Courage calls to Courage: why I am not applying for the Fawcett Society CEO job

The Fawcett Society is advertising for a new CEO .

When they first advertised for this job in October 2020 I applied, in order to make clear to the Fawcett Society Trustees the choice they had. Would they go ALL-IN with gender ideology, would they be BRAVE and hire someone willing to stand up for women’s rights or would they try to be CAUTIOUS and hire another fence sitter?

I won’t be applying again as as I am focused on developing Sex Matters , a new organisation with the courage to stand up for the women who are standing up for women’s rights.

Here is the letter of application I submitted in October.

Courage calls to Courage

The Fawcett Society is at a crossroads. The trustees have a critical decision to make — will they have the courage to be clear and focused about the charity’s mission; to promote equality between women and men? Or will they appease a movement that wants to remove the ability to talk clearly about the two sexes, about female bodies and female lives, and about sex and power, and which has captured large parts of the public and private establishment?

There are three choices for the road to take ahead:

  1. All-in: Hire a CEO who takes the currently fashionable view that “woman” is an identity aligned to social stereotypes of femininity, and who will argue that organisations that stand up for the collective interests of female people are hateful and exclusionary.
  2. Brave: Hire a CEO who will be clear that women are female, and who is willing to fight for sex-based rights. And commit to have her back as she does that.
  3. Cautious: Hire a CEO who knows that women are female and men are male, but who is willing to equivocate, fudge and make concessions to placate fearful, confused or antagonistic government bodies, funders and voluntary sector organisations.

I took a poll on Twitter over the past few days and over a thousand women said they would join or re-join Fawcett if it takes the brave route.

Of course others will leave, but Fawcett must decide what it stands for. To date, Fawcett has taken the road that led to the unhappy cautious situation. It got there by good intentions; trying to stay focused on its core work on women’s equality (meaning female people) and stay out of a contentious and difficult debate. It was blindsided and lost its way.

In responding to the government’s consultation on legal self ID Fawcett sought to be kind and accommodating. It triangulated its position, “reconciling a range of views”. What it didn’t do is develop a clear analysis which put women’s rights first. It conceded the language and the ability to advocate for the interests of the female half of the population. Too late it found it had given up the ability to stand up for women in public life when they were abused and threatened, removed from jobs, and silenced.

There is always a tension between being close to power as a professionalised organisation and listening to ordinary women. In this case Fawcett did not find the right balance; it ended up weakly calling for debate, but playing no part in making it happen. Fawcett now finds itself separated from the most vibrant grassroots renewal of feminist campaigning in the UK since the 1970s, and complicit in allowing the silencing, abuse and economic terrorisation of women in public life.

The Trustees must now be clear as to which of the three paths it is choosing to take. If you want to go the brave route then please consider my application.

….

Fighting the gender wars should not take all, or most of Fawcett’s attention. Fawcett Society should step up and develop its own legal for employers and service providers guidance of the Equality Act on single sex services and the protected characteristic of sex. But there is also critical work to be done in highlighting how women are bearing the brunt of the economic and social fallout of the COVID crisis and advocating for fiscal, legal and institutional measures to recognise women’s needs. There is critical work in fighting misogyny and discrimination across institutions. To do this effectively Fawcett needs to be an honest, clear talking, outward-facing, fearless organisation.

I have applied because hundreds of women urged me to. I hope that Fawcett Society Trustees are brave, and hire someone brave. Don’t be the organisation that celebrates historic “difficult women” but which fails when courage calls to courage, to stand up for women today.

Maya Forstater

This is mainly where I write about sex and gender