saying thank you from the History Faculty, that perhaps John could just say the thank you, and Selina could participate in the discussions. It wasn’t about sex, he just happens to be a man. Anyway, he’s…(quietly, off mic) I just think we should just forget it.

C: So our aim was to have the very least possible disruption to the conference. So can I suggest that we move on and in breaks and at lunch and at any other opportunity people can ask further questions on this issue within the timescales that we’re working to. So we have people coming to deliver lunch. We have speakers coming throughout the day and we would like to keep to the schedule for all of you, and for the speakers so that we have the best possible chance of making this the positive celebration it was always intended to be.

audience member : …Selina waiting outside to know what the hell is going on?

C: I think, sorry, am I wrong? I’ve said three times I thought someone went out to speak to Selina.


C: Well yes I have, because, yes, someone has gone out to look for Selina. Who was that person? And she’s left. OK, so someone could text her. And when she, she arrives, she’s very welcome as participant to the conference and if we can find two minutes when she can come up and say thank you then we will do that. So if you could text her to say that, that, I. Does that, er, reflect what everyone voted on?


C: No, so how do I contact Selina if she has now gone? The vote was to invite her in. Yes, Ok, so phone or text her, that’s what I said

(Audience: you phone her?)

C: I haven’t got her number. Well, OK , thank you. So, Jeri….

OP’s posts: |
ClitoriaTernatea Sat 29-Feb-20 17:29:53

Nice one pombear star

Quite shocking behaviour by the organisers.

Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g Sat 29-Feb-20 17:44:52

Unbelievably inept. The obvious thing to do was to say to the speakers threatening to pull out:

1. You knew the programme when you first agreed to speak. Why have you left it till now to make these objections? We have sold all the tickets.
2. Why do you think it would be acceptable for us to no-platform one of the most distinguished academics in this field at such short notice?
3. Why do you think that only people who agree with you should speak on the same programme as you? You do understand that not everyone who has bought a ticket will agree with you, so you may have to deal with hostile questioning? If you can't cope with that, how do you even leave the house?

Then, if they were insistent that they wouldn't come, make that public, and why, and ask Selina if she would be able to fill one of the slots. Ask Julie Bindel to fill one of the others.

Job done.

Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g Sat 29-Feb-20 17:46:17

Forgot to say, thanks to pombear for this!

Fallingirl Sat 29-Feb-20 17:46:36

The cowardice is just extreme.

Manderleyagain Sat 29-Feb-20 17:50:39

Thanks for the transcript. I would really like to know who the historian is who said "I am one of about five women’s historians in this country who were told not to speak out on this issue …everybody else has been cowed into silence". But she might not have known she was being filmed.

The history faculty statement is very good.

Languishingfemale Sat 29-Feb-20 17:54:06

All those women representing 50 years of feminism - and cowed by bullies into no platforming a women (and even suggesting she was replaced by a man}. Can they not hear themselves?

Bringbacklang Sat 29-Feb-20 17:55:29

The organisers don't cover themselves in glory so they. Absolutely pathetic response from them.

Bullying cowards.

aliasundercover Sat 29-Feb-20 18:01:56

Thanks pombear.

Weak responses from the organisers. We know you were put in a difficult situation, but anyone can be a feminist when the going is easy. It's when it gets tough that we see who really stands up for women.

They're like Pontius Pilate, trying to wash their hands of the guilt.

TeiTetua Sat 29-Feb-20 18:03:05

The cowardice is extreme, but the on-stage performance was absolutely hilarious. Educated idiots mumbling through their shame, it must have been a treat to be in the audience.

They'll cringe for the rest of their lives when they remember this.

dianebrewster Sat 29-Feb-20 18:10:33

it's been surreal. Having attended the WPUK conference the other week, it's clear who the mantle of feminist theory and action has been passed to, and it's not the organisers of this conference.

They've now deleted their twitter and closed down the livestream chat.

StarintheMorning Sat 29-Feb-20 18:30:12

What a shambles. It’s telling where cowardice leads. What a sorry way to ‘celebrate’ feminism.

MangoesAreMyFavourite Sat 29-Feb-20 18:30:47

Thank you Pombear! This is hilarious and horrible in equal measure.

I was at Selina's workshop at the WPUK conference. She is absolutely brilliant!!!
As was the conference.

youllhavehadyourtea Sat 29-Feb-20 18:46:24

So people have withdrawn from the conference. For, for reasons.

Because reasons, innit?

CarrotyO Sat 29-Feb-20 19:19:39

I am very angry that what should have been a celebration and reflection of a momentous historical event has been disrupted by idiotic lib fems. The organisers first mistake was in not vetting speakers to find out if they had a material understanding of sex and of the oppression of women. Organisers of events like this really need to start sorting out the wheat from the chaff rather than just inviting anyone who labels themselves a feminist and setting themselves up for disaster.

MummBraTheEverLeaking Sat 29-Feb-20 19:57:59

Thanks pombear. What an absolute cringeworthy shitshow!

ArranUpsideDown Sat 29-Feb-20 20:21:19

pombear - thank you so much for this.

corlan Sat 29-Feb-20 20:29:12

Complete shitshow. When you capitulate like that, it will never be enough. They should have had the courage to stand their ground.

stumbledin Sat 29-Feb-20 20:44:33

From the other thread this is a video showing the start of the conference.

And although JB was great the unnamed woman historian made a number of really good comments that is it well worth listening to.

Just so ashamed that so many women we are told we should respect as feminists chose to continue to participate in this fraudulent event.

And so sorry to any young women who went in all innocence thinking they would learn about WLM.

All they learnt was that academic rivalry is poisonous, many of the speakers who stayed are from various factions of the left so this was as much about inter left warfare (like Labour LGBTQ++++++++++ pledge) - and off course people, in this instance women, using the trans issue to make themselves important. This is about women who are handmaiden's to male approval.

The whole thing was just the very worst sort of faux event.

PreseaCombatir Sat 29-Feb-20 20:48:25

Horrifying and embarrassing in equal measure tbh

ListeningQuietly Sat 29-Feb-20 20:54:30

I'm an utter newcomer to this board BUT
speed skimming that video on silent (long story)
the people at that lectern do not resonate with me in any way
they are not 'me'
so I'll stick to events where I might feel engaged

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