Professor KATHLEEN STOCK backs a new campaign for women's rights

Sorry, but you don’t become a woman by just saying you are one: Hounded from her job by the fanatical trans rights lobby, brave academic Professor KATHLEEN STOCK defiantly backs a new campaign for women’s rights

Had someone told you, not so long ago, that politicians would be terrified to answer the simple question ‘What is a woman?’ who would have believed it?

Very few, I think. Yet today the question has become so toxic that elected representatives try desperately to change the subject when it’s raised. Or they stammer something nonsensical by way of reply.

For we live in a world where to state a simple truth — that ‘a woman is an adult human female’, or ‘women don’t have penises’ — is deemed so offensive you could be banned from social media, rebuked by your teacher, disciplined by your employer or even cautioned by the police. And I should know.

Last year, I was harassed out of my university job of 18 years for saying such things. Masked men with flares came on to the campus, putting up posters and holding banners saying I should be fired.

Some of my colleagues took to social media to say they agreed with them. Eventually, I felt I had no choice but to leave.

Extreme as it was, my case is part of a wider pattern, one that is affecting ever greater numbers of ordinary people.

This is why I welcome the new campaign to protect women’s rights: Respect My Sex If You Want My X.

Extreme as it was, my case is part of a wider pattern, one that is affecting ever greater numbers of ordinary people. This is why I welcome the new campaign to protect women’s rights: Respect My Sex If You Want My X, says Professor Kathleen Stock. Pictured left to right, Caroline Ffiske of Women Uniting, Maya Forstater Sex Matters and Heather Binning from the Women's Rights Network

Extreme as it was, my case is part of a wider pattern, one that is affecting ever greater numbers of ordinary people. This is why I welcome the new campaign to protect women’s rights: Respect My Sex If You Want My X, says Professor Kathleen Stock. Pictured left to right, Caroline Ffiske of Women Uniting, Maya Forstater Sex Matters and Heather Binning from the Women’s Rights Network

The sooner we wake up to the dangers, the faster we can get to a world that is both safe and fair for women.

This should concern everyone, not least because we have arrived here through profoundly anti-democratic means, including orchestrated campaigns, internet mobs and relentless lobbying.

Campaigning groups, and in particular the charity Stonewall, have influenced business, public institutions and government alike. And they have done this so effectively that hundreds of thousands of people feel frightened into silence.

It takes some bravery to question the Stonewall orthodoxy — that, to count as a woman, a male doesn’t need surgery or hormones, a legal sex change or a medical diagnosis of a health condition.

He doesn’t even need to dress like a woman. As long as he says so, he — or rather ‘she’ now — is a woman.

Last year, Kathleen Stock (pictured in November last year) was harassed out of her Sussex university job of 18 years for saying 'a woman is an adult human female’, or ‘women don’t have penises’ - Masked men with flares came on to the campus, putting up posters and holding banners saying she should be fired

Last year, Kathleen Stock (pictured in November last year) was harassed out of her Sussex university job of 18 years for saying ‘a woman is an adult human female’, or ‘women don’t have penises’ – Masked men with flares came on to the campus, putting up posters and holding banners saying she should be fired

This is a radical view with profound and troubling implications. Yet thanks to aggressive and sometimes coercive campaigning, it is increasingly regarded as mainstream.

When Conservative MP Jamie Wallis announced he was trans last week, he was applauded for bravery — even though it seems he will continue to be in all other ways a man, including how he dresses.

This policy of accepting whatever people say about their own gender, irrespective of the physical facts, is what is known as ‘self-identification’ or ‘self-ID’.

Stonewall wants it recognised in law. And although the group has failed so far in England, it has succeeded in Scotland, where self-ID will soon be the only thing required for a legally acknowledged gender recognition certificate.

The principal victims in all this are women.

Pressure groups have persuaded public bodies that a biological male who believes he is a woman should have access to female changing rooms, sports teams, hospital wards, rape crisis services and domestic violence refuges.

They have persuaded some police forces to record a male-bodied rapist as ‘female’ if he asks to be. Some biologically male criminals who self-identify as women are sent to women’s jails.

Protestors gathered in Library Square at Sussex University to rally against Professor Kathleen Stock who has just quit her job in October 2021

Protestors gathered in Library Square at Sussex University to rally against Professor Kathleen Stock who has just quit her job in October 2021

Yet in losing the meanings of the words ‘woman’, ‘girl’ and ‘female’, we have lost the power to communicate clearly about the needs and interests of females: a group that makes up half the population.

The most visible effect is the blatant unfairness of women athletes having to compete against biological males whom they haven’t a hope of beating, given their respective body types.

In addition, there are the negative effects on female sexual assault victims, anxiously having to face the possibility of predatory male-bodied people in changing rooms or hospital wards, and even of being obliged to call their own attackers ‘she’ in court.

With the ideas behind self-ID being championed in schools, youth groups and universities, many young people are confused about what a woman or man is.

This confusion has contributed to a huge rise in troubled young people demanding medication to change their bodies permanently. Many are then receiving it, even though doctors know little about the long-term effects.

People gather in Victoria Gardens, Westminster as Caroline Ffiske of Women Uniting, Heather Binning from the Women's Rights Network and Maya Forstater Sex Matters from three of the country's largest campaign groups on women's rights

People gather in Victoria Gardens, Westminster as Caroline Ffiske of Women Uniting, Heather Binning from the Women’s Rights Network and Maya Forstater Sex Matters from three of the country’s largest campaign groups on women’s rights

These ideas have been adopted without proper consultation, mainly by frightening people into compliance, which is dangerous and coercive.

I believe it is one of the greatest of the many threats to free speech now blighting our society.

From the start of their crusade, campaigners have argued that merely to question self-ID renders you ‘transphobic’.

This is a grotesque insinuation — and is totally false in my case.

I have backed strong legal protections for trans people throughout my writing and speaking on the subject.

Stonewall states that people’s reasonably founded worries about the risks involved in self-ID policies must be the result of bigotry. That they stem from the belief that ‘all’ trans women are predators.

Of course, this is false. Most trans women aren’t dangerous, just as most men aren’t dangerous, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to protect women from the few males that are.

Inevitably, attempts to smear those who dare to question self-ID have made people very afraid.

There is now a ‘hate crime’ law that says someone can get a heavier sentence if an initial crime was accompanied by transphobia.

When perceptions of trans- phobia can include telling an adult biological male that he is not, in fact, female, this is a very scary state of affairs indeed.

No wonder politicians are frightened to say what a woman is.

The fact is that feeling or believing or saying you are a woman doesn’t make you a woman, no matter what campaigners, the police, your boss, The Guardian, or anyone else may think.

Human biology is unaffected by thoughts or words.

Ffiske, Binning and Forstater launch the 'Respect my Sex if you want my X' campaign, which is calling for as many members of public - female and male, and across all party lines - to quiz their politicians about their stance on women's rights and trans issues

Ffiske, Binning and Forstater launch the ‘Respect my Sex if you want my X’ campaign, which is calling for as many members of public – female and male, and across all party lines – to quiz their politicians about their stance on women’s rights and trans issues

Even getting a gender recognition certificate or having medical treatment doesn’t affect the basic facts about biology. Just saying something doesn’t make it so.

If politicians can’t say what a woman is, how can they be expected to represent women’s interests?

At a time when violence against women is on the increase and prosecutions at an unprecedented low, women and girls desperately need advocates.

Trans people deserve more sensible representation, too.

Indeed, I know that many are deeply concerned about the direction Stonewall has taken in their name. They fear a backlash.

In the meantime, too many public figures hope this mess will clear itself up. But it won’t.

You can’t change material reality by unilaterally changing words. Instead, you merely create misunderstanding and set groups of people against each other.

What we need is a free, open and honest debate that acknowledges the biological facts, one that elected politicians cannot shirk.

We owe it to ourselves as members of a democratic nation.

We owe it to trans people. Most of all, we owe it to women.

Kathleen Stock is the author of Material Girls: Why Reality Matters For Feminism (Fleet 2021).