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The Dishonest and Misogynistic Hate Campaign Against J.K. Rowling

When J. K. Rowling first outed herself as a gender-critical feminist, my first thought was: If Rowling can be cancelled, anyone can be cancelled. Not only is she one of the best known and best loved authors in the world (the writer of children’s books, for goodness sake), she also has a personal history that ought to make her un-cancellable. This was the mum who escaped an abusive marriage and lived off benefits, writing the first Harry Potter book in an Edinburgh café while rocking her sleeping baby in a pram. This was the woman who became a billionaire, but then lost her billionaire status by giving away so much money to charity. If anyone was safe, Rowling should have been safe.

And it turns out that she was, because despite the best efforts of her critics, she hasn’t yet been truly cancelled. Her latest book, the murder mystery (written under the pen-name Robert Galbraith), was published on Tuesday and, as of Thursday, was number four on Amazon’s bestseller list for all literature and fiction. (In the UK, it sits at the number-one spot.) Sales of Harry Potter books also shot up over lockdown, despite the fact that, for more than a year now, Rowling’s name has been dragged through the mud on social media and in many news outlets. She has been condemned by actors such as Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, who became rich and famous only thanks to her success. And last month, she was pressured to return a human-rights award after she was accused of having “diminished the identity” of trans people. But although these undeserved attacks must sting, Rowling’s position as a bestselling author has survived—just as it will surely survive the fresh wave of controversy that arrived this week, following a lukewarm and misleading review of Troubled Blood in the Daily Telegraph that included this line:

The meat of the book is the investigation into a cold case: the disappearance of GP Margot Bamborough in 1974, thought to have been a victim of Dennis Creed, a transvestite serial killer. One wonders what critics of Rowling’s stance on trans issues will make of a book whose moral seems to be: Never trust a man in a dress.

As other critics have since pointed out, “never trust a man in a dress” is very much not the moral of the book, and the Creed character is never described as a transvestite, or transgender, or trans-anything, in fact. He never even wears a dress, but instead disguises himself in a feminine coat and wig when approaching one of his victims. Although fetishistic cross-dressing is sometimes a behaviour exhibited by sexually-motivated murderers—the most famous being Ed Gein and Jerry Brudos, who provided inspiration for the Buffalo Bill character in Silence of the Lambs—Rowling doesn’t portray her murderer as trans, and so doesn’t employ the “trans woman as serial killer” trope, as she has been accused of doing. In fact, the only trans character to appear in the Cormoran Strike series (of which Troubled Blood is the latest instalment) is a highly sympathetic and vulnerable young trans woman who plays a small role in The Silk Worm.

Not that the facts matter to those stepping up the hate campaign against Rowling, of course. Activists in this area are not known for their restraint. To the already relentless abuse directed at Rowling has been added the #RIPJKRowling hashtag, which is now trending on Twitter. “Does anyone need firewood this winter! JK’s new book is perfect to burn next to a Romantic fire,” tweeted the Irish musical duo Jedward. Other social-media users obliged by posting footage of themselves doing just that.

What has Rowling done to deserve all of this? Well, let’s run through the list of her supposed crimes. First, in 2018, she liked a couple of tweets written by gender-critical feminists—which is to say, feminists who reject the idea that gender self-identification can serve to erase the reality of human biology—including one tweet protesting against sexism in the Labour Party. Next, she sent a very restrained tweet in December 2019, expressing her support for Maya Forstater, a British woman who lost her job as a result of her gender-critical views. Rowling’s tweet read: “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?”

Six months later, she followed up with another restrained tweet, this time in response to an article that used the term “people who menstruate” in the headline: “’People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

A few days after that, Rowling published an essay on her website explaining the reasoning behind these controversial tweets. The essay is well worth reading in full, particularly for anyone new to the conflict between gender-critical feminists and trans activists, since Rowling lays out the issues with clarity and compassion. (She is, after all, an exceptionally talented writer). She also wrote for the first time about her own experiences of sexual and domestic violence, as part of a longer section on the empathy she feels for trans victims of abuse:

If you could come inside my head and understand what I feel when I read about a trans woman dying at the hands of a violent man, you’d find solidarity and kinship. I have a visceral sense of the terror in which those trans women will have spent their last seconds on earth, because I too have known moments of blind fear when I realised that the only thing keeping me alive was the shaky self-restraint of my attacker… I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men. So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe.

In response to this essay, a male Labour shadow minister wrote that Rowling had “used” her experiences of violence to “undermine the rights of others.” Rowling also suffered the public humiliation of a front-page story in the Sun, in which her ex-husband reported that he was “not sorry” for assaulting her. She then faced a further intensification of the online abuse that had begun after those first forbidden “likes” on Twitter and has not let up since.

The feminist philosopher Rebecca Reilly Cooper has collected screenshots of some of the many aggressive tweets that either include Rowling’s name or were sent directly to her. Clear themes emerge, “shut the fuck up,” being one. The words “bitch,” “whore,” “hag,” and (ah yes) “Karen” start to give the game away. Many Twitter users seem to be convinced that Rowling’s gender-critical politics can be ascribed to her “stinky” or “dry pussy,” and suggest that she needs to be “fucking punched”. Others write messages like “suck my fat cock and choke on it” or (with no hint of self-awareness) “JK Rowling can suck my big transgender cock.” Have you spotted the pattern yet?

Through all of this, Rowling has also attracted a lot of support—in fact, probably more support than criticism (though you wouldn’t always know that from headlines that suggest otherwise). As she described in a second essay on her site: “Since I first joined the public debate on gender identity and women’s rights, I’ve been overwhelmed by the thousands of private emails of support I’ve received from people affected by these issues, both within and without the trans community, many of whom feel vulnerable and afraid because of the toxicity surrounding this discussion.”

She is now a heroine in the eyes of many gender critical people—including gender-critical trans people—and some have said so very publicly. “I heart JK Rowling” advertising posters have been popping up all over the world, paid for by gender-critical feminists. They have been met with official resistance. One was removed from a railway station in Edinburgh by state-owned Network Rail, despite there being zero public complaints. And last week, another in Vancouver was defaced and then taken down. These posters said nothing except “I heart JK Rowling”: No other slogan, no link to a website, nothing. That’s how toxic her name has become, according to some.

Critics of Rowling have chosen to highlight a small detail in Troubled Blood that has very little to do with the plot of the book. In doing so, they’ve also chosen to ignore a much larger theme that runs through not only this instalment, but through the Robert Galbraith series as a whole. That theme is misogyny, a topic that Rowling is all too familiar with, given both her personal history and her recent monstering. If her critics had actually read her work (or, in the case of the Telegraph review, summarized it competently), they would have discovered a series of books that offer what the feminist writer Joan Smith describes as a “panoramic view of the extent of violence against women and girls.” Fortunately, the popularity of Troubled Blood makes clear that members of the reading public are still eager to read Rowling’s work. Her critics have tried very, very hard to cancel her. But they still haven’t managed it.

 

 

Louise Perry is a freelance writer based in the UK. You can follow her on Twitter @Louise_m_perry.

Featured Image: Screen shot from December 2019 “Council of Geeks” YouTube Video.  

Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated that Ms. Rowling was “forced” to return a human-rights award. It is more accurate to say that she was “pressured” to do so, as the article now states. 

Comments

  1. One of the reasons for the derangement of those who attack J. K. Rowling is based upon the idea that gender critical feminism somehow harms trans people. The concept rests upon the premise that all transgender self-harm, most especially trans suicide, is caused by the traumatic way they are often treated in society.

    If this were the case then we could rank order countries by levels of trans tolerance and inclusion, and then compare the rates of suicide for the trans community by contrast to the general population. We also know that there is a great degree of variation in this respect, especially when look at levels of tolerance historically. The answer to the question of how much general attitudes affect trans rates of suicide is not much, perhaps 5% at most (although this is partially based upon low reported suicide rates for countries like Sweden and deducting). I should also make clear that this was also intuited with only the most basic, surface level statistics.

    There are things that help trans people. Family acceptance is one. Another is the ability to ‘pass’, which explains why some activists desperately want to help the next generation of trans individuals gain access to treatment options young, when the evidence shows that over two thirds will simply grow out of it, if they are left to let nature take its course and most especially are not put on puberty blockers- which denies the option for the majority to live a perfectly happy, normal life, in their sex assigned at birth.

    But by far the most important thing is extensive psychological help throughout their young and adult lives, regardless of whether they choose a physical treatment option or are lucky enough to be able to let puberty offer trans desistence. Because there is one elephant in the room. The thing nobody wants to talk about. The subject of trans rejection. Even amongst the young population, those willing to trans inclusive in dating knowingly are vanishingly small.

    I don’t want to cite the statistics, for fear I might do harm, and I should caveat by saying that both the gay and lesbian communities are somewhat more inclusive in their dating preferences. There are also those who have embraced pansexualism. But there are many lesbians who will never be happy with a penis on a trans woman, and what is true of them is more true of the heterosexual population- and women are worse than men in this regard.

    With family support, the ability to pass, extensive lifelong therapy and a more tolerant and inclusive society, there is every reason to suggest that trans suicide rates could fall as low as 20% over the course of a lifetime, but anything less than that is fooling ourselves. There are deeper reasons involved, and most of us should know that by now. For those who would fail to show support, compassion and sympathy to the trans community given the harsh reality of their lives, I have nothing but condemnation, but please don’t lump J. K. Rowling into this category.

  2. In fact, the only trans character to appear in the Cormoran Strike series (of which Troubled Blood is the latest instalment) is a highly sympathetic and vulnerable young trans woman who plays a small role in The Silk Worm .

    Only one trans character in the entire series? And a small one at that? She’s clearly erasing trans women and perpetuating cis-heteronormative oppression by refusing to write about trans people.

  3. When it comes to JK Rowling’s “cancellation” I believe the correct spell is, " Hoistus Petardo! "

    As (fellow TERF cancellee) Suzanne Moore, of The Guardian, could have told her, going along with the woke crowd for years and mouthing all the “approved” lines is no defence against the dark arts of the social justice activists. If and when you stray from the orthodoxy, they will disown you and attempt to “cancel” you without a backwards glance.

    Far better to retain your dignity by never pandering to such illiberal, woke nonsense in the first place.

    But I have to admit that I struggle to sympathise with Ms Rowling given that she has seemed perfectly willing in the past to join or instigate Twitter pile-ons against those with whom she disagreed, so, when the mob turned on her, she got to see how it felt.

    Suzanne Moore and Graham Linehan have also upset the Trans-activist mob and like JK Rowling they both have form.

    You can spend years going along with the progressive herd, but the minute you fall out of lock-step with them on a single contentious issue you will be turned on. Previous adherence to orthodoxy is no defence once you’ve been accused of trans-heresy - should that be (S)heresy?

    Linehan had gleefully piled on to denounce a fellow comedian - who goes by the name "Count Dankula " - for making what was (obvious to anyone of the meanest intelligence) a joke. Namely teaching a pug to do a nazi salute when given a specific (offensive) command.

    Was the joke funny? Well, to each his own.

    Was the joke in poor taste? Certainly to some, yes.

    But it was a joke. And Linehan knew it was a joke.
    He is a comedy writer - he knows that not every joke will be found funny by an audience - so he presumably would agree with the principle that a comedian has the right to say anything in search of a laugh? … Not so.

    As the twitter mob lit torches and sharpened pitchforks to lay siege to Dankula’s castle, there was Linehan, feeding the mob and accusing the hapless Count of trying to “sneak fascism and hatred in under the guise of irony”.

    When Mr Linehan, JK Rowling and Suzanne Moore find themselves at the eye of a twitterstorm for “thoughtcrimes”, I wonder whether their predicament makes them feel any sympathy for those they’ve denounced in the past? They’ve certainly not said so.

    I don’t read Twitter, I never have and never will open an account. Yet its daily tide of misery and bile is wholly familiar to me because all those journalists who spend their days denigrating it, can’t seem to help themselves from reporting on its every ebb and flow.

    Perhaps if every journalist who purports to hate Twitter stopped reading it - and certainly stopped writing about it - the problem would diminish.

  4. This is a good synopsis of the events. Furthermore, I believe that JK Rowling will survive this. However, I think plenty of less powerful people may not have the resources to weather such assaults.

  5. It is to her honor that she speaks obvious truths and outrages insane freaks.

  6. When J. K. Rowling first outed herself as a gender-critical feminist

    While I am not condoning Rowling being cancelled in any way, I have to admit there is a certain sense of schadenfreude on my part in regards to Rowling.

    For many years, Rowling was part of the mob and a vocal advocate during the witch hunts of #MeToo. She happily sided with individuals demanding that we suspend habeas corpus and simply ‘believe women’ in regards to any accusations targeted towards men.

    Now, the shoe is on the other foot and Rowling is on the receiving end of the same Woke Mob that cares not for your past deeds or your character, but merely looks for any opportunity to cancel anyone, regardless of whether they had been a previous ally.

    And therein lies the crux of the problem: this woke agenda has become a monster. It was enabled by people like Rowling and like any monster, has now grown to the point that it can no longer be controlled.

    If Rowling wants my sympathies, she had better start by acknowledging that she was an enabler in the past and that her previous actions and her feminist agenda were just as vindictive as the current mob out to get her.

  7. Rowling is far-left. Other far-lefties are attacking her.

    Let them eat their own. Do not interrupt them. And pay attention as they do it, so we can all remember what kind of people they are and where their ideology leads.

  8. We’re getting away from the main point in the article, which is Rowling’s support of women. I’m not concerned about Rowling being cancelled – she can take care of herself. I am concerned about the many women she’s heard from , and those who aren’t able to have their voice heard.

    The minor issue is transwomen’s trashing of women’s sports. There are way too many examples of men identifying as women so they can take advantage of their natural athletic superiority. It’s patently unfair to women who have spent their life training, only to be beaten by unfair competition.

    The major concern is the danger that some charlatans pose to women, by invading their safe spaces. Imagine escaping to a women’s shelter only to be assaulted by someone identifying as a women who has been required by law to be sheltered there! Makes no sense, but that’s the reality these days.

    Regardless of what you think of Rowling’s past transgressions, she deserves a lot of credit for her support of women who don’t have the same platform she does.

  9. Did you ever notice we never see any professional female athlete identifying as male so as to compete with men? Curious, that.

  10. “Sex assigned at birth”?

    You mean, their actual, biological, scientific, real sex?

    “Even amongst the young population, those willing to trans inclusive in dating knowingly are vanishingly small.”

    That’s because a trans woman, whatever else he may be, isn’t actually a woman. And heterosexual men want to date women. That’s why we’re called heterosexual. It’s not my job to make trans people feel good about themselves, and it’s a bizarre twist to think that I should be asked to deform my psychology in order to help someone else’s. If he can’t change who he is and what he wants, then why should I be asked to?

  11. I wonder, should a downtrodden working class, trans-exclusionary radical feminist be properly described as Serf-n-Terf?

  12. I believe the entire controversy surrounding how trans individuals are described in culture in general, and by authors as JK Rowling in particular, highlights something fundamentally dangerous for society. Not only for the trans individuals but also for the average individuals right to have an opinion, and expressing their freedom of speech.

    I understand where the debate is coming from and that a formerly ignored and hated group deserve the same attention and respect as the rest of us. But what we see today is a pendulum that has swung way too far out the other end. Rather than accepting an array of various non-hateful but valid opinions, a very strongly voiced group of advocates in and around the trans community is now labeling any opinion not uniformly positive as “hate”. Rowling dared to speak up and share a different perspective on gender and sex, which in itself is not hateful at all, and is now paying the price. For example, a biological woman not attracted to trans women is not being “hateful” to or excluding the trans community. She is merely stating her own feelings, and each to their own. If I am not attracted to the idea of bisexual men, that is fine too. Each to their own. That is by no means the same thing as either of us being “hateful” towards trans persons. In the same way describing a trans (or “trans”) person in a novel is in itself not a no-go zone, (to set the record straight, the killer in JK Rowling’s novel is by no means trans, merely a man disguising himself as a woman to get closer to his victims). In literature and culture in general, we must be allowed to include all individuals of society in a full context, be it positive or negative.

    There is a huge problem with the trans movement wanting to be accepted in society, but not allowing anyone to even remotely connect them to anything negative, unless anyone speaking out his/her opinion consider the risk of being cancelled, hated, or even physically attacked. Consequently that means we have a group of individuals claiming the right to be treated as a legitimate part of society, but at the same time claiming the right not to be. As always and everywhere, you cannot both have the cake and eat it. Demand inclusion, but accept criticism.

    If the trans movement want to keep this up and think the rest of us need to reform our way of thinking to adapt, we will indeed need stated guidelines and a controlled vocabulary. A glossary is already in place, check. The next step is a full checklist of where and how we are allowed to describe and talk about trans people. A fluffy gorgeous trans individual in a fictitious novel - Approved. An ugly misogynist trans individual with bad personality and a temper - Hateful stereotype warning! Immediate action required. Do you want to include a trans individual character in a TV series? That better be a positive image of a person loved and accepted by everyone, or else …!

    By wanting to create a positive environment for trans individuals the very opposite is created for all of us. A world where we need to consider every single word we utter and write to be positive, unless we are ready to face the raging mob. Mistakes are not tolerated. The interpretation of your words is not your own to make.

    We claim to be making a better society, but for whom? And is it really better if we all live in constant fear of saying something that could be interpreted as “hateful”? I am not so sure.

    The trans community is utterly welcome to be part of society and share the same rights as the rest of us, but ignoring that inclusion comes with the price of also having to accept other peoples opinions (not hate), creates nothing less than what they claim to stand up against.

    The circle of evil is soon complete. Abide it in silence.

  13. There’s a big difference between supporting naming & shaming without due process which Rowling never did & supporting those who have been thru sexual abuse

    The former was enabled by the latter. That is the problem. 3rd and 4th wave feminists have gone to great lengths to depict a world whereby women are the continuously oppressed and that men are the continued oppressors. It is a binary, myopic world view that has no basis in reality. And it led the foundation for the rabid SJW zealots who decided to take things one step further and move to guilty until proven innocent.

    And what about you were you an “enabler” of #metoo exploitation? The #metoo vigilantism is a product of injustice claims ignored & dismissed much as you are doing now…

    No it isn’t. #MeToo had its origins in the cesspool that is Hollywood. Which has been a bastion of female exploitation for decades. Ever heard of the Hollywood casting couch? Centrists and conservatives have been sounding the alarm regarding how Hollywood behaves for many years and were continually told they were ‘out of touch’ or ‘old fashioned’. Does anyone recall how the left and Hollywood celebrities defended Bill Clinton and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky? A situation that now would be admonished as being a case of a powerful man using his influence to coerce a 20-something women into sexual favors.

    But once again, 3rd and 4th wave feminists used the #MeToo situation to push the narrative of continued oppression and exploitation of women everywhere. The ‘patriarchy’ and ‘male privilege’ became the norm. And the natural consequence of that were situations where habeas corpus was suspended. Our universities began setting up kangaroo courts where women could just make any accusations and the men often could not even defend themselves. Based off of the ‘rape culture’ narrative. Which is also totally false.

    The core issue here is not just a few bad apples that take things too far. The core issue is a mechanism, with its origins in academia, teaching extreme views that have no basis in reality. Read about the grievance studies hoax to get a window into that world. When academic ‘professors’ suspend the scientific method in favor of starting with the conclusion and working backgrounds, they lay the foundation for zealotry to flourish. Which is where we are now. And also why the far left is now eating its own.

  14. You could say that about any human system that’s exploited & has problematic elements as I said earlier. Capitalism is one such system. Does its exploitation deem it worthless? Should we condemn every supporter of capitalism because of the sins of a few?

    No one is being cancelled for criticizing Capitalism or its flaws. In fact, there are political candidates who make it their platform for rallying against the woes of capitalism. However, if anyone dares challenge the ethos of or doctrines of the radical left, the SJW crowd launches an assault on them, attempting to destroy their reputation and their livelihood. That is the difference between constructive dialog and zealotry. The enablers allowed this situation to manifest because the initial targets of SJW rage were people on the right. (Remember the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation farce?) They were perfectly ok with seeing those people and their reputations destroyed and did not voice any objections otherwise. Now, anyone is a target. As JK Rowling and others have discovered. And that is the problem when you create a monster; don’t be surprised when you lose control of it.

    Turning a blind eye is hardly sounding an alarm. Conservatives never exploit women?

    Tu Quoque Logical Fallacy. Not worthy of any reply.

    Dud laws & policies that enable such abuses require change. Humans left to their own devices without any constraints are going to err & if voters don’t vote with their feet to change that it’s not the mechanism but them who is ultimately to blame

    Um, no. The core problem is not the politicians. They are just part of the enablement problem and use the SJW mob to their advantage if possible. Even though it opens them up for potential blowback downstream. But politicians are usually too stupid to think that far ahead.

    The core problem is academia. That is what needs to be addressed. Because they are the source of this woke mentality via their humanities departments that have long since abandoned any notions of the scientific method and instead now focus sorely on dogma. It is no longer science, it is a religion. But it masquerades as a science. And that is the fundamental issue. Which is also extraordinarily dangerous. It is akin to how the Nazis functioned and the parallels are both disturbing an alarming.

    You want the ultimate example of that parallel? During the grievance studies affair, the orchestrators of the hoax actually got segments of Mein Kampf published in a feminist journal by merely replacing the word ‘Jew’ with ‘cis male’ (or cis white male). And the resultant paper was actually published. If that doesn’t shed a window into how absurd things have gotten with 3rd and 4th wave feminism and the dogma associated with it, I don’t know what does.

  15. You hit the nail on the head here. Every time I read about wealthy or famous people being cancelled (or at least being on the chopping block), I wonder how many normal people are successfully cancelled without any fanfare.

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