Witch-Burning Is Alive and Well Today

From Bordeaux to the British Parliament Women Are Not Safe

On 12 September in Bordeaux, a man took a flare and attempted to burn women marching with Résistance Lesbienne, a French radical feminist lesbian collective. The video posted by Résistance Lesbienne briefly describes what transpired, “Trans-identified male ‘[A]antifa’ tries to burn lesbians at Bordeaux Pride (France).” 

There is a second video by a female who witnessed the incident. It shows a man in black holding the left side of a banner with his right hand as he and the others move up with their sign perpendicular to the procession. He screams repeatedly, “Get lost!” as he rushes towards the procession of women directly in front of him. The women he approaches are holding signs as he aims specifically at those who hold a banner that reads “Lesbians don't have penises” as he unpacks a flare, lights it and then holds it out with his left hand aiming it at the women. This video shows how close this man came to burning the lesbian activists.

Résistance Lesbienne attended Bordeaux Pride this year to oppose the demands made of lesbians to negate their sexual preferences by obliging them to include males who identify as “transgender” or even those men who have one of myriad identities. Joan, a member of Résistance Lesbienne, tells me that this is not the first incident of violence as she relates how women from Résistance Lesbienne were attacked during the Pride in Paris. This too was captured by video.

Joan was at last week’s Pride March in Bordeaux with Résistance Lesbienne which was composed of nine other women who had travelled from around the country. She recounts what happened at the march: “We got there and there was someone from Pride who came to talk with us to ask if we were staying for the march. When we said that we were marching his answer was to say “OK” adding that he would later give us information about our participation in the Pride march.” He didn’t come back to give any details of the march to women, as Joan tells me, “We think that he let the other groups know in order for them to expel us from the march, letting us know that we were not welcome.”

Joan tells me that Résistance Lesbienne in Bordeaux involved seven women marching in the procession while three other women acted as security. They handed out fliers and peacefully marched. While walking, Joan noticed a man coming at her and the other women: “He held a flare that he lit and then approached us from the rear of the procession of women.” Joan and other women were blocked from the rear and the left by the man holding the flare and they were also blocked from in front by three or four women who blocked their exit. “I had the flame several centimetres from my leg,” Joan relates adding, “When we understood that we were blocked we exited from the right and that was the moment that we escaped. Even then, one of the women from the Antifa group followed us and told us to ‘get lost.’ Later, the organisers told us to leave and said it was for our security.” 

Joan tells me that the Bordeaux police witnessed the incident and did nothing. Résistance Lesbienne released a statement about the incident on 14 September and one person (@erinyah_) within the transgender community confirmed the attack tweeting: “[A] group of anti-fascist comrades intimidated the TERF[s] by lighting a flare and approaching them. I thank them because the TERF became frightened after that.”

Aside from the fact that the police allowed this incident to occur, the attacker has been liberally publicising his attempt on Twitter (@oviked) to burn “TERFs” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). One tweet presents a diptych wherein he has juxtaposed a photo of a wall graffitied with “TERFs at the stake” on the left, and on the right, a photo of him attempting to burn the women of Résistance Lesbienne. He is in good company with a tweet by @trannilusion that reads, “too bad those t*rfs didn’t really b*rn” among many others who support @oviked’s “witch” burning. Collages Féministes Bordeaux and Du Pain Et Des Roses have been identified as the two groups involved in the attacks from last Sunday as the former tweeted that they would “never be sorry for not standing up for hateful women” and the latter admitted to having torn off the women’s “transphobic banner.”

Where the attempt to burn “witches” took place in central Bordeaux in full visibility of the town’s citizens and the police while nobody blinked an eye, it is clear that we are seeing women being sorted into two groups: hateful and not worth defending and those who are worth burning, hence unworthy of defence. On the other side of the channel, a similar situation brews as we learned Sunday of Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield’s decision that she would not be attending this week’s Labour Party.

The Sunday Times reported that Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield pulled out of the party’s annual conference in Brighton this week due, in part, to threats of violence from transgender activists. The Times story covers how Duffield, Chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, made the decision not to attend this year’s Labour Party conference after she was advised that attending it was “not a good idea” citing that she “did not want to be the centre of attention.” In the article, Duffield describes her exhaustion and feeling “frightened” after last year’s Twitter attacks when she was called a “transphobe” for liking a tweet by Piers Morgan who mocked a CNN calling women “individuals with a cervix” in their tweet ostensibly set out to underscore the importance of screening tests for cervical cancer. Morgan replied: “Do you mean women?” She also liked a tweet by Maya Forstater which referenced “cross-dressers,” a term some trans activists claim is offensive. However, similar to punk pioneer trans-identified Jayne County who was banned from Facebook for using the word “tranny” in 2014, “cross-dresser” is a term that not only cross-dressers use, but so too does Stonewall. After receiving online threats from militant transgender activists, Duffield made the choice to step away from this year’s Labour Party event.

But even a full feature article replete with direct quotes from Duffield has been glossed over by other media outlets skimming the bottom of the media fish tank for a story that hardly approximated the facts of the SundayTimes coverage. The Independent’s Alastair Jamieson writes that Duffield will be missing the party’s annual conference this week because of “a dispute with LGBT+ members over her stance on transgender rights.” The Guardian’s political correspondent writes that Duffield “felt unable” to attend Labour gathering in Brighton this week because “she was made to feel unwelcome because of her views on trans women.” The threats are barely covered in either newspaper as if Duffield’s absence is a minor disagreement or her discomfort for absolutely no reason whatsoever. When you airbrush death threats from an article, the reader is left with the archetypical “difficult woman” paradigm which highlights the misogyny within left-leaning journalism today.

I mention the media coverage here because it is crucial that we understand how media has played into the partisanship of gender ideology that has attempted to undo women’s rights in recent years. Where journalists are given editorial high-fives to recast threats against a female politician as something other, women of far lower social and economic prominence understand in a split second what this means for their safety and their livelihoods. These women know that if nobody will protect Duffield, what chances have they of surviving the onslaught of identitarianism that has permeated almost every inch of our collective political atmosphere both in the public and private sectors.

Where a man in broad daylight went unobstructed in his attempt to burn women on the streets of Bordeaux last Sunday, this week’s revelation by a Member of Parliament that she must sit out a conference that is part of her profession due to concerns for her safety, women and men everywhere need to sit up and take note. When an MP is hounded out of the Labour Party conference because of her ability to recognise what a woman is, it’s not just women’s rights on the line—common sense and the freedom of expression have also been taken hostage. 

Simply wearing a t-shirt with “Woman=Adult, Human, Female” is enough to get women barred from standing for public office and banned from the party office for ten years. Just ask Natalie Bird, a forty-year-old mother of two who was blocked from standing in Wakefield, Yorkshire, and banned from the party office for ten years after a complaint about her wearing a T-shirt reading, “Woman: Adult, Human, Female.”

Bird was the Radical Association Chair, North West Executive and, she tells me that she had been shortlisted for a number of target seats within the party including Southport and Wells. In 2018, a complaint was made against Bird for raising concerns about the rights of vulnerable women and that men who identify as “transgender” were “allowed access to women's refuges.” In short, she was accused of “dangerous transphobia.” Bird tells me, that she received numerous complaints “for tweets, speaking, and for generally having a view on this topic” in addition to her having worn a “Woman=Adult, Human, Female” t-shirt at a party meeting. “I was selected as PPC (prospective parliamentary candidate) but unfortunately I couldn't run in the election due to wearing this t-shirt at a party meeting. The t-shirt incident led to a disciplinary hearing and sanctions as she relates, "I was not able to run in the election that Jo Swinson lost her seat in.” Bird then asked to appeal the sanctions the day after the panel's decision since it hadn’t considered all the evidence set before them. Bird continues, “The appeal then disappeared completely along with my complaints against the party—it completely disappeared into a black hole. They haven't acknowledged it or taken it forward at all.” Bird is now crowdfunding to “instruct lawyers to explore whether there have been breaches of the internal procedures of the Liberal Democrats and whether there have been breaches of the Equality Act 2010 against her (and potentially other women in the party).”

Duffield and Bird have been targeted for stating that sex is biological and that men are not women resulting in both women having been forced to abstain from their political professions—one temporarily until the end of the Labour Party conference this week and the other one for a decade. Where men’s rights to have their identity du jour enshrined into public and private life, into public policy and law, and into educational, legal, policing and medical institutions, women as far-flung as the British Parliament are vulnerable to a lobby that has held us all hostage by sheer illogic and the power to bully the subject from her profession. 

Let’s be clear here: The gender lobby has not won the argument—it has merely tossed its toys from the pram while getting everyone involved in cleaning up its mess as members of this self-appointed politburo spout off fake suicide stats and anti-science nonsense that do not resonate with reality. Fictional capture has so far won the day and it is no surprise that in an era of economic descent by the middle class that words have come to be the stand-in for the material comforts that fleeting wealth offers. 

There are many questions that we must ask as to how the divorce from material reality was ushered forth at breakneck speed from the left while it has so miserably failed to address issues of poverty, wealth inequality and myriad other aftereffects of late-stage capitalism. We must also query if our inability to address historical materialism within our current political structures might have led the middle class to harness power—albeit symbolically—within a domain almost entirely constructed of incoherent garble that makes Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs look positively Nobel Prize-worthy: the language of identity.

It’s not merely that a man wanted to publicly burn “witches” in France nine days ago, it’s that nobody in the crowd—not even the police—blinked an eye or attempted to intervene. There is a severe imbalance between those bodies who are allowed to throw a strop and those bodies who are expected to clean up the mess and indulge those having serial temper tantrums. Rarely, if ever, do we ask why we place the responsibility upon the majority of society to tolerate, coddle and accommodate the emotional volatility of a tiny fraction of the population who wishes that mermaids and unicorns were real. 

How did we arrive at this moment in time where we have perfectly divorced physical and social realities of import from the wanton desires of the individual to be “seen as”? This is just one of many questions that we must consider to include those women in Bordeaux who attempted to block the “fire exit” of the lesbian collective at risk of being “femmes brûlées” to the many female defenders of Owen Jones’ serialised misogyny. 

Duffield asks other significant questions about the role women have played in destroying the rights of women and girls:

Why are women so desperate to divorce themselves from everything they associate with being female? Why are they so uncomfortable? Why is it such a terrible place to be? These are questions that need answering and need to be discussed sensibly. It certainly rings massive alarm bells for people like me, of my generation, who have been feminists their entire lives.

While there is no shortage of implicit and explicit threats directed at Duffield, she has come out of last autumn’s Twitter pile-on with even more clarity about what is happening to women in the UK. She told The Times last year, “I’ll probably be killed at some point.” Now Duffield’s death has not only become the subject of menacing taunts sandwiched within more death threats by trans activists on Twitter since last year, but her comments on her own possible death at the hand of trans activists render visible that the space between the linguistic calls for death and the "witch-burning" of Bordeaux are merely nanoseconds apart.