A local woman walks around the city of Vancouver pulling ads off of telephone posts and public bulletin boards, throwing them in the trash. She brags about her good deed on social media, posting a picture of a pile of discarded adverts.

No, she's not cleaning up litter, graffiti, or obscenity.

Michelle Hanley is removing stickers with the name and phone number of Vancouver Rape Relief, a local organization which provides counseling and services to female victims of rape and domestic violence.

Many would call this brave sticker-puller a Men's Rights Activist. The description is apt; she is actively trying to prevent women from accessing services which allow them to escape male violence. Advocating against the existence of women's shelters is right out of the MRA playbook.

But Hanley likely doesn't see herself this way. Rather, she appears to consider herself an advocate for the people she sees as most oppressed in society: men who identify as women.

Via Michelle Hanley on Twitter
◇◈◇

Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR) has been at the center of a massive campaign by trans activists to eliminate their services. The collective, which has been in operation since 1973 is Canada's oldest domestic violence service. VRR has served over 46,000 women in nearly 50 years. Their transition house, which is offered to women escaping male violence, has been home to over 3,000 women and 2,600 children since it opened in the past 40 years.

In addition to their direct service work, VRR is also involved in community education and national reform efforts, such as the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.

Nearly one year ago, on March 14th 2019, the city of Vancouver voted to eliminate an annual grant of about $30,000 to the organization. The vote came after a campaign of harassment, defamation, and abuse from trans activists⁠—led by a man who calls himself "Morgane Oger". Oger celebrated the defunding of Rape Relief because, in his view, the female-only service discriminates against "trans women", like himself.

The inclusion of male people as counselors or in the transition house would go directly against the mission of the group, though. In a statement, VRR said, "Vancouver City Council’s attempt to undermine our autonomy as a women’s group — to decide who we serve, who our membership is and who we organize with — also undermines the protections the law has granted us. Such conduct has no place in a democratic society."

The right to have services related to a particular protected characteristic, like age, ability, race, or sex, has been upheld on multiple occasions by the Canadian Supreme Court. The city of Vancouver, however, has decided to discriminate by preventing only one group of people from independently organizing: women.

It's not just about money, either. The workers and clients at the Rape Relief center have faced an onslaught of abuse and harassment, including death threats.

Vandalism at the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter (VancouverRapeRelief/Twitter)

In August of 2019, the women found their shelter defaced with messages including slurs and death threats. "TERFS GO HOME  YOU ARE NOT WELCOME" said one message. "KILL TERFS TRANS POWER," and "FUCK TERFS" said others. ("TERF" is short for "Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist", and is considered a slur based on it's common proximity to misogyny, homophobia, and threats of physical violence including rape).

A few days prior, a dead rat had been found nailed to their door. It's not the first time they've received dead animals as presents. Animal abuse is considered by experts to be linked with domestic violence.

“The women who come to our support groups are rape victims and battered women,” Hilla Kerner, who has worked at the shelter for 14 years, said in a statement to the National Review. “One of them said to me, ‘Haven’t we suffered enough?’”

The activists have also lied about the services VRR provides, saying, for example, that the organization denies services to "sex workers".

On the contrary, VRR states they, "provide assistance to women and girls in prostitution who have been assaulted by johns, pimps or men pressuring them into prostitution. We provide assistance to women who are currently being prostituted, women who are trying to escape prostitution, and women who have been trafficked into prostitution."

VRR has managed to keep their doors open thanks to the donations of women from across their globe who have heard their plea.

What happened to Vancouver Rape Relief did not happen in secret or in isolation. It was reported in multiple countries, in national, local, feminist, and mainstream publications. As Meghan Murphy of Feminist Current wrote, the defunding and harassment "shows trans activism is an attack on women".

"Going after one of the few services and spaces for battered women is shameful," she said, "beyond a doubt. These efforts and this decision is an explicit attempt to erase women as a distinct class of people — something that negates our sex-based rights."

This moment, which occurred nearly a year ago now, should have been a wake up call to feminists across the world about the misogyny behind the trans movement.

Rather, it appears to just be the start. Across the world, including in the United States, women's rights, spaces, and protections are coming under attack—and mainstream feminists, like Hanley, are not only letting it happen but supporting the degradation of women's rights happening in front of them.

◇◈◇

Although female genital mutilation (FGM) is currently on a decline across the world, the number of women and girls at risk of the harmful and medically unnecessary procedure in the United States has risen sharply in the past two decades. Those most at risk tend to be concentrated in California, New York, and Minnesota and have relatives from Egypt, Somalia, or Ethiopia where the practice is more common.

The United States attempted to make FGM on a girl under 18 a federal crime in in 1996, however the ban was struct down by a federal district judge in 2018. Since then, states have attempted to take the matter into their own hands by passing their own bans on FGM among girls under 18. Only 35 states have successfully passed explicit bans on the procedure, which can include four different forms of genital cutting and mutilation.

In February, Wyoming, one of the states with no current FGM ban, introduced a bill to outlaw the procedure. The bill would also mean that girls who are cut may bring a civil suit against the person who performed the procedure for up to ten years after it occurs, or the girl turns 18. It also makes the mutilation grounds to bring a child abuse claim, and initiates public training and education measures on the issue.

According to Representative Dan Laursen, who brought the bill, about 400-600 women and girls in the state may be at risk. It's not a lot, but one is too many.

The bill, however, has sparked criticism from trans activists who feared that the bill would effectively outlaw sexual reassignment surgery on minors.

The bill defined Female Genital Mutilation as:

"The partial or total removal of the clitoris, prepuce, labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora, the narrowing of the vaginal opening such as through the creation of a covering seal formed by cutting and repositioning the inner or outer labia, with or without removal of the clitoris, any harmful procedure to the genitalia, including pricking, piercing, incising, scraping or cauterizing or any other actions intended to alter the structure or function of the female genitalia for nonmedical reasons."

It listed multiple exceptions, including:

(B) Sex reassignment surgery if the person 2 on whom it is performed is over eighteen (18) years of age 3 and requests and consents to the procedure;

Despite the fact that sexual reassignment surgery is literally genital mutilation, and there is no reason children need to undergo the procedure before adulthood, trans campaigners threatened to topple the whole bill to preserve the right to genitally mutiliate gender non-conforming children in the name of their religion.

Tara Muir, Policy Director of the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (WCADVSA), stated that the bill would place “draconian limits on transgender people.”

One sponsor of the bill, State Senator Affie Ellis, threatened to pull her name off the legislation.

In the end, Ellis removed the cause with an amendment and watered down the language for the bill to proceed.

That trans activists are willing to stop a bill that would protect girls from untold mental and physical harm for the rest of their lives demonstrates just how little they truly care about women. The cultural relativism, racism, and ethnocentric at play is also shocking. When they (immigrants, Muslims, black people) mutilate a child's genitals they are considered barbaric, and inhumane. When we (middle class, liberal, white people) do the same—it's different, we have reasons!

Recently, trans activists have stopped even pretending to care about women.

In a recent interview with Fionne Orlando, a transexual male and ally to feminists, Mark Angelo Cummings, a trans activist and biological female, made clear their disdain for other women. "Women's rights are a mascarade to take away other people's rights," says the description of the video. "Who cares about women rights?" Cummings flippantly asked.

◇◈◇

These incidents are not isolated. The pattern of female erasure, to the point of harming actual women and girls and putting their lives and safety at risk, continues.

Women are no longer allowed to use words that describe our unique biological experiences—experiences like pregnancy, birth, and abortion that are deeply related to our oppression as the female sex class.

Women and girls are no longer allowed to compete in sports without males.

Male teachers are pushing their way into the little girls' room.

Visibly gender non-conforming girls no longer even exist on tv without being "transed".

Political positions reserved for women are being opened up to men, based solely on their identity."

Violent male criminals are being housed in prison with women, most of whom are non-violent offenders and victims of male violence themselves.

For most mainstream feminists, it may be easy to ignore the impacts of these polices on victims of rape and domestic violence, girls who are at risk of undergoing FGM, or female prisoners. They are disproportionately the most vulnerable in society—women of color, indigenous women, lesbian and bisexual women, poor women, immigrant women, and children. The straight, white, middle and upper class men and women who type "#transwomenarewomen" from the comfort of their nice neighborhoods with lots of trees and low crime rates are not the ones who are suffering.

Yet.

First they came for the rape crisis center, but eventually they will come for all women. You never know what service you will need that may have been defunded, what shelter you will wish was open, or what resource will be withheld from you. All women will be impacted by the misogyny of defining women based on sexist and objectifying male fantasies, labeling us as a mere subset of ourselves, and eroding women's sexual boundaries.

A society is only as strong as it's most vulnerable and, right now, we are failing our most vulnerable women and girls by caving to the bullying and silencing tactics of the trans lobby. Maybe it's easy for mainstream liberal feminists to ignore the consequences to women because they do not yet feel impacted. But rest assured, they will come for you, too.


Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Hanley as a Massage Therapist.


Like our work? When you support 4W, you support our entire network of feminist writers who are putting themselves on the line to give you important stories.

Join us by becoming a monthly donor on Patreon and get exclusive benefits.

Or, support Vancouver Rape Relief with every purchase of our "I ♥️ Julie Bindel" custom merch!

Shop now

Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, M. K. Fain

Cover image by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office