Letchworth and Harpenden statues dressed as part of 'pro-women' campaign

PUBLISHED: 12:40 29 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:08 29 January 2019

The Tete a Tete statue in Harpenden was dressed in a t-shirt stating the definition of 'woman'. Picture: Herts Women Stand Up

The Tete a Tete statue in Harpenden was dressed in a t-shirt stating the definition of 'woman'. Picture: Herts Women Stand Up

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Members of a Herts feminist group have joined a UK-wide campaign to "reclaim the definition of women", which involves dressing iconic female statues in T-shirts which have a dictionary definition of 'woman' on the front.

The Sappho statue in Letchworth's Howard Garden was used for the campaign. Picture: Herts Women Stand UpThe Sappho statue in Letchworth's Howard Garden was used for the campaign. Picture: Herts Women Stand Up

Herts Women Stand Up, alongside ReSisters United, put the T-shirts on statues – including Sappho of Lesbos in Howard Garden in Letchworth and the Tete a Tete statue in Harpenden – on Sunday. The shirts read: “Woman: noun, an adult human female”.

The group has also been sharing the hashtag #WomenStandUp on social media.

A spokeswoman for ReSisters United said: “The factual definition of woman has become taboo. With this action we send the message that women have the right to speak about our biology without shame, fear or retribution.”

A Herts Women Stand Up spokeswoman added: “Biological sex matters and that feelings of gender should not take precedence when it comes to maintaining and upholding the rights and dignity of women. The group is committed to lobbying for the right to single sex spaces.

The t-shirt was removed from the Sappho statue, and this banner was placed on a fence nearby. Picture: Jane FaeThe t-shirt was removed from the Sappho statue, and this banner was placed on a fence nearby. Picture: Jane Fae

“The statue of Sappho is Letchworth is particularly significant because Sappho, an ancient greek poet whose work celebrated love between women, is an icon both of lesbian and gay liberation, and of women’s rights. The trend towards claiming that men can be women undermines the right of lesbian women to self-define and declare sexual boundaries.”

Jane Fae, a Letchworth-based campaigner for LGBT and women’s rights, expressed her disappointment at this campaign.

She said: “While they hide behind the language of feminism, they are anything but. This campaign has been designed, from the outset, to strip the rights of trans and LGBT individuals.

“It’s originator was last week ‘helping police with their enquiries’ in respect of alleged harrassment and is this week in the United States discussing tactics with some of the most extreme anti-feminist, anti-LGBT elements now active in US politics.

“These are the people behind US President Donald Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the military. The same people who have recently been suggesting to Trump that the ban on active service now be extended to women.

“The T-shirts are part of a campaign to create a hostile public environment for trans folk and, as far as I am aware, not a penny of the money raised from their sale will go to a women’s cause. Rather, it will go back to the campaign organiser.

A spokesperson for Herts Women Stand Up responded to Jane’s comments and said: “The campaign is not seeking to ‘strip rights’ of trans and LGBT people, nor to ban trans people from the military. It does it have any connection to Donald Trump nor is it a plan to make fortune out of selling t-shirts.

“The campaign has been coordinated by collective of grassroots feminist groups in the UK and Ireland to protest against erasure of female as a distinct sex class and the need to protect single sex spaces. The t-shirts were donated by the campaign Standing For Women.”

The T-shirt has since been removed from the Sappho statue, and a sign has been put up on a nearby fence, which says: “What is a woman? A woman is typically female.

“But a woman cannot be defined by their anatomy, so what is a woman? What unifies us? We are a target for subordination, based on actual or perceived bodily functions presumed to be evidence of our role in biological reproduction. We are oppressed because of men’s desire or assumption of power and control over us in the patriarchy.”

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