Pages tagged "Speak Up For Women"

  • Censorship, NZME and transgender issues

    NZME refused to run advertisements placed by Speak up For Women because they were "potentially inflammatory, would compromise NZME's reputation and draw it into a debate in which it does not take a view".

    Publisher and broadcaster NZME could be facing a fiery annual shareholders' meeting next month because the Free Speech Union (FSU) has managed to put advertising and editorial independence on the agenda.Jenny Ruth

    There's no resolution to vote on, just an item for discussion, but one aspect that will likely exacerbate sensitivities is that the free speech issue that gave rise to the agenda item involves transgender politics.

    Last year, when the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Act was going through the process of becoming law, a group called Speak Up for Women (SUFW) wanted to run an advertisement in publications owned by NZME which consisted of the Oxford University definition of the word woman.

    For the record, that definition is: adult human female. 

    One of the changes to the Act was to make it easier for people to change the sex on their birth certificates without having to go through the Family Court or show evidence of medical treatment to change their sex.

    NZME refused to run the ad, even though the Advertising Standards Authority had rejected complaints about the ad, which had already appeared on a billboard.

    Socially responsible

    "In the context of advocacy advertising, the advertisement was socially responsible and did not reach the threshold to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence, did not cause fear or distress without justification, and was not misleading," ASA said.

    It had received 34 complaints about the billboard which accused it of being transphobic hate speech which could cause undue harm or offence to the transgender community.

    Essentially, the complainants said the ad was "a dog whistle" intended to inspire transphobia.

    SUFW had faced a concerted campaign to deny its members the right to speak, which included local councils including Christchurch, Auckland and Palmerston North cancelling meetings arranged at their venues.

    SUFW won a high court case allowing it to hold a meeting at the Palmerston North Library and Justice Gerard Nation said SUFW "cannot rationally be described as a hate group".

    SUFW was concerned that the legislation could remove the right of women and girls to single-sex spaces, such as changing rooms, hostels and prisons.

    It has also campaigned against the inclusion of transgender women in women's sport.

    SUFW provided me with a copy of a letter NZME sent it.

    Potentially inflammatory

    "As you know, we had previously requested that your advertisements have the definition of 'woman' removed, as we considered that these were potentially inflammatory, would compromise NZME's reputation and draw it into a debate in which it does not take a view from a commercial perspective," NZME's letter said.

    After saying it wouldn't run any further SUFW ads, spelling out a clause in its advertising terms and conditions giving it the right to make such decisions, it ended: " We do not intend to enter into correspondence regarding this decision."

    FSU spokesman Jonathan Ayling said he estimated shareholders accounting for about 10% of NZME shareholders had signed onto a letter to NZME's board drafted by his organisation decrying NZME's decision not to run the ad.

    Ayling said he had no difficulty getting the discussion item on the meeting's agenda and that NZME hadn't asked for proof that his organisation represented a sufficient number of shareholders to force the issue.

    "It's quite demonstrably clear that we have more than 5%. They didn't suggest we needed to provide proof of that, but I think it's quite obvious to the board," Ayling said.

    An NZME spokesperson disputed the 10% figure and said about 15% of NZME's shareholders live in New Zealand.
    "We think it's more like 2% or even less. I don't know where they're getting that information from."

    Half retail shareholders

    Having the backing of 10% of NZME's register may not look like much, but it looks like the FSU is representing nearly half the retail shareholders.

    Nominee companies, several from Australia, dominate NZME's register, accounting for 68.8% of its ownership while custodian companies of Forsyth Barr and Jarden own 8.3% and ACC owns another 4.24%, accounting for 77.3% in total.

    The FSU letter said that shareholders have an interest in commercial considerations being at the forefront when decisions are made on advertising content.

    "Yet we are of the opinion that NZME's commercial interests are best served when the company is seen to uphold a commitment to free speech and encourages robust debate on the pressing issue of the day," FSU said.

    "It is simply not consistent with the role of the fourth estate to be pulling the teeth out of a controversy and avoiding offence (which is ultimately not possible)."

    The letter went on to say that by refusing to run an ad, vetted by the ASA as legal and acceptable, NZME was "impeding free speech and acting as censor, rather than allowing a free and open marketplace of ideas without discrimination".


    To which I can only say, amen. I'm appalled at NZME trying to suppress SUFW's views.

    I'm also acutely aware that NZME owns BusinessDesk.

    But my view of its letter to SUFW is that NZME's position is simply untenable and amounts to censorship. Censorship and my understanding of journalism will always be in diametric opposition.

    I do have some sympathy with the transgender accusation that the definition of the word women could be used as a dog whistle.

    Nobody listening to the confirmation hearings last week for Ketanji Brown Jackson who has been nominated to join the US Supreme Court could have mistaken the blatant dog whistle senator Marsha Blackburn blew.

    Blackburn, a Republican, asked Jackson to define the word woman among a barrage of questions hitting just about all the current culture war issues, including transgender swimmer Lia Thomas being allowed to compete – and win – against other women at a college sports event.

    Blackburn's bad faith was undeniable, but the answer is not to try to suppress the issues she raised.

    Mud sticks

    Despite SUFW having won so many battles against being labelled transphobic, it's obvious the label has stuck – even one of my own colleagues told me he thought some of its members probably are transphobic.

    If that's true, then he'd have to label me transphobic too, but nothing could be further from the truth.

    If a person wishes to present themselves as the opposite sex to the one they were born with, I don't think that's any of my business, other than to accept them for who they are.

    Bathroom issues are simply ridiculous; it would be both cruel and dangerous to force a transgender woman to use a male toilet.

    Nor should transgender people be subjected to harassment and embarrassment in the name of security at airport checkpoints.

    But there is an undeniable issue with women's sport. There's a reason we have men's sports and women's sports.

    While women have advantages men don't share, bar the inevitable outlier, they simply aren’t as strong as men.

    If we keep going down the path of allowing women who grew up as men to compete in women's sports, that will simply spell the end of women's sports.

    I won't be erased

    I was among the group of women who established the first feminist refuge in Auckland for battered women which gave rise to today's Women's Refuge network.

    If a battered transgender woman had turned up on our doorstop, would we have turned her away? I don't think so, but there could well have been issues to deal with concerning other women we were sheltering at the time and their feelings of safety.

    Avoiding dealing with such issues because they make us feel uncomfortable won't make them go away.

    I bristle at being told I can't say things like "pregnant women" or "women with cervical cancer" anymore and that I should say pregnant "people" or "people" with cervical cancer so as to be inclusive of a vanishingly small minority of transgender men who might become pregnant or develop cervical cancer.

    That reminds me of being told when I was much younger that the word "man" included women when it patently does not. 

    The fact is, women have been erased from history for about as long as people have existed in many different cultures all over the world.

    I am an adult human female and I won't allow the transgender lobby erase me in the name of inclusion.

  • Free Speech Update: Dictionary definition of "woman" = hate speech | Army defeated by essay | Speakeasy invite |

    Dear Supporter,

    This update is a little longer than usual – the team has been busy with both the 'hate speech' campaign and the new attacks by New Zealand's would-be censors. As you'll see below, even the NZ Army has gone woke – censoring an essay competition winner that, well, argued that being able to fight as an army is as important as diversity. We're also inviting you to our first "Speakeasy" event on Thursday 22 July.

    Two more wins for free speech re Speak Up for Women

    Wellington Council forced to backtrack

    Speak Up for Women will hold a public meeting in Wellington tonight at the Michael Fowler Centre. The Council had sent lawyers to the High Court proceedings we supported in Auckland to see if they could get away with cancelling the event. Given the resoundingly strong judgement in our Court of Appeal judgement, and the subsequent High Court judgement in Speak Up for Women’s favour, Wellington City Council had no choice to back down.

    But that didn't stop Hutt City Mayor Cambell from sticking his oar in. Despite the High Court Judge stating that Speak Up for Women "cannot rationally be described as a hate group", here is what Mr Barry said on Facebook soon after the announcement of the Wellington event:

    Campbell Barry

    The comment reads “If this group needs a venue in the Hutt, I’ve got some nice new waste bins they can use?”

    Of course elected members are perfectly entitled to free speech too, as they are entitled to their personal views. But in their dispense of public facilities, they are required to maintain viewpoint neutrality. The Mayor should not be using their official platforms (Council halls/facilities) to take sides on issues – or mocking a group of feminists because he disagrees with their political views.

    As well as being discriminatory, the comment is in clear contradiction to the Court judgement we received last month that Councils cannot discriminate based on politics when making public facilities available. This comment flies in the face of the law, and is a gross breach of Mr Barry’s duties to uphold it.

    Your humble Free Speech Union laid a code of conduct complaint against Hutt City Mayor Campbell Barry last week. You can read the complaint here.

    Our pressure has forced the Mayor to apologise

    Our complaint had the desired impact. Yesterday's NZ Herald reported on the Mayor's apology and picked up my comments on behalf of the FSU:

    NZ Herald

    Dictionaries under attack?

    Definition of "woman" = hate speech?

    After the wins against councils, we hoped this issue might quieten down - but on Tuesday we got the news that a billboard in central Wellington has been pulled down because (you couldn't make this up!) the dictionary definition of "women" is, apparently,  "trans-exclusionary" and therefore may be "hate speech".

    Here's the Billboard Speak Up for Women put up on Monday:

    SUFW Billboard

    An online campaign (mostly on Twitter) targeting the Council and billboard company soon followed...

    TwitAnd while walking to work on Tuesday, we realised that the billboard company had capitulated:


    1News has picked up the story: 'Anti-trans' billboard removed from Wellington's CBD

    If a billboard with literally just the dictionary definition of "women" can be successfully accused of being 'hate speech' and therefore removed, what hope is there that the Government's criminalisation of hate speech laws won't be misused?

    What better example of why our work to defeat the Government's proposals is so important, and why we are asking Kiwis to donate to this important campaign to defend free speech?

    Naturally, we are talking to SUFW about their legal and political options. Maybe a friendly Wellington property owner will put their hand up to erect our own billboard in response? 😉


    Our first Speakeasy event: Free speech and the war over sex and gender

    Given recent events, we are delighted to announce our first Speakeasy webinar. Join us on July 22 at 7pm via Zoom for an evening of frank, informed conversation about free speech, why it matters and how it’s threatened today. 


    We'll be in conversation with our special guest, Kathleen Stock, author and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex. Kathleen has been aggressively targeted by the outrage mob for her insistence that the relationship between sex and gender can never be “beyond debate”. She has become a figurehead for the pushback against the censorious approach of organisations like "Stonewall", in which everyday language and ordinary people’s understanding of what men and women are have been declared offensive, bigoted or discriminatory.  

    Material GirlsKathleen will draw on the analysis set out in her new book, Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism, to take us through the reasons why this issue has become so controversial, not just amongst activists and intellectuals but across our institutions and our political and cultural life, leading to the extraordinary denunciation of JK Rowling and others. Throughout, Kathleen has exemplified the spirit of good faith debate and has actively defended the free speech of others. Last year she was awarded an OBE in recognition of her contribution to higher education.

    The event is exclusive to FSU members, members of Speak Up for Women, and those who helped crowdfund the recent free speech litigation against councils for trying to de-platform the group. If you’re a member or financial supporter, please register here.

    Update on our Hate Speech campaign - 25,000 kiwis on board ✍️

    More than 25,000 Kiwis have signed up to our "Save Free Speech" campaign against the Government's proposed hate speech laws – a great start. If you've not already, help get us to 30,000 and beyond by clicking here and sharing the petition on Facebook.

    We've nearly finished our formal submission and are currently building an online tool to make it easy for you to formally submit on the proposals. We'll email you the tool early next week.

    Briefing Paper on Government hate speech proposals

    Our volunteers are also reaching out to affected communities we think could be (or should be!) concerned about the legislation. We've put together a short briefing paper on what the proposals are (click here to read online). 

    Briefing paper cover

    Lee Williams: Should banks be pulling services for political views?

    We've had a number of enquiries over recent weeks about events involving controversial YouTuber Lee Williams (no relation) – who first came to our attention after media reported on apparent "white supremacist statements" and a campaign by the Twitter "community" to have Mr Williams sacked and more.

    In short, we are very concerned with Westpac's apparent decision to pull banking services on the basis of Mr Williams' political postings. It's one thing to lose your job for making political (or offensive, depending on your viewpoint) YouTube videos. It's quite another to lose the ability to bank. 

    In defending free speech, we are often required to defend views we don't agree with. That's the essential test of whether you're a champion for free speech or not. I shared my own views on Mr Williams material in this blog post, but ultimately my personal views are immaterial to the defence of free speech.

    If activists have the power to close their political opponents' bank accounts and prevent them from supporting themselves, this is a development that will have disastrous consequences for this country. After mounting this successful "campaign", who will they have their sights on tomorrow?

    I've written a blog piece about the issue, and written to Westpac. You can read both here.

    The essay that defeated the NZ Army?

    Last week an essay titled ‘Can the Army Afford to go Woke, Benign Social Progress or National Security Threat’ was selected as best written in a Defence Force essay writing competition. It was duly published on the Defence Force’s website before it mysteriously disappeared and was replaced with a note from the Chief of Army Major General John Boswell apologising for its publication.

    This is getting ridiculous. Our society was built on a commitment to free and fearless debate — a value that countless troops have laid their lives down for. The Defence Force should be steadfast in its defence of this sacred tradition, not seek to undermine it!

    We decided to republish the full essay on our website. Have a read and judge for yourself whether you think it should have been taken down and apologised for.

    If the NZ's armed forces won't defend our human rights, we need to! Thank you for your continued support.


    Jordan Williams
    General Secretary
    Free Speech Union


  • Complaint lodged against Hutt City Mayor for discrimination of a feminist group

    The Free Speech Union has lodged a formal complaint today with the Hutt City Council Chief Executive Jo Miller against Hutt City Mayor Campbell Barry in relation to a Facebook post where he suggested that a feminist group – whose political views he does not agree with – is to be allocated to Council “waste bins” if they try to organise an event there.

    Free Speech Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “As well as being discriminatory, the comment is in clear contradiction to the Court judgement we received last month that Councils cannot discriminate based on politics when making public facilities available.  This comment flies in the face of the law, and is a gross breach of Mr Barry’s duties to uphold it.”

    “We’ve gone to the CEO about this issue as she has said she is firmly in favour of SUFW’s right to speak and to hold meetings.  That acknowledgement of the seriousness means that she is almost certain to appoint an investigator, notwithstanding the complaint not yet having been laid by an elected official (although that may still happen).”

    “Elected officials need to get with the program. Free speech matters, and the law requires it. They cannot use public office and local facilities as personal serfdoms to discriminate against political views they do not like.”


  • Joint Media Release: Speak Up For Women wins free speech case


    Joint media release issued by the Free Speech Union and Speak Up for Women

    Today, Justice Gerald Nation granted Speak UP for Women interim relief against Palmerston North City Council, meaning their meeting to discuss the controversial sex self-identification clauses within the Births, Death, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill will go ahead tonight in the Palmerston North Central Library at 6:30pm as planned.

    In handing down the decision, Justice Nation noted: "Having considered the evidence and submissions of counsel, the Court grants the applicant the relief sought and makes an order that the licence to occupy created by the agreement to hire the mezzanine meeting space at the Palmerston North City Library between 6.30 pm and 8.00 pm on 25 June 2021 continues in force. Reasons will follow in due course."

    Speak Up For Women had also issued proceedings seeking an order that Auckland Council allow a booking for the Ellen Melville Centre on Sunday to proceed, for a similar meeting to be held. During the legal proceedings, it was disclosed by Auckland Council that they had identified a unique critical risk with the event proceeding at that location. Given this risk, Speak Up For Women agreed to the offer of a new location, and Auckland Council agreed to make a Public Statement which will be released before 5 PM today.

    The event in Auckland will now be held in a room within the Council owned Town Hall complex at the original time and date of 6:30pm on Sunday 27 June.

    "This case was important as it vindicates our group - believing that biological sex matters and should not be replaced by the idea of ‘gender identity’ in law is worthy of respect in a democratic society, and so entitled to protection under the right to freedom of expression" says Beth Johnson, spokeswoman for Speak Up For Women.

    In the hearing, counsel for both Auckland and Palmerston North City Councils acknowledged that it was neither Councils’ position that the case was about "hate speech".

    Rachel Poulain from Free Speech Union says "we’re delighted by this result - it’s a win for free speech in New Zealand, at least when it comes to Councils trying to deplatform views or groups they don’t like."

    Ms Johnson says: "As we are a grass-roots women’s group made up of volunteers, our funding comes solely from small donations. With the help of the Free Speech Union, we are crowdfunding to cover our legal costs. We hope to find support beyond feminist circles from New Zealanders who value freedom of speech as we do and who share our concerns about censorious public officials bowing to pressure from activists.

    New Zealanders who wish to support this effort to stand for free speech are encouraged to donate to the litigation fund at or to 06-0323-0706649-01. Donations to the fund will remain confidential to Speak Up for Women and the Free Speech Union.


    UPDATE: The Judge’s reasons have now been issued and available to read here.

  • Transcript of Interview with Speak Up For Women

    TRANSCRIPT: Free Speech Union Podcast interview with Beth Johnson, Spokeswoman for Speak Up For Women, June 7 2021

    David: Welcome everyone to the Free Speech Union Podcast. It’s David Cumin here as host, and I have with me Beth from Speak Up for Women. Welcome, Beth.

    Beth: Hi David, thanks very much for having me on your show.

    David: Thanks for coming on. Some of our listeners might not be entirely up to speed with what’s gone on and I wonder if you could just give us a brief background into why you're talking to the Free Speech Union?

    Beth: Okay, thank you. So, Speak Up For Women is running a series of public talks throughout New Zealand. We're talking about a piece of legislation that's coming up before Parliament later this year, coming up for its second reading and we’ve got fundamental issues with this legislation. We’re really concerned about some of the implications it will have, particularly for women and girls. So the purpose of our public talks across the country is to discuss what those issues are, to raise awareness of the issues and the fact that this bill was being pushed through. It hasn't even gone to public consultation, for example, so it was really about a grassroots movement to make the general public aware and let them know that they could write to their MPs, or sign our petition. We're trying to get the bill sent back to select committee.

    So that's the nature of why we’re having these talks. The content of the talks has come under attack and a lot of misinformation from our political opponents who don't want us talking about the issues with this law because they want it to be passed.

    Speak Up For Women actually formed in 2018, when we first got wind of the bill. It’s the Birth, Deaths and Marriages bill, and within it, inserted at select committee, was a controversial clause that would allow people to change the sex on their birth certificate by a statutory declaration.

    The current process requires people to satisfy the Family Court with medical evidence before they can change their birth certificate. So the current law has safeguarding in it. The new law would do away with all of that. This clauses was inserted at select committee after the first reading of the bill, after public submissions were closed, so there was no opportunity for the New Zealand public to discuss that clause, or the implications of it.

    So that's why we formed in 2018, to fight this bill and to actually put pressure on the Government to follow proper democratic process and send the bill back to select committee. Tracy Martin was the Minister in charge of the Department of Internal Affairs at the time, and so this was her bill, and following our campaign she actually sought legal advice from Crown Law, and they agreed with what we've been saying that the bill hadn't followed democratic process.

    And also, which was our main concern, that sex-self identification would conflate the idea of biological sex with this contested theory of gender identity. Conflate those two concepts and law, and that would have knock on effects to women's rights that are protected with a number of different pieces of the legislation. For example, the Human Rights Act allows for single-sex services and spaces, scholarships and opportunities.

    David: So, if I hear you correctly, you're wanting to talk about a bill that is before Parliament?

    Beth: That’s absolutely right, yes.

    David: Just to be completely open and frank about the Free Speech Union position — we don't have a position on the nitty-gritty of that bill. Clearly you guys are pushing for your beliefs, but really you want to discuss a bill before Parliament, and you're not being allowed to do that, is that right?

    Beth: That’s right, so we want to discuss the issues with this bill. We booked a number of council venues across the country. And those venues caved to the demands of a few activists coordinated from Auckland, and then we've been de-platformed from these venues.

    David: So, let's dig into that because I think this is, this is really where the rubber meets the road as far as the Free Speech Union is concerned. There is a group of people who want to discuss a bill before our Parliament, in a very democratic way. And there have been public spaces that have said you're not allowed to use them to do that. What reason has been given to you for that?

    Beth: There are different reasons from different councils, but primarily, if you just look at Christchurch — they talk about us potentially being in breach of their policy around community, “making all communities feel welcome”, and they spoke about health and safety concerns. Now, there haven't been any credible, or any threats at all of violence.

    David: So there's been no threats of violence, but they're saying health and safety is the issue so what health and safety concerns did they raise?

    Beth: Well, the inference is around the health and safety of their staff and the library users. We have to assume that they're talking about their mental health and safety, of hearing feminist women discuss ideas that they might not agree with.

    David: So just to be clear, Beth. You don't pose a physical risk to anyone? You haven’t, in previous meetings, had weapons or violence or any sort of underground fighting rings that you've been organising? You haven't been harming anyone physically?

    Beth: (laughs) No, I'm just a mum, I don't I don't go around harming people. I’m just a woman talking about women’s rights. We’re committed to peace, peaceful action. Speak Up For Women is all women. There are no violent women in our group. We're not violent at all, and we respect people's right to peacefully protest. So, there's no concerns that we would perpetrate violence. In fact in our meeting did go ahead in Christchurch — not at the library, but ironically at the Woolston Club, which until recently was the Woolston Working Men's Club, which is quite ironic to host a feminist meeting. We had maybe five to eight peaceful protesters there. They were protesting outside, we invited them inside to listen to our meeting. And they came in under the condition that they wouldn't interrupt, but that they could ask any questions they wanted at the end. So they did that and they sat quietly and they listened, and then we had a really healthy debate. We didn't agree. But it was exactly the sort of public meeting that we'd hoped it would be.

    David: So, there was no violence. There were no threats of violence. You invited these people in to have a discussion, there was a discussion and a debate about a bill before our Parliament. No one needed an ambulance at the end of it. It was a respectful discussion in New Zealand.

    Beth: There was some high emotion from their side. They were very young, they actually had their teacher with them. They were quite — yeah, there was a bit of emotion, but it was an entirely respectful discussion. Absolutely no physical violence. I think maybe I heard one swear word towards the end. That was it. So, yeah, that's the sort of meeting that I would expect our councils to be able to facilitate quite comfortably.

    David: Let's just be clear about that, Christchurch City Council banned you from the library is that, is that right?

    Beth: Yeah, they banned us from all Christchurch Libraries, under the spurious guise of the health and safety of the staff. And the thing is, we’d booked a private meeting room. So no one even had to hear us, if they didn't want to be in that room.

    David: Well, this is deeply concerning. And obviously, the Free Speech Union has been fighting a battle against Auckland Council for not allowing those two Canadians to come and talk. And in that case, there were threats of some protest activity that possibly could have maybe involved some, you know, bad people, and one of the things that we argued quite strongly was the thug’s veto should not be allowed to stop people from expressing their ideas. But in your case, it sounds even worse than that because there was no credible threat of violence at all in any way shape or form.

    Beth: That's right, there's been no threats of violence that we’ve seen and we’ve asked the council if there have been, they haven't been able to provide any threats of violence.

    A few people had made it clear that there would be a protest, which we fully support. So, no, that's totally spurious, and in fact the Auckland Council has done similar to Christchurch. Not banned us outright, but we booked a central Auckland venue for the talk, on Ponsonby/K Road called Studio One. We’d been told by our supporters at our last meeting that was moved by Auckland Council out to Western Springs that it wasn't a convenient location, a lot of them would prefer central where there are transport links. So we booked Studio One. And after asking us what our content was going to be and going back and forth, and asking us if we'd be prepared to move, we said “no, look, we really need to be central for this reason.” Auckland Council told us “No, sorry we are cancelling the booking, we are moving out to Western Springs again.”

    And again, the reason was, health and safety concerns and the concerns of managing protest action. So to us, it seems like this health and safety argument is some sort of get out of jail free card that councils are using, when they don't want to uphold the Bill of Rights for certain people.

    David: Yeah, this is basically why we formed, and why we're continuing the battle. Especially after the Court of Appeal pointed out that council-run facilities need to pay attention to the Bill of Rights. To see the thug’s veto being used and these spurious health and safety concerns raised is deeply concerning. Especially when it's a group of people who want to discuss a bill before Parliament. This is part of our democratic process and this is a fight that I think we need to have to enable free and democratic discussion of ideas. You mentioned Christchurch, you mentioned Auckland. Were there any other councils that banned you from facilities?

    Beth: Yes. Directly after Christchurch Council banned us from the library, within days, Dunedin Council had announced that they were cancelling our booking. Dunedin had never even asked her what the nature of our event was. They hadn't asked us about the content, or any input into any health and safety considerations. So they literally, without even speaking to us, cancelled our booking. And they used similar reasons; “Health and safety concerns for our libraries, and staff. We strive to ensure our libraries offer an environment where all members of our community can feel safe and welcome.”

    David:  Asterisk, unless you’re Speak Up for Women members of the community.

    Beth: Unless you’re women wanting to discuss legislation that will impact women.

    David: It sounds like you've been entirely reasonable the whole time, but surely if there is to be protest activity against you, that's reason to not shut you down, but try and deal with the protesters, surely?

    Beth: Yeah, and as I said, Speak Up For Women, we support the right to peaceful protest. We think it’s a really important part of democracy. So if people are gathering to peacefully protest, they should be facilitated to do that. And obviously it becomes a police matter if it becomes violent or you know, the crowds are too big that they need traffic management or whatever. But all of those things are manageable, and definitely shouldn't be cause to shut down public meetings about a piece of legislation.

    David: I completely agree, and again this is why we appealed the High Court ruling and why we're going to the Supreme Court on the Auckland case. Unfortunately, it sounds like you guys might be headed down a similar track. And it's really up to the courts to be very clear about the responsibilities and the roles of public venues. We believe, obviously, that they should allow people to use the space to discuss important things, or not important things, in a peaceful way. And shouldn’t show favour to anyone in particular or any ideology in particular.

    Beth: No, absolutely. And it just goes to show that it's an important issue, that people are prepared to protest. You know, it just goes to show that it's an issue that New Zealand is passionate about, and should be discussed, and shouldn't be shunted off into the private sector to, you know, hope that we can find a venue that won't cave to bullying.

    David: Absolutely, and I think the other thing is that the thug’s veto is, is something that if it's given an inch it'll take a yard. If it's given a little bit it’ll take the rest. As soon as you allow one group to shut down another group that they disagree with, then the floodgates open. And all of those mixed metaphors are to say we should be upholding the right of everyone to voice their opinion peacefully.

    Beth: Absolutely, I mean, how would we even have a functioning democracy if we can’t? I mean, every political party talking about anything could be subject to a protest and often are. So citizens talking about legislation should be able to go ahead.

    David: Yeah, absolutely. So you're fighting the good fight. Unfortunately, you had to find an alternate venue in Christchurch but you’re fighting the good fight now in other places. You said that Nelson was a particularly interesting case, what's happening in Nelson?

    Beth: Well it’s interesting in as much that during the time that Christchurch and Dunedin and Auckland Council were all going back and forth and trying to work out, you know how to cancel us, Nelson was doing similar. The Mayor wanted to know what we were going to talk about and we went back and forth with them. And they came to the conclusion that we had a right to speak at the venue. And now a couple of Nelson councillors have come out really strongly and said that they’re embarrassed and disgusted by that decision, but what it shows us is that there are people within the management of Nelson council that actually realise that they can't trample on the Bill of Rights of certain groups within the community. So it's interesting to us that Nelson — clearly they don't want to, I would say based on what some of the councillors are saying, but Nelson Council itself is allowing the booking to stand, and so we will be talking in the Trafalgar Hall in Nelson, this Wednesday, the 9th of June. And led by one of those particular councillors, there is going to be a large protest outside, but it does look like the planning of that is peaceful. They're calling it and peaceful protest. So hopefully Nelson can be another example of how to facilitate it properly.

    David: I mean it's fantastic, as far as free speech goes, the fact that there is a councillor who opposes your ideas enough to lead or participate in a protest outside, but still allows you to speak, is exactly what we want to see happen. Much like your conversation in Christchurch you mentioned, right.

    Beth: That's exactly right and I do hope that Nelson goes the same way as Christchurch because it was really productive and successful. I mean, this Nelson Councillor does want to change the policy of the council so that they can exclude groups like ours in the future, so definitely not trying to uphold the Bill of Rights, but someone within the council itself, at the management level knows that they can't cancel us because some people don't like us.

    David: That's what the laws are for, right, it's to keep people, hopefully in check, even with their own prejudices and biases. Have you had any positive or negative response from councillors in any other cities? We’ve only really talked about the libraries that have shut you down, but have the councillors waded into the debate on either side?

    Beth: No, Nelson was the first time I've actually seen the councillors quoted in the media. We're actually waiting, we’ve sent some Official Information Act requests for Christchurch council. We're trying to find out how far up and to how many councillors, the decision to bar us from the library actually went. So that will be interesting.

    David: What about MPs, have there been any MPs that have spoken out for your right to speak or praise the council's for banning you?

    Beth: Both Judith Collins of the National Party and David Seymour from ACT have spoken out for the principle of free speech and for our right to speak. Neither of them have commented either way on if they share our position, same as the Free Speech Union, but they support our right to speak. I haven't heard a peep out of Labour on this issue. It seems like they’ve just put their heads below the parapet. But there have certainly been lower-level elected officials that have said things on various occasions that I can think of, people like Richard Hill in Auckland, for example. But yes, absolute silence from the MPs on that side of the fence, which is really concerning given that free speech was always a bastion of the left.

    David: Yeah, I agree with you, I think that is deeply concerning. This should be an issue that has bipartisan support, and to see it apparently turning into only one side of the political spectrum, especially as you say when it's traditionally been the left that has been fighting for the right of people to express their ideas, particularly in protests. That is deeply concerning. And the other thing that I think is doubly concerning about it is that the makeup of our government is such that they're the ones passing bills at the moment. And one of those proposed pieces of legislation is around hate speech. And if no one's talking about the right of, your group, for example, or other groups to freely express their ideas… Is there a hint that this might be “hate speech”, that you're discussing a bill before Parliament, and in which case, what kind of legal ramifications might that have in the future and chilling, the thought that you might, discuss a bill in a non-favourable way.

    Beth: Absolutely, and the implications of that hate speech bill. We've been accused of being a hate group, and hate speech. It's been said. And so it's not a far stretch to think that that hate speech law could be used against feminists like us talking about legislation.

    David: I want to unpack that a little bit with you very briefly, because I'm not sure that all of our listeners would be completely familiar with why you’re branded a hate group, and what possibly hateful things you might be saying. So perhaps you could maybe strongman the argument on the other side. I know that there's been terms like TERF, that's been thrown around, you know, all of those kind of ‘ists’ that people get labelled with. Why would your group in particular, be seen as hateful, do you think?

    Beth: So, we believe that biological sex is real and that it matters in certain circumstances in the law. And for example, the Human Rights Act allows female people to have female-only services and spaces, so thinking about like. female prisons or changing rooms, or girls schools, or intimate care for the elderly, or you know, a number of scenarios where biological sex actually matters. And we want to talk about how this piece of legislation will allow anyone, at any time, at any stage of their life, for any reason to change the sex on their birth certificate and therefore be treated in the eyes of the law, as if they were actually a female person, and access to those spaces and services accordingly. We want to talk about the impacts of that. There have been no impact assessments done, or anything like that.

    On the other side of the fence, you have lobby groups that say “trans women are women”, and should be and, they are if say they are. And they don't need to make any physical appearance changes or bodily changes, they literally are women, and that it's hateful to even question their identity.

    So that's where the “hate” comment comes in, that we're talking about existing laws and existing rights and material reality of mammalian sex being biomorphic — so, there literally are just males or females and that that's a fact and that's science. And on the other side, you've got this idea of everyone has a gender identity and, you know, some people might be in a female body or a male body but they are actually the opposite sex and should be that way if they say they are. I don't know if I've explained it very well, but that's where that conflict is.

    David: If I understand what you're saying, there's a group of people who feel that you're hateful because you are not accepting their version of themselves or their reality. They feel like they're in a different body and should be able to have that affirmed by society, and you're saying there are reasons why we shouldn't allow that, and their view of that is that it's hateful towards them. Is that a fair summation?

    Beth: Yes, except that we would affirm that, and be fine with that in most circumstances. We support gender nonconformity. People should be free to dress however they want, to be called whatever they want, and that should have no impact on their rights to housing and employment. And they should be accepted on the face of who they say they are in almost every situation, except in a very few specific circumstances that are protected on the Human Rights Act, that allow female people to have female-only spaces. So we're not actually denying their rights to be themselves, we're just saying, when it comes to a representative position reserved for females, that your biological sex should be what’s looked at. Or when it comes to being placed in a prison, we should be acknowledging that a male who self identifies as female at 40, and has committed violent sexual crimes, should not be placed in a female prison, because he's changed his birth certificate and he’s now female. That’s it. It’s not actually about restricting people's lives on a day to day basis. In fact, most of us are gender non-conforming. A lot of us are lesbians. It's a bit more nuanced than it's being made out to look.

    David: Sure, and this is why I think it's important to dig down because I think it's useful to understand what ‘hate’ is in the context of this discussion. The other term that gets thrown around that some of our listeners might not be fully au fait with is ‘TERF’, and I wonder if you could unpack that a little bit as a related kind of slur that's been used, and also one that increasingly seems in the social media spheres of our modern lives to be something that is branding someone is a hateful type of person. So what does TERF stand for and briefly what, what does it kind of mean in this debate?

    Beth: Yeah, I might actually do that the other way around. So what it's meant in this debate is… and it actually makes me feel a bit sick just talking about it, because the amount of hatred that is put behind the word is astounding. So if your listeners want to see what I'm talking about, they can go to, and you'll see the abuse that women get. And ‘TERF’ is being used as a way of creating this group, that it’s then okay to denigrate and abuse. So TERFs are these hateful, evil women and it doesn't matter what you say or do, they deserve it, because they’re awful. And then any woman who questions sex-self identification legislation or any aspect of this law is called a TERF, and automatically terrified into silence because they don't want to be this awful thing. So it really is a slur operating in the truest sense of the word. It's a term of abuse and it's terrifying.

    So that's what it is. What it actually means is “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”. “Radical feminism” is a school of feminism that I personally don't subscribe to. And “trans-exclusionary” means excluding trans women from the definition of woman. So that's what it is. And even radical feminists don't exclude trans people, because they include trans-identified females or trans men in their feminism, and so it's not actually about being anti-trans at all. It's actually about people who are not trans who would abuse this type of legislation. So it’s just a misnomer. Yeah, and it's awful.

    David: As you've just described it sounds like it is really used to try and smear people and silence them essentially out of embarrassment or fear or making you feel sick.

    Beth: It's all of the above. Yeah. It works. I mean, for every one of us that speaks publicly, there's at least a hundred too scared to talk even, even in their places of work and their friendship circles. You don't want to be called a TERF.

    David: No, and it's so easy these days to throw terms around that have such a chilling effect, and keep people silenced. As it sounds like it is reasonably straightforward for councils at the moment to decide that they don't like what someone's going to say and to keep you out of their venues. Beth, you're fighting the good fight. Unfortunately, Christchurch didn't work out, but then it did. On the plus side, it looks like you're fighting in Auckland, you're continuing to fight in Dunedin and Nelson is going to go ahead. We wish you all the best with that. We are standing beside you to fight for your right to speak, and we will continue to do that.

    Beth: Thank you.

    David: We will keep everyone posted, and we'd love to have you back at some point to give us an update on how the rest of the speaking tour went.

    Beth: Absolutely, and I’d just like to say — sorry to shamelessly plug the tour  — but if any of your supporters want to stand in solidarity with our right to speak, even if they don't agree with us, I'm sure they're not scared of hearing ideas. Check out our website, our speaking tour schedule is on there, we've got new dates coming up to Hamilton, Tauranga as well. We’re still in Palmerston North.

    David: Wonderful, thank you so much for joining us, Beth. And thank you everyone for listening.

     Beth: Thank you.

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