Lee Lakeman speaks at the Vancouver Public Library, January 10

Outline Notes from which I spoke at the Vancouver Public Library to defend the speech of Meghan Murphy, feminists and feminism

  1. Great that you got here and got in. That is the victory of the evening.
    • To show those who have taken control of our library and our public discussion that we will not be shut out or shut up
    • Second victory is to have the discussion that they were discouraging and for which we came.
  1. But it is also important to put this achievement and discussion in its proper perspective:
    1. the murder of women, that is mostly the murder of wives and prostitutes, by men continues even as we speak
    2. the violence done to women and even more often to impoverished or racialized women continues to be without social consequences to those men
    3. as continues the harassment by men up to and including murder of women especially Aboriginal women who are forced to live in the public realm by poverty and lack of social supports like public transit and local public schools
    4. as does continue unabated men’s harassment of women who try to use their legal rights and privileges to take their position in public institutions and political life… what Hannah Arendt speaks of as the very nature of public life;
    5. the recent campaigns led by women victims of male violence and their feminist advocates to hold men like Ghomeshi accountable are still at their very earliest stages and so far have been stunted rather than assisted by legal procedures, by the police and courts as well as by the commercial media and by the social media.
    6. The fight for equal pay is not achieved much less the fight for equal distribution of wealth and resources.
    7. The right to welfare and social services,health services and education services has been so undermined as to barely exist for the poor women, for the immigrant women and for the Aboriginal women. To be among such women is to be criminalized for trying to get by.
    8. Women do not have proper access to legal aid much less to adequate protections of the law and to security of our persons.
    9. Childcare, the care of the sick and the old are still loaded on women even if more and more it is the loading on to immigrant women at low rates of pay and with insecure citizenship.
    10. Women’s sexuality is under constant assault so that young women have even less sense of the entitlement to autonomy to sexual pleasure and to body integrity than my generation had won. Instead, from childhood on they are fed a constant diet of pornography in every media form.
    11. The international talk of women’s rights is just that: talk. Unless women measure, protest and demand, nothing happens to ensure women’s rights as written on paper.
  2. No political party and no public institutions have distinguished themselves as fighters for the liberation of women. Nor have they defended those who do fight for that liberation.  I am old enough to remember the Montreal Massacre and what the governments did at that point and in this year of Me Too and various campaigns they have done the same… nothing of pro-woman effect
  3. International studies now confirm that it is only in the presence of an autonomous women’s movement that policies and practices of the state start to reform toward the advancement of women.
  1. “Women only” is a key practice of the independent women’s movement. In the 60’s we had to admit that if men where present in our groups they could sabotage the conversations by their very presence.  This has not changed
  1. In fact, for me this discussion of “inclusion” is really the conduct of the backlash against feminism.

vpl poster

  1. When Meghan asked me to speak:

·       she was imagining that I would tell you about the case in which Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter was forced to defend itself as an organization devoted to the Liberation of Women.

·       According to law the human rights coalition was meant to promote a settlement between the K Nixon who wanted to be in our group and us who did not want K Nixon to be in our group because Nixon did not meet our criteria that is; that Nixon had no experience of growing up as a girl child into a woman.

·       but those in power wanted to harm Vancouver Rape Relief for their own reasons and made no effort to assist the two groups of the dispossessed to come to any accommodation with each other:

And so in this case I wonder who is gaining?

·       About the K Nixon case:

The refusal was in 1995;

Nixon initiated the case;

We did not decide to define women but rather to say that however you define women we are entitled to meet and work for women born women;

We won

·       the higher courts agreed with us.  They agreed that our purpose was the Liberation of women and that we could act on that purpose …..

·       with our methods that relied so heavily on Consciousness Raising

8.    Our purpose as a movement and as an organization within that movement is not to give every woman the choice of which sex she would like to be or to promote notions that each woman should challenge herself to find or create freedom for herself on her own.

9.    These silly ideas have come with neoliberalism;

10.   our primary work is to focus on and take down the structures that prevent women from escaping gendered roles and gendered poverty and gendered racism,

11.   those structures that enforce gender with laws, norms and institutions including with male violence against women.

12.    Meghan sometimes says she is fighting for free speech.  I am not.  I don’t plan to put up with the hate speech of pornography or hate speech of racism and I’m not to willing to tolerate the hate speech against the poor.

13.   I am fighting for freedom for women and most of all for that freedom that de Beauvoir describes as the freedom that enriches the freedom of others.

14.   This is the kind of day when we can imagine Rosa Luxemburg rolling over in her grave.  What kind of socialism or even social democracy is it that excuses the library senior staff who claim to be upholding the fine principle of access to all or that excuses the new NDP mayor who trashed Meghan as one of his first acts in office or what excuses the premier who ignores or sets loose the misbehaviour of his party members against the feminists? This is not the practice of liberty making.

15.   I am not a big fan of the talk of rights.  But if we are to talk of rights then According to Charter Law, women are to be recognized by all extensions of the state as being a historically disadvantaged people.  52%of the people.

16.   I’m here to fight for speech that is Freedom-making speech

I’m here to call for the Library to uphold feminist speech.

17.   Feminism is the politics that calls for and has always called for an egalitarian future

For non violence methods to get there

For open dialogue and transparent processes

For an end to the hierarchies of race and class as well as sex

And an end to the violence that supports those hierarchies

For egalitarian sex practices and sex education

Intersectional feminist practices as written by Kimberle Crenshaw

Standpoint theory by our local internationally renowned sociologist Dorothy Smith


  • means conditions to the ends,
  • small group organization,
  • affinity groups,
  • interlocking collectives,
  • personal and political integrity.

Can we get anywhere from here?

18.   Consciousness raising and why it is important What is it?

Truthful talk between those suffering the same conditions that allows for naming and strategizing against that oppression by identifying its structures and institutions

A vital tool of the women’s movement for women’s liberty How we use it?

19.   Why we cannot “include”those wo claim to be transitioning from male to females in this process

Based on the body

Female relationships

20.   (local) (feminist progressives) (second wave)

To those who imagine you can bully us into submission you are clearly unfamiliar with the Canadian and BC women who defined feminism in this last fifty years of action.

Let me tell you some of the training I received in standing up to bullying.

·       Mary Two Axe Early, who defied both the white racists and the aboriginal sexists to stand with other feminists against the government who denied her heritage and therefore her rights;

·     Up to this week I am learning from Fay Blaney who carries that indigenous feminism forward and to do so once rode the mighty Fraser River in a rubber raft to stand with small groups of women on each of the reserves as they told on the men in their bands and the leaders of their communities.  You can see her on the web pages of the Public Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered indigenous women;

·       Laura Sabia was one of my first teachers on the necessary everyday courage of feminism.  Laura Sabia, raised a Catholic by a powerful rich father challengedher family religious convention and the crowd around the pope in St Peter’s Square.  As a middle aged woman she travelled with her daughter to Rome and in the square for the blessing by the pope she refused to go down on bended knee.  Thousands genuflected.  Her grown daughter was pulling on her to do so.  She told me that she told her daughter in front of that crowd that she was not going down on her knees for a man ever again;

·       Madeleine Parent, who used her position as a daughter of privilege in Quebec to stand for women’s sexual autonomy against the Catholic church when she decided to live with her lover, another organizer. For this she was publicly shamed.

She stood too with the garment workers unionizing the textile industries against the owners and the corrupt government. For this she was jailed. She stood too against the international unions in favour of our own Canadian union movement.

I am very proud to have met her and that I heard her speak my name.

·       Diane Matte, also a Québecoise who took the local struggles of the Bread and Roses march into the international arena and focused it on Male violence as well as poverty to create the First World March of Women and used it to speak up to the men of the Social Forum and the World Bank;

·       Rosemary Brown whom I met in my first years of work opening a shelter told social workers about me and the new generation of activists “this revolt of transition houses and anti-rape centers is happening, the only question is whether you will be with them or in their way »;

·     The NDP women’s caucus of the 70’s, including Hilda Thomas who stood with Rosemary and challenged the entire machine of the NDP to get on with support for women and the poor, would be embarrassed to see what has happened to their work;

·    Cleta Brown, daughter to Rosemary, has stood against the developers and the prostitution pimps to carry her mothers work forward;

·       My friends the Abortion activists like Judy Rebick who stepped in front of the man with the knife to protect the abortionist Doctor Henry Morgentaler and Jackie Larkin who tied herself to the house of parliament to fight for that right and who both stood with indigenous women demanding accountability in the Meech Accord and the restructuring of Canada;

·     The women of the Status of Women committees of radical teachers including Gayle Tyler who fights still for the single mothers wanting an education, who must be ashamed to see what has become of their union leadership in their cowardly ditching of women’s freedom and their disrespect for the feminists of those committees;

·       Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter staff who went without ten year’s salaries under the Socreds for defending the privacy and political rights of the women who call;

·      The women like Ajax Quinby who fought for the first of Vancouver’s transition houses only to be abandoned by the BCGEU,

·       Gloria Lemay, the Vancouver midwife who faced criminal charges in the 80’s and public harassment for years before the medical establishment finally had to admit the midwives were right all along;

·       Trisha Baptie and Danielle Cormier who outed themselves as prostitutes in order to fight for the those still trapped in the sex trade;

·    Janine Benedet and Gwendoline Alison who fought the prostitution and pornography laws to protect her daughters and yours;

·       Christine Boyle who formulated and argued the K Nixon case with us when no one would stand with us for fear of the bullying.

With these examples how could I cower in the face of a tiny if loud crowd of bullies blocking my way?  This moment like many others requires us to stand up and defend feminists like Meghan, and no limp excuses will do.

I once heard Bernadette Devlin argue at a Vancouver high school that “in the absence of a fence to sit on, the weakly hearted liberals will go about the business of building one”.

I am grateful to those of you who came across the fences of pathetic excuses and the line of bullies to have your discussion of how to deal with the trans ideology while upholding feminism.

Lee Lakeman

Full conference on Meghan Murphy’s Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2L4w837agg

Feminist Current’s account of the event: https://www.feministcurrent.com/2019/01/11/vancouver-gender-identity-event-a-roaring-success-gidvpl/

women stand up

Speaking notes supplied by Lee Lakeman to TRADFEM, for which we are extremely thankful. French translation at https://tradfem.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/lee-lakeman-a-la-bibliotheque-publique-de-vancouver-le-10-janvier/

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