A little over a week before the Women’s March was to take place in Vancouver, BC, March On (the organization that put on the event this year) announced one of the speakers would be “Hailey Heartless” (legal name Lisa Kreut), a male dominatrix. Women everywhere expressed shock and anger at this choice — this was, after all, a march for women, initially stemmed by Donald Trump’s presidency, intended to build solidarity among women, support our reproductive and human rights, and challenge misogyny and male violence against women. Why on earth, then, would it be appropriate to have a male promote prostitution and sexualized violence at the event?
March On Vancouver promptly blocked all of those questioning this decision on Twitter, making very clear that not only was this not up for debate or discussion, but that women troubled by their choice of speakers were not welcome at the march.
Needless to say, I did not attend the march on Saturday. But many other women did, including one carrying a sign that read, on one side:
“Transwomen are men. Truth is not hate. Don’t believe the hype — trans ideology is misogyny and homophobic. Woman is not a ‘feeling,’ a costume, or a performance of a stereotype. Woman is a biological reality. There is no ethical or moral reason to lie to soothe the male ego.”
The other side read:
“Do not cis-gender me. Stop the stereotypes. I am neither conforming nor non-conforming. My preferred prefix is neither cis nor trans. I am a female. Resist Orwellian Newspeak.”
I first became aware of the sign because one woman named Meaghan Jackson-Doucet took it upon herself to post a photograph of the woman with her sign publicly* on Facebook, accusing her of “transphobic hate.” She wrote:
“First I saw a man holding his children and openly weeping and my heart was hopeful. Then these hateful women stood in front of us and booed the entire time a trans sex worker was speaking. We still have a lot of work to do.
I shared this because I am a parent to a super rad kid who identifies as trans. And research shows that if we just let kids be kids and not make a big deal about their gender, our kiddo will live a *much* happier life. They are free to be who they are.
I saw this woman at the March today and I cried. Yelling at her (like I wanted to) wouldn’t have changed her beliefs. She was there to find a fight. It would have only exposed the kids surrounding us to an ugliness they don’t need to learn about quite yet.
I shared this because we need to shine a light on all of our ugly dark bits in order to overcome. Like it or not, this woman EXISTS. And she’s MAD. Really, REALLY MAD. So mad, she came to a protest about equal rights to put down other humans. To put down people like my kid.
So I’m shining a light on her, and people like her. I see you. My child sees you.
Can we all please just try to figure out how we can all live together on this planet peacefully, and stop trying to build ourselves up by putting others down.”
The post and image went viral. Currently, Jackson-Doucet’s post has almost 2000 comments on it, many of which I read. The vitriol and hatred in many of the comments is astounding. Numerous people called to dox the woman and many more overtly threatened her with violence. Others said her sign should have been destroyed and that she should have been removed from the march.
I spoke with the woman holding the sign, who has asked to remain anonymous, and she told me that Jackson-Doucet took the photo secretly, from waist level, during a speech. No attempt was made on the part of Jackson-Doucet to speak with the woman she was photographing.
Morgane Oger, Vice President of the BC NDP and Trans Alliance Society chair, also posted the image publicly on his Facebook page, asking the public to identify the woman holding the sign, saying, “This is hate speech.” Oger went on to say he planned to file a human rights complaint against the woman, but needed to identify her in order to do so.
To be clear, a woman is being threatened with violence and legal repercussions for stating, at a march for women, that women are female, and for challenging an ideology that claims gender is internal and biological rather than imposed by a patriarchal society. Not only have women been told they may not center their female bodies at the numerous women’s marches across the world, but when they dare to challenge the idea that trans-identified men should be centered at these marches, they are being pushed out and targeted.
I also want to stress that if you do attend, it is CRUICIAL that you do with an INTERSECTIONAL mindset. Centering reproductive systems at the heart of these demonstrations is reductive and exclusionary.
— Munroe Bergdorf (@MunroeBergdorf) January 20, 2018
The woman holding the sign told me that many people booed and groaned during the speech by Kreut, who pushed forward a policy to blacklist and defund Vancouver Rape Relief at the 2016 BC Federation of Labour convention. In the speech, Kreut advocated to decriminalize pimps, brothel owners, and men who pay for sex (currently, in Canada, our laws decriminalize those who sell sex, and criminalize those who pay for it, as well as pimps and brothel-owners). He also attacked rape crisis centers and feminists who support the Nordic model. Kreut said, oddly, that “sex workers” like himself were valuable because they could teach women make up tricks and how to do their nails. He added:
“When you welcome us into your spaces, and allow us to be open and honest, you’ll find that we have so much knowledge to bring you, and not just about how to have amazing sex.
We can teach you life skills, like how to take amazing selfies, how to use bitcoin, how to build a following on social media.
We can teach you lessons about yourself, like how to practice excellent hygiene, how to do amazing contouring for low light venues, or how to practice radical self care.”
Promoting prostitution as a job like any other or an empowered choice is an incredibly inappropriate position to advocate at a feminist protest. A male lecturing women about how to do their nails and “take amazing selfies” at such an event should be interpreted as parody, but is apparently the new normal, as far as March On organizers are concerned.
What we are witnessing is not a new wave, but a backlash. We must not allow our movement to be hijacked by men who promote misogynist ideas and industries, such as the sex trade. The Women’s March is for women. Take it back.
*EDITOR’S NOTE — 23/01/2018: The public Facebook post has since been removed. The text above has been edited to include Jackson-Doucet’s commentary attached to the image posted.