A bad Kass

Kathleen Stock on that day out in Oxford, including some details from a previous day out in Cambridge:

Life as a gender-critical feminist can be quite strange. The first time I ever entered the Oxford Union, I was a 19-year-old fresher. All I really remember is getting very drunk on peach schnapps, crashing into a trestle table, and being asked to leave.

Fast forward 31 years, and I’m walking in there again, surrounded by security and being chased by photographers, accidentally dressed like a cut-price Kendall Roy from Succession. The image will make national front pages the next day.

It’s a very droll image.

Cambridge also provided a stunning bit of theatre: an undercover non-binary student called Kass cunningly disguised as a six-foot-plus man in a tuxedo. The results of Kass’s intervention upon my emotional equilibrium can be seen in the Channel 4 documentary Gender Wars, which coincidentally aired on the same day as the Oxford event.

Under false pretences, Kass had auditioned to speak for my side of the motion, arriving at the Union in full male-associated attire and dining convivially with me first, before sensationally dropping the act in order to denounce me as “disgusting” to everyone in the chamber. And things only went downhill from there. I was the only female speaker in the debate. Standing at full height next to me during their speech, Kass described to the audience how frightening it was to walk about the streets of Cambridge at night thanks to women like me.

That kind of thing. How do they manage it? I’ll never understand. Huge guy, towers over her, gets up to whine about how frightened he is because of women like her. And why because of women like her? She’s not campaigning to persecute him or people like him (assuming he’s trans or otherwise gender special). If he does fear violence on the streets of Cambridge at night does he really think it’s because of Kathleen Stock?

In comparison to all this, the Oxford audience this week barely made any effort to make me feel awful. In fact, they offered enthusiastic applause as I entered the room. And in an unprecedented turn of events, many of my main objectors seemed actually to have read my book.

Even the four protestors who tried to create a rumpus inside the building were relatively meek. One stood up and shouted something, then left. Two others also shouted slogans rather apologetically, unfurled a flag, and threw some leaflets before hastily exiting too. The most intrepid of the four, dramatically unveiling a “No More Dead Trans Kids” T-shirt, used superglue to stick one hand to the floor right in front of me, but still complied docilely when five police officers — armed with blue plastic gloves and solvent, a lot of forms to fill in, and some very patient smiles — eventually arrived to sort it all out. The careful act of glueing itself seemed a bit Blue Peter.

“Use just enough glue, children, not too much or you’ll get it all over everything.”

It seemed to me that the four protestors were not representative. I could be wrong, but I got the feeling that many in the chamber were pushing back against the sort of tired and hyperbolic cliches usually wielded to shut them up. Certainly, there was little apparent sympathy in the room for the superglued superhero, eventually escorted out to the sound of good-natured cheers and some booing. At times, the atmosphere bordered on riotous rather than rioting.

Could they be getting bored with the melodrama at last? That would be good. That would be brilliant.

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