Kathleen Stock

How to be a heretic

[Sonali Fernando]

Two weeks ago, I resigned my post as philosophy professor at Sussex University. For three years, I’ve faced bullying and harassment for my views on sex and gender. More recently, this intensified into a full-blown campaign. Posters and graffiti went up denouncing me. Masked students held protests, set off flares and gave interviews saying they felt unsafe with me around. The problems all started when I began making such controversial statements as: ‘there are only two sexes’ and ‘it’s wrong to put male rapists in women’s prisons’. I even went as far as worrying out loud about the consequences of children being given body-altering drugs based on potentially temporary inner feelings. It has been all too much for certain colleagues. My critics have produced an apparently unstoppable narrative, according to which I’m a bigot and a terrible danger to trans students. What they lack in evidence, they make up for in conviction. Eventually any hopes I could lead a relatively normal life on campus were definitively extinguished. My feelings are mixed. What exactly I’ve lost has yet to sink in, but there’s also some exhilaration and a new sense of freedom. Finally, I can admit to the really heretical aspects of my character. For instance: I’ve never read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

For years now, I’ve criticised academic feminism for its failures: the internal contradictions, the unacknowledged class interests, the rampant narcissism of the few, the careerist capitulation of the many. In particular, I’ve criticised some academics for their enthusiasm about gender identity theory: roughly, the theory that, in every conceivable context, inner feelings of a misaligned ‘inner’ gender identity are more important than material facts about ‘outer’ biological sex. With this, a feminism focused on women and girls in the original sense was instantly defined out of existence.

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