Exposing disinformation about Kathleen Stock

The intensification of targeting of Professor Kathleen Stock attracted public attention to the long-term campaign against her, and to the larger issue of academic freedom. Claims have been circulating which seek to discredit her and those who support her. We assess each one.

The recent intensification of targeting of Professor Kathleen Stock has attracted public attention to what has been a long-term campaign against her. It has raised the profile of the broader issue of attacks on academic freedom, and harassment of academics who hold “gender critical” views.

The University has released a statement; Baroness Kishwer Falkner made a comment. There have been several open letters of support one by philosophers, one by legal academics and one co-ordinated by Sex Matters asking for the EHRC to undertake a review across the whole sector.

In response a cluster of claims have been circulating which seek to discredit Professor Stock and those speaking up in support of her, and to downplay the issues exposed.

Sex Matters has compiled a briefing looking at these claims.

Summary: Nine claims and responses

There is no harassment campaign, just students exercising their free speech rights.The University of Sussex is legally bound to protect the freedom of speech of staff and students, and  protect them from discrimination based on protected characteristics, including philosophical belief. Posters slurring a member of staff, calls for her to be sacked, masked demonstrators and threats to her physical safety are likely to cross the line between a lawful exercise of freedom of speech and harassment.
Stock is not being targeted for her academic work and she has little relevant scholarship.Academic freedom is not limited to narrow fields of prior specialism. In any case Stock’s academic work on fiction as well as on sexual objectification are both directly relevant to the topic of sex and gender identity.
The campaign against Stock is not concerned with academic freedom but with activities outside her academic work.There is no clear distinction between academic writing and broader communication. If an academic can be harassed or sacked for drawing on her work to contribute to public policy debate, that is as much an infringement of her academic freedom as a prohibition on areas of teaching or research.
Stock’s freedom of speech is not being restricted as she has published a book and has a significant platform in the media.The campaign against Professor Stock has the express aim of depriving her of her livelihood as punishment for exercising her freedom of speech: it should be self-evident that this is an attack on her freedom of speech.
Stock’s public commitments create an atmosphere of unsafety for trans students on Sussex campus.There is no rational basis for this claim. Feeling offence is not the same as being harassed, which requires intent or objectively reasonableimpact. Exposure to new ideas is a great part of the point of higher education. Moreover, no student needs to be exposed to Professor Stock’s ideas, unless they choose to take her class or choose to read her work.
Stock does not engage in respectful debate and discussion, because she claims that trans women are men.Professor Stock has been respectful and professional in her conduct. The question whether the word and the concept ‘woman’ is based on sex or gender must be able to be discussed.
Stock supports the elimination of trans rights.Professor Stock’s work considers how the rights of transgender people interact with others, and how conflicts might be resolved. The case of Forstater v CGD Europe found that Ms Forstater’s beliefs, which are similar to Stock’s, did not “seek to destroy the rights of trans persons”.
Stock signed the Women’s Declaration of Sex-Based Rights. This means she is seeking to remove the human rights of trans people.The Declaration on Women’s Sex Based Rights affirms the rights of women and girls as set out in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It calls for the maintenance of the category of woman (equating to female) to protect women from discrimination and secure their safety, dignity and equality. This is not an argument to remove protection from violence, discrimination, and harm from people who identify as transgender.
Stock is a trustee of a hate group and this is against the university code of conduct.Freedom of association is a human right, with similar conditionality on restrictions to freedom of expression. The university cannot arbitrarily limit her ability to join groups. Professor Stock is a trustee of a group called the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alliance.

The LGB Alliance is not a ‘hate group’ – it is a registered charity set up to campaign for the interests of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals and their right to live as same-sex attracted people without discrimination or disadvantage.

The briefing was prepared with publicly available information. The project was not initiated or authored by Kathleen Stock