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Richard Dawkins Dives Into the Gender Row

After he tweeted his support for Stock, he doubled down by signing the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights.

Genevieve Gluck
Genevieve Gluck

On Monday, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins tweeted his support for Kathleen Stock, philosophy professor and author of Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism, saying:

“I didn’t know of Kathleen Stock until her tar-&-feathering prompted me (among many, as sales figures show) to read Material Girls. So far excellent. Refreshingly sensible. Superfluous debunking of ludicrous anti-scientific philosophies, but she has to because surrounded by them.”

Dr. Stock has been subjected to a relentless smear campaign for asserting that biological sex is a reality, and not a social construct, as some trans activists and proponents of gender identity ideology claim. She describes herself as a gender-critical feminist, and argues that sex denialism erases homosexuality and negatively impacts the rights of women and girls.

The three-year long hounding culminated in an organized demonstration at the University of Sussex, where she was employed, demanding her dismissal. Students involved in a group named “Anti-Terf Sussex” set off flares and held up banners reading “Stock Out” and “Terfs Out of Sussex,” and had also placed posters on the walls of an underpass she used to walk through to get to campus reading, “We’re Not Paying £9,250 a Year for Transphobia… Fire Kathleen Stock.”

Shortly after the student-led demonstration against her, Stock resigned from her post, saying that her “personal tipping point” came after the University of Sussex’s branch of the University and College Union responded by calling for an investigation into transphobia.

The widely-publicized bullying of Stock resulted in hundreds of academics pledging their support for her views and divulging stories of their own experiences of being harassed and attacked. Academics from top universities in the UK spoke of how they had faced death threats, masked protesters and petitions calling for their research to be shut down. One such academic is PhD student Raquel Rosario-Sánchez, who is suing the University of Bristol for failing to protect her from abuse for her feminist principles. Another is Professor Jo Phoenix, who has been “vilified” by her colleagues at the Open University for her views on sex and gender.

A few hours after Dawkins tweeted his support for Stock, he doubled down by signing the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights and sharing a link to the Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC), asking for others to follow suit, saying, “Please sign the Declaration on Women’s Sex-based Rights. I have just done so.”

The WHRC is a volunteer organization of women from around the world raising awareness of the importance of defending women’s sex-based rights. The open declaration asserts that enshrining “gender identity” into law effectively nullifies sex-based protections, and was authored by feminist academics Maureen O’Hara, Sheila Jeffreys, and Heather Brunskell-Evans.

In short, the document focuses on women’s sex-based rights, including the right to fairness in sport, reproductive integrity, and “the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls that result from the replacement of the category of sex with that of ‘gender identity’, and from ‘surrogate’ motherhood and related practices.”

According to the declaration:

“The confusion between sex and ‘gender’ has contributed to the increasing acceptability of the idea of innate ‘gender identities’, and has led to the promotion of a right to the protection of such ‘identities’, ultimately leading to the erosion of the gains made by women over decades. Women’s rights, which have been achieved on the basis of sex, are now being undermined by the incorporation into international documents of concepts such as ’gender identity’.”

This is not the first time Dawkins has voiced an opinion on the gender identity debate. In March, Dawkins said:

“Just finished ‘The End of Gender: Debunking the Myths about Sex and Identity’ by Dr. Debra Soh. Strongly recommended. If even half is true of what she says about the intimidation of scientists in her field of sexology, we need to support the fight-back.”

The following month, Dawkins was stripped of his Humanist of the Year title, awarded by the American Humanist Association (AHA) in 1996, after he questioned gender identity and compared the claim to the opposite sex to the concept of transracialism.

“In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black,” wrote Dawkins on Twitter. “Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss.”

In a statement from its board, the AHA said that Dawkins had “over the past several years accumulated a history of making statements that use the guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalised groups, an approach antithetical to humanist values.”

In April, Dawkins also asserted his belief in the importance of accurate language:

“Existing words change meaning by gradual evolution. Or a redefinition or refinement is proposed & voluntarily adopted. Fine. Not fine is when a word with a long-established common usage is bossily redefined, & adoption of the new meaning imposed by law or social bullying.”

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Gender Identity

Genevieve Gluck

Genevieve is the creator of the podcast Women's Voices, featuring interviews, recordings of feminist texts, and news related to women's rights