Women Demand Human Rights

LONDON: Militancy isn’t a male prerogative. And women took to the streets in London to demand their rights as Tory MPs talked the Womens Rights Bill into the ground. Next day the CHE women were having their national conference in Manchester.

The Women’s Rights demonstrators were meeting at Caxton Hall and marching on the House of Commons bearing flaming torches.

Women hissed and jeered from the packed galleries of the House of Commons as Martin Maddon, the Tory MP from Hove talked the Bill out.

The Bill, a private member’s Bill (and therefore only discussed on Friday afternoons) has been tabled by Mr Will Hamilton, the Labour MP for Fife. It demands an end to lower wages for women and the introduction of equal opportunity for women in industry.

Women marching from the House of Commons to 10 Downing Street after the Anti Discrimination Bill had been “talked out”. Photographs: Serena Wadham

But it doesn’t go far enough. Mrs Ethel Chipchase, vice-chairman of the Trade Union Congress’s women’s advisory committee complains it’s a bill without teeth.

May Hobbs of the Night Cleanersn Union calling for action at Caxton Hall.

The Bill aims at making it illegal to advertise for an exmployee of either sex, just as it’s illegal now to advertise for someone who is or is not a certain colour.

The Caxton Hall rally supporting the Bill featured May Hobbs of the Night Cleaner’s Union and Audrey Wise, the Labour candidate for Coventry.

May Hobbs said once the Bill finally became law – after Martin Maddon has been persuaded to stop his bloody-minded histrionics – women’s equality will have to go on evolving and not become frozen by the law.

Audrey Wise warned: “Don’t be misled into thinking that equality is an abstraction: we don’t want all the disadvantages men already have.”

Many of the keenest supporters of the Bill went to Manchester the next day for CHE’s conference for gay women.

ED: We tried to get a more exciting picture of the Women’s Rights demonstration, but the clerical staff belonging to NATSOPA, one of the print unions, was on strike, and despite our having ordered a photograph, it couldn’t be printed for us. We’d like to thank Time Out and Angela Phillips, the photographer, for letting us use their picture of the rally.

No Recognition At Queen’s

BELFAST: Students lobbying for law reform to make gay sex legal in Northern Ireland have been denied official recognition by Queen’s University Academic Council, because of possible legal repercussions.

The Gay Liberation Society which has been active on the university campus for the last year, exists to fight social prejudice against homosexuals and to lobby for a change in the laws of 1885 and 1861, which still apply in the province, as the 1967 Sexual Offences Act applied only to England and Wales.

Equality With England

The Gay Liberation Society wants equality with English gays. It points out that the law in its present state in Northern Ireland – and Scotland for that matter – exposed homosexuals to blackmail and legal harrassment for actions which were their own affair.

The university’s academic council turned the society’s plea for official recognition down flat and said the society would have to get legal advice before reapplying for recognition.

Meanwhile the society was going ahead with its plans to stage a ‘gay play’ at the university.

The play, Find Your Own Way Home, by television playwright John Hopkins, was to be staged jointly by the Gay Liberation Society and the university’s dramatic society.

Belfast’s Sunday News called it “the most sexually explicit (play) ever to be staged in the Province.”

Deep Blue Air

The play deals with the break-up of a marriage when the husband leaves to live with his gay lover.

The Sunday News confided: “Its language turns the air a very deep blue…

“But director Gwen Williams, a graduate in English, is not worried about possible protests.

“The play is a serious exploration of homosexual relationships,” she said, “and though the language is very strong, I think it’s justified.

“It was obviously written to combat prejudice against homosexuals, hence the cooperation of Gay Lib. Homosexuals are still hampered in Ulster by outdated social attitudes and by legislation, but I think Ulster people are mature enough to take this type of play, If protesters try to stop the production we shall make it into a club performance.”

Enthusiastic About Role

Arts student Andrew Hinds plays the husband’s lover, Julian, and he’s enthusiastic about this role, during which he has his shirt ripped off him by another of the play’s gay characters.

In one scene he describes his casual sex encounters in parks and cottages using what the Sunday News was moved to call ‘X certificate terms’.

Andrew said: “In the play, the husband leaves his wife, Jackie, for me. She thinks he’s left her for another woman when she finds letters to him signed ‘Julie’. It is only when she meets me that she realises that ‘Julie’ is, in fact a man called Julian. When that strikes home she is physically sick on stage.

But Andrew does not object to the ‘bad language’ in the play. “It’s about time this kind of language, which all young people use, got on to the stage; and realism would have suffered if it had been omitted.

Refreshing Radicalism

The first National Women’s Conference on Homosexuality was organised by Glenys Parry and Liz Stanley, CHE Executive Committee members at the end of January in Manchester University. Two hundred women of all sexes came from as far afield as Scotland to Southampton, Wales to Whitby and points in between.

The morning was spent in area reports, all of which repeated the depressing lack of women in CHE, GLF and women’s groups. The causes were brooded upon; possible hostility from men … fear of meetings … lack of personal welcome-warmth … fear of being recognised as gay in a small community … partner hunting which, when successful, deprived the group of the pair who settled into a replica of straight marriage.

In the afternoon, we broke up into small groups and tangled with five broad areas:
(1) Problems of married gay and bisexual women; the children of gay parents.
(2) Coming to terms with one’s own homosexuality; relating to each other and gay men; relationships to heterosexuals.
(3) Where gay women can go for help; specific problems relating to the caring professions.
(4) Women’s Lib, Radical Feminism and their relationship to the gay women’s struggle.
(5) The problems of isolated gay women in provincial towns.

Group 1 said: that gay/bisexual wives were stuck with their husbands for financial reasons. The social security alternative was a hand to mouth existence. Bisexuality isn’t the good thing people think it is. One looks into the future … one asks what is going to happen … Am I going one way or the other? Gays should investigate alternative life-styles, such as communes and pool resources of cash and childcare, but lesbians weren’t enough together as a gay movement to make this effective.

Group 2 said: there wasn’t a precise age at which one came to terms with homosexuality. Some never did. The young, particularly, have suicidal tendencies. Some believed that they were physically or mentally maladjusted. All feared mixing with men, whether gay or straight. Mixing in CHE groups would do plenty to resolve this.

Group 3 said: those in the group who had sought help from doctors/priests/psychiatrists had been lucky. All were sympathetic. The group was aware this wasn’t typical. Citizens Advice Bureaux, Samaritans and social services must be informed about local CHE/GLF groups and Friend.

Group 4 said: gay women live in a counter society … live against the grain of society … outside the nuclear family … so are radical. Essential to educate Women’s Lib out of fear of the stereotype aggressive lesbian. Priority action should be taken from the outside on behalf of gay women teachers who had an appalling oppression of job risk, not from pupils, but from their colleagues and superiors. Demand compulsory homosex-education in schools.

Group 5 said: National CHE should put their publicity weight behind local groups to use local radio, TV, papers and posters. Provincial groups had difficulty in keeping together because of wide spread areas. Convenors must be vigilant about continual contact. Pre-meetings contact with a new member should be in pairs. A one-to-one scene caused a shy lesbian to suspect a pick-up.

Whither women and CHE rounded off the session. Those there, were pro-bono CHE, but acknowledged its male image put lesbians off. Until there was an equal number of women to men in CHE, it would be ineffective in representing homosexuals.

Judging by the state of rapport at the end of the session and during the disco, the more National Women’s Conferences the better. This ’ere cockney was much enriched by exposure to out-of-London lesbians. CHE took on a larger dimension of honest-to-guts discussion about the realities to be faced and the resolve to overcome them brought refreshing radicalism to the usual staid stag socialising that bedevils London CHE groups.

St. Andrews Liberated

EDINBURGH: In January, St Andrews was liberated. Well, they tried hard, liberation week lasted from the 10th to the 17th and got a lot of straight media coverage for its women’s lib street theatre.

Sunday was best. A seminar on sexual liberation! Danny Mullen, Jim Halcrow and Alaister Davidson were there to represent the gay scene, Danny is the new chairman of SMG.

SMG are doing a lot of righteous work up there, but Danny came on saying there wasn’t and never had been a GLF group in Scotland. But who was groovin’ at their Cobweb Dance on the 26th January?

Some of us don’t worry over much about chairmen and committees, but in public, from a major spokesman, let’s see some solidarity. When SMG are pushing a homosexual law reform bill, let’s not see it knocked in public by the chairman of SMG. Danny didn’t mention that bill until a guy in the audience prompted him. He then said that he had a lot of reservations about it.

Solidarity in the gay movement comes before factionalism. No one gives a damn how many legal niceties or official pecking orders there may be – just get on with it.