Trans activists celebrate after feminist professor Kathleen Stock quits her University of Sussex job after ‘bullying and harassment’ campaign over her calls to protect female-only spaces
Trans activists have today taken to social media to celebrate the resignation of a feminist Sussex university professor who quit amid a storm over her views on gender.
University of Sussex professor Kathleen Stock announced yesterday she was stepping down from her job after facing a campaign of ‘bullying and harassment’.
The philosophy professor was at the centre of a blazing row – and a student-led protest – at the university after saying she believes gender identity does not outweigh biological sex ‘when it comes to law and policy’.
She also said that people cannot change their biological sex, sparking anger from protesters who accused her of ‘transphobia’.
Now those behind the protests, which have included spraying graffiti with the phrase ‘Stock Out’, have taken to social media to celebrate the professor’s departure.
In one post on Instagram the group shared an image of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz with the phrase ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ – a song from the same film.
University of Sussex professor Kathleen Stock announced yesterday she was stepping down from her job after facing a campaign of ‘bullying and harrasment’
In one post on Instagram the group shared an image of the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz with the phrase ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ – a phrase from the film
Instagram page Antitfersussex, who describe themselves as an unaffiliated network of queer and trans students at the university, also posted a statement in response to Ms Stock’s departure, in which they said ‘good f*****g riddance’.
In the statement, the group said: ‘This is a monumental victory for trans and non-binary students, who have protested the ways that this university has enabled transphobia, abuse and discrimination.
In her own words: What does Kathleen Stock believe about gender and trans issues?
Kathleen Stock explained her views on trans issues in written evidence to Parliament in November 2020 here:
- 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.
‘The full weight of a colonial institution, the national media circuit and government ministers, were no match for the unity and solidarity of the queer and trans communities at Sussex University.’
Professor Stock, 48, an expert in gender and sexual orientation, had been branded a ‘transphobe’ by some outraged students who called for her to be fired in wake of her comments on gender.
Posters put up in the tunnel from Falmer station to the university’s campus earlier this month said she ‘makes trans students unsafe’ and ‘we’re not paying £9,250 a year for transphobia’.
Banners saying ‘Stock Out’ had also been held alongside burning flares and scores of people were criticising her online under the Twitter hashtag #ShameOnSussexUni.
The University’s Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell had strongly defended her ‘untrammelled’ right to ‘say what she thinks’, whilst more than 200 academics from other universities signed a letter calling out alleged abuse from ‘trans activist bullies’.
But yesterday, Professor Stock announced on Twitter that she was ‘sad to announce’ she is leaving her position, and added that she hoped ‘other institutions can learn from this’.
In a letter to staff, Sussex’s Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell said that the university had ‘vigorously’ defended her right to ‘exercise her academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment of any kind.’
But he added: ‘We had hoped that Professor Stock would feel able to return to work, and we would have supported her to do so.
‘She has decided that recent events have meant that this will not be possible, and we respect and understand that decision.
In a letter to staff, Sussex’s Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell said in a statement that they had ‘vigorously’ defended her right to ‘exercise her academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment of any kind’
Posters put up in the tunnel from Falmer station to the university’s campus earlier this month said she ‘makes trans students unsafe’ and ‘we’re not paying £9,250 a year for transphobia’
‘We will miss her many contributions, from which the University has benefited during her time here.’
He also said that Professor Stock had made ‘vital’ contributions to the field of philosophy and that the ‘intolerance’ directed at her would ‘always’ be ‘in direct opposition to even the most basic principles of academia’.
‘I would like to make it very clear that it is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the grounds of sex and of philosophical belief. Her departure is a loss to us all,’ he added.
‘We will of course reflect on Professor Stock’s experiences and it will form part of how the University learns from this and moves forwards – together.’
Professor Stock said in her tweet that she was ‘sad to announce’ she is leaving.
‘This has been a very difficult few years, but the leadership’s approach more recently has been admirable and decent.
‘I hope that other institutions in similar situations can learn from this.
‘Am particularly glad to see University emphasising that bullying and harassment anyone for their legally held beliefs is unacceptable in their workplace.’
She added: ‘This has been an absolutely horrible time for me and my family. I’m putting it behind me now. On to brighter things soon, I hope.’
Professor Stock has previously said she is ‘at odds’ with a large section of academics because she believes gender identity is not more important than facts about biological sex, ‘particularly when it comes to law and policy’.
Banners saying ‘Stock Out’ had also been held alongside burning flares and scores of people were criticising her online under the Twitter hashtag #ShameOnSussexUni
Universities minister Michelle Donelan said on Twitter: ‘It is a sad day for freedom of speech – given the toxic environment at @sussexuni has made it untenable for @docstockk to maintain her position there.
‘No academic should ever have to fear for their personal safety.
‘This only reinforces the need for our Free Speech Bill.’
Earlier this month, Prof Stock accused a union branch of ‘effectively’ ending her career after it called on her employer to take a ‘strong stance’ against transphobia.
In a statement, the Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) said all trans and non-binary members ‘now more than ever should receive the unequivocal support’ of the University of Sussex.
Ms Stock has repeatedly insisted in the past that she is not a transphobe, but attention on her views has intensified since her book Material Girls came out in May.
She has written and spoken extensively about sex and gender identity – arguing that womanhood and manhood reflect biological sex, not gender or gender identity.
Ms Stock also claims trans women are not women; and sexual orientation is determined by same-sex attraction, not attraction to gender identity.
And she wants a ban on transgender women in women’s changing rooms, saying in 2018 that ‘many trans women are still males with male genitalia’.
But she has been blasted on Twitter as a ‘Terf’ amid a huge amount of criticism.
After the posters were put up calling for her to be sacked, Sussex Police launched an investigation into whether Professor Stock was a victim of harassment.
Kishwer Falkner, the head of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, was among those who slammed the attacks on the academic.
She wrote to The Times to denounce the bullying behaviour of a minority of students who ‘disagree with someone’s entirely lawful expert views’.
In her public letter, the equality watchdog chief agreed that ‘trans rights must be protected’, but reiterated the importance of academic integrity and freedom of expression on university campuses across the UK.
Ms Stock had also spoken out, telling her 46,000 Twitter followers: ‘If you work where I do, and you know what’s happening to me at the moment (which I’ll discuss at later date), this is the time to say something about it.
‘Not for me, but for you. What kind of future does a university have where intimidation determines what is said or taught?’
The group which led the protests against her was an anonymous collective called ‘Anti Terf Sussex’, which described itself as an ‘unaffiliated network of queer and trans students’. ‘Terf’ means a ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’.
It was the term levelled at JK Rowling over her response to an article about ‘people who menstruate’.
The author had tweeted last year: ‘I’m sure there used to be a word for those people’, suggesting that word was ‘women’.
Attention on her views has intensified since her book Material Girls came out in May
In his earlier defence of Professor Stock, Professor Tickell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It’s absolutely clear that all of our staff have an untrammelled right to say and believe what they think. So we take it very seriously if people try to prevent that right from being exercised.
‘I have to say I am really concerned that we have masked protesters, putting up posters, calling for the sacking of somebody for exercising her rights to articulate her views, and it is a matter of real concern.’
More than 200 of her fellow academics also backed Professor Stock in a letter to the Sunday Times.
It was signed by figures including Cambridge economist Sir Partha Dasgupta and physicist Sir Michael Pepper.
Under the heading ‘We will not bow to trans activist bullies on campus’, the letter stated: ‘This is not just an issue of freedom of expression. It is also an issue of harassment and discrimination.
‘Universities are creating an intimidating and hostile environment for staff and students who recognise that sex matters.
‘Most of the victims are female, and many are gay, lesbian or bisexual.’
A University of Sussex spokesman said after Professor Stock announced her resignation: ‘Over the past several weeks, the University of Sussex has vigorously and unequivocally defended Professor Kathleen Stock’s right to exercise her academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment of any kind.
‘These freedoms and protections apply to and benefit us all, and we will defend them today and in the future.’
He added: ‘There were no substantive allegations of wrongdoing made against her.
‘Professor Stock leaves the University of Sussex with our gratitude for her significant contributions as a teacher and academic.’