October 12, 2021 - 1:24pm

Trades unions are meant to stand up for people who are being bullied at work. But that clearly doesn’t apply to the University and College Union, an organisation so steeped in extreme gender ideology that its Sussex branch has decided to join in the attacks on a philosophy lecturer. 

Last week, posters appeared around the campus at Sussex University, calling for Professor Kathleen Stock to be fired. Amid a vile collection of slurs, they described her as ‘one of this wretched island’s most prominent transphobes, espousing a bastardised version of radical feminism’. 

At a time when violence against women dominates the headlines, it is staggeringly reckless to target a woman in this manner. Not that long ago, union officials and colleagues would have rushed to Stock’s defence, condemning the campaign by a group as a deliberate attempt to frighten her off campus — and an attack on free speech.

Not anymore. So captured is the UCU that its local branch has issued a statement full of high-sounding sentiments — ‘we oppose all forms of bullying, harassment, and intimidation of staff and students’ — before coming down firmly on the side of the people persecuting Stock. It goes on to demand an ‘urgent investigation’ into ‘institutional transphobia’ at the university — a claim made, as always, without a shred of evidence. 

It’s a technique familiar to feminists like Stock who have been viciously traduced by trans activists and even, in the case of the writer Julie Bindel, physically assaulted while leaving a meeting at another university. It’s called DARVO — deny, attack, reverse victim and offender — and trans extremists use it all the time to smear their opponents. Now it’s being employed against a woman for whom, all too evidently, the campus is not a safe working environment. 

This is the contradiction at the heart of trans extremism: it is no longer safe for women to call for single-sex spaces that protect us from an epidemic of male violence. Gender ideology promotes the lie, too readily accepted by sections of the media, that trans extremists are at risk from feminists, not the other way round. Feminists who write books, like Kathleen Stock and Helen Joyce, hold meetings and wear ribbons in suffragette colours. How terrifying is that?

The results of accepting this lie are now all too obvious. At one of the country’s leading universities, a woman with a distinguished body of work can no longer risk going to her office, while the very institution that should defend her is calling for her to be investigated. This should be a turning point — and whoever is running the UCU, assuming anyone actually is, should hang their heads in shame.

Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.