Gender-critical editor dropped by agency over ‘five o’clock shadow’ tweet

Sibyl Ruth gender-critical editor employment tribunal
Sibyl Ruth is taking legal action against Cornerstones

A gender-critical editor has claimed she was dropped by a literary consultancy after stating that the idea of someone with a “heavy five o’clock shadow” being a woman “blows my mind”.

Sibyl Ruth was working for Cornerstones when she questioned on Twitter the view that “a perm and lippy and a bag with gold chains = woman”.

She said that she was dropped by the consultancy after posting the tweet.

Ruth is now planning to take legal action against the company, claiming that staff “took objection to the gender-critical views I expressed”, namely “my belief that sex is immutable and determined from conception”.

The 63-year-old will be assisted by the Free Speech Union and is raising funds for her legal fees.

Spotlight on tweet

Ruth had spent 30 years in creative writing when she was added to a stable of regular editors at Cornerstones, a company which offers authors services, such as one-to-one mentoring, copy editing and proofreading.

In 2022, she commented on a tweet containing the image of a transgender person, questioning how biological women often have their appearance questioned.

She wrote: “I do believe that people should be allowed to wear what they want etc etc… But what blows my mind is the idea that with heavy five o’clock shadow, a perm and lippy and a bag with gold chains = woman.

“While us boring biological women get derided if we have one or two faint chin hairs.”

Editor ‘told to be mindful of online comments’

Ruth’s legal team believed this comment was brought to Cornerstones’ attention.

She claims that soon after her post, she was told that her ongoing work with a client was stopped and that her profile had been removed from the Cornerstones website.

After receiving a general email about company values and being mindful of online comments, as well as questioning why her work had dried up, Ruth claimed that she was told “it’s unlikely that we’ll feed any more projects your way”.

According to her legal team, a subject access request revealed that staff during this period had already discussed how her online comments could cause reputational damage and how best to tell her she would no longer be used for work.

‘Danger to democracy and freedom’

Ruth said of her case: “I don’t believe organisations should have the power to control what we say at home, when we talk to friends, or when we’re discussing topical issues on social media. All of us are different.

“We have various views about what equality means and need to be able to explore these differences, without being at risk of losing our jobs.

“The overreach of companies into the private lives of individuals is a danger to democracy and freedom.”

Cornerstones was contacted but declined to comment on the matter.