J.K. Rowling and TERF wars

If you didn’t already know – and why should you? – ‘TERF’ is an acronym coined by trans activists, which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. In practice, a huge and diverse cross-section of women are currently being called TERFs and the vast majority have never been radical feminists. Examples of so-called TERFs range from the mother of a gay child who was afraid their child wanted to transition to escape homophobic bullying, to a hitherto totally unfeminist older lady who’s vowed never to visit Marks & Spencer again because they’re allowing any man who says they identify as a woman into the women’s changing rooms. Ironically, radical feminists aren’t even trans-exclusionary – they include trans men in their feminism, because they were born women.

But accusations of TERFery have been sufficient to intimidate many people, institutions and organisations I once admired, who’re cowering before the tactics of the playground. ‘They’ll call us transphobic!’ ‘They’ll say I hate trans people!’ What next, they’ll say you’ve got fleas? Speaking as a biological woman, a lot of people in positions of power really need to grow a pair (which is doubtless literally possible, according to the kind of people who argue that clownfish prove humans aren’t a dimorphic species).

So why am I doing this? Why speak up? Why not quietly do my research and keep my head down?

Well, I’ve got five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism, and deciding I need to speak up.

I’ve been in the public eye now for over twenty years and have never talked publicly about being a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor. This isn’t because I’m ashamed those things happened to me, but because they’re traumatic to revisit and remember. I also feel protective of my daughter from my first marriage. I didn’t want to claim sole ownership of a story that belongs to her, too. However, a short while ago, I asked her how she’d feel if I were publicly honest about that part of my life, and she encouraged me to go ahead.

I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of colour, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, 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. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.

So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.

It always comes down to the same argument with these people.

I’ve seen pretty much universal condemnation of Rowling over this. This stuff has ratcheted up over time with her, she’s gotten more and more mask off over the years. I suspect the money has gone to her head Notch-style.

TERF-like behavior can even infect transfolk themselves. I actually know someone who is both trans and a TERF towards transwomen who haven’t “done everything”. It made me wonder if corona could cause brain damage.

Yeah, she’s kind of destroying her legacy by not gathering that a sizable piece of her fanbase is now in their 20s or early 30s and were thoughtful, smart enough people to have read books at a young age for pleasure.

The good news for Potter movie fans is Radcliffe, Watson, and Redmayne have been pretty vocally against Rowling on this subject.

I was never gaga over the books to start with (they were fine, but it’s not like they changed my life or anything) and her constantly having to remind me she’s a shitty person…

All you had to do was fucking nothing. But that was too much to ask, I guess.

At least the actors all seem to be on the good side of things.

The third [reason Rowling is speaking out] is that, as a much-banned author, I’m interested in freedom of speech and have publicly defended it, even unto Donald Trump.

Freedom of speech means freedom from consequences. How dare you criticize Rowling for being bigoted.

Particularly rich coming from someone in the UK, with their deeply absurd libel laws.

By the way, if you didn’t know, this latest set of Tweets is what caused the furor this time.

“I defended Donald Trump” isn’t the win she thinks it is.

I get what she’s going with, but… you live in England, so pardon me while I laugh my ass off at your notion of “freedom of speech”.

Don would be in jail in the UK or bankrupt from libel suits, possibly both.

This from GLAAD is fantastic:

I mean i get what she’s saying… tbh it feels alot like “old people” speak. She’s not trying to attack a group but protect a group… from another hypothetical group of bad actors. And everyone sees her as attacking the entire group instead.

I mean younger people just aren’t going to have a nuanced conversation about this and she doesn’t seem aware of their sensitivities or sensitivity to language they’ve developed.

It’s a much larger example of what happened to the Contrapoints trans woman YouTuber who was basically “cancelled” because she got into an argument about pronouns. But what struck me was that her philosophy was pretty much “just use whatever argument works at the time”; so there was no contradiction from saying Yes, women exist in terms of, say, public policy about abuse, then turn around and say No, obviously there’s no such thing as a woman when talking about trans identity. It reflects (imo) the fact that young people’s way around these issues is basically to be consistently inconsistent, because you know what they correct outcome is, and then you just say whatever to get that outcome.

When you do what J.K. Rowling did, which is assume there is an definite answer, what she does instead is make everyone furious. The really strange thing is her lack or inability to be more political about it.

Given that (a not insubstantial part) of her stated concern is that men will live their lives as women to gain access to women’s bathrooms, I’m not inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt on not understanding how this functions as an attack on trans people.

I mean, again, that’s why i said “old people”. She doesn’t trust men, and she assumes men will just hold up their hands, say “I’m a woman today!” and walk into a woman’s bathroom. It’s like, exactly the argument you’d hear from your parents or grandparents.

Her anxiety over bathrooms is pretty ridiculous. You know what keeps a man out of a bathroom today… not a damn thing. We don’t put security guards on our bathrooms. Young girls often went to bathrooms in packs or with a parent waiting near the door for a reason. There are also a number of… not gender specific bathrooms available with no real issues.

She makes it sound like there is this army of predators waiting to pretend to be something in order to enter a bathroom which is just a made up nightmare scenario. Rowling sounds like she should drink very little while she is in the world and hold it until she gets home.

That’s just her argument for people who she thinks won’t understand her real argument. Hardly worth attacking her for that.

The bathroom argument does seem pretty weak. I don’t know why she doesn’t bring up women’s sports, which are being taken over by trans athletes with masculine physique.

I mean, though, at least in this case, i get that for some women, especially older women who fought long and hard to defend women against men to suddenly have all that - in their mind - thrown to the wind and be forced to throw open the doors of their “safe spaces” (though they hadn’t invented that term yet) to a bunch of guys that haven’t transitioned physically but just identity as a woman… that’s like a bridge too far, like pondering a puzzle that drives you mad, sort of thing. She just can’t understand why other people don’t “get it” from her point of view. So she’s chosen her hill to die on.

I mean, we see it all the time on forums. I feel like a pretty significant amount of drama is friction in the communication itself. As a writer though, you’d hope she’d be more… capable both at communication and understanding the perspectives of others, and choose her words more appropriately.

Well clearly she sees this as more an issue about safety than competition. It’s hard to know if she’s even aware of trans athletes.

This is too similar to some of the arguments that people made against marriage equality. In particular the argument that “straight (same-sex) people will just get married to get access to the benefits.” Which is, to someone who lives in the actual real world, transparently stupid.

Also similar, in terms of sheer stupidity, to the late period anti-marriage equality argument that “we aren’t saying that marriage needs to be between a man and a woman, we are just saying we need to preserve traditional norms of gender complementarity.”

I’m not going to give you credit for being a good person with real concerns if you spend your time demagoging.

Rowling is 54. She’s not even 60. She’s hardly from some bra burning generation. That missed her by a generation.

What she is talking about are predators, and not just any kind of predator, a predator that is going to pretend to be something they’re not in some way that seems I guess obvious in order to gain access to women’s bathrooms to cause trouble or worse when all they really have to do to do that today is wait for an employee to look the other way and sneak into a stall. I mean high school assholes did that without any help.

Unless the conversations have changed, one of the talks women get are the dangers of these bathrooms which is why you don’t get into the rest area ones alone, or you don’t enter a public one which is really loud alone, or why young girls go as groups, or why you walk your little sister in and wait by the sink for her to go out. The safety of public restrooms were already in question… so nothing’s changed there.

Predators are animals of opportunity, so you try to remove the opportunity. That’s it. If someone in a skirt winds up peeing standing up next to me, in the next stall, okay then.

Well, that’s why i said it “feels like” rather than was.

I mean, my sister and I are only three years apart, but she’s definitely rooted in the younger generation. My aunts and uncles call me their sister or brother by accident sometimes (even my father sometimes refers to his father as… my father… so, ok), otoh, because i’m far closer to them their their kids as far as generation identity goes. It feels like her identity is with the 65+ pensioners, even if her age is not.