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The ousting of a material girl

...and what it tells us about woke culture

31 October 2021

Kathleen Stock, philosophy professor at the University of Sussex and author of the book Material Girls, has resigned after a concerted and threatening campaign based on her assertion that gender identity does not displace the reality of biological sex. Police had advised her that it would not be safe to attend the university campus.

An Instagram account claiming to represent trans students at the university posted:

“Massive win for Sussex LGBTQ+ students today … Let’s take a minute to appreciate this.”

There's nothing new about this. Trans activists witchfinders have been patrolling society for a long time, rooting out dissident views.

This activity was mostly invisible. Small groups were able to work from the top down, amending rules and laws, securing union leaderships and NGOs, leaning on compliant companies, avoiding debate in favour of approaching risk averse human resource units.

Much of this has a spurious gleam of progressivism. Students, student unions and unions are the radical edge of society. Right? Wrong. A straw poll of students at Sussex showed that most supported the trans activists. Further questioning showed however that they knew little about the issue and were incurious about it. An overriding belief was that they were customers of the university and did not think that professors should make them think uncomfortable thoughts.

Sussex University students’ union said: “Students have a right to protest when their rights are being questioned, or when there are discriminatory narratives about them being shared.” This line was shared by many on the left, ignoring the fact that the protest had no content other than the demand for Stock’s removal. The Sussex branch of the University and College Union called for an investigation into institutional transphobia, ignoring their duty of care to academic staff. Labour MP Taiwo Owatemi, the shadow equalities minister, joined the criticism of the professor.

Earlier in the year Stock had been awarded an OBE, a decision criticised by hundreds of academics in an open letter that criticised Stock’s comments on transgender and gender non-conforming people as reinforcing “the patriarchal status quo”.

Universities have always been part of the ideological apparatus of the capitalist state. They also had a minor function of advancing knowledge. Now they sell degrees to customers in a factory mechanism that has no room for thought or dissent.

In Ireland a call by the majority of local NGOs, led by Amnesty, demanding no political or media representation for gender critical groups, still stands. An article in the Irish Times, questioning affirmation - the idea that gender dysphoria in adolescents should lead to acceptance and medical intervention to enable gender transition, has led to a boycott of the paper. The idea that an article that attempted to refute the argument might be a more democratic response does not seem to occur to the militants.

There is no doubt the ousting of Stock is yet another victory for trans activists, but it is likely to be a pyrrhic victory. This time it took place in public view. The university came out in defence of their employee. Other demonstrations in Plymouth saw a picket of a conference discussing women's and girls’ health and safety with slogans inviting the women to "suck my dick". Strangely, this demonstration was sponsored by Amnesty International. A torrent of abuse was directed at attendees at a Women's Place UK meeting by individuals who were clearly biological males. The feminist group has now accused a member of the Socialist Workers Party of organising the abuse and they replied with what is essentially a defence of the action and a dismissal of the complaint.

The original movement to advance women's rights in the 60s and 70s would have had no difficulty in understanding this abuse of women. Left embrace of identity politics has left many socialists defending the indefensible. The more the light of day falls on these attacks and sackings the more claims of victimhood will fall away and a new defence of women's rights be undertaken.

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