a red bathroom entrance for men and women

Why Women Need Female Only Spaces

I have a very strong sensation of feeling as if I have to be grateful for every break I have had. I feel that I owe people so very much that complaining or griping about my living conditions in the shelter, or my boundaries that I had clearly placed, being ridden over out of necessity, felt like being brattish and churlish. After all the shelter gave me a place to stay with my child. I managed.

I had one rule which I really needed to be observed, and that rule was, the shelter I went to had to be all female only. Female staff, female ‘inmates’ apart from children. Considering I am the survivor of rape, sexual abuse and male violence to an extreme degree I didn’t think this was such an impossible or unreasonable request. Nevertheless there was not one shelter along the west coast which was for biological women only, by that I mean XX women with female genitals and minus testosterone and penises. Not one. All of them accepted transwomen, and had no stipulation that transwomen had to do anything other than self identify as a woman, and a few of them accepted biological cis males alongside female survivors, albeit in a hotel situation, but still women would have to cope with men while they recover their lives. There was no space for women to recover their lives with other women around only, and their children.

This extended to the staff. Call up DV helplines and over recent years there have been males answering the phone. I asked to talk to a woman and was told no woman was possible. I had to talk to a man while I was in a distressed state. My request for a woman to talk to was dismissed as ‘phobic’. Well, perhaps after being raped and beaten over the years asking to talk to a woman is not ‘phobic’ but respecting the damage that men have caused. Domestic violence is a gendered act: it is overwhelmingly women that get abused by men. There is a physical inequality and of course men can rape women. Get out of here if you want to pretend that women can do the same to men. Forcibly overpowering a grown man and penetrating them or forcing them into sex is a male fantasy, it is not actually possible. I will not ‘be nice’, I will not fall for this gaslighting insanity. Men are a danger to women, the danger is vanishingly rarely reversed and only in very unusual circumstances.

Women deserve a space away from men and transwomen to recover. In the end of things I could not find anywhere to go which was fair on me, and instead had to go through the trauma of a mixed sex homeless shelter, instead of dedicated and professional domestic violence shelter assistance. This led to often having to cope with men behaving inappropriately. I had to hear the sounds of domestic violence from other rooms, and hear loud sex parties, fueled by drugs. When I complained I was told that there was nothing that could be done. I looked out of the window once, into the very bad area the shelter was in, to see a woman being raped in broad daylight. I ran to get her help, and had to persuade one of the workers to intervene. They did not do so willingly.

On one hand I was absolutely grateful for a bed, a roof, and a bathroom of my own, on the other the trauma that I had suffered was being added to in vast amounts. I was denied sleep by the man in the room next door smashing repeatedly on the wall for hours at a time, right through the night. I had to cope with men throwing temper tantrums, and men talking to me and counselling me. The social worker was male. He was a decent and caring man, but nevertheless his exhortations to ‘forget about the past and move on and stop talking about it’ really did damage. He didn’t mean to, he just had no other means of explaining or helping. Most men just do not really understand what it is like to be absolutely vulnerable, and battered down and used up by the patriarchy. Despite their best efforts women remain an entirely different human animal to them.

I had to do things, go through situations that were damaging to me, that caused further distress. I had to go into a shelter that was run by and occupied by men because there was no other option and I really had to get out. Women are always exhorted to ‘be kind’, but ask yourselves, was this kind to me? Was it kind to me to force me to live with and be counselled by adult males? Was it kind to me to make me listen to the sounds of another women being beaten up, begging her male partner for mercy and to stop hurting her? Was it kind to me to be forced to live around men? Was it kind to me to be told ‘just get over it and move on’? Is being kind to victims – women like me – less important than being kind to men who are having gender issues or who want to work with vulnerable women? Is it really so unreasonable to need adult female only spaces?

Men, so many women and girls are the victims of rape, whether or not their attacker was convicted. It is simply almost impossible to get a conviction for rape, and the incredibly low prosecution rate of the world Patriarchy means that rape is basically legal. Those women who got lucky and have not been sexually attacked are still at risk from penis owners, aka men, especially in spaces where they are vulnerable. Bathrooms and shelters, and domestic violence support, should ensure female only spaces and provisions, and yet this has become highly unfashionable.

Am I saying all men are rapists, or all men hit women. Well, put it this way, most men are not rapists, but almost all rapists are men. The same goes for domestic violence. Not all men are violent to women, but it is mostly men who attack and kill women. The UN world stats for domestic violence say that 1 in 7 women experienced violence, either physical or sexual, by their partner, in 2018. Globally 81,000 women and girls were killed by men. 58 percent of them were killed by their intimate partners or family members. Of course women’s stats now include men who self identify as the very class of people they abuse. Some of these rapes and beatings are not women’s crimes. To be frank, I am disgusted with a society that is going full throttle to erase and abuse women, and shore up the patriarchy in the name of ‘progress’.

Kindness, understanding and decency towards women who have already suffered so much, has been replaced by outright disbelief, bullying and insistence that women do not have the right to say ‘no’ to men in any arena. Saying ‘no’ to mixed sex spaces is now met with a ‘gotcha chorus’ of bigot and transphobe. I am neither. The risks to women in shared spaces are not acceptable, and more than that, it is absolutely necessary for women who have been raped and abused by men to have safety and privacy, and that means female only spaces. It is not appropriate to force males upon women who are already traumatized.

I have lived this. This has been my life for years. I can cope with men that I like and who are sensitive and respectful, but only at a distance. There should have been a safe and respectful provision for my and my child to be in a shelter where there were only female staff and clients. My blood runs cold when I realize that women are being locked up in prisons with people who own penises. The most vulnerable of women, with nowhere to run to, locked up with penis owners who say they are them, is one of the cruelest abuses of human rights that I have ever heard of. Not all transwomen are a danger to women, but some men who decide they want into the women’s prison and are attracted to women despite being trans, are not safe to be around women.

Transwomen who are jailed for sexual assault against women are still locked up with women. Is this being kind to women? Stats are hard to come by, but in 2017 in the UK only one per cent of the 3,600 female jail population are transwomen but they are to blame for 5.6 per cent of sexual assaults in jails. That number sounds pretty low to me. I would rather try to fight off a biological woman than a biological man. I wonder how many of those other assaults were by male staff of the jails on the female inmates? How many of those other assaults were truly women’s crimes?

An female inmate at an Illinois women’s prison claimed to have been raped by a transgender inmate who was transferred into her housing unit in 2020, and declared that the DOC tried to cover up the incident. Clearly this transwoman still had a penis and the ability to get an erection. The staff of the jail then allegedly tried to falsely categorize it as consensual. Where is the kindness towards women? Where is the understanding of women’s trauma? Where is the concern that women might kill themselves if they are forced into being around men? There is none, because the patriarchy protects transwomen before it protects ciswomen, because the boys protect their own, no matter what.

Long term, the effects on me have been profound. I am left feeling as if nobody understands or cares or believes me. I am left feeling as if the abuse I suffered does not matter as much as men’s feelings. I am left with a creeping sensation that nothing is safe, or kind or decent. I am left feeling guilty for not ‘being kind’ whilst wondering whether anyone might want to be kind to me. I am left knowing that I was expendable as long as men are allowed to carry on and tell me to ‘get over it’.

When you are left flushing a dead 8 week old fetus down the toilet after your husband beats it out of you, you do not get over it. When you are deaf in one ear and your eyesight is ruined on the same side because of being beaten around the head, you do not get over it. When your husband drags you off night after night to anally and vaginally rape you, you do not get over it. When you are strangled and pushed around because that gets him hot, you do not get over it. When you are beaten to within an inch of your life and reasonably think he is going to kill you, because he told you he would…you do not get over it. Every man looks like a wolf outside your straw house ready to huff and puff until he gets into your spaces and has access to your vulnerable body.

Third spaces need to be built. Shelters, bathrooms, counselling and jails that cater to transwomen and keep them safe. However, we really need to reinstate women’s boundaries and ensure that there are spaces for just women, who are uniquely at risk from those men who make up all those stats that say men are a danger to women.

Give us our privacy and spaces back, boys, it is life and death for women. Not everyone woman can just cope with adding to her damage like I did, and handle mixed shelters and lack of provision, and I should never have had to force myself through that at all.


    1. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

      You were the one who saved my ungrateful bitching ass from disaster, Ruthie! You are the best most darling kind sis ever! You literally saved me and the kid and are still saving us…not to mention being fabulous company and the bestest sis ever. xx HUG xxx Don’t make me come over there and hug you! love ya, sis x

  1. Ruth

    In case it is of interest; official UK Ministry of Justice figures from 2019 reveal that TW are more than 3 times more likely to be sex-offenders than natal men.
    76 sex offenders out of 129 transwomen in prison = 58.9%
    13234 sex offenders out of 78781 men in prison = 16.8%
    125 sex offenders out of 3812 women in prison = 3.3%

  2. Ruth

    Yes I believe so. They are from 2019 since when the overall number of TW in the prison population has increased significantly. Also, some prisons are counting TW as female which increases the % for women and decreases it for TW of course. Either way, it is abundantly clear that men as a demographic are a risk to women, regardless of how they identify. The refusal to acknowledge this is an extreme form of misogyny.

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