February 2, 2024 - 6:00pm

London Bridge Station

Calling women “sluts”, “bimbos”, “bitches” and “cows” is the sort of sexism that might prompt London’s Mayor to say “Maaate”. It’s certainly not the sort of language one might expect from a champion of inclusion and diversity, nor of a man dubbed a role model in his industry. Yet Shane Andrews MBE — chair of Archway, Network Rail’s employee network for promoting LGBT inclusion — has been accused of using these very words to denigrate women on social media.

Today a large poster with screenshots of now-deleted posts apparently made by Andrews was displayed as part of a protest at London Bridge Station. At around 11am, scores of supporters of Let Women Speak (LWS) converged at the base of the newly erected “Pride Pillar”, described by Network Rail as “an art installation aimed at educating people about LGBT+ flags and communities”.

The LWS activists aimed not only to bring attention to Andrews’s sexist comments, but to make a broader point about his employer, Network Rail. The infrastructure giant’s decision to plant a (literal) flag on the trans activist side of the national debate around women’s rights has angered many.

It was there, with a backdrop of flags celebrating “pansexual”, “polyamorous” and “demisexual” identities, that the female activists burst into song before giving speeches about the heavy irony of feeling excluded by measures which purport to champion inclusion.  

A LWS organiser told me after the event that “this headache of a display doesn’t represent women who do not believe in gender ideology — in other words, women who believe in biological reality, and in particular lesbians who are branded bigots for not wanting to date men who pretend to be lesbians.”

Yet it seems Network Rail has failed to pick up on signal changes around sex and gender, though the company has had plenty of opportunities to educate itself over the years.

In 2020, when Let Women Speak founder Kellie-Jay Keen paid for a billboard at Edinburgh Waverley station reading “I ♥ JK Rowling”, it was removed following online complaints of transphobia. At the time, Network Rail Scotland said on X, “We do not allow advertising that is likely to support or promote one viewpoint over another.” This hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed in the recent commentary provoked by the Pride Pillar.

In the years since the removal of the Rowling poster, numerous court cases have confirmed that people have the right to publicly disagree with the Stonewall-approved line that “transwomen are women”. Yet Network Rail, (listed within the top 100 Stonewall Equality Workplace Index of 2023) has failed to recognise that displaying flags promoting transgender ideology and identities is inherently political.

While Network Rail hasn’t moved, vast swathes of the public have now woken up to the threats from transgender ideology as promoted by lobby groups like Stonewall. Findings from the most recent British Social Attitudes survey show that the proportion thinking someone who identifies as the opposite sex should be allowed to change their birth certificate has fallen by 23 percentage points — from 53% to 30% — since 2019. 

Grisly accounts of male rapists being placed in women’s prisons, and of children with gender confusion being put on experimental drugs, have made many question whether accepting someone’s identity above the reality of their sex really is the “be kind” option. What’s more, thanks to recent legal rulings, human resources departments are beginning to recognise that employees and indeed service users have the right to reject trans ideology. While this is framed as a gender-critical belief, it might more accurately be described as “trans atheism”.

It would be comforting to imagine the people who oversee Britain’s rail infrastructure would be adept at spotting such signs and signals. But it seems Network Rail runs on a single track: what Stonewall says goes.

In its corporate bumf celebrating the “Pride Pillar”, Network Rail said:

We hope displaying the flags will help prevent confusion and misunderstanding about identity. We also hope it will act as a discussion point to tackle LBGT issues, promote conversation and serve an educational focal point.
- Network Rail

In this regard, the display has been effective. No doubt as time passes and the importance of material reality reasserts itself, the Pride Pillar will be looked upon as a monument to institutional stupidity, a gaudy reminder of a time when women’s rights were dismissed as an impediment to the identities of men.

Josephine Bartosch is a freelance writer and assistant editor at The Critic.