On the front lines in Athens, Ohio
January 24, 2023
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I grew up in a place called Athens, Ohio. Not very many people know about it. Its residential population is just over 20,000. It is home to Ohio University, which has about 30,000 students. So when school is in session, the population more than doubles.
There’s a store in town called Artifacts Gallery. It sits at the corner of West State St. and Court St. (the main thoroughfare in town). It sells t-shirts, jewelry, pottery, and other fun things. I used to shop there as a teenager. My friends and I would walk there from the middle school, right up the road on West State St.
In January 2023 Artifacts became a focal point for TERF activism and I was there to witness it.
At some point in 2022, an old friend messaged me to tell me that the owner of Artifacts, Amy Mangano, had outed herself as a TERF on Google Reviews. A lot of people got pretty upset about that and scheduled a series of protests in May 2022. In response, Amy temporarily closed the store. There was a story about it in the local paper, The Messenger, where Amy was given an opportunity to comment. In her email to the paper, she:
noted that society is facing a reality that reduces the definition of women to the “nebulous concept of ‘gender identity’ and allowing any man who claims to ‘identify as’ a woman access to female-only spaces is putting women and girls in danger and robbing them of their rights to feel safe in spaces that were specifically founded for their advancement and safety.”
The concept goes beyond sports or bathrooms, she said. “California, Washington and other states are allowing convicted male rapists and murderers to be housed in women’s prisons on the basis of their female so-called ‘gender identity.’ The concept of ‘gender identity’ is not rooted in reality and promotes furthering the oppressive presence throughout history of men attempting to assert unnecessary control and intrude on women without whole collective consent.”
In the case of these Google reviews, Mangano notes that “[h]istorically women saying ‘no’ to men posed a great threat to their well-being and safety. As we can see here times have not changed. Seemingly innocuous men are forcing themselves onto us and the voices of the women who feel intruded upon are being trampled over by hate speech and biologically inaccurate chants. Hurling insults and chanting ‘trans women are women’ isn’t contributing to the conversation. These are hostile oppressive tactics that are being fostered by the trans community to scare women into silence. Any woman who is protesting my store this weekend and calling herself a feminist is delusional. The trans movement is misogyny of the highest degree.”
She was, of course, exactly right.
I was able to track down the email address for the store and emailed her immediately. I wanted her to know about Women’s Declaration International USA (WDI USA) so she would know she has support. She got back to me right away. I sent her the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights, which she signed. She also submitted an application to volunteer for WDI USA, which was accepted, and she has been volunteering with us ever since. In addition to being brilliant and brave, Amy is an exceptionally talented graphic artist and we are grateful for her contributions to the work of fighting for women’s sex-based rights.
She attended our fall 2022 convention on Reigniting the Women’s Liberation Movement and she reports to me that she has been attending local school board meetings to complain about boys in girls’ bathrooms and the indoctrination of children. We are all very proud of her commitment.
A few weeks ago, she made the front of the store look like this:
I’m not sure a TERFier shopfront has ever existed!
That made some people very angry, and some called for a protest outside the store on Saturday January 21.
And also a boycott of the store:
Public reactions were decided mixed:
Because I am from Athens and because my commitment to protecting the sex-based rights of women and girls is unwavering, I decided to go to support Amy.*
* Side note: It helped that the Cincinnati Bengals were scheduled to play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. I am not a fan of the Bengals, but I happen to know that its quarterback, Joe Burrow, grew up in Athens and attended the same high school that I attended decades ago. What’s more, Joe’s high school football coach was one of my high school classmates and the quarterback for our football team. I was excited to root for Joe in Athens, where he is a hometown hero. Now I hope the Bengals go on to beat Kansas City this weekend, and also sorry, Bills fans. I realize that American football is extremely unfeminist. So let this stand as my public confession that I watch football as a distraction from the gender woo. Sorry not sorry.
The night before the protest, Amy hung this additional sign in the store window:
The point of that was to encourage members of the public to ask themselves, and each other, that question. We need to get regular people challenging themselves and talking opening if we are going to make real progress in this movement. The point of that sign was to do just that.
Amy and I arrived at the store early Saturday morning, ready for whatever may come. We drank tea and chatted. At around 10:00 a.m., people started gathering and the protest began in earnest at 10:30 a.m., as scheduled.
We had a blast.
The protesters mostly chanted the usual things:
TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS
TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN
They regularly chanted BOYCOTT ARTIFACTS! Weirdly, some of them kept trying to block our view of them, holding up a black banner that had nothing written on it. It’s not at all clear what the purpose of that was.
We mostly laughed at them. If you’d like, you can watch the video of the WDI USA livestream on our Facebook page. The woman wearing the reddish hoodie had an absolutely maniacal look on her face the whole time. Her somewhat sad little sign read, “Feminism Is For All Women,” which is weird because feminists would completely agree with her, with the understanding that “women” means the female kind (which of course she does not mean).
I strongly suspect that the majority of the protesters were university students, not local residents. Athens County definitely leans liberal, but the people who live there also tend to be quite sensible and very unpretentious. The county reliably votes Democratic in every presidential election, but voters there tend to be normal thinking liberals, not the loony kind who think that men can be women. I suspect that’s part of why the people who are mad at Amy have failed to get Artifacts permanently shutterred. Amy tells me that throughout this entire ordeal (starting in early 2022), business has remained stable. People are just done with the nonsense.
Anyway, about 45 minutes after the protest started, it mostly disbanded, with several of the protesters walking up the street to the county courthouse in order to, I assume, continue making idiots of themselves and calling for a boycott of the store. Some of the protesters hung on, just sort of standing around chatting with one another.
Shortly after that, a couple (a man and a woman) entered the store to shop and to express support for Amy’s position. They were quite friendly and criticized the protesters for being “children” who “have no arguments.” So that was nice.
I decided to have lunch at the restaurant that’s located next door to the store. As I left the store, a woman protester came up to me and yelled to her friends, “LOOK! A REAL LIVE TERF IN THE WILD!” I’m not at all sure what point she was trying to make. It’s not at all unusual for me or other TERFs to, well, go outside. She put her camera up to me, and I assume she was filming me. She said, “Your name is Kara, right?” I confirmed that it is, and then she said, “I assume that I can’t listen to your arguments until I see your genitals, isn’t that right, according to TERF logic?” I said, “No, that makes no sense at all.” Then she ran away.
I went to the restaurant for lunch. It has this version of the “trans progress” flag flying in its window (possibly in response to Amy):
So I knew I was in enemy territory, but I did it anyway. I thought they might kick me out, but they didn’t.
Shortly thereafter, a woman approached me to ask if I’m Kara Dansky. I asked why she wanted to know. She said that she lives nearby, and that she hadn’t known about the protest, but if she had known, she would have come to support Amy. She had just stopped into the store to express support and Amy told her to find me in the restaurant. She told me all about being a retired biology teacher and about how outraged she is about all of this. We commiserated about how we are left-wing feminists who support abortion rights and how dreadful it is that the media always frames opposition to “gender identity” as coming from the political right. She wanted to know how she could get involved, so I pointed to the URL of the WDI USA website on the flier that she had taken from Amy’s store. I advised her to submit a volunteer application and she said that she would. She told me there are countless women in the area who are fed up and who would be willing to take a stand.
Then a reporter from the Athens Independent approached, wanting to interview me for the paper (this is different from The Messenger and I had never heard of it because it is relatively new). I told her that was fine, and we had a nice chat. As far as I know, that particular reporter didn’t file a story about the protest, but this article appeared yesterday in that paper about a charge that was filed after the protest against one of the protesters. I have no idea who any of the people who appear in this story are (other than Amy, of course), and I don’t know anything about any of the events that are being reported (other than the protest itself). It all sounds a bit bizarre.
Anyway, when I left the restaurant and returned to Amy’s store, business was teeming. I asked her if it was busier than normal for a Saturday and she said that it was.
When Amy arrived at the store this morning, this sign was stuck in the door handle. It’s very clearly a personal attack on Amy herself.
But still, I am hopeful. Most people have had it. They are standing up and saying no.
Go Amy, and go TERFs everywhere. We’ve got this.