Transactivists and their supporters repeatedly ripped down the event flyers put up by Lesbians and Feminists Rise Up at a Fayetteville cooperative. The coop management told its staff to make sure no one took flyers down from the owner bulletin board. The transactivists then escalated their attacks and initiated a Facebook and email campaign against the coop. The coop removed all its bulletin boards! Then no one could put up flyers and one of the owners campaigned to have the bulletin boards restored. Paula Mariedaughter, Darlene Clubb and Jeanne Neath all gave short presentations and submitted written comments about the transactivist actions to the Board of Directors of Ozark Natural Foods at their January 23, 2018 meeting.
Paula Mariedaughter: “Political disagreement is an opportunity for discourse that is part of a free society, and should be encouraged. When any questions or concerns are written off as hate speech, bigotry or “transphobia”, discourse cannot take place.” This quote is from Ruth Barrett in the anthology Female Erasure.
I have lived for over forty years as a dyke–I am a gender non-conforming woman! I am proud to call myself a Radical Lesbian Feminist. At times, I have been considered too “femme” by some of my dyke friends. At the same time, I have been considered too “butch” by the straight world. My desire is to live as my authentic self. I want this for everyone. Socially enforced “femininity” and “masculinity” are straight-jackets meant to restrict all of us.
The experience of women only space has sustained me during the last four decades. I need and want to be with like-minded women. We sustain each other–we laugh, cry, and plot and grow together. Being with women is the best decision I ever made.
I am disappointed in the many young people who so easily dismiss me and my life experience as a woman trying to create a better world for all of us! I am disappointed in the so-called “progressive community” who is so eager to embrace any underdog, except women.
In its simplest form, we have a political disagreement about the proposition that “men can be women”. Some people say yes. Some of us say no. We believe open discussions about all the issues involved is vitally important.
I am troubled that those who do not want open discussion have forced the coop into removing the community bulletin boards.
I am hungry for free and open discussion about biological sex, gender and sexism. Censoring conflicting ideas, conflicting world views is not the answer.
Darlene Clubb: I support the removal of the bulletin board as a measure that protects the safety of The Coop, the safety of women and as an unbiased statement of support for a civil public dialogue between feminists and the transgender community and their allies. Were the board to be re-instated, I believe fairness requires that posts from lesbian feminists as well as the transgender community and allies be allowed. I would also recommend establishing requirements for civil dialogue.
I am speaking tonight as someone who is a member of The Coop (ONF) and who has worked in Cooperatives since the mid 70’s. In my work I have served on several Collectives, including that of Frontier Cooperative Herbs and I am someone who has a very deep commitment to cooperative communities as well as cooperative economics. I am also speaking as a lesbian and a feminist who is participating in the Community Dialogue Meetings which arose out the controversy that shut down a workshop at the Goddess Festival in 2017. With regard to the bulletin board that was taken down due to the controversy between lesbian feminists and the ideology of the political transgender movement, I want to commend The Coop for taking it down, for not showing prejudicial preference to transgender ideology, and for recognizing that relative to the mission and purpose of ONF, this disagreement may well be considered an “outside issue.”
Through taking this stance, I believe you have wisely protected ONF from further and more violent attacks by the same people who attacked and threatened The Goddess Festival, Omni and Omni’s director, Gladys Tiffany, and the women who attempted to have a workshop for biological women. Attacks such as what took place around the Goddess Festival reflect the political strategies being promoted and used by the worldwide transgender movement. Women creating space for biological women to gather without the presence of transgender people are being systematically attacked around the world. Like the Goddess Festival workshop, such spaces are being shut down and disallowed. Efforts to create a respectful public dialogue–or even a respectful agreement to disagree–are likewise being violently shut down. This is a political strategy to dominate in the court of public opinion, and it is endangering women’s safety. Members of the transgender community and their allies are calling simple statements of biological fact hate speech and calling feminists politically inflammatory names such as “bigot”, “racists”, “TERF” and “transphobic.” These tactics of bullying, name calling, calls for boycotting businesses, and threats of violent male retaliation against women are preventing a civil public dialogue.
So while I am sorry that the bulletin board had to be removed, I believe it was a wise decision which protects The Coop as well as the health and safety of women. Lesbian feminists are not attacking transgender people. We have been verbally and physically assaulted by transgender people denying us the right to gather privately, and we are simply trying to defend our safety and personal boundaries. Whether intentional or not, thru removing the bulletin board you are encouraging the transgender community and their allies to cease their violent attacks on us and participate in a respectful public dialogue for which I applaud you and give thanks.
Jeanne Neath: I want to address the controversy over the bulletin board and the posters announcing women only events at ONF. I am one of the women who has been putting up the flyers for women only events at ONF. I am a strong supporter of ONF and have been a member of ONF since 1988.
Here at ONF, here in Fayetteville and all over the U.S., Britain, and Australia, transactivists have been attacking feminists. By allowing freedom of speech on its owner bulletin board ONF inadvertently became a target for transactivists determined to prevent discussion of questions being raised by women about some of the claims of the transgender movement. The campaign against ONF followed the script being used by transactivists nationally and internationally: Facebook posts to stir up emotion, phone and email campaigns to pressure the target, accusations of fascism or being a hate group. ONF took down its bulletin boards before the campaign could escalate into boycotts or pickets.
What is at the heart of transactivists’ vendetta against feminists? What is the point of all this activity? – To silence women and prevent women from meeting in women only public spaces! What are the questions that transactivists are so determined to prevent women from asking? Here is one. Who is a woman?
In Britain transactivists are very close to national legislation saying that any male can become a woman by simply saying he is and signing a form. Transactivists do not want women raising questions about the rights of biological males to claim to be women. And women are raising questions! Can a male be a woman just because he says he feels like a woman? How can he possibly know how women experience our bodies and our lives? We women have a lifetime worth of biological and social experiences from our first menses, to growing up as girls in a woman-hating, sexist society, to health concerns about birth control, pregnancy, and childbirth, difficulty obtaining abortions, and the complications of menopause.
Women know how different we are from males who become transgender. We support transgender peoples’ rights to live free from discrimination and free to act in whatever masculine or feminine ways they want. But we cannot allow male to transgender people to steal what belongs to women – our identity as women and our right to define our own group. Not all transgender people follow the transactivist party line – some understand that male to transgender persons are not and can never be women. Some support women’s rights to meet in our own groups.
Women have a powerful, visceral need to be with other women. Women will never be free of patriarchy unless we can come together to organize in our own groups.
Who is a woman? Can biological males be women? Is the answer to this question so perfectly clear, so settled and agreed upon by all of society that there is no need to ever discuss it? Are we as a society going to change a definition as central to society as the definition of who is a woman without public discussion?
Transgender activists do not have the right to determine who is a woman. Claiming to “feel like a woman” is not the same as BEING a woman! The question of who is a woman needs to be openly discussed among women and by the entire society. Hopefully, ONF can find a way to facilitate open communication among its members on this important question, at least through an owner bulletin board that insists on free speech. But, better to have no bulletin board at all than to censor and silence women.
Is the progressive community in northwest Arkansas going to allow its organizations to be bullied by a faction in the transgender movement who are attempting to limit free speech by calling anyone who disagrees with them, anyone who simply supports free speech, a fascist or part of a hate group? Is the progressive community in northwest Arkansas going to act as misogynists and participate in the silencing of women and lesbians?