On Wednesday 13 September a meeting billed ″What is Gender? The Gender Recognition Act and beyond″ was cancelled by the venue (New Cross Learning in Lewisham, south London) after a protest was planned outside the meeting and activists called the venue to argue they cancel the booking.
On Thursday 14 September the meeting was rearranged to a secret location, but was still met with a protest. Attendees at the meeting filmed and harassed protesters. One attendee at the meeting had her camera snatched away and smashed, and was repeatedly punched.
We are not pacifists, and do not condemn all violence equally and as a matter of course. But we think there needs to be a clear understanding of what requires countering with physical opposition, and when.
A meeting of largely middle-aged, gender non-conforming lesbians and other women, to discuss feminist (not our feminism, but broadly feminist nonetheless) ideas around proposed changed to the law, is not one of those situations.
Responding to words with force should be preserved for extraordinary situations. The left’s default position should be free speech.
That is not to say that we should not protest events that, in this case, appear to be transphobic. The speakers billed for the meeting have a long history of anti-trans politics under various guises. We strongly disagree with this sort of feminism (see page 8 for more commentary).
But the ideas of these feminists are not going away. New, young, feminists will constantly be attracted to them unless we debate and challenge them. “Not giving a platform″, or trying to shut down, reactionary, bigoted, ideas of any sort will not make them go away, it will allow them to breed in the shadows. Better to have open debate, and not allow anti-trans feminists to gather people around their scaremongering ″concerns″ and make themselves the champions of free speech.
We should reserve the idea of ″no platforming″ for fascists. Fascism is different from other strands of right-wing politics — or, in this case people with an oddly limited range of reactionary ideas — in that it threatens, immediately and physically, the very existence of working-class organisation and, often, the lives of oppressed minorities.
The idea of ″no platforming″ ″bad ideas″ rather than organised fascists, is wrong, and is also being applied in an inconsistent way.
Using the ″no platform″ policy for anti-trans feminists, while for example Tory meetings on university campuses are spared such protests or bans, suggests that the real enemy is other women, not the government who are brutally attacking working-class people and it′s trans, LGB, women, disabled, non-white, members the most!
More arguments on no-platform here.