Kellie Jay Keen (AKA Posie Parker) held a ‘Let Women Speak’ event near in Hyde Park last Sunday. However, from watching the events and speaking to attendees on both sides, it quickly became clear that only one side was there to support women’s rights - and it wasn’t Keen’s.
Kellie Jay Keen’s rally - ‘Let Women Speak’ - claims to be centred on women’s rights. In reality, the ‘women’s issues’ they focus on do not concern the right to reproductive justice, freedom from domestic violence, or period poverty - they are unified around a vilification of trans people, and our right to exist peacefully in civil society. Keen herself has rejected the label feminist, and as a result her events attract numerous attendees who seek to undermine both trans rights and women’s rights.
The attendance of the far-right at Keen’s ‘Let Women Speak’ events has been previously documented by Trans Safety Network. The rally I attended was no different. The previous day had seen a significant turnout by the far-right to protest a drag event at the Honor Oak Pub in London, including members of the Democratic Football Lads Alliance. Protesters I spoke to told me that various far-right attendees at the Honor Oak protest had made clear their intention to attend the Let Women Speak event the next day.
This information turned out to be correct. The organisers of the Honor Oak protest, Turning Point UK, were in attendance at Keen’s rally. Turning Point UK have platformed speakers who argue that women ‘should always be subject to the man’ in marriage. Nick Tenconi, their chief operating officer, has described himself as a ‘huge fan’ of Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot two men dead during a protest concerning the police killing of a Black man. Tenconi has used language associated with misogynistic men’s rights activists, for example calling some men ‘betas’, and describing Prince Harry as a ‘cuck’. These are not people you would expect to be present at a women’s rights event.
Another attendant spotted was Max-Hammett Milay, an individual jailed for his part in the ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ riots. Milay was wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat.
I also came across a group of Catholic supporters of Kellie-Jay Keen, adorned in rosaries and equipped with a Vatican flag. The use of the Vatican flag is uncommon amongst ordinary Catholics, but it is often used by 'tradcaths', with particularly reactionary views. Whilst not a position held by all Catholics, the Vatican itself is renowned for its opposition to fundamental women’s rights, such as access to abortion.
Of course, Keen has actively courted this kind of support. Keen’s latest tour to Australia was sponsored by the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC). CPAC are renowned for the abhorrent racist, anti-queer, and anti-women’s rights stances of its most prominent members. For example, their chairman, Matt Schlapp (who is currently facing allegations of sexual harassment), has heralded abortion bans as a potential solution to the ‘great replacement’ - a conspiracy theory rooted in white supremacism. More recently, a speaker at their conference, Michael Knowles, called for the ‘eradication’ of ‘transgenderism’. As stated by Trans Safety Network in our previous analysis - it is the honestly held opinion of our researchers that no meaningful line can be drawn between ‘transgenderism’ and the lives, freedom, and flourishing of trans people. In our view, Michael Knowles’s statement thus amounts to an effective call for trans genocide.
Keen has previously used a picture of a barbie in a nazi uniform her profile picture, and attracted sieg heiling nazi attendees to her tour in Australia. Keen has stated that Hearts of Oak - a far right group founded by Tommy Robinson and Carl Benjamin - are welcome to attend and film her events. Keen has described Tucker Carlson (the ex-Fox News host famed for his far right outbursts) as a ‘lovely man’ following her meeting with him. Keen has also had meetings with the conservative Christian and anti-abortion lobby group the Heritage Foundation.
Recently, Keen has spoken out against the right of children to access contraceptives and abortion. Keen argued that the access of children to ‘dangerous contraceptives’ and to ‘abortion’ requires a ‘rethink’. This speech formed part of the publicity for Keen’s Australia tour, in which she appeared alongside prominent Australian anti-abortion campaigner Kirralie Smith. There is no reasonable way that such an attack on young women’s reproductive rights can be understood as pro-women rights.
During the event, Keen was interviewed by GB News - a right wing news channel which, just this weekend, was questioning whether a ‘heathen’ Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak) should be allowed to read from the gospels. GB News have also advocated against women’s ability to access abortion pills, and published pieces which advocate reducing the term limit to 22 weeks, suggesting that women be forced to wait two weeks before accessing care, and questioning whether proper consideration is being given to ‘the rights of the father’. This is a blatant right-wing, anti-feminist agenda.
During her interview, Keen positioned herself in front of a banner referencing the incident in New Zealand in which a protester threw tomato juice over her. However, the banner is clearly designed in such a way as to make the juice look like blood, positioning Keen as some sort of martyr. This is particularly foul, given the actual violence experienced by trans people in this country, such as the killing of trans schoolgirl Brianna Ghey. Another recent incident is the arson attack on two trans women’s flat, which is being investigated as a hate crime. Keen has heavily contributed to the current anti-trans backlash, which has created an environment in which such violence can occur. It is thus appalling for her to position herself as a bleeding martyr, when the extent of the physical violence she has suffered is being doused in juice.
Another notable aspect of the event was the strongly differing relationship with the police held by the Let Women Speak attendees and the trans protesters. Policing of trans protesters was heavy from the outset, beginning when protesters were initially meeting a long distance from Keen’s event. Throughout the event, policing was far heavier towards the trans protesters than the gender critical ones. This was unsurprising, given the very friendly relationship Keen’s attendees appeared to have with the police, contrasted with various anti-police signs displayed by trans protesters. One steward I spoke to told me that there was a much greater police presence than usual, and that this was ‘helpful’. One steward was holding a defaced cardboard sign, which she told me she had taken from the protesters The sign had originally said “Don't Talk To Cops”, but the steward had ripped the sign to remove the word “Don't”.
Put simply: women’s rights campaigners do not make friends with police officers. The police are institutionally misogynistic. The police a renowned for their aggression towards women’s rights protesters - for example, at the vigil for Sarah Everard following her rape and murder at the hands of police officer Wayne Couzens. I was one of the women violently pushed to the ground and threatened with unlawful arrest at this vigil. Just this weekend, the Metropolitan Police arrested community volunteers - wearing bibs with the Met Police logo on them - for being in possession of rape alarms. The fact that Keen’s supporters felt comfortable around police officers, and that the police were not aggressive towards them, is strong evidence that Keen and her attendees are far more aligned with the right wing establishment than with women’s rights.
At first glance, the crowd of attendees for Keen's event seemed larger than the crowd of trans protesters. However, once I entered both crowds, I realised this was not the case. Keen's crowd was far more spread out, whilst the trans protesters has been forced into a very dense group by the police line. Noticeably, there were large numbers of older men present, including Graham Linehan.
A number of attendees were literally bussed in from across the country for Keen's event. There were also a large number of attendees with For Women Scotland merchandise. In contrast, almost every single trans protester I spoke to lived in London.
There was significant aggression from Keen’s attendees towards trans protesters. Following the protest, Keen’s supporters claimed that one of their stewards had been attacked by the trans protesters. However, footage actually shows the steward being removed by protesters - and indeed by the police - after she violently stormed the crowd of trans supporters. As mentioned above, a steward also admitted to me that she had taken a protest sign from the trans protesters. Given the police separation of the protest groups, it is difficult to imagine how she would have obtained this without similarly storming the trans-supportive crowd.
There were multiple incidents of streamers trying to break into the trans crowd to incite a response. One particularly unpleasant incident involved a streamer shouting at numerous trans protesters, calling the trans pride flag the ‘paedophile flag’ and telling them to ‘keep it in the bedroom’. When I asked, a nearby police officer told me that this was not a hate crime.
In contrast to Keen’s supporters, the trans protesters made clear that they saw the fight for trans rights and the fight for women’s rights to be inseparable. I spoke to a number of cis women who were deeply concerned about anti-trans rhetoric, and the links of Kellie-Jay Keen to the far right. One cis woman told me that she was ‘really angry’ at Keen and her supporters ‘for acting as though this is women against trans people when actually most women support trans people.’
In fact, even the supporters of Keen seemed to be aware of the large number of women who were in support of trans rights. I overheard a conversation between two of Keen’s attendees, questioning why the trans rights cause attracted ‘so many lesbians’. One theorised it was because these lesbians just saw the LGBT+ acronym and assumed we were all in it together, without thinking about it critically. The vast majority of lesbians do support trans rights - and it is not because of an acronym. It is because our struggles are linked - resisting biological determinism, and essentialism, instead promoting a radical commitment to bodily autonomy and liberation. One sign held by a pro-trans protester said ‘Abortion is not up for compromise’. It is not surprising that real women’s rights activists would rather stand with a trans crowd which actually fights for women’s rights, rather than with Keen, whose alliance with the far right has seen her undermine even these most basic feminist principles.
Kellie-Jay Keen did not respond to our request for comment.