I’ve never been a fan of J.K.R. I thought she was a bit overrated but I’ve been following the reactions she has received for voicing her opinions and making her defense. Some people have gone so far as to state that her “transphobia” has rendered their childhood experience false. And that’s probably the kindest comment I’ve seen.
I happen to agree with J.K.R.’s statements. I actually had a newfound respect for her after reading her essay. For two reasons. One, sticking to one’s guns and defending one’s stance is rare anymore. Apologies are much more common. Apologies are good and right, of course, when one is in the wrong. I respected that Rowling took the time to explain herself. She didn’t respond in a completely defensive manner nor did she back down. She thoughtfully explained where she was coming from and if we don’t encourage people to do that then we are on dangerous ground. Secondly, I respect her for sharing her thoughts because for a long while now, I have been confused by the feminist movement and her words shed light on my own thoughts.
I consider myself a feminist in that I believe women should be treated as equals. I would not say I could ever align myself with the modern approach to feminism and there are many reasons why. One is that so much of what they espouse seems to contradict initial feminist causes. As someone who cares deeply about women’s advancements, I think that there are ways in which that advancement is impeded by the trans-movement. Women have worked hard to gain equal rights and, to me, placing trans-women in the same category can be harmful. Specifically, I am thinking of sports and the celebratory honoring of women. I have a hard time not seeing the trans-movement as possibly being another way of men encroaching on women’s spaces and rights. Maybe it would be easier if I used a term different than men because I do understand the argument that transwomen are women. Maybe if I said people who were once considered men or who were allotted a greater amount of testosterone at birth. I do believe that allowing room for this new definition of gender can crowd out those who have always lived under the definition of old. I also don’t believe science has changed but rather, language. Language and word usage are huge factors in this debate and many other debates of the day.
Isn’t there a school of thought that says race is a social construct? Wouldn’t that then lend itself to the idea that one could feel they were a different race than to the one they were born. What if we had advanced medically to the point where we could effectively color our skin to match the skin we felt we should be in. And then, white born people sought to align themselves with people of color and embrace all of that struggle as something belonging, now, also to them. I think it would be a hard sell. If people can recognize that, I think it would be kind of them to, at least, see the similarities in this so as to try and understand better where some women are coming from. I don’t believe it’s a from a place of phobia but rather of warranted self-protection. Women have needed to self-protect forever and it’s not fair to ask them to simply stop because times have changed.
Many people expressed that by sharing her personal experience of abuse, Rowling conflated two separate issues. They think that she is using the fact that she was abused as an excuse for what they see as transphobia. Clearly, (or, maybe, not so clearly) she did not believe she was fusing to unrelated issues. To her, the two were connected. She attempts to make clear why. She shares her concerns and concerns are just that. Concerns. Worthy of discussion. And discussions, of course, consist of language and of words. We need to, then, look at the words we are all using and which we are all throwing around rather easily of late. We are using harsh terms to describe most anything or anyone we don’t agree with. I think that’s our first problem. We need to put down our standard go-to terms and thoughtfully consider any opinion or viewpoint.
I find it interesting that so many of those opposed to Rowling’s essay have nothing to say in response to her revelation of the attacks she has received in light of all of this. Is this just considered fine? Are we to assume that verbally abusing people who have problematic viewpoints is justified and acceptable? I think this plays into why we can’t listen to each other anymore. We are lacking kindness and common decency in our rebuttals. Rowling shares that she first came under scrutiny for simply befriending a lesbian who didn’t believe that she should be made to feel as if she needed to be open to dating people with penises. I can’t believe that we’ve so quickly moved from a place of fighting for an individual’s right to be attracted to and marry whomever they please to a place where we shame people for preferring one set of genitalia to another. Rowling shares that she received threats of violence and was called all number of truly misogynistic names. Here is another contradiction. The open-minded fail to remain so when their own beliefs are questioned. How is it any better for an advocate of trans people to call any woman a cunt than it is for any man to do so? Isn’t that a term rife with contempt for women? So, pro-women, pro-trans-women can use this term with no sense of irony?
Anyway, Rowling makes a very thorough case for herself. She shares multiple reasons for why she holds the beliefs that she does. Arguments that are, of themselves, noble. To worry about social deprivation and medical research, to have thoughts on how our new society will impact education and children, to desire to protect free speech, and to express concern over statistics that show a startling trend in Autistic girls ( as much a vulnerable group as are all the other groups in question who feel insulted by Rowling) are not petty discussion points. They are valid, in at least, the need to bring them to the table for discourse. She also shares that she knows there is such a thing as gender dysphoria and states that she understands why some people transition. I don’t believe that at any point she expressed doubt in the reality of gender dysphoria or any desire to prevent the act of transitioning. What she has a problem with is a more narrow issue: the issue of what constitutes recognition of womanhood under the law.
She then brings in the viewpoint of how misogyny has and does effect us. She is absolutely correct that women are being dehumanized at an alarming rate. She states that she feels dehumanized by being reduced to a vulva or a menstruator or non-menstruator. This seems, to me, to be a completely reasonable and understandable feeling. Finally, she does tie in her abusive past with the current issue by explaining that she does fear having no safe space as a woman. The very fact that such vitriol has been so easily directed at her, I would say, does nothing to alleviate those fears.
I think that her thoughts and opinions are all worthy of consideration. I think we need to put down our battle axes and our throw-around terms and try to calmly see things from other people’s point of view. We don’t need to come to agree with them but can we at least try and have compassion and not be quick to jump to conclusions and accusations. Jumping straight to name calling is easy. Carefully reflecting upon another person’s experiences and thoughts is not. Shouldn’t we challenge ourselves to not take the easy way out. If we truly hope for change we need to be looking at issues from all angles. If we want something to be accepted, we need to understand those who push against it.
There were so many angry accusations in the comments and so many of those comments employed the same words. I think it’s time we start questioning our use of some of these words. Not just in regards to this debate but in general. However, I’ll stick to this topic. Someone took umbrage with what they saw as Rowling placing incels and sexual abusers within the same category as trans-people. I would argue that if the trans-people she seems to be referring to are the ones who are expressing a desire to punch people they disagree with or who are suggesting reeducating those they disagree with, then they have aligned themselves with incels and sexual abusers. Abuse is abuse is abuse.
Comment after comment describe Rowling as transphobic or anti-trans. The second word is sort of a sloppy word, in my opinion, because in the way its being used, an argument could be made for adding the prefix ‘anti’ to anything opposite or even anything slightly critical of a given thing. For example, if I say men can prove dangerous to women, am I anti-man? So, let’s look at just transphobia. The definition of transphobia states it is a dislike or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people. I think Rowling was very clear that she did not have a dislike for them. So, then, does she have prejudice? Well prejudice means an opinion that is preconceived and not based on reason or actual experience. It could also be behavior which is hostile or unjust which derives from such an unfounded opinion. So, I would say that she is not expressing prejudice as her thoughts and opinions are based on reason. Her own thought-out reasoning. And I don’t think her behavior is hostile or unjust. Another word for hostile is unfriendly. I did not think that was the tone of her essay. Rather, the reactions she’s received could be considered hostile.
She’s accused of being a misogynist which I really think is a misnomer. She is not expressing hate for women. Period. Not transwomen or other women. Someone went on to say that transphobia was rooted in misogyny. I’m not sure how that is. That’s an honest question. Rowling is also called a bigot, a term for people who are intolerant toward those holding different opinions. I think, maybe, the name-callers might want to examine themselves.
And honestly, when will we tire of these identity politics? Conservatives are death eaters? I don’t even know what that means but a wildly popular author who happens to be a woman and who has made a lot of money from her books now has no right to have an opinion? And the opinion that she so audaciously shared is called, here, “wrong.” Well, we might need to look into more definitions. Opinions are not facts. To call them ugly is one thing, wrong another. Furthermore, can we remember that Rowling is talking about self-identification, specifically pointing out the problem with letting men who say they identify as women go wherever they want. That is an issue. It is real and it needs to be looked at. Can we say the decision to let all self-identifying women into women’s shelters is purely without risk? I’m also confused on whether she hates men or transwomen or both?
Misogyny, phobia, hate, manifesto, pseudoscience, half-baked theories. I wonder what a discussion would look like absent of all of these types of terms. Would an argument be able to exist without labels? I would be interested in hearing just one. It would hold a lot more weight for me. And if we really want to get honest, we need to acknowledge that science is operated under popular opinion. That is a reality. So, all of the scientific arguments defending the relationship between gender and sex are not being funded or published. And, interestingly, it’s easy enough to find articles from the U.K. where men have simply said they identify as women and then assaulted women. I would assume it’s not more common in the U.K. than here but rather that we are not openly talking about it. There is some data from 2017. So, how is talking about something that does at times happen invalidating transpeople? “Trans women are women. Period.” How far does this sentiment extend?
I see a lot comments stating that because she fears men, she hates them. Does this thought process apply to the #metoo movement? Not all men rape. Are they, as a whole, entirely safe and trustworthy? Do I hate men, if I bring up sexual assault and rape? There are so many complexities in this discussion and, sadly, it’s being reduced and simplified. Rowling is being viciously accused of inflammatory language but I didn’t see any of that in her essay. I did see plenty of it in the reactions.
Hostile: unfriendly; antagonistic.
Unfounded: having no foundation or basis in fact.
Bigot - a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.
tolerant -showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.