Four elected members of Parliament standing, smiling broadly, in front of a homemade sign spelling out in lively red and bright blue text the words, ‘DECAPITATE TERFS’ – complete with tiny love hearts, and – oh yes – a drawing of a guillotine, the instrument designed to carry out executions by beheading.
For those who are not aware of what the term means, ‘TERF’ stands for ‘trans exclusionary radical feminist’ – an acronym – or rather, a slur, which has been adopted by trans rights activists to describe women who do not believe biological males can become females.
The above image I have described is in fact real, and you can see it splashed across Twitter since it emerged last week:
Here are Sturgeon's politicians under a sign saying "DECAPITATE TERFS" with a guillotine.
An independent Scotland would see the return of public executions for women accused of witchcraft. Sorry – terfcraft. pic.twitter.com/cOG4QUqNcJ
— Leo Kearse – comedian – come to my shows! (@LeoKearse) January 21, 2023
If that wasn’t bad enough, signs calling for feminists to be eaten also made an appearance, reading: “I eat TERFS”.
Decapitate Terfs? You mean kill biological women @kirstenoswald? pic.twitter.com/FhQV5EU43Z
— Hope Over Fear (@hopeoverfear01) January 21, 2023
While there has been anger and criticism in some corners of the internet, with First Minister and trans rights champion Nicola Sturgeon even forced to publicly condemn the violent message, can you only imagine the media furore it would cause if it was the other way around, and If women (or terfs) were calling for trans people to be decapitated?
There would be downright pandemonium and unimaginable levels of uproar if I, or any other woman, were to take to the streets proudly waving around a sign with the words, ‘Decapitate trans people’. But the anger seems to be more niche, significantly less intense, and over far faster, when the shoe is on the other foot – as we’ve learned after Saturday’s fiasco.
The incident comes in the wake of Downing Street striking down the Scottish Government’s proposed gender reforms after reaching the conclusion that the legislation, in its current state, would have “chilling effects” on the safety of women-only spaces.
The proposals would have made it legal for children aged 16 to apply to legally change their gender, and would have made the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate faster and easier. Hundreds gathered in Glasgow on Saturday at a pro-trans demonstration to rally in support of contentious legislation, which Sturgeon has vowed to re-introduce.
In attendance at the rally were several Scottish National Party MPs and MSPs, who united to protest the decision by Tory Scottish Secretary Alister Jack. The sign in question came to attention after nationalist MPs Alison Thewliss, Kirsten Oswald, Stewart McDonald and MSP Kaukab Stewart were pictured smiling in front of it.
While Sturgeon apologised, her effort at saying sorry seemed half-hearted enough – as she added that she had attended demos in the past where placards were displayed which did not align with her views. Maybe the elected representatives didn’t know they were standing in front of the ghastly display – but still, I’m more inclined to agree with JK Rowling’s interpretation.
Questioning why the politicians were in front of the sign, Rowling, a fierce defender of women-only spaces, wrote:
“A few of Scotland’s wonderfully progressive and kind politicians, posing proudly in front of banners calling for women to be decapitated and eaten”.
A few of Scotland's wonderfully progressive and kind politicians, posing proudly in front of banners calling for women to be decapitated and eaten. pic.twitter.com/satQhRojbA
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 21, 2023
Unfortunately, the incident isn’t an isolated one. In fact, it appears it could be part of a worrying trend. One Twitter user, underneath Rowling’s tweet, posted an image of demonstrators carrying a cardboard sign shaped like a guillotine, emblazoned with the words, ‘Right up! Terfs’:
This was at another protest. What other movement promotes beheading – other than ISIS? pic.twitter.com/tYG7d5RRWu
— Shatterface (@Shatterface) January 21, 2023
Amazing, isn’t it, how wonderfully tolerant and accepting and inclusive these people are, when their answer to women they disagree with is ‘decapitating’ and ‘eating’ them? (Not my words, but those of trans activists). Was it supposed to be a joke? Maybe it was – but a serious discussion needs to be had on whether we laugh it off as an ill-judged protest sign, or rather, a legitimate call for vitriol and literal violence against those with a differing view.
In truth, this incident only serves to show us how unhinged the UK’s pro-trans movement has become. I think it also gives us a clue as to why more and more people appear to be turning away from airily giving the green light to radical gender ideology.
We talk about the ‘trans debate’ – but where are the two sides of the debate in the public square? When you look at the vast majority of footage from pro-trans protests, what we often see is a scenario where one group of people – mainly men – intimidate and shout down another group of women – mainly women. The events of June 2022 come to mind, when a pro-trans protest in Bristol descended into an intimidating, terrifying shouting match.
As reported here by the Daily Mail, Women said they were silenced by a trans-rights mob dressed in black balaclavas, who told them they were “next” after the toppling of slave-trader Edward Colston in June 2020 by BLM activists. A video posted to the internet depicted scenes of anarchy, with trans rights activists pushing women and police, while shouting ‘trans rights are human rights’.
One man was seen writing on the ground that after the toppling of Colston, ‘TERFS are next’ while women’s rights activists held a talk in honour of Father’s Day nearby.
What the group of men said through their masks was utterly terrifying. They told the women:
“Go, get in the sea, die out. You’re dinosaurs. Dinosaurs. Fossils. You’re going to die out (x5). You are ancient history, you are fossils. You are dinosaurs. You have failed (x2). Your ideas have failed. Get in the sea. Get in the sea like Colston. Go home. Get in the sea”.
The reference to Colston was disturbing, but even more so because this time, the focus was not on the slave trader who died in 1721, but on women who have legitimate concerns about their rights and protection at a time when many of us are acutely aware that the very concept of womanhood is under attack.
#LetWomenSpeak @StandingforXX Speaker's Corner event in #Bristol. Some of us were there and took this video. Aggressive men rage-shouting at women. For speaking up for our rights. These #PoundShopNinjas will not silence us. pic.twitter.com/hgdq8XxDM2
— ♀️🦖The Women Coventry💚🤍💜 (@thewomencov) June 19, 2022
Earlier that same year, a similar balaclava-clad gang of trans activists ‘manhandled’ a feminist beside a statue of a suffragette in Manchester.
In another recent UK case, a PhD student from Bristol launched legal action in February 2022 over claims of “intimidation” from transgender activists at her university – claiming the University of Bristol had failed to protect her from harassment and bullying over her involvement with campaign group, Women’s Place UK. The student had also been labelled a ‘Terf’ by activists who accused her of “spreading hate about trans people” for holding her views.
More and more women are being deterred and intimidated for speaking up. Standing for Women have been among groups to call out “nasty, thuggish” behaviour from men targeting women for their views after a man was charged with assault and possession of a knife after he was arrested at the group’s gender-critical event and counter-protest in Brighton last September.
“What women faced on Sunday, a nasty thuggish mob masquerading as activists, is exactly what we’ve come to expect,” the group said, adding: “It’s extraordinary that people get so angry when women gather to speak. What are they afraid we might say?”
While the UK claims to be making strides as a tolerant and diverse society, the behaviour of some trans rights activists – many of whom being biological men – allowed to shout down and intimidate women, shows us that the reality is in fact, the very opposite.
At some UK protests, including in Bristol, it has been claimed that the police watched on as the carnage unfolded. It’s also emerged that in Glasgow, the sign calling for feminists to be decapitated was made at a sign-making workshop in a gay/queer bar in the city; not by someone deeply unhinged acting alone.
Lots of desperate men trying to convince me that the sign 'Decapitate TERFs' is photoshopped – Guys it was screenshotted from a LIVE video & created in Bonjour (a Glasgow bar). If you watch the video there were MANY threatening signs, theres no way the MPs/MSPs missed ALL of them pic.twitter.com/Pmz0AfdGgc
— Brave (@defiaye) January 22, 2023
Why did nobody say anything? Why was a call to violence seen as appropriate, funny, or worse still, a valid one? How were participants allowed to call for TERFS to be chopped up and eaten, without having their signs removed by stewards? It very much appears that by invoking trans rights, activists can do exactly as they please.
The right to protest is a fundamental, democratic right. But the routine intimidation and silencing of women who have legitimate concerns – and want to voice those concerns without fear of violence or harassment – should worry us all.
We must let women speak on this issue, and not allow their voices to be silenced. Women must get a hearing in a national conversation that is becoming, as illustrated in Glasgow by, — (you guessed it, a man) — holding a sign calling for the literal decapitation of women, increasingly unhinged.