Kathleen Stock: Trans row professor ‘forced out’ by tweets

A colleague of the university professor Kathleen Stock accused proponents of “free speech” of being “bigots”, amid the ongoing debate about transgender rights on campus

Prof Stock OBE, the 49-year-old philosopher, has became embroiled in a row over transgender issues and resigned from her post at Sussex University last week.

Days later, she gave her first interview following the fallout, claiming that the student backlash against her was really “the end point in three and a half years of low-level bullying, harassment and reputation trashing from colleagues”. 

Students staged protests against Kathleen Stock

Credit: Brighton Pictures

She added: “There’s a small group of people who are absolutely opposed to the sorts of things I say and instead of getting involved in arguing with me, using reason, evidence, the traditional university methods, they tell their students in lectures that I pose a harm to trans students, or they go on to Twitter and say that I’m a bigot.”

She also said that her views about gender identity policies became “radically misrepresented” by fellow academics.

Criticism on Twitter

The Telegraph has spoken to academics, who wish to remain anonymous, who claim that Prof Alison Phipps, a former colleague of Prof Stock’s, was one of those leading the criticism of her which ultimately led to her resignation.

Professor Alison Phipps

Prof Phipps was a professor of gender studies at Sussex University, and has recently taken up a post as professor of sociology at Newcastle University. 

Now, it has emerged that she posted a series of tweets suggesting that “gender critical feminists” are also “racist and ableist”, and accused colleagues of being “bigots”.

Screenshots of the now-deleted tweets show that in January, Prof Phipps wrote: “I’d be interested to hear how many people with a prominent ‘free speech warrior’* at their workplace – whether that’s a racist, a transphobe and/or another flavour – have been subject to threats or official complaints from said warrior after criticising them in public.”

She followed this up with an asterixed “*bigot” and with another tweet saying: “(Any resemblance to my own workplace is, of course, entirely coincidental).”

In another tweet, posted in July 2020, Prof Phipps said: “Of course ‘gender critical’ feminists are also racist and ableist: their politics based on entitlement to define, speak for and dominate others makes all sorts of things possible, and a one-dimensional analysis of gender means a lack of intersectionality across the board.”

In January 2020, Prof Stock challenged Prof Phipps to a debate, saying: “Each time a news article about gender critical academics comes out, you tweet that Sussex Uni trans students and staff are made unsafe by us. 

"Instead why not engage with me in public debate at Sussex or elsewhere?”

Prof Phipps responded: “‘Reasonable debate’ cannot counter unreasonable ideas. History has shown this repeatedly. Insisting on ‘debate’ is about giving credibility where there is none.”

Accusations of transphobia

Prof Stock, an expert in analytic philosophy, recently published a book questioning the idea that gender identity is more “socially significant” than biological sex and has argued that it should not become easier for trans people to change gender.

Amid accusations of “transphobia”, she became the subject of “intense” protests, received death threats and had posters of her put up around the university, in which students called for her to be fired.

Prof Phipps wrote the book Me Not You: The Trouble with Mainstream Feminism, which questions whether white feminists need to ask themselves whether they are causing harm when they fight sexual violence.

“White feminist tears deploy white woundedness, and the sympathy it generates, to hide the harms we perpetuate through white supremacy,” she wrote.

The book, which faced criticism after it was recommended in an Oxfam staff training document, says “privileged white women” are supporting the root causes of sexual violence by wanting "bad men" imprisoned.

She also once asked her university students at Sussex to build Lego structures to represent intersectionality in class, which subsequently went viral. 

At the time, she tweeted: “I’m concerned for those who don’t realise that play has a place in learning at any age (and have nothing better to do than snark).”

A spokesman for the University of Sussex said: "The university has, since 2018, fully backed Prof Stock’s position at the university and her right to freedom of speech and expression.

"We believe wholeheartedly that a vital part of a healthy university community is the ability to discuss, debate and respectfully disagree with a wide range of views and beliefs – and we take our responsibilities in promoting and defending freedom of speech extremely seriously, alongside our broader obligations to staff and students.  

"We will not tolerate the bullying and harassment of anyone in our community and we have been very clear that what Prof Stock experienced by some in our community was unacceptable."

Newcastle University and Prof Phipps failed to respond to requests for comment.

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