JK Rowling is usually one to go toe-to-toe with critics regarding her opinion on the role of biological sex in Feminism and Women’s Rights. Today, however, I guess she wasn’t feeling quite up to it (she got it anyway).
It began with Rowling tweeting her an acceptance of an apology from the British Labour Party’s MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who previously accused Rowling of using her experiences with domestic violence to promote discrimination against trans women. In the series of tweets, Rowling quoted feminist author Andrea Dawkin’s statement about how men who treat women’s opinions as if they were acts of violence sometimes respond to them with violence.
Andrea Dworkin wrote: ‘Men often react to women’s words—speaking and writing—as if they were acts of violence; sometimes men react to women’s words with violence.’ It isn’t hateful for women speak about their own experiences, nor do they deserve shaming for doing so. 8/9
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 28, 2020
Stephen King retweeted this, which prompted Rowling to excitedly tweet words of praise and thanks to King for his support of women. After a fan in the tweet thread prodded King on his position on trans issues, King responded by saying “Yes, Trans Women are Women.” Rowling promptly deleted the tweet, but not before fans were able to snag screenshots of the exchange. Rowling then unfollowed King, which sparked even more criticism and reinforced the opinion of many that she is transphobic.
Jk Rowling said jk pic.twitter.com/iSw8AxBZh7
— 𝗡𝗶𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗮𝘀 𝗗𝗲𝗢𝗿𝗶𝗼 (@Nicholas_DeOrio) June 29, 2020
This exchange is the latest chapter in JK Rowling’s “I’m not transphobic but I say and do things that make people think that I am” saga.
Yesterday, Rowling was criticized after she “liked” a tweet posted by a gender-critical Canadian Women’s rights group which thanked her for providing a voice to biological women…and called for blocking a bill in Canada which would prevent therapists from counseling trans children to accept their biological bodies which many see as a form of conversion therapy.
.@jk_rowling A big thank you from Canada where women’s rights to privacy were flushed down the toilet with Bill C16, & now Bill C8 will criminalize a therapist who counsels a child to accept the body they were born in. You have given us hope. #IStandWithJKRowling #StopBillC8
— We The Females (@wethefemalescan) June 29, 2020
She has also been catching a lot of heat the past couple of weeks after again taking a stance on the need for recognizing biological sex differences between cis & trans women and how that distinction relates to women’s rights. Earlier in June, the author posted a link to an article which referred to “people who menstruate,” she was clearly irritated by the headline.
‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?
Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate https://t.co/cVpZxG7gaA
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
The backlash was swift, with many people accusing the author of being a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (aka TERF). Many critics stated that women are not defined by having periods and questioned if the author thought post-menopausal or women afflicted with amenorrhea were also not women or if trans gender men were now to be robbed of their identity as men because many of them still menstruate.
Within hours, #Hermione and #ChoChang were trending alongside TERF as Twitter users pointed out other instances of Rowling’s broken woke-ness. These include
- Conveniently outing Dumbledore as gay after-the-fact, especially given there were no references to the Wizard’s sexuality in the books. Accusing her of trying to capitalize on the LGBT rights movements
- Conveniently stating that Hermione was meant to be Black after fan complaints regarding a black woman being cast as Hermoine in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, an assertion made despite Rowling referencing the character’s white face and pale skin in the books
- “Lazily” naming the only Chinese character in the series “Cho Chang” which, according to Twitter users of Asian descent, was the equivalent of naming her Ching Chong.
- Cho Chang’s supposed idolizing of western-white boys and the character being portrayed as a submissive Asian stereotype.
- Gringotts goblins looking and behaving like offensive Jewish stereotypes (greedy, hooked nose, and wealth-obsessed)
- Having every single Asian female character in the series contribute nothing of merit in the story aside from dating white male characters
- Not speaking out against the recasting of Lavender Brown from a black female to a white female once the character became a love interest for Ron in the films
I love how cho Chang is trending. Gotta get that one off my chest. Jk Rowling gave the one chinese character the name equivalent of ching Chong. Then that character ended up being a snitching ass square. And did literally nothing in the series but date people.
— Kimmy The Pooh (@kimmythepooh) June 7, 2020
Rowling found no support among her Harry Potter family who all distanced themselves from her opinions. Daniel Radcliffe responded to the comments in a blog post for The Trevor Project:
“Transgender women are women…any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo (Rowling) or I.”
In a statement to The Times UK, Rupert Grint stated “Trans women are women. Trans men are men…We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment.”
Fantastic Beast star, Eddie Redmayne criticized Rowling in a statement to Variety:
I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid. I would never want to speak on behalf of the community, but I do know that my dear transgender friends and colleagues are tired of this constant questioning of their identities…
Emma Watson took to Twitter to express her dissent:
Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.
— Emma Watson (@EmmaWatson) June 10, 2020
And Katie Leung, who played Cho Chang in the film series, addressed both the controversy of her character’s name and Rowling’s comments in a tweet thread featuring links to GoFundMe accounts and articles supporting activism for Trans people of color. She ended the thread with a final tweet stating #AsiansForBlackLives.
So, you want my thoughts on Cho Chang? Okay, here goes…(thread)
— Katie Leung (@Kt_Leung) June 7, 2020
Despite the backlash, Rowling doubled down. She attempted to explain that she didn’t mean to marginalize the Trans community, emphasizing that she has researched the topic and that she has support from her “queer” and lesbian friends. She stated that she believes that in ignoring the “reality” of biological sex, people are erasing the lived experiences of gay men and lesbians as well as cisgender and trans women. She also equated the phrase TERF and Feminazi to other hateful words used against women.
I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
This is not the first time Rolling has come under fire for alleged transphobia. In 2018 Rowling faced criticism for “liking” a tweet which referred to trans women as “men in dresses.” Last year, she was again railed for transphobic remarks after posting a tweet in support of Maya Forstater, a researcher and self-proclaimed “gender critical” feminist who came out against trans women’s participation in (and in many cases dominance of) women’s sports.
Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 19, 2019
This is where I would usually break off into a discussion on how this all relates to a much larger issue or social paradigm, but the reality is it’s too much for one article. It’s probably too much for seven articles. BUT… UNLIKE my follow up to the Corey Feldman Documentary (I really should have gotten back to that), I am going to actually post a follow-up on this topic and I hope anyone reading this will join me in that discussion.
For now, I will just say that… with regard to Rowling’s original tweet, the one responding to the Devex opinion article which reduces biological women to people who menstruate… I have to side with Rowling on this one. At least on this point. Menstruation is a bodily function not a physical quantifier. The lived experiences of any person should never be reduced to a biological function, especially when quite frankly not every biological woman experiences it. Also that particular bodily function has a time limit which has historically been used to treat women as if we have a shelf life or expiration date.
IF the authors of the original article were so concerned about being “woke” “sensitive” and/or “unproblematic,” they could have at least just added Cis-Gender before the word women. It’s clear in the context of their article that’s the group they were talking about.