Why I was rejected for Labour Party membership and my response

I updated this blog on 7 July 2020, why I decided that I wouldn’t walk away from the Labour Party, but would continue to challenge their refusal of my membership application.

I’m a feminist from a working-class background. I was social-class conscious before I was sex-class conscious. I’d been a member, admittedly largely inactive, of the Labour Party for most of my adult life. I’d managed to hold my nose when Tony Blair changed Clause IV in 1995, and it was removed from membership cards, symbolising to me, a move away from the party’s proud socialist history. But I resigned at some point about  ten years later when his promises to reform the House of Lords failed and I was angry that a party supposedly based on equality baulked when it came to dealing with such a blatant example of inherited privilege.  I can’t remember when I re-joined but I resigned for a second time in 2018 when the then General Secretary, Jennie Formby, announced that all-women-shortlists would no longer be women only. The conflict between my feminism and the party’s commitment to dealing with sex inequality felt irreconcilable.  

I was devastated by the results of the general election in December 2019. I’d voted for Labour, of course.  I was barely interested in the furore around Corbyn. Labour are a political party, not a cult, and it has always been the party’s principles and their manifesto that mattered to me more than the leader; and the 2019 manifesto set out objectives that I would want to see underpinning society. It seemed to me – as it still does – that a Labour Party that didn’t meet my feminist ideals offered better opportunities for ordinary women than any other party. I was gutted at the thought of another five-years   of Tory rule, let alone the prospect of ten, so I applied to re-join within days of the defeat. 

Just over three months after I had applied to join the Labour Party, I received a letter (carrying the Stonewall logo) by email saying my membership had been rejected because: “information brought to our attention is that you have engaged in conduct online that may reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility based on gender identity.” The letter contained no evidence to back this assertion, so I appealed against the decision and submitted a subject access request. 12 weeks later, I received an email with an attachment to a document containing 14 tweets that, I must conclude, illustrate my on-line crimes. I was invited to make a “statement giving your reasons why you should be accepted into membership of the Labour Party and your reply to the decision to reject your application.”  I’ve decided to make my reply – and the reasons for their rejection – open. The tweets cover these eight issues:  

  1. Men’s fatal violence against women
  2. Not all feminists are the same
  3. Fantasies of totalitarian regimes
  4. Women’s sport and human rights
  5. Jess Phillips and the smell of sexism
  6. Non sequiturs
  7. Lesbians’ right to set their own sexual boundaries  
  8. Poodle kitten extermination and probable extinction
  1. Men’s Fatal Violence Against Women

The case against me

My defence

I spend a lot of time working on men’s fatal violence against women.  I calculated that number for a blog that I wrote in 2018, available here. I updated that figure in 2019, see here . So as far as I am able to find, the most recent data for the UK suggests that between 2007 and 2019, there were 62% more homicides perpetrated by trans-identified males than there were homicides of  people (who were all male) who identified as transgender.

I happen to think that knowing the truth about sex differences and fatal violence is an essential step towards ending men’s fatal violence against women.  I would also say that the truth is also an important step in addressing violence against those who identify as transgender, or indeed men’s violence against other men.

2. Not all feminists are the same

The case against me

My defence

There are variations on an allegation regularly made by trans extremist ‘activists’ that UK feminist groups are allied to and indeed funded by the religious Right in the USA.  It may be true of some women who consider themselves to be ‘gender critical’, some but not all of whom also consider themselves to be feminists. It isn’t true of any groups I’m involved with, any women I’m friends with and it isn’t true of me. It pisses me off. Don’t generalise from the beliefs or actions of some (and make)  an assumption about the beliefs or actions of all of any demographic. I thought that was a pretty basic principle. Evidently not one that the Labour Party thinks is important.

3. Fantasies of totalitarian regimes  

The evidence against me

My (partial) defence

Ermm, seriously?  I sincerely promise that I do not want to overthrow this fragile constitutional monarchy with a totalitarian regime that bans words. Actually, I’d love to get rid of the embarrassment that is the ‘royal family’, but it wasn’t what I was thinking about when I wrote this tweet; and I will admit that I think the phrase ‘gender-neutral’ is an oxymoron. There’s nothing neutral about gender, it’s a primary weapon of patriarchy functioning to enforce women’s sex-based oppression.

4. Women’s sport and human rights

The case against me

My defence

I absolutely stand by every word.

5. Jess Phillips and the smell of sexism

The case against me

My defence

Jess Phillips does important work on domestic violence and abuse though her role as an MP. I am particularly grateful to her for reading the names of all women killed by men (collected by me), on International Women’s Day every year for the last four years. I know this means a lot to many of the friends and families of women killed and I feel so very honoured to have played a role in getting their names recorded in Hansard. However, I strongly disagree with the opinions she expressed in Mumsnet and Penis News interviews. I also believe that some of the critique (at best), trolling and the death threats she has received are rooted in sexism and misogyny. It reeks. I can disagree with her on this issue (and others) and still respect and feel grateful for her work on men’s violence against women.

6. Non sequiturs

The case against me

My defence

I take full responsibility for this appalling non sequitur. What was I thinking? I’m sorry. Maybe it made sense at the time but it doesn’t now.

7. Lesbians’ right to set their own sexual boundaries  

The case against me

My defence

I stand by every word.  Lesbians are same-sex attracted women and I will defend their right to set their sexual boundaries on this basis. To require otherwise is lesbophobia. Can someone in the Labour Party or anywhere else justify this? 

8.        Poodle kitten extermination  and probable extinction

The case against me

My defence

I really, really, really do not wish death upon poodle kittens. They’re such gorgeous little grumpy faced gremlins. I would never knowingly bring one to harm. Save the poodle kittens!

Sex and gender aren’t the same though. In the context that I was using the words, one refers to whether a human being is female or male. The other (as I have mentioned above) is a primary weapon of patriarchy functioning to enforce women’s sex-based oppression. It isn’t helpful to confuse the two.

To conclude

I believe in universal human rights. I would love to see a government based on socialist, anti-sexist and anti-racist principles.  None of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or Green Party are good for women, or poor people, or people of African, Caribbean, Asian or Arabic or any other non-Caucasian heritage. I’ll never vote for the Conservatives as long as I can draw breath. I can’t imagine voting Lib Dem because their libertarianism is too often at the expense of women’s rights and dignity, and the Greens (as they are) are a lost cause. I want to be able to vote Labour with pride and as a member.

Apparently, the tweets above (and to be honest plenty more where they came from) make me unworthy of the Labour Party. From where I stand though, if the Labour Party defends the positions in opposition to them, the Labour Party is letting women down. I believe a Labour Party that actively tackles misogyny, sexism, sex discrimination and sex inequality is worth fighting for.

Labour Party Policy should be developed through the National Policy Forum, not indirectly determined by the membership committee by refusing membership to people with ideals that are not even incompatible with the party manifesto.

I would like to see a Labour government.

I do not believe that people can change sex. I do believe that women are discriminated upon on the basis of sex. I think the 2019 manifesto demonstrated that the Labour Party knows this too.

SUSAN B ANTHONY