Posters that threatened us with sexual violence

Joan Smith on Sussex’s failure to hang on to Kathleen Stock:

The Vice-chancellor, Adam Tickell, has written to all staff at Sussex, insisting that the university ‘has vigorously and unequivocally defended [Stock’s] right to exercise her academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment of any kind’.

Stock has responded by saying that the university leadership’s approach ‘more recently has been admirable and decent’, leaving open the question of what it did when she was first targeted. Because Stock and other gender critical academics, such as Professor Jo Phoenix of the Open University, have faced slurs and bullying for at least two years — so much so that Phoenix is raising funds to take the OU to an employment tribunal.

Selina Todd is another who springs to mind.

For too long, other academics have looked the other way, afraid of being targeted themselves, or in some cases even joined in the harassment. Who could forget the posters around Sussex demanding that Stock should be fired? Yet those of us who denounced the gender extremists behind the bullying of feminists, after our meetings to defend women’s rights were picketed by screaming trans activists, have been primly told that the issue is ‘toxic on both sides’.

It is hard to sustain this nonsense when you have seen the venom with your own eyes. Earlier this month, when women from all over the country gathered in Portsmouth to discuss violence against women, we had to walk past trans activists bearing posters that threatened us with sexual violence in the most obscene language imaginable.

On the ‘other side’ are lesbians like Stock and Phoenix, who simply ask to do their jobs — to ask awkward questions in a polite manner — without threats. On the ‘other side’ are women who highlight the conflict between the rights of vulnerable women in prisons and men who demand the right to be housed with them.

And who do so without obscene bullying and threats.

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