The Stock OBE

by Chris Bertram on January 4, 2021

A brief note stating my view of the decision of the British government to award leading “gender-critical feminist” and philosopher Kathleen Stock the Order of the British Empire for “services to higher education”. Nobody thinks that Stock has been awarded this honour for her work in aesthetics, nor that she has made contributions to higher education in the UK that exceed those of thousands of other university employees. Rather, Stock’s award has to be seen as just another example of Boris Johnson’s government using its powers of patronage to prosecute an “anti-woke” culture war. Other examples of this were the appointments of David Goodhart and Jess Butcher to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the granting of a peerage to a leading member of the Spiked! (ex-Revolutionary Communist Party) network, Claire Fox. Many of these decisions appear to have been taken at the behest of Trade (but also Equalities) minister Liz Truss, who recently made a bizarre speech name-checking Foucault and suggesting that local councils, somehow influenced by Foucault, had put race and gender equality ahead of teaching children to read and write. Truss has also made a point of referencing the conflicts around trans rights in articles for the Daily Mail. Goodhart, the new EHRC commissioner, has been a vocal supporter of the “hostile environment” policy that led to the UK’s Windrush scandal; Butcher is on record as saying that women who are subject to workplace discrimination should find ways round the problem rather than bringing formal complaints. Nobody reflecting on the values and agenda that led to Butcher’s appointment can believe that the government which gave Stock an OBE has a serious commitment to the interests of women. In a parallel case in which the Trump administration had used its powers of patronage to honour “gender-critical feminists”, I have no doubt that American philosophers who have applauded Stock’s award would see it for what it is: the instrumentalization of discretionary power to fight the culture war. I’ve deliberately avoided going into Stock’s views in this post, although I am not a fan. Rather, I’ve confined myself to things that everyone on this side of the Atlantic who is reasonably well-informed about the facts, including, I suspect, Stock herself, knows to be true. (Comments turned off on this post.)