Gender critical views in social work

I qualified as a social worker in 2000, and for 21 years I have worked in the specialist field of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence (VAWDASV), culminating in becoming the designated ‘expert’ for my local authority and the person they consulted with on all matters concerning violence against women. The recognition of the myriad forms of violence and abuse experienced by women at the hands of men came about by the sheer hard work, stamina and courage of the women like me who never gave up fighting for women and girls regardless of the opposition we faced.

Male violence

Life experience and social work practice in the deep end of women and child abuse told me that it was male violence that was limiting women’s life chances and opportunities. It was male violence that was putting so many women and children into refuges and safe houses, and male violence that was seriously harming the physical and emotional health of women. And it was male violence that nearly ended the life of my sister, and male violence that ultimately succeeded in ending the life of my 20-year-old female cousin. Male violence was finally being named for what it was and what it did to women.

So how come, all of a sudden, was I being ‘reminded’ that men were victims of violence and abuse too? And how come soon after that, was I being told to add a postscript at the end of my policies and strategies and project plans, to not just remind us that men were victims too, but that now transwomen were also victims, and that they were even more victimised that other women? And they would be sharing our funding and spaces.

What went so horribly wrong?

My voice was always loud and clear, which makes me a good (and well known) social worker. But within a year I went from an expert voice to a mouthy trans hater who didn’t know what she was talking about. Even though in my 25 years of working in the field I had never supported more than a handful of men, and zero transwomen, every support service or project I devised had to include access for these groups, even though I knew full well that they would never access the service because they simply didn’t experience violence and abuse on the scale women did or that through a simple numbers game, there just wouldn’t be that many transwomen in my area.

Let me make this very clear. Men and transwomen certainly do experience domestic abuse and sexual violence and deserve a service like everyone else. What women do not deserve to happen, is for the hard-won single sex spaces that we have fought so desperately for over many decades to be taken away from us due to the possibility that a few transwomen may want to access a VAWDASV service.

The decline in women only spaces

The decline in women only spaces came quickly. The decline in the acceptance of years of experience and knowledge of social workers came quickly. The decline in being able to discuss the issue rationally came quickly. The jump from discussing men in women’s spaces to trans women in women’s spaces came even quicker. Social workers, instead of being able to work within a regulated framework and years of experience and learning, are now being told to throw their judgement out, and listen to an ideology that is based on feelings, not evidence or facts.


As I sat in a Pride meeting as the Council’s women’s rep, I was reminded by a male Stonewall Cymru mouthpiece that I was to contact the police if I knew of any ‘terfs’ (his exact words) or radical feminist women’s groups that were going to attend the event. It was made quite clear by that man, that as a council we were going to support ALL elements of our community, and that as the lead I was to show the way forward. I sat in high level meetings where I was reminded that transwomen experienced violence and abuse on a scale far worse than other women. I was reminded of the fact that that they were the most disadvantaged group in society.

Fellow social workers kept silent. Behind closed doors and in cars we discussed the ridiculousness of what was happening. Laughing at the sheer nonsense that we were confident would end soon. But it didn’t end. Political correctness became a potential noose around our necks. I am one of the lucky ones. I left traditional social work, and now run my own consultancy business but am already aware that organisations I am working with will not take my recommendations on board and are too scared to enact the lawful requirement of single sex spaces.

Social workers are the voices of the unheard

Social workers are already seen as pariahs. This is another issue that many just won’t put up with. To be a social worker means that I speak out for those that can’t speak out. I am the voice of those that are rarely or never heard; the abused, the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. I made a commitment to do my best by those that need me and not put anyone at risk because of my behaviour. But who is now speaking out for me?