Jo Phoenix has struck a blow for biological reality

The gender-critical professor’s tribunal victory has exposed the cruelty of trans activists.

Jo Bartosch

Jo Bartosch

Topics Free Speech Identity Politics UK

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A ruling handed down this week by an employment tribunal served as a 155-page-long slap across the chops of trans-activist bullies. The tribunal found that Jo Phoenix, a criminology professor, was unfairly dismissed from her position at the Open University (OU) because of her gender-critical beliefs. The judgment was clear that the OU’s discrimination against Phoenix was motivated by a ‘fear of the pro-gender-identity section’ of the university.

This latest win for biological reality follows a number of victories in the UK for poorly treated gender-critical employees. High-profile cases like those of barrister Allison Bailey and tax consultant Maya Forstater have been followed by more recent victories on behalf of employees discriminated against by Westminster Council and Arts Council England. But while we can all cheer as the courts finally stand up for common sense, the impact on those at the centre of such cases ought not to be forgotten.

Phoenix, like all those demonised for believing that sex is real, has suffered tremendously at the hands of the trans lobby. Phoenix had been passionate about her role at the OU, once describing it as her ‘dream job’. She had previously been dean of Durham University, but had taken a substantial pay cut to accept the role at the OU in 2016. Phoenix is a passionate believer in adult education, being one of its success stories herself. Aged just 15, she was raped. She pursued her attackers through the courts, before ending up destitute. Adult education transformed her life.

Phoenix told Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour this week that being cross-examined at her recent tribunal brought back these painful memories. Though she has now gone on to take a post at Reading University, Phoenix was unable to work in the months following her ordeal at the OU and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As Phoenix explains on her crowdfunding page, things ‘started to go horribly wrong’ at the OU a few years ago. In 2021, she ‘expressed views about the silencing of academic debate on trans issues’ and started criticising Stonewall’s influence over universities. She also argued against the horrific practice of housing trans-identifying males in women’s prisons.

Things came to a head when, in 2021, Phoenix founded the Open University Gender Critical Research Network for academics to come together and explore the importance of biological sex in their respective fields. This triggered a vicious campaign against her. Over 360 of her colleagues signed a public letter calling on the OU to close down Phoenix’s gender-critical research group and for the university to condemn it. She was publicly vilified, silenced and shunned within the department. During one meeting, she was compared to a ‘racist uncle at the Christmas table’ by her colleagues and reduced to tears. Eventually, like so many others in her position, Phoenix was forced out of the institution.

Thankfully, Phoenix was able to get justice, with the employment tribunal upholding almost 20 of her claims against the OU. The judge found that the university had failed to protect Phoenix from harassment and discrimination and that she had been unfairly forced to leave her position.

Despite this, the OU’s leadership seems to be sticking to its guns. Professor Tim Blackman, vice-chancellor of the OU, expressed disappointment in the judgment and suggested that the university would consider making an appeal.

​​This shrug of the shoulders in response to such a damning ruling is perhaps to be expected from a sector that has been totally colonised by gender ideology. Phoenix’s tribunal follows a report last week by the Committee for Academic Freedom, which revealed that nine universities have policies describing gender-critical views as ‘transphobic’. They include Imperial College London, Sheffield Hallam University and the London Business School. These institutions essentially define gender-critical beliefs as categorically wrong and trans ideology as beyond debate.

The crisis of groupthink in universities is proof that otherwise intelligent people can convince themselves of stupid things. Perhaps it is understandable that those who deal in theories might find themselves reluctant to acknowledge the mundane but inescapable reality of biological sex. But that doesn’t even begin to explain or excuse the behaviour of so many of Phoenix’s colleagues who smeared, shamed and harassed her.

The overarching ethos of the Open University is that it’s never too late to get an education. Here’s hoping the academics who bullied Phoenix can learn something from her victory.

Jo Bartosch is a journalist campaigning for the rights of women and girls.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Topics Free Speech Identity Politics UK


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