December 05, 2021
Continuing our series looking behind the headlines of 2021, we speak to the philosophy professor who resigned from Sussex University after protests over her views on gender and transgender rightsGaza bookseller Samir Mansour: ‘It was shocking to realise I was a target’When Kathleen Stock opens the door she is friendly, but a little on edge. She has just had extra security installed at home, she explains, a reminder that a year in the eye of a toxic public storm has its price. She leads the way down stairs lined with cheerful children’s photographs (having come out as lesbian relatively late in life, 49-year-old Stock has two sons by a previous marriage; her wife, Laura, is expecting a baby in February) to make tea. Once settled on the sofa, she attempts to make sense of a rollercoaster of a year that began with an OBE for services to education and ended with her resignation as professor of philosophy from the Brighton-based University of Sussex, amid angry protests over her stance on gender and transgender rights. Along the way, she published Material Girls, her book explaining why she believes biological sex matters and cannot be changed, and had what she calls “a bit of a mini-breakdown”.
Kathleen Stock: ‘On social media, the important thing is to show your tribe that you have the right morals’
“I’m excited in a weird way, excited about my future,” she says. There is relief, too, at escaping what she felt was an “aggressive, intimidating environment” at her workplace of 18 years. Interestingly, while some blamed the Sussex standoff on a generation of students unable to tolerate views they dislike, Stock tells a different story. “Most of the students I encounter are completely open-minded and even if they disagree with me, which I’m sure a lot of them do, they wouldn’t hold it against me as a personal character flaw.” The problem, she says, was her peers.
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