The Times of London defends Kathleen Stock’s freedom of expresson, and so should we

October 13, 2021 • 12:00 pm

So what if the Times of London is a Tory paper? Gender-critical feminist Professor Kathleen Stock of Sussex needs a stalwart defense and they gave it to her. There was NO defense from the Guardian, of course, just a new article about how Stock’s own union (the University and College Union) is investigating her for transphobia, and that Stock feels that her teaching career is “effectively ended”. The Guardian loves that, and they would get rid of Stock if they had the power. They are reprehensible, especially on issues of freedom of speech.

On October 10, in the Hili News, I summarized the campaign against Stock:

Kathleen Stock, a feminist professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, is the subject of a cancellation campaign over her views on gender. Wikipedia has characterized her views thusly:

Stock has expressed gender critical views on proposed reforms to the UK Gender Recognition Act and trans self-identification. She has called for trans women who have male genitalia to be excluded from women’s changing rooms, characterising them as “still males” who may be sexually attracted to women. She has denied opposing trans rights, saying, “I gladly and vocally assert the rights of trans people to live their lives free from fear, violence, harassment or any discrimination” and “I think that discussing female rights is compatible with defending these trans rights”.

For this some of her colleagues and students have started a campaign to get her fired, hyperbolically characterizing her as a transphobe whose views cause “harm”:

In January, hundreds of academics criticised the decision to give Stock an OBE for services to higher education in the New Year honours list.

In an open letter, they condemned academics who use their status to “further gender oppression” and said they denounced “transphobia in all its forms”.

The letter said: “Trans people are already deeply marginalised in society, facing well-documented discrimination, ranging from government policy to physical violence. Discourse like that Stock is producing and amplifying contributes to these harms, serving to restrict trans people’s access to life-saving medical treatments, encourage the harassment of gender-non-conforming people, and otherwise reinforce the patriarchal status quo. We are dismayed that the British government has chosen to honour her for this harmful rhetoric.”

This is what happens when you try to philosophically discuss the issues of rights when people are changing genders. The Guardian article reports that Stock is subject to concerted intimidation and harassment. To its credit, the University of Sussex is defending stock’s right to say what she wants, saying it won’t tolerate “threats to academic freedom.” The discourse on gender has gotten so polarized that even talking about it is taboo unless you agree with the most extreme construal of gender rights.

This article from Today’s Times (I have to use a screenshot because it’s paywalled, but click to enlarge) says what I would say: her views are “hardly inflammatory” and “even if Professor Stock held opinions that were less obviously defensible, she would have an unqualified right to express them.” But you can read it for yourself:

 

There is of course no constitutional principle in the UK like our First Amendment, but that is no excuse to promulgate censorship in a university. All universities should, I think, abide by the tenets of free expression that the University of Chicago (a private university not required to adhere to the First Amendment) holds as one of its foundational principles.

The Times also recounts the harassment Stock has endured, including threats of violence. She has been advised not to go to campus and to install closed-circuit television in her home. The University of Sussex is still defending her, though hedging it a bit (from the Guardian):

University of Sussex spokesperson said: “We have acted – and will continue to act – firmly and promptly to tackle bullying and harassment, to defend the fundamental principle of academic freedom, to support our community and continue to progress our work on equality, diversity and inclusion. We care deeply about getting this balance right.

“There are a range of very strong views and opinions held across the university on a whole variety of issues and topics, including how we support our trans and non-binary community particularly at this time.

“As a community, we need to come together and talk about what is happening at the moment and to look at the way forward.

“We will be doing this in the coming weeks and this will be led by our newly appointed pro-vice-chancellor for culture, equality and inclusion.”

Given that Stock is not a transphobe, they should have stopped the statement after the first paragraph.

The Guardian has not and will not defend Stock; they censored one of their columnists for expressing similar views, forcing her to resign. The important thing to remember is that Stock is by no means a transphobe; her views are expressed above and in her Wikipedia article. But because she questions the complete equivalence of transwomen and biological women (ditto for transmen and biological men), she’s being mercilessly hounded. Every university, much less Stock’s own union, should be united in defending her right to express opinions on this matter.

The discussion (or rather, lack thereof) about trans issues has gotten completely out of hand. And so it is up to us to defend whatever views we hold with reason, not with threats, but also to defend the right of our opponents to express their views openly and without fear and intimidation. We should all be behind Stock’s freedom of expression.

Stock:

h/t: Simon, Luana

46 thoughts on “The Times of London defends Kathleen Stock’s freedom of expresson, and so should we

    1. Indeed, I was also going to make the point that The Grauniad had a piece supportive of Stock and gender-critical feminists today, although the writer was somewhat pessimistic.

      1. Hi Jez, In a previous posting (the one on Ms. Young’s article on wokeness, I think), you cited trans activists as using the motto or placard (or something) “No Debate”. I couldn’t find an online source for this. Could I ask you to please provide a link to an article or posting on this? A photo of someone holding such a placard would be excellent. Thanks!

        1. Hi, jblilie, it was a Twitter hashtag. I think it was referred to in one of the UK parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee’s hearings into reform of the 2010 Gender Recognition Act. I’ll try and find the exact quote.

          1. It was mentioned in the evidence session on 21 April 2021, but I’m no longer convinced that was the reference I was thinking of.

            In Helen Joyce’s (highly recommended) Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality she notes, on page 309: “Further signs that gender-identity beliefs are cronyistic include the repetition of mantras and the insistence that there is ‘no debate’ “, but she doesn’t mention the hashtag specifically.

            It is referred to as a tactic by Fair Play for Women, ‘Stonewall uses its #NoDebate tactic to silence opposing views. “No debate” is a well known tactic employed by trans activist groups.’ (“An open letter to trustees and chief executives: you’re being taken for a ride” https://fairplayforwomen.com/open-letter-to-trustees-and-chief-executives-youre-being-taken-for-a-ride/ )

            I may have mistaken a characterisation of the tactics used by trans rights activists for the actual thing itself; my sincere apologies if so. Although I’m in no doubt that either way, “no debate” is a pretty good description of the approach by Stonewall, and similar activist organisations, to silencing anyone who seeks to argue against them.

    2. theguardianhasbecomanideologicallyilliberalanti-freee-speechrageversiinceitsmostrecentchangeofeditor

  1. It’s amazing to me how one of the opinions I hold from the list below would get me shunned by many of the people sharing all the other opinions in the list.

    – Climate change is an accelerating global crisis caused by the profligate burning of fossil fuels, among other destructive human activities.
    – Black Lives Matter, not just during terrifying encounters with police but in opportunity for equitable health care, employment, education, and housing.
    – The Republican Party is a clear and present danger to the continue existence of free and fair elections and Constitutional government.
    – Women have exactly the same rights to everything as men, and those rights need to be defended by men who have benefited from our unearned privilege over women for far too long.
    – Women have the right, and the sole right, to determine if they will carry a pregnancy to term.
    – All adults have exactly the same rights to love and marry any other adult, regardless of what sex they happen to be.
    – “Men” are adults who have penises and Y chromosomes and “women” are adults with vaginas and XX chromosomes, and only the latter are capable of giving birth.

    1. I pretty much agree with your points.

      “– Women have the right, and the sole right, to determine if they will carry a pregnancy to term.” [emphasis added]

      I don’t fully agree with that. The father of a child should (in theory) have a say as well, since they are financially and emotionally responsible too. Not a veto say; but not a zero say, as you seem to imply, either. IMO, obviously.

      1. They do have a say in practice, as do parents of younger women. At 21, I was forced to terminate a pregnancy I very much wanted (I had stopped taking the pill for it). Parents and partner were against it (“not the right time”). I yielded, to my deep and lasting regret.

      2. I’m sure that, in any healthy relationship that results in a pregnancy, the decision whether to proceed with the pregnancy or terminate it is made jointly in consultation between the partners. But the law should not require that a woman get the consent of the man prior to obtaining an abortion — any more than a man should be required to get the consent of his female partner before undergoing a vasectomy.

    2. Very good, but another item needs correcting: “Men” are adults who possess testicular tissue, and “women” are adults who possess ovarian tissue. That is essentially the biological definition for male and female. Sex chromosomes and external junk are not always in alignment with that.

      1. Or to paraphrase PCC (hopefully correctly): males have small, mobile gametes, while females have large, immobile gametes.

        Personally, I prefer male/female for description of biological sex, and man/woman for description of gender. I’m quite happy to agree with the statement “Trans women are women,” but not with the statement “Trans women are female.”

    3. ” Women have the right, and the sole right, to determine if they will carry a pregnancy to term.”
      Every civilised nation on Earth places restrictions on the circumstances when a pregnant woman can abort a fetus.
      This is usually supported by the public when specific questions are asked.
      e.g. A UK poll showed that 89% of the general population and 91% of women believe that gender selective abortion should be banned by law (allowing gender selective abortion results in fewer female babies being born).

  2. I would like the Harper’s Letter signers or other high-profile Enlightenment liberals to come together and write something defending Stock.

    I’ve been watching the harassment she’s getting online. It’s sickening. We need to counter the loud monopoly of trans activists, many of whom are sadistic. For their cause, they de-humanize others. It’s unconscionable.

    1. And have you noticed that so much of the ‘commentary’ sounds like an echo of the incel misogyny?
      So many of these trans activists sound like a lot of whiny, spoilt, entitled men.

  3. …characterising them as “still males” who may be sexually attracted to women.

    I’ll fully support her right to speak on the subject, but I also understand why this sort of comments riles up trans rights folk. There’s three ways to interpret this, and none of them are great.
    (1) these trans women are just pervs faking being trans. As far as I know, there is zero evidence this is happening, so empirically not really a legit complaint. I’d say this is a regular fear that needs to be socially addressed, but it appears to be just that – a fear, but not a reality. Sometimes, our intuitions are just wrong. This appears to be one of those times.

    (2) she is fine being in a changing room with a lesbian whose attracted to her, but not fine being in a changing room with a trans woman who is attracted to her. This is biased, and unless she’s going to demand a different changing room for lesbians, not IMO a legit complaint.

    (3) since males (sex) have a much higher rate of assault, aggression, etc., she thinks it poses a higher risk of actual physical danger to cis women to have a trans woman in the locker room with them. This one may have some legitimacy to it – I think it’s worth looking into, for sure. But it leaves a lot of uncomfortable questions unanswered. Like if this is the case, why she thinks it’s okay for trans men to be in the changing room with cis males. Or why she’s okay with male locker rooms at all, given that male kids can just as easily be the victims of locker room violence from “aggressive males” too. All in all, #3 would be more legit if it was focused on identifying and isolating assaulting males from everyone else, rather than using ‘any males’ as the proxy for ‘dangerous male’, and then recommending they only be kept away from females.

    1. 3) since males (sex) have a much higher rate of assault, aggression, etc., she thinks it poses a higher risk of actual physical danger to cis women to have a trans woman in the locker room with them.

      Exactly. Biological males are 30 times more prone to sexual assault than biological females. (And the stats seem to point to this holding for men who identify as women.) Males also tend to be physically bigger and stronger.

      if this is the case, why she thinks it’s okay for trans men to be in the changing room with cis males.

      The “trans man” (biological female) would be choosing that scenario (contrast to the above which is imposed on women). No-one would object if they went to the ladies instead for that reason.

      Or why she’s okay with male locker rooms at all, given that male kids can just as easily be the victims of locker room violence from “aggressive males” too.

      True, but such scenarios are usually age segregated — for precisely that reason.

      All in all, #3 would be more legit if it was focused on identifying and isolating assaulting males from everyone else, rather than using ‘any males’ as the proxy for ‘dangerous male’, and then recommending they only be kept away from females.

      Her reply would be along the lines that that would be fine if you gave her a reliable way of discerning which males are likely to be predators.

      1. True, but such scenarios are usually age segregated — for precisely that reason.

        So why is age-segregated changing rooms not a viable solution here?
        Aren’t you being sexist? Those guy kids, they’re expected to be tough. Just deal with the bad locker room behavior. But girls…it is so important that we prevent any aggression that we cannot even put them in the risk situation that we regularly put our boys in.

        if you gave her a reliable way of discerning which males are likely to be predators.

        Sure thing. Does the individual have a history of bullying, assault, or violence? Then they shouldn’t be in a common locker room with anyone. Does the individual not have any such history? Then they can share a locker room with people of their gender. That’s a pretty reliable way to tell which males are likely to be predators.

        1. First, many sexual assaults are committed by males with no track-record of such known to the authorities.

          But, yes, male-on-male aggression is indeed a problem. But that’s no reason to deny women their utterly reasonable request for sex-segregated facilities.

          1. Ah, using the adjectives ‘utterly reasonable’ must make it utterly reasonable then.

            What we are concerned about here is bullying and assault. There is no reason to proxy male for bully or assaulter when we have the actual record and behavior of the individual under consideration to look at. Proxies are a ‘lesser evil’ when you have no good information: when it comes to high school trans kids in bathrooms, we have lots of information. And if spontaneous unexpected assaulting is our concern, then it should be a concern in both locker rooms, not just one. But you seem to only really want to shove this potential assaulter from one locker room to the other, and not actually offer a solution that prevents them from assaulting anyone. Why not instead have an adult in the room.

            1. Yes it’s a problem in all locker rooms. Women are more likely to be victims, since men are 10:1 attracted to females and females tend to be smaller and weaker. An easy way of protecting women is sex-segregated facilities. Protecting women/girls sounds like a good, regardless of measures to protect men/boys, surely? And it’s not just about schools, where kids are known, but about the local swimming pool and similar, where they won’t be.

          2. It’s not just about sexual assaults. Many women would feel very, very uncomfortable to be in a shared dressing room with an “intact” biological male.
            What percentage of mothers would be happy to take their six year old daughter into a dressing room with an intact biological male?

    2. Eric, you sound as if you have not taken much of an interest in these issues (which is okay). My understanding is that women like Stock and JK Rowling object to simple self-identification as a woman (you just say that you consider yourself a woman, end of story) as an entrance ticket to female-only spaces like changing rooms, women’s prisons, etc. So if you are a trans woman who has gone through a medical and social transition, there is no problem with this (unless you are aggressively pursuing lesbians – Stock, who is a lesbian, says that lesbians are attracted to members of the same biological sex not to people with a female self-identification irrespective of their biological sex. Already this gets you called transphobic by radical trans activists).
      The other day, Jerry had a post on women’s prisons. Did you see it? Do you agree that biological males should not get access to women’s prisons simply by declaring themselves to be a woman? The issues here are physical safety of biological women and avoidance of pregnancies in prison. (And you have to know that female prisons are less harsh than male prisons. That alone gives male prisoners a reason to strategically identify as a woman to get into a female prison.)
      Your point (3) misses the issue under discussion. The issue is whether you should be allowed to self-id into traditionally female-only spaces, not that trans women may want to sexually assault biological women. Why do you think there are female-only spaces? If you can simply pass as a woman because you declared yourself one, female-only spaces have been eliminated. Are the traditional justifications for female-only spaces no longer valid? Is the traditional separation by biological sex in sports no longer valid?
      Remember that Stock came out with a book in May 2021 entitled “Material Girls” where she lays out her reasoning.

    3. Regarding 3, this is really men’s issue to sort and if there is violence against men in men’s rooms, pushing it to women’s rooms is not a good solution. It’s not women’s burden to bear. In the meantime, in a Virginia high school the rape and assault of a teenage girl by a tran-id male was hidden from the parents of the girl. The father was arrested and a SWAT team called when he complained to the school. “It never happens.” Yes, we do need to deal with male violence, but not by shunting off a sector of males into women’s private spaces.

      2. As a friend to lesbians, I disagree completely. Lesbians and gay men do not assault in the locker rooms, nor do they ogle and harass just because they see naked bodies they are attracted to unless they are in bath houses specifically catering to gays and lesbians. Your comment is homophobic.

      1. Autogynephilia is a condition, and if you follow the tweets of many trans id males, you will find that they express their sexual desires to be seen as women very openly. (Google Jacklyn Moore’s Tattoo) It’s not hidden. Also, the prevalence of self-ID laws makes it easy for men who are pervs to access women’s private spaces. The incident at Wi Spa in LA turned out to be just such a case, and the LA Couny Sheriiff”s office confirmed that the offender admitted that he (a repeat sexual offender) used Self-ID to access womens’ spaces legally.

      I may be seen as transphobic by many, but that doesn’t concern me as much as you might think. I think that women’s rights are the focus of feminism, and that it is sexist to place transwomen’s rights above women. Violence against women is still rising, and the threats against gender critical women are not taken seriously because of the belief that transwomen are in greater danger than women.

    4. Eric, I find myself agreeing with you in theory. And as regards true trans women, I agree that there is little danger from them and no particular reason except anti-trans ideology to keep them out. But many women’s (including mine) experience with the frequency of male sexual molestation and violent assault is such that it feels utterly wrong to give potential molesters, exhibitionists and rapists an easy entry into women-only areas. For prisons, one would need to be extra careful, also, some male prisoners suffer atrociously form abuse by fellow prisoners, something should be done about this.
      For locker rooms in schools, I don’t see a danger with allowing trans women, they are too crowded. Some things may depend on local culture, though. In Eastern Germany, it’s unproblematic to go sunbathing or swimming stark naked in male-female mixed groups (see Naturism). I did it too, while there, no molestation, no fear. Probably wouldn’t work where I live now.

    5. 4.) women are embarrassed and uncomfortable in the presence of the naked bodies of males and have a right to expect privacy and autonomy in single-sex spaces.

  4. Where does the letter say she should be sacked?

    It explicitly defends her right to say those things.

    Unless I can’t read.

    Is it not their free speech to criticise her?

    1. It’s not the letter saying she should be sacked, it’s all the people on social media calling for her to be fired. And yes, it’s their free speech to criticize her but not to threaten or harass her.

      1. The pattern that I’m witnessing on Twitter is one that I don’t think Twitter staff have learned how to address and that most users aren’t yet seeing as harassment. Those who get blocked for harassment or trolling often return to the page of the person(s) who have blocked them using alt accounts. They use the alt accounts to take screenshots of the vilified person’s feed. They then log back into their public account and post the pics to their public page with nasty comments that whip up outrage and cause their followers to harass the person.

        I think the reason that Twitter hasn’t clamped down on this is that they can’t always prove that an alt account is linked to a primary one using IP addresses alone. So, that part is difficult to prove. But what would be easier is to identify a pattern of screenshots posted with nasty comments along with the knowledge that those being screenshot are blocked. It’s the pics being posted by blocked accounts that makes it unethical.

        I see the pattern as a form of targeted harassment similar to doxxing in that directs a mob at someone. I am now routinely reporting accounts I see doing this. I hope others start reporting for this, too, and that Twitter catches on.

        Trans activists did this screenshotting thing to Stock on Twitter.

  5. That was a well-written and well-reasoned article. I particularly like the sentence, “Words can wound, but they are not a form of violence…” I’m inclined to paraphrase someone (I can’t quite recall the source) and add “anyone who thinks they ARE should learn the difference on their own hide.” At the very least, it seems unlikely those who think words can be violence* have experienced much real violence in their own lives. Those who have know that it’s hard to confuse with mere hurtful words, even though the latter can be powerful.

    *Anywhere except on Arrakis.

  6. When WEIT posters discussed the catechism of the Church of Woke the other day, there was insufficient attention to this tenet: sex is psychological rather than biological. This tenet of the new Lysenkoism underlies the woke dictum that any empirical fact in Biology (or for that matter in Physics) that we don’t like constitutes “oppression” and “harm”, so mention of such facts must be outlawed.

    The delusion that everything is psychology comports oddly with the Left, but it reveals the extent to which wokeliness grew less from the historic Left than from post-modernist tropes that became a kind of fashion in academia. If empirical facts are just another narrative among many, it would be oppressive to deny someone’s right to become by simple declaration a female, or a male, or the lost Tsarevich of the Russian Empire, or a Greater sage grouse.

  7. Well of course we should defend her freedom of expression if it ever comes under threat.

    As far as I am aware it is not under threat. She is a professor in a major UK University, a published author, an OBE whose views are widely disseminated.

    She certainly has more free speech than I could ever dream of.

    We should also defend the free speech of those who criticise her, even when we recognise that the criticism is wrong-headed.

    1. The problem is not free speech, which she has by the bucket load, the problem is that her University is failing in its duty of care to provide her a safe workplace.

      Similarly the UCU are failing in this.

      She should take them to court over that.

  8. I agree with almost all of the sentiments expressed in The Times article. The standout exception was, for me, the phrase “Words can wound, but they are not a form of violence”.
    I disagree quite profoundly with that statement. Is the writer claiming that violence against the person occurs only when physical harm has occured?
    IMO this is clearly not correct.
    Words can constitute assault against the person. Bullying – surely considered a form of violence – is often entirely verbal. Domestic violence often occurs by way of threats, belittling, harsh and unwarranted criticism and so on.
    Is anyone in any doubt that a form of violence has been done to Professor Stock via the virulent criticism to which she’s been subjected?
    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – note the ‘traumatic’ part of the descriptor – can result from verbal abuse; no physicial violence required.
    The Times journalist needs a rethink.

    1. I disagree. We should retain the word “violence” for actual, physical violence. (Else, if we don’t, what word would we use for violence?) Verbal bullying and similar can be very bad, but is not “violence”.

  9. You can make a reasonable argument that gender and “Trans” issues are really at the forefront of leftist ideology these days. That’s leftist in the sense of complete social upheaval rather than liberal progressiveness.

    I’d sound a warning to “Trans” people though. Historically ‘leftists’ have used ‘victim’ groups (the Working Man, feminists, gays, black people) as the cutting edge of their political endeavours – and then dropped them when they no longer serve a political use.

  10. A friend who works there said Stock’s views are mainstream, the students are a minority, & they are harassing her at work which is unacceptable.

  11. Sussex University’s “defence” of Kathleen Stock is worth nothing. She has been subject to intimidation and harassment by certain students and members of staff. If they were serious, they would be pursuing disciplinary action against some of them. A couple of expelled students should help bring the rest of them back into the real World.

    On a completely unrelated note, Sussex just posted the lowest score of the BBC era on University Challenge, losing 245-10.

    http://jacksonlinewritings.blogspot.com/2021/10/university-challenge-2021-22-round-1_11.html

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