Response to Judith Butler

by Alan Sokal

Letter to The Guardian in response to the article by Judith Butler, "Why is the idea of ‘gender’ provoking backlash the world over?", The Guardian, 23 October 2021 --- which the editors of The Guardian decided not to publish. Indeed, as far as I can tell, The Guardian did not publish any letters in response to Butler's article.

Judith Butler (Comment, 23 October) accuses gender-critical feminists -- a label that she puts condescendingly in scare quotes -- of "ally[ing] with reactionary powers in targeting trans, non-binary, and genderqueer people". But of course we do no such thing. We fully support the right of all people to live their lives as they wish, free from violence, harassment and discrimination. But we disagree with the radical idea that self-declared gender identity should supplant biological sex for all legal and social purposes.

Butler declares that "this is no time for any of the targets of this [right-wing] movement to be turning against one another". Fair enough: but why, then, are radical trans activists attacking the mild-mannered left-wing lesbian philosopher Kathleen Stock, calling her "one of this wretched island's most prominent transphobes"? The "anti-fascist solidarity" extolled by Butler does look a wee bit one-sided.

Alan Sokal

Professor of Mathematics, University College London
Professor Emeritus of Physics, New York University