Dr. Kathleen Stock, University of Sussex


Dr. Kathleen Stock is a philosopher at the University of Sussex, and is the author of a recent book called Material Girls. Her argument is that sex is real. As summarized in her written statement to the UK parliament in 2020, her beliefs include:

--Womanhood and manhood reflect biological sex, not gender or gender identity;

--The claim 'transwomen are women' is a fiction, not literally true;

--Sexual orientation (being gay, being lesbian) is determined by same-sex attraction, not attraction to gender identity;

--Spaces where women undress and sleep should remain genuinely single-sex, in order to protect them;

--Children with gender identity disorders should not be given puberty blockers as minors.

All of this seems pretty anodyne. There is a difference between sex and gender, and while gender can be anything, sex cannot. Furthermore, one of the most serious and prevalent threats to women is male violence, which is why we offer women the protection of female-only spaces when they are placed in a situation which makes them particularly vulnerable to male violence. While one can identify with a wide variety of genders, sex is not something you can identify or not identify with--you just are a sex. And sex cannot be changed.

Furthermore, many progressive countries, such as Sweden and Finland, have now backed away from giving children puberty blockers. It is beginning to be realized that what blockers do is not fully reversible. Depending on the age at which such blockers are begun, the brain may not fully, normally develop, and the body may never be able to experience orgasm. And of course, there may be other permanent losses, such as changes to voice from testosterone, loss of bone, loss of fertility. It is impossible to concede that a pre-pubescent child--or even a teen undergoing puberty--can understand what they will be giving up for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately for Stock, who it should be noted is lesbian, the students of the University of Sussex have decided they want her fired. There are flyers and posters all over campus; one reads "It's not a debate. It's not feminism. It's not philosophy. It's just transphobia and it's not on. Fire Kathleen Stock." A big demonstration against Stock, called "Stock Out," is planned for the weekend. To add insult to injury, the teachers' union of which Stock is a member has decided to support the students. Stock has been advised by the police to only teach by video, and to have bodyguards and install CCTV cameras!

Fortuitously--and uncharacteristically for a UK institution--Sussex's administration has supported Stock's right to hold her beliefs. Gender critical beliefs were recently upheld by Britain's High Court as being permissible to hold in a democractic society in the famous Maya Forstater case. Also what has been interesting to see many of the UK's largest newspapers support Stock. This includes the Times of London, which had this to say:

"A university is neither a cloister nor a finishing school. It champions knowledge through the methods of critical inquiry. It is a scandal and a disgrace that an academic at an English university must keep off campus and teach solely online because of threats to her personal safety.

"[Her] views are hardly inflammatory. They are widely held and born of an acute insight into the nature of liberty. Not all desirable social goals are compatible, and a humane wish to make better the lives of transgender people may end up infringing the rights of women to safety and autonomy. But even if Professor Stock held opinions that were less obviously defensible, she would have an unqualified right to express them. She has instead been the target of hooliganism and intimidation. Protesters hiding behind masks and balaclavas have paraded on campus demanding her dismissal. A virulent campaign on social media has castigated her as “transphobic”. Threats of violence have become commonplace. These are not mere criticism, which a democratic society protects, but an attempt to instil fear and spread censorship.

"[T]he question remains how Professor Stock has been targeted with such vilification. Civil society more widely should insist on certain elementary principles of academic freedom. Words can wound, but they are not a form of violence: they are how a free society operates. A society that enables the ruthless destruction of bad ideas is the alternative to tyranny. Where heterodoxy is punishable by sackings and suppression, dogma takes the place of science and reason.

"A free society justifiably imposes a regulatory framework on the expression of speech, such as disallowing genuine threats, and expecting dissent to be expressed with civility. Moreover, an academy has an obligation to uphold stringent standards of intellectual rigour: you cannot have a Holocaust denier teaching modern history, or a creationist teaching biology, for such propositions can be advanced only by ignoring or faking real-world evidence.

"A university has no obligation to shield impressionable minds from opinions they may find challenging and even offensive. On the contrary it has a duty to ensure that a full spectrum of views are aired without restraint. It is no hyperbole to say that the defence of Professor Stock, a cogent thinker and valiant voice for women’s rights, is now the defence of liberty itself."

Amen! Several noteworthy points here: First and foremost, words can wound metaphorcally, but words are not violence. Words are in fact how a democracy operates without resorting to the use of force. No words, no democracy. No words--you are living in tyranny.

Second, there should be no place for threats of violence, no place for intimidation in the discourse of a free society. And third, universities have a duty to expose their students to views they may not like. If students are never taught the vibrant spectrum of views in their society, and are never taught how to handle such diversity of views without violence and silencing, and are never taught to defend their own beliefs through study and debate, then we will not have a civilization for very much longer.

And those are the real stakes, aren't they? We will lose far more than Stock's voice if we allow her to be gagged. We must all stand on Stock's side in this clash, and not be like her own union that cannot see how high these stakes are.

Here in the United States, we have the same problem. There are Kathleen Stocks on this side of the Atlantic as well, and they also have been put in fear of mob action. It is time for every man and woman to say which side they choose--the side of freedom, or the side of tyranny. I stand with Stock.