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What British universities are doing to protect transphobia

Free speech isn’t the real worry

By Rory Buccheri

Image courtesy of Michael Saunders via Wikipedia Commons

It’s on the news from earlier this week that Professor Kathleen Stock has been kicked out of the University of Sussex. On such tragic news, I have only one remark to make: it should have happened ages ago.

Stock is a Professor of Philosophy, with a particular focus on gender theory—rather, gender criticism, a.k.a. the pretty name she gives to hide her mind-boggling transphobia. Professor Stock has been, time and again, defended openly by UK media and publications for upholding and representing ‘free speech’ in British universities. But when does free speech end, and arrogant, ignorant hatred begin? For Professor Stock, it’s an easy answer. Her appalling views have never been sugarcoated; she has always been vocal about how, in her academic and personal opinion, biological gender comes before social gender. In short: for Stock, trans women are not women, and transgender people have no right to decide on their own lives. An appalling addition to her academic views is how they have been tainted by her own life bias—something that should not be tolerated in scholarship environments anyway. Somehow, she is immune to such rules, and one of her infamous research books dares to end with the remark that she, too, felt like a butch lesbian in her teens, but she didn’t feel the need to start transitioning. Horrifying, yes? There is more.

Lo and behold, publications have raced to print her works and have their name associated with hers. Even the University of Sussex, in a statement from months ago, protected her (and called other universities to do so) in the name of ‘academic freedoms’ in higher education. It took an anonymous group within the University to convince her to clear her desk. A bunch of people had to pour blood and sweat into a media campaign to do what an institution of higher education should have done (and had the power to do) years ago.

What Stock’s case proves is that British universities are the stage and the actor in a widespread culture of misinformation and hatred, in which blatant ignorance and transphobia can be coated by the ‘neutrality’ the academic world grants. Stock is a Professor of Philosophy, who would argue that her field of studies is the ground in which every discussion is allowed, no matter how harmful. What she wants you to do is to buy into this free speech: everyone is entitled to their madness, allowing TERFs to continue recruiting. What she doesn’t want you to do is think, both in human and academic terms, about the effects that printed, normalised hatred has. I find it grotesque and paradoxical. For some major papers (the very liberal Guardian included), Stock has become the hero, the Joan of Arc of the opinion headlines, and “universities can’t cope with arguments”. What if, instead, we can’t cope with transphobia? What if we demand we shouldn’t have to cope with it in 2021?


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