Last Sunday (23rd May) women from as far afield as Aberdeen and Wales came together at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park to stand up for their sex-based rights. It was a strategic move by Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (aka Posie Parker) as part of her campaign to reclaim the public square in a day and age where social media companies ban women for stating simple biological facts.
It was the third time she had called on women to gather there, having previously done so in August and September last year. On those occasions the public had been out in full force and male speakers seemed to be everywhere, their booming testosterone-fuelled voices easily drowning out the women. Last Sunday was much quieter as the miserable weather and lockdown restrictions kept people at bay. I counted only three other speakers (all male) in the area and the odd passer-by. As a 50-strong crowd began to form around Kellie-Jay, it was clear that the afternoon belonged to women.
The atmosphere was great – after nine months of lockdown it almost felt like a reunion and the big smiles and hearty greetings were in sharp contrast to the dreary weather. There were a number of familiar faces, too: Jo Brew from WHRC, Janice Williams from Object!, Stella the cartoonist, Maria MacLachlan, Venice Allan and Julia Long. The crowd was diverse, with women from all walks of life, ages, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, and a number of men to support them.
Kellie-Jay kicked off proceedings by stressing the importance of speaking up and the need for as many “Dangerous women with their dangerous opinions” to share their individual perspectives. What followed was one and half hours of rousing and moving talks from 18 speakers, ranging from impassioned rallying cries to poetry, critical analysis to the deeply personal. It was a stark reminder of the countless ways in which women’s lives throughout history have been impacted by inequality because of their sex, and how the current gender craze is seeking to undo all the progress made to date by denying what a woman even is.
“In the seventies my mum was told she couldn’t be a doctor because she was a girl, now we can’t even name ourselves as women.” – Diane
“Women have literally had to fight for everything that men have been given – we’ve had to fight for university, to play football, to box, to run marathons, to go to a bar, for public toilets and much, much more. None of these fights or victories will matter if men can opt into womanhood simply by saying they’re women. Did the suffragettes suffer those abuses for men to simply become us? No they didn’t.” – Heidi
“Just defining ourselves as women, as female, as human is the political struggle of our age.” – Venice Allan
Other speakers like Jo, Bernadette, Julia and Maria pointed out how to take direct action, which protected rights and proposed policy changes not to let out of sight, which books to read and which campaigners to follow.
As absurd as it sounds in 2021 that simply saying “a woman is an adult human female” is an act of rebellion, last Sunday proved how invigorating and necessary it is to do so in the fresh air of Hyde Park, away from the toxicity of social media, with a group of people that couldn’t have shown more camaraderie and support. Diane’s speech in particular hit home for many, and showed not only the effect words can have on a crowd, but also how the act of speaking up impacts the speakers themselves.
On two occasions the police tried to intervene as they had concerns over the size of the crowd and the lack of social distancing. One officer spoke to Kellie-Jay on the side but she wasn’t having any of it, which is no surprise considering she was arrested in Leeds last year after a fully risk-assessed speakers’ corner event there: “I’m not the organiser, I just said I’d be here so I’m not legally responsible for what they do.” Another officer tried to interject one of the speakers mid-flow, who simply responded with “Sorry, I’m in the middle of something” and carried on. Kellie-Jay later jokingly asked the crowd to split into two sections (“I don’t know, like a binary division”) to appease the police.
The rain was almost a blessing: at one point Kellie-Jay and Venice held up two hot pink umbrellas with the words ‘Adult Human Female’ to shield a speaker from the rain, an image that only got stronger as more pink umbrellas went up and it looked like a protective dome was being raised from the ground. Hot pink may not have been the colour of choice for some of the radfems present, but it was a defiant statement in the face of the very concept of ‘woman’ being dismantled at breakneck speed.
Afterwards most of the crowd headed to the pub – for many the first time in months. Some of those who had come down alone later remarked how they’d made new friends that day, which reminded me of the connections I’ve made since first going along August last year.
Kellie-Jay is planning to come down to Speakers’ Corner again on 27th June and to make it a monthly event for women to connect, learn, recharge and most of all speak up.
Come out, take to the ladder, and be a dangerous woman – you have a month to get ready.
You can watch the speakers here (Diana’s speech runs from 49:00 – 52:30).
Photos by Tones of Monochrome Photography. Visit their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/tonesofmonochrome/