Deeds not Words: If we stand up; if we speak out; if You rise; if You speak out!

Gemma Griffiths – 35 Year Old Engineer, Manchester

Before I start I want to address some misconceptions that we’re all white middle class feminists, that normal women can’t do anything because they don’t know enough or they aren’t versed enough in feminist literature.

I am a working class woman, I grew up in a working class town without any feminist role models. It took me until my 30s to raise the courage to go to a local feminist group meeting, so concerned was I with these misconceptions; what I found was normal women, women like you dear reader.

I’m not a writer, I am not a public speaker, I spend half my life worried I am saying the wrong thing but I refuse to be silent, I refuse to let the hard-won rights of women and girls be eroded and erased.

As I write this the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word Woman has been deemed Transphobic.

Woman – Adult Human Female

Female – Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilized by male gametes.

The language women use to describe themselves is being rendered meaningless; women are being interviewed under caution and subjected to private prosecutions; women meeting to discuss and debate changes to the law are subject to intimidation, harassment and bomb threats.

Some of us have been vocal about this slow erosion of women’s hard-won rights, receiving horrific abuse over social media, threats of rape, harassment of our employers.

Others have been vocal while remaining anonymous – for every visible woman there are 10 behind her working in the shadows too afraid to risk their jobs, their careers, their safety and their security.

Still more watch on saying nothing, doing nothing.

Every week women are losing more ground; every week the institutional misogyny that permeates our society grows more confident and women suffer, girls suffer; with every victory the rising tide grows more confident and sees another opportunity to undermine and to erode, to erase.

Today a small number of women will stand in a stone circle embellished with the words of the famous suffragette leader Emmaline Pankhurst “Deeds Not Words”.

The time for standing, silently watching, hoping sanity will prevail is over; now is the time for deeds.

Your deeds don’t need to be big, a simple act of speaking up, speaking out.

Today we call to you silent women, you anonymous women; we stand with courage in front of an increasingly hostile world and we call to you; with the words of our foremothers who fought for so hard, for so long; We call to you.

Speech Given 29th September 2018 – Manchester

I stand before you here today, one hundred years after Emmeline Pankhurst and her suffragettes waged a civil war against the male population of the UK, to once again incite the women of the UK to rebellion.

I stand here with these brave women to say, “Enough! No More! We will no longer be casualties of this War on Women that has been waged against us for all these years! It is time to end this! It is time for women to rise, to speak up! No more hushed conversations, no more anonymous women secretly fighting in the resistance! Once again we must wage a civil war and this time we must not lay down our arms until the war is won and we are liberated from the patriarchal chains, the misogyny that permeates the foundations and the very core of this society.”

You may think that my words are too strong; that this talk of war is over dramatic as women have achieved equality, so I will borrow some of Mrs Pankhurst’s words from her speech Freedom or Death not to advocate for women’s rights but to convince you of the necessity of taking up revolutionary methods, to convince you of the necessity of standing up and speaking out.

I, as Mrs Pankhurst, am here as a soldier, having temporarily left the field of battle to explain to you what civil war is like when its waged by women. Now you may be confused, what civil war?

For this war is fought behind closed doors, by men and the so-called progressive left against women, against free speech and against democracy. The weapons of this war are not always physical, yet they inflict as much damage to woman and girls.

In spite of this we, as our foremothers, hear a good deal about revolutionary methods not being necessary for women, because women have now gained equality with men.

Most of the people of the United Kingdom quite calmly acquiesce; the fact is, half of the community, 51% of the population, are subject to everyday sexism, misogyny and a culture of rape and sexualisation of the female body and yet we women, in order to justify the necessity of our civil war, in order to justify the use of revolutionary means, in trying to make our case clear, always have to make as part of our argument, and urge upon men in our audience, the fact – a very simple fact – that women are human beings. Not witches, not TERFs or any number of dehumanising slurs used against women.

It is quite evident you do not all realize we are human beings or it would not be necessary to argue with you that women may, suffering from intolerable injustice, be driven to adopt revolutionary methods. We have first to convince you we are human beings.

A great many of you have been led to believe, from the somewhat meagre accounts you get in the newspapers, that in England there is a strange manifestation taking place, a new form of hysteria being swept across part of the feminist population of these Isles, and this manifestation takes the shape of bigoted hate groups meeting to discuss the oppression of more vulnerable groups, the denial of sex workers an occupation and denial of basic rights to respectable, honest trans people who want to attend to their business and live their authentic lives.

As Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson so angrily raged last week, it is very irrational: even if these women had sufficient intelligence to understand what they were doing, and really did want equality and liberation, they have adopted very irrational means for achieving their aim.

“How are they going to persuade people that they ought to have liberation?”

Now, if you say that, it shows you do not understand the meaning of our revolution at all.

Suppose the men of the UK had a grievance and they laid that grievance before their legislature and the legislature obstinately refused to listen to them or to remove their grievance.

Suppose over 300 of those men resigned their party membership in protest and the legislature still refused to listen to them, would those men fall silent? Would those men calmly accept there is nothing else to be done? They would have to choose either submit indefinitely to an unjust or they would have to rise, make their voices heard.

There is a picture, a contrast I want to draw.

We have Trans rights activists preaching misogynistic hate speech against women and lesbian women, in particular, justifying rape and bloodshed in defence of trans rights lorded in the media, showered with praise and awards.

And then we have distinguished feminists like Linda Bellos and Venice Allan in court this week. Posie Parker interviewed under caution.

And what is their crime? Did they threaten physical violence? Did they post death or rape threats?

Their crime is the crime of free speech, of wrong think; their crime is being female, unable to remain silent under constant bombardment by a society that hates women at its very core.

I want to make you understand that this civil war carried on by women is not the hysterical manifestation which you think it is, but is carefully and logically thought out, and I think when I have finished you will admit the grievance, admit the strength of the cause.

You will say that we could not do anything else, that there is no other way, that we have either to submit to intolerable injustice and let the woman’s movement go back and remain in a worse position than it was before we began, or we have to go on with these methods until victory is secured; and I want also to convince you that these methods are going to win, because when you adopt the methods of revolution there are two justifications which I feel are necessary or to be desired.

The first is, that you have good cause for adopting your methods in the beginning, and secondly that you have adopted methods which, when pursued with sufficient courage and determination are bound, in the long run, to win.

Now I will diverge from Mrs. Pankhurst’s words for we 21st century women have thus far fought this war on women not in the militant way our foremothers did.

Although we are accused of many things we modern women have been militant only in a figurative sense. We have organised and attended debates; we have produced scientifically based resources and we have peacefully demonstrated, accessing male-only spaces; I admit, some of us, like our great grandmothers have damaged property by placing stickers in public locations.

However, like our foremothers we have found all the fine phrases about freedom and liberty are entirely for male consumption and that they do not in any way apply to women. We have found that “government of the people, by the people and for the people” which is also a time-honoured liberal principle, is again only for male consumption; half of the people are entirely ignored.

It is the duty of women to pay their taxes and obey the laws and look as pleasant as they can under the circumstances; in fact, every principle of liberty enunciated in any country on earth, with very few exceptions, is intended entirely for men and when women try to force the putting into practice of these principles for women, then they discover we have come into a very, very unpleasant situation indeed.

In freedom or death Mrs. Pankhurst argued that government does not rest upon force at all: it rests upon consent. As long as women consent to be unjustly governed, they can be, but if directly women say: “We withhold our consent, we will not be governed any longer so long as that government is unjust.” Not by the forces of civil war can you govern the very weakest woman. You can kill that woman, but she escapes you then; you cannot govern her.

And that is, I think, a most valuable demonstration we have been making to the world. We have been proving in our own person that government does not rest upon force; it rests upon consent; as long as people consent to government, it is perfectly easy to govern, but directly they refuse then no power on earth can govern a human being, however feeble, who withholds his or her consent: Freedom or death!

Now I don’t advocate for death, the use of violence or physical force; as in Mrs Pankhurst’s time the women of this war have always believed human life is sacred and in a woman’s revolution we respect human life, and we stop short of injury to human life. We believe in human rights and the protection of those rights for all.

This war is not to be fought with weapons it is to be fought with the heart and the mind.

My point is consent; if we as women refuse to consent to be governed by this society so rotten to its core, so full of hate for us, if we refuse to stand by while injustice rages around us and refuses to let us claim our stake in this community’s future then this community, this society must change.

If we stand up; if we speak out; if You rise; if You speak out!

We remove our consent and they must then give us our freedom.

Millicent Fawcett said: “Courage calls to courage everywhere and its voice cannot be denied!”

We women here stand with courage and we call to you to find yours!

In this circle marked with the rallying cry of our foremothers: “Deeds not Words!”

I call to you, I incite the women of this country to rebellion, I incite the women of this country to civil war!

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1 Response to Deeds not Words: If we stand up; if we speak out; if You rise; if You speak out!

  1. Angela Howard says:

    Breathtaking!

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