The furore over Kathleen Stock’s Oxford Union address could lead you to believe that she is a tad racy. The invitation for her to speak generated the public opprobrium usually reserved for foul-mouthed rockstars and brutal dictators. As it should, the OU has certainly courted controversy in the past—inviting guests such as Holocaust denier David Irving, former BNP leader Nick Griffin, and husband-of-the-year O.J. Simpson. In their exalted company, Stock could be considered disappointingly run-of-the-mill.
Stock is a professor of philosophy, who, as a lesbian and gender-critical feminist, bravely opposes certain aspects of transgenderism. I say bravely because the silencing of such women is already well-documented in the case of Julie Bindel. Stock had her own experience of this after she was hounded out of her post at Sussex University for her ‘controversial’ views.
Stock hit the headlines after publishing her book Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism, in which she questions the notion that gender identity is more ‘socially significant’ than biological sex. In terms of transgenderism, Stock has criticised the UK government’s proposed ban on conversion therapy, arguing that it will “rob trans children of the chance to think again, putting them on a pathway to medical treatment.” In addition, she opposes self-identification on the grounds that it ‘threatens a secure understanding of the concept ‘lesbian’ and because many transwomen are “still males with male genitalia, many are sexually attracted to females, and they should not be in places where females undress or sleep in a completely unrestricted way.”
Despite her supportive stance on trans rights (Stock respects trans students’ pronouns and has repeatedly written in support of their human rights), she was advised by police to install CCTV at home, and to employ bodyguards on campus. Stock appears unconcerned about the attempted intimidation, confirming that she quit her professorship at Sussex due to “reputational trashing from colleagues” and the fact that the University and College Union made a statement which “basically backed the protesters and implicitly made it obvious that they thought I was transphobic.”
The campaign against her address at the Oxford Union started back in April. Spearheading the attack was the Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society (responsible for Tuesday’s protest), which posted this initial salvo on Twitter:
It must have taken a while to come up with that. What precisely is Stock’s “campaign of hate and misinformation,” unless it is the outrageous assertion that “men are not women”? And how exactly is the trans community “facing a constant attack on its lives and right”?
President of Oxford’s LGBTQ+ Society, Amiad Haran Diman, confirmed that the group had received death threats after promising to protest at professor Stock’s address. But despite their fears, Diman insisted they would continue: “I don’t care about Kathleen Stock and I don’t care about Oxford Union. They love attention. But I care about the trans members of my community who need to know someone has their back. Someone is caring for them. So that’s what the protest is about.”
Meanwhile, other protestors at the event made the bizarre assertion that they were not opposed to Stock’s right to freedom of speech, merely the use of the OU platform to express ‘anti-trans views.’ Pick the bones out of that!
Somewhat surprisingly, in these weak-stomached times, the OU refused to buckle to pressure (despite having their funding cut by the students’ union, and being banned from the university’s freshers’ fair). This meant that Tuesday’s address was met by the usual trans protest. Swathes of men in ill-fitting dresses gathered to ‘bravely’ contest women’s opposition to having their voices silenced, their sports hijacked, their safe spaces invaded, and male rapists invited into their prisons.
Far from the extremist lunatic she is painted as by her opponents, Stock appears eminently sensible, like the majority of the public with whom her views no doubt coalesce. Stock is not remotely interested in preventing trans people from living their best life, but she draws the line at having her speech impeded, or her reality compromised. This is what she actually said during her address.
On transphobic violence:
We have far more racist violence than we have transphobic violence in this country. That is a message that has come through trans-activism uncritically, by many a media outlet, and it’s backed up by Stonewall surveys where they ask people: have you ever felt aggressed?’ So a lot of surveys are based on reported feelings and that’s not the way you would normally look at levels of violence. It’s complicated, because obviously convictions are not going to absolutely represent crime. But certainly, you shouldn’t just go around to a bunch of people and say “Do you feel like you’ve been the victim of a hate crime lately?” Particularly not when you’re telling them that a hate crime is being misgendered.
On the dangers to women:
But even if I grant you that assumption, I’m afraid it doesn’t follow that people who are subject to violence are not violent. I think you need to talk to the criminologists. If you take the number of transwomen in prison in Britain, and you get the same stats in the U.S. statistics, at least 50% are in there for sexual assault. That’s a higher rate than the average man. That is not to say that I’m saying there is something about being a trans woman that makes you violent. I am saying that we need to look at the evidence.
What I think is crazy is trying to have laws and policies on what is essentially something totally internal that no one else can see. Trans activists tell us all the time that no one can tell you what your gender identity is, only you can know, and we’re supposed to accept what someone says about their gender identity as soon as they say it. And if that is the basis upon which people are getting access to certain spaces where women are vulnerable, or sports teams, or shortlists or whatever it is, it’s just way too open to malfeasance.
Stock’s address was interrupted for half an hour by protestors who managed to breach security. Chief among them was student activist Riz Possnett, who managed to glue ‘themselves’ to the floor of the union, sporting a ‘NO MORE DEAD TRANS KIDS’ t-shirt. Like radical Islam, which responds to accusations of intolerance with the threat of death, the trans lobby has worrying connections to violence, as witnessed by the recent Nashville school shooting, or by the thwarted plans of those who seek to replicate it.
In many ways, the trans brigade are simply the latest in a long line of professional victims, jockeying for position as the most marginalised group in society. The rewriting of reality required to achieve this gets continuously more ridiculous. Harry and Meghan would have you believe they seek privacy; Just Stop Oil, that they are the ones being inconvenienced; black criminals like ‘Mizzy’ insist the police treating him with kid gloves are actually being heavy-handed because he is black. Now trans activists insist that denying the right of men to masquerade as women is somehow an act of violence.
In a rare victory for freedom of speech, it is gratifying that the Oxford Union stood by its guns and allowed the address to go ahead. It’s also encouraging to see that the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, had the wit to intervene positively on Stock’s behalf:
Agree or disagree with her, Professor Stock is an important figure in this argument. Students should be allowed to hear and debate her views. … University should be an environment where debate is supported, not stifled. We mustn’t allow a small but vocal few to shut down discussion.
While Stock may have won the battle, the war is left very much in the balance. In the trans non-debate, those who oppose the binary nature of biological reality are remarkably binary when it comes to identifying the good guys and the bad guys. They insist everyone else give up their common sense while refusing to accept objective facts themselves. This is a war we cannot afford to be complacent in.