Harassed, silenced & compared to a racist for my gender critical views

by Prof Jo Phoenix

Harassed, silenced & compared to a racist for my gender critical views

by Prof Jo Phoenix
Prof Jo Phoenix
Case Owner
I'm an academic being harassed and vilified by my colleagues at the Open University for my views on sex and gender.
15
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pledged of £80,000 stretch target from 3,383 pledges
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Prof Jo Phoenix
Case Owner
I'm an academic being harassed and vilified by my colleagues at the Open University for my views on sex and gender.
Pledge now

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Latest: Nov. 3, 2021

Hitting Milestones

Friends, Supporters, Colleagues

Yesterday was a milestone. You managed to raise more than £80K in only 17 days. Seventeen days. Four hundred and 8 hours. That is £196.08 per hour. This is …

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My name is Jo Phoenix. I am Professor of Criminology at the Open University.

I am bringing an employment tribunal claim to hold the OU to account for the public campaign of harassment that has made my working life unbearable, and I really need your support.

My hope is that this case will force universities to protect female academics from the vicious bullying perpetrated by those who disagree with our beliefs on sex and gender; bullying that is designed to silence us and our research.

My Story

When I accepted this role at the OU in 2016, I described it as a love match. I took a massive pay cut to work here, having previously held senior leadership roles including being Dean at Durham University. What's happening to me has broken my heart. 

This position at the OU was my dream job because adult education is personally so important to me. When I was 15, I was raped by two men and then endured a rape trial in 1970s Texas. During this time, I ran away from home and saw more of life than a child should. It was adult education which gave me a way out and allowed me to thrive.

I've been researching sex, gender and justice for two decades and am known around the world for my work. But things started to go horribly wrong at the OU when I expressed views about the silencing of academic debate on trans issues, criticising Stonewall’s influence in universities. I also expressed views that male-bodied prisoners should not be in female prisons, and I set up the Open University Gender Critical Research Network.

As a result, I have been publicly vilified by hundreds of my colleagues in a targeted campaign against members of the Gender Critical Research Network; I have been called transphobic; I have twice been compared to a racist by managers; and I have been silenced and shunned within my department. 

I have been made to feel like a pariah and have become very ill as a result.

These are just a few examples of what has happened:

  • A senior manager told me that I was “like the racist uncle at the Christmas dinner table.” When I started to cry, she suggested that if I couldn’t cope with it she could put me in touch with counselling services.
  • I was instructed not to speak about my research, which includes research on trans rights and the criminal justice system, in departmental meetings.
  • Over 360 of my colleagues signed a public letter condemning the Gender Critical Research Network and calling for the OU to remove all support and funding from the network, alleging that gender critical feminism is “fundamentally hostile to the rights of trans people”. This letter also made demonstrably false and extremely damaging accusations about what was said in a podcast that I participated in.
  • Another public statement by my colleagues published on the OU’s website expressed "dismay" at the establishment of the Gender Critical Research network, accusing members of the network of having made transphobic statements and of choosing the label “gender critical” as “a deliberate provocation to trans communities.”
  • The then Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Representative for my Faculty has published numerous derogatory tweets about gender critical belief, including retweeting a tweet showing my name and photo with a reference to a "transphobic/TERF/GC campaign network".
  • I have been given suspiciously few opportunities at work given my seniority and experience.

The OU has shattered my dreams because it has failed to protect me, despite my repeated pleas for them to remove discriminatory and hate-filled statements that my colleagues have published on the OU’s websites. 

I have been diagnosed with acute PTSD because of this treatment and have been too unwell to work for months.

My case and why I am crowdfunding

We desperately need to show that this type of treatment is unlawful harassment relating to protected gender critical beliefs.

These issues of sex and gender are so important, and we need to be able to talk about and research them without fear of being hounded out of our jobs. I have been contacted by other academics who would like to join the Gender Critical Research Network but who are now too frightened of being publicly smeared as a transphobe to join.

Above all, I am taking this case to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression.

I am crowdfunding so that I can pay for legal expenses to take this case to the Employment Tribunal.

 


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Update 1

Prof Jo Phoenix

Nov. 3, 2021

Hitting Milestones

Friends, Supporters, Colleagues

Yesterday was a milestone. You managed to raise more than £80K in only 17 days. Seventeen days. Four hundred and 8 hours. That is £196.08 per hour. This is what you all did, and you did it to support me bringing my employer to an employment tribunal.

Last evening, I was obsessively refreshing my various social media feeds. I could feel the joy of everyone in the comments and the retweets, in the likes and shares.

What an amazing thing you have done.

I mean this without any false modesty: I am humbled and touched beyond measure. I will do my very best to honour your donations, your support, and your hopes.

In the days before deciding to go to tribunal, I had to work out the minimum amount I needed to raise so that I could take the case all the way to Tribunal. That amount was £80,000. When I discussed this with my partner (the amazing Pj), she told me she would support my decision whatever I chose but she believed that we ought to go for it. She has, after all, been the one at home listening to my frustrations and anger and my deep pain. She was also the one who picked me up during the summer when I was struggling with PTSD and couldn’t sleep or concentrate.

Few people will realise what a decision like that means: we decided to gamble our house. If the crowdjustice fund raiser didn’t provide enough money, or didn’t provide any, we knew we would have to mortgage our house and risk our financial future. This is how committed we are to fighting this battle.

Your support and your donations – from the £1 and £2 donations (and I know how much that can be) to those who have given astonishing sums – mean my partner and I can rest assured knowing that we can take this case all the way to the final hearing without jeopardising our house.

I will be chatting with my lawyer over the next few days. We will be submitting the claim to the Employment Tribunal this week. We will also discuss whether another stretch target is needed.

My hope: to get, quite literally, the best legal team in the country. My aim is to do everything in my power to make sure that your generosity is honoured and that we win.

For now, my partner and I thank you. What an amazing thing you have all done.

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