“What is a woman?” a flyer for the Hear Me Roar protest read, “We are called menstruators, cervix havers, birthing people and chest feeders. The only people it’s OK to call a woman are, in fact, men.”
Last Friday’s rally was spurred on by the medical journal The Lancet referring to women on its September cover as ‘bodies with vaginas’, Labour leader Keir Starmer declaring the phrase “Only women have a cervix” as something that “shouldn’t be said”, and Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy referring to women defending their legal protections as “dinosaurs hoarding rights.”
When life begins to feel like an episode of Black Mirror meets The Handmaid’s Tale you can either shake your head in disbelief or throw some Jurassic Park in the mix. Kellie-Jay Keen (Standing for Women) and Katy Worley (Make More Noise) opted for the latter, organising the protest to once again remind scientists and politicians that women will fight the erasure of their rights and their language come hell, high water or an asteroid.
Around a 100 women (and some men) gathered outside The Lancet’s offices at noon, their colourful dinosaur-themed placards and shopping bags (for hoarding rights) juxtaposed with the now iconic black and white signs with the dictionary definition of ‘woman’. Six 6.5 feet tall ‘Tervosauruses’ towered over them as some shouted “Stop dehumanising women!” and others sang “Who can say what a woman is?” to the sounds of whistles and a drum. Kellie-Jay raised her megaphone and addressed passers-by and the traffic: “If you are wondering why there are so many women with signs that say ‘Woman Adult Human Female’ it’s because The Lancet called us ‘bodies with vaginas’. All of us are here today to say that we will not stand for the erasure of women, our language nor our rights. The word ‘woman’ is not hate speech!”
Some of the protesters handed out leaflets to drivers and engaged with pedestrians and friendly police officers. The mood turned jubilant as #HearMeRoar started trending and passing cars, buses and trucks tooted in support. A female ambulance driver smiled broadly and raised a fist as she drove past. “We all looked at each other and realised we can win this”, one of the protesters tweeted later.
After an hour and a half the group made its way to Parliament Square where they put their signs up at the Millicent Fawcett statue and some of the women spoke, before heading to Labour’s head offices as the final stop of the protest. The Tervosauruses set up a ‘nest’ and placed a number of eggs in them, each representing different aspects of women’s rights fast being erased in the name of ‘inclusivity’: women’s sports, lesbian rights, female only changing rooms, single-sex prisons, free association, dignity and respect, the right to a female carer, accurate crime statistics and truthful reporting. Next to the nest a banner was put up saying “Dinosaurs went extinct – so will Labour without women.”
The early afternoon had been characterised by good-humoured protesting and laughter, but outside Labour’s offices the mood turned angry. “Woman is not a dirty word!” said Katy as she popped her head out of her Tervosaurus costume and pointed out the importance of each ‘egg’ to the crowd. “Thousands of women are tearing up their membership cards over this” said another speaker in response to David Lammy’s claims that “this is not an issue on the doorstep.”
A primary school teacher delivered a barnstorming speech about ‘being kind’: “Thanks to women who were NOT kind, women have the right to vote, the right to safely participate in society without prejudice, the right not to be raped by a husband… so no, I will not ‘be kind’ while we are murdered, abused and preyed upon because of our sex!” She pointed out how it was only in 2004 that an assault by a man on his wife was made an arrestable offence – the first change in domestic violence law since 1895 when it became illegal for a husband to beat his wife between the hours of 10pm and 7am because the noise was keeping people awake. “Which of our rights would you like us to ‘be kind’ about as they are rendered meaningless by redefining female to include anyone who says they are a woman?” she asked.
The protest ended with shouts of “Shame!” and “Lammy, Lammy, Lammy, out, out, out!” as Labour staff were looking down from behind the glass. As they returned to their desks the dinosaurs went off to a nearby watering hole with a renewed sense of hope; Labour may have turned a deaf ear but the public had been supportive and the word was getting out. Pictures of the protest started coming up on the Google listings for ‘The Lancet’ and ‘Labour HQ’.
Judging from the level of passion, dedication and creativity on display last Friday David Lammy may have inadvertently given women a powerful symbol to rally around. Virtue-signalling politicians and publications would do well to take note: women’s rights protests are increasing in frequency around the UK and no asteroid is forecast to hit the Earth any time soon. As one poster read: “A cervix brought you into this world, cervices will vote you out.” Ignore the roar of the dinosaur at your own peril.
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