Wellington, 16 May 2019
Women’s group, Speak Up For Women, are calling for New Zealand politicians to take note of the progress being made in the UK in regards to stopping the harassment and denigration of women with the term “TERF.”
Gregor Murray, a Scottish politician who represents Dundee’s North East ward, has been suspended this week after the Standards Commission for Scotland ruled Murray had communicated in an “offensive” and “abusive” manner by calling the complainant a “TERF,” breaching the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.
In response to the suspension of Murray who identifies as “non-binary”, Scottish National Party MP Joan McAlpine noted “misogyny is misogyny no matter what pronouns you use”. McAlpine also pointed to the admission by Twitter’s Head of UK Government Policy, Katy Minshall, in British Parliament last week that “TERF” is a misogynistic term akin to “bitch” or “c*nt”. This was discussed as part of a discussion led by MP Joanna Cherry QC about the alarming levels of often violent abuse women face online.
“The word ‘TERF’ has been weaponised as a sanctioned way to abuse women. Particular New Zealand MPs regularly partake in casual conversations online in which women are called TERF, scum, trash, and sometimes worse,” says Ani O’Brien, spokeswoman for Speak Up For Women. “It is unlikely that MPs would have such a relaxed approach to partaking in conversations that contained abusive rhetoric towards another demographic.”
Although the word may have started as an acronym for ‘Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist’, the group asserts that is now simply a slur used to silence women who challenge gender identity ideology.
Ms O’Brien says, “it is time our own politicians acknowledged the abuse directed at women online and especially at those women who challenge the current ideology around gender identity. All women are entitled to protection from abuse; not just the ones that individual MPs agree with.”
Speak Up For Women are calling on all politicians to acknowledge that the word “TERF” is a slur often used in violent contexts and directed at women. They demand MPs to condemn its use and most importantly cease using it themselves.
“Women should not have to fear being tarred as a ‘TERF’ and be afraid for their safety or livelihood. Like modern day witch hunts, mobs online ‘out’ women as ‘heretics’ and put them on public trial by Twitter. It is bullying pure and simple,” says Ms O’Brien. “We need a culture shift around how women are treated online and we need New Zealand’s leaders to drive it. It is unacceptable for our MPs to implicitly condone the use of ‘TERF’ by standing by while it is used to denigrate women.”