The academic who resigned following a campaign against her defence of women’s rights has spoken about the bullying and harassment she faced.
Kathleen Stock – former professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex – was interviewed by Emma Barnett on Woman’s Hour.
The interview was Stock’s first media appearance since her resignation from the university six days ago. Stock resigned over a very public debate about gender ideology, trans rights, and gender self-identification. The situation reached a head with student protests and a campaign calling for Stock to be fired.
In the interview, Stock did not blame her decision to leave solely on student protests, but rather “three and a half years of low-level bullying and harassment and reputation trashing from colleagues”. She didn’t know if the student activity would be there if the colleague activity hadn’t already been there, she said, and blamed a “small group of people who are absolutely opposed to the sort of things I say”… “telling their students in lectures that I pose a harm”.
She was disparaging of the role academics have played in creating an atmosphere in which the students become much more extreme and empowered to do what they did, crediting what she termed the decline of the ‘traditional university methods’ of arguing using reason and evidence.
Stock noted that Sussex had been “much more proactive” in supporting her in recent weeks, but still spoke of an uncomfortable environment on campus. “People radically misrepresent my views”, she said, describing it as “really exhausting” when “every tenth person is giving you daggers as you cross the campus.”
She described her treatment on campus as the mechanism of social ostracism, by which she was “ejected from the tribe”. After 18 years working at the university, this was “completely humiliating”, and she felt “completely powerless to correct the misrepresentations”. She said: “Most of the students who have protested against me really don’t have a clue what I think, and that’s because the adults who are supposed to care about the truth haven’t told them”.
In the interview, Stock set out her beliefs about gender she had established in her book Material Girls. Stock believes that both her views and her book are “pretty moderate”. She believes that you cannot alter biological sex, and the categories of male and female “are set up in ways that are not altered by inner feelings of identity”. In Stock’s view, these categories are there for really good reasons: “In order to enable humans to pick out important facts about the human species which is sexually dimorphic”. For Stock, these categories are needed for “medical interests, sporting interests, educational interests”.
She maintains that these views are completely compatible with protecting trans people in law.
Stock is disparaging of the view that her belief makes students unsafe. She told Barnett: “I know that it makes them feel unsafe – they’ve been encouraged to feel like that. But whether you feel unsafe or are unsafe are different things. Philosophers constantly distinguish between appearances and reality. My book is not physically making them unsafe. It might be challenging them, psychologically… but I am not actually making them unsafe, my words are not.”
She went on to say that “if anyone ever presented a credible argument about how I was literally putting people at risk by saying what I just said, then I would care about it – but it’s just not the case. It’s hyperbole”.
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Stock is a trustee of the LGB Alliance, and Emma Barnett asked whether her sexuality (Stock is a lesbian) has played a role in her targeting. Stock argues that “lesbians are at the sharp end of the gender self-identification ideology”, as the category of lesbian is challenged by the inclusion of trans women. It is for this reason – amongt others – that Stock sees no issue with the new charity the LGB Alliance. “Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have a perfect right to have an organisation that speaks for them alone”: as LGBT+ societies such as Stonewall have “focused on the T”.
Stock says she does not regret speaking out about the issue, citing the hundreds of emails, letters, and cards she has received supporting her. She believes her critics are out of step with the general public, and she said she is glad she has not lost her voice.