This past weekend, July 5 -7, a radical feminist conference called RadFem Rise Up! was held in Toronto. As organizers of the conference, we wanted to explain what actually happened.
Four women began planning and organizing the conference in February 2013. The idea was to put together a conference that would allow women from around the globe to meet, get to know each other, heal, and talk about activism – fighting for abortion rights and reproductive justice (which are newly under attack), ending violence against women, increasing our presence in the media, etc. Notice that “undermining trans people and/or trans activists” was not on the list.
On July 2, a Toronto organization known as Maggie’s, which lobbies for the sex industry, held an entire counter-event to ours. Their event page specific refers to “a group of [radical feminists that] are coming to Toronto July 5-7”, making it clear that it is our conference they are countering. They are well within their right to do so, but one has to wonder why such a large and well-funded organization is worried about a small gathering of working-class and student women. (The word “paranoia” comes to mind.)
The RFRU organizers only released the venue information ~48 hours before the start of the conference, and only to women who had registered. This was done as a security measure. Our detractors have a well-known history of harassing radical feminists; for example, trans “activists” and MRA’s collaborated to try to stop the RadFem 2013 conference in London, UK from happening. And last year, when a radical feminist conference called “RadFem Reboot” took place in Portland, a trans “activist” threw a (failed) Molotov cocktail at a bank not far from the RadFem Reboot venue as an intimidation tactic.
Despite the RFRU organizers’ attempt to make everything safe for the women in attendance, an infiltrator had registered for the conference (more on that in a second), though we did not know this at the time (we thought our e-mail had simply been hacked). Within mere minutes of our e-mailing the conference venue to our attendees, the Beaver Hall Art Gallery address was all over the internet.
One of the websites sharing our venue information is RadFems Rise Up [note the ‘s’], a mock version of our website set up specifically to slander us. For example:
In addition to accusing us of wanting to “exterminate trans people”, the creators of this mock website also shared some kind of passive-aggressive fantasy about radical feminists having speculums shoved up our vaginas. How sisterly.
About 12 hours after we shared the venue location with our attendees, the board members of Beaver Hall spoke to one of our organizers. Pale and visibly shaking with fear, they told us that they had received hundreds of vicious e-mails, including threats to rape everyone in the building, threats to destroy the building itself, and more. They explained that they were terrified and that, unfortunately, they were going to have to cancel on us.
(Unfortunately, the owners of Beaver Hall Art Gallery have since tried to back-peddle, claiming that there weren’t really any threats – possibly because they are scared of further backlash from trans “activists”. Either way, RFRU organizers are currently working with Toronto police in order to obtain hard copies of all of the e-mails sent to Beaver Hall. Stay tuned.)
This was music to the ears of many trans “activists”, who had apparently been planning to shut us down for weeks (possibly collaborating with the sex industry):
In case you missed that, it says: “And in the end, it only took a few hours of campaigning to convince the venue to cancel given the ground work we have already done over the past few weeks.”
Luckily, since RFRU had also booked a vacation home for women to stay in, we decided to host the conference right there, in the house. It was a bit cramped, but it worked.
As it turns out, trans “activists” (again, possibly with the help of the sex industry) sent an infiltrator to our conference. A woman by the name of Leah Reynolds actually took the time to contact us (using an e-mail address that she had set up specifically for this purpose) and even paid the registration fee, just to be able to attend as an infiltrator.
She attended the conference on the first day, saw that we had an 11-month old baby in the house, and still felt no qualms about sharing our private location with people who had threatened to rape and kill us.
We found out early in the morning after our 1st day that our private address had been leaked, and that a group of trans “activists” and their allies were planning a protest ~200m away from our house:
The event page talked about “sharing stories”, but we had not forgotten the death and rape threats we had received. Nor had we forgotten the Molotov cocktail thrown at a bank not far from another radical feminist conference last year. We were scared for our safety, and rationally so.
Even Heather Jarvis, a co-founder of SlutWalk Toronto and a long-time support of the trans movement, wasn’t surprised that we were getting threats, and knew that trans “activists” had a history of acting like violent thugs:
The RFRU organizers called the police, just to be on the safe side. We have gotten a lot of criticism for doing so, but I would like to hear from those criticizing us how they would’ve handled the situation.
That’s not a rhetorical question. The comment section here is open; please explain how, in the midst of rape and death threats that could easily be followed through, and with a baby in the house, you would have dealt with the very real possibility of a violent mob.
The police stationed several officers to ride around the area on bicycles. One of the cops, who had a few minutes off, actually went to the park when the protest was just beginning, in order to talk to the protesters for a few minutes. We (RFRU organizers) are convinced that it was only the police presence that prevented the protesters from attempting to come to the actual house itself.
Despite all of the threats and harassment, and despite the palpable fear in the room at times, we were able to go ahead with the entire conference. We made presentations (which, for the millionth time, had NOTHING to do with trans people); we talked; we discussed; we ate together; we shared stories; we healed. Many women used the word “life-changing” to describe what the conference meant to them.
There were also tweets from attendees:
This is the kind of horrible “transphobia” that trans activists spent WEEKS trying to shut down. How evil!
I leave you with a very succinct message from radical feminist Louise Pennington: