Nerds everywhere are frantically googling tattoo removal services this week, as the author who inspired their ink failed to STFU about the most cancelable offense of our time. In other words, she told the truth. I’m talking about J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, who has dared to suggest that women are adult human females and therefore not men. She did not specifically say ‘men are not women,’ thereby saving herself from Twitter expulsion. She did question the accepted trend among progressives and media outlets everywhere of replacing the dreadful word, ‘woman’, with the much more pleasant, ‘people who menstruate’, or, if you prefer brevity, ‘menstruators’.
On Saturday, for those who have been asleep at the virtual wheel, Rowling shared an article titled, ‘Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate,’ tweeting, ‘“People who menstruate.” I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?’
Rowling added some assurances for her detractors: she does not ‘hate trans people,’ she is in fact very empathetic; but she believes sex is real. Rowling has perhaps not yet learned what the rest of us heretics have, who have also said things like, ‘I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them’ and ‘It isn’t hate to speak the truth.’ Indeed I have given numerous talks over the past couple of years repeating these words, many times over. Discussing the realities of biological sex and gender identity ideology is not about ‘hating’ anyone: it is about protecting women’s spaces, rights, and boundaries. It is about free speech. It is about speaking the truth. But it doesn’t matter how often you show you aren’t being prejudiced, it never makes an ounce of difference in terms of the vitriol and slander you receive.
That presumably is why Rowling has stayed relatively silent on the issue of gender identity ideology until now. She is aware, as we all are, what happens when you dare say women are real, tangible things, not abstract concepts one can flit in and out of by changing into some sexy lingerie or suddenly forgetting how to change a tire.
To say that ‘only women menstruate’ should not be a radical statement, worthy of mass denunciation, but it has become one. This is thanks not only to the feckless Twitter mobs, who spend their days in an endless cycle of woke-policing, destroying the lives of the usually innocent for the crime of being human. It’s also thanks to equally feckless masses who remain silent, watching their friends, enemies, and idols be targeted, vilified, and canceled, afraid that if they speak out they will be next.
It takes guts to tell the truth, but those with integrity and a conscience must. So J.K. Rowling did.
In a follow-up piece published on her own site, Rowling wrote a kind and lengthy explanation of her decision to speak out about the impact of gender identity ideology on women and girls, in particular.
She explained that, despite what is often claimed about those who challenge trans activism, she has indeed met, read, and listened to trans-identified people. She has seen the literature and research, and followed the ‘discourse online and in traditional media.’ And yet, after all that, she still came to the conclusion that there is a thing that exists in our world called ‘woman’, and that this matters. She noted that this world remains rife with sexism, which leads many girls to believe that because they don’t have ‘feminine’ brains, they therefore must be boys. She points out how deeply ‘misogynistic and regressive’ it is to present ‘woman’ as a ‘costume’ or an ‘idea in a man’s head’. She notes that trans activists who accuse women of being violent, hateful, bigoted ‘TERFs’ also advocate ‘punching and re-educating’ these women. ‘Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.’ She explained that, as a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor, she feels a great deal of solidarity with other women with similar histories, ‘slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces.’
While Rowling left little out of her analysis, she was also as nice as could be — as nice as a lady should be. She did not ‘misgender’ or point out the incoherency of the idea of ‘transgenderism’ itself — that it is not possible to be ‘born in the wrong body’ and that nothing can change one’s sex, not even a pronoun pin. She expressed empathy ad nauseum, and asked for the same in return. Reader, the empathy was not reciprocated.
A former aide for Sen. Elizabeth Warren called Rowling ‘scum’ and joined a chorus of anime avatars in ordering the author to ‘shut the fuck up’. The author was called all sorts of misogynistic names, and ordered not only to ‘suck’ a wide array of ‘cocks’, including lady ones, but also to ‘choke’ on them.
Even Rowling’s protégés — those who owe their careers to the Harry Potter series — Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, spoke against her. On Wednesday, Watson, as if to demonstrate in 27 words what it sounds like when your brain falls out, tweeted, ‘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.’ Radcliffe felt ‘compelled’ to avoid responding to Rowling’s comprehensive (and highly personal) arguments completely, writing, ‘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 or I.’
It is truly amazing how little you can say while throwing a woman under the bus. It is breathtaking how shamelessly women were erased entirely from a conversation about females.
If anything should have been clear from Rowling’s tweets and essay, it is that she is not interested in harming anyone, but rather is looking to protect people from harm. In response to this aim, she was subject to the most expansive and detailed misogynistic verbal abuse imaginable.
Those of us who have been making similar arguments about gender identity for years need not imagine the death threats, the ostracization, the public denouncements, the canceled contracts, lost jobs, or mysterious disappearance of friends. We need not imagine the names hurled in our faces, the hatred so righteous it is advertised and celebrated. It is a truly painful and horrifying to experience this particular form of targeting. And difficult to explain to those who haven’t had the pleasure.
I don’t know what to say to those currently fired up into a frothing rage over an adult woman daring to speak her truth — the truth. To share both her personal and political story. I don’t know how to convince those who feel justified in treating another human being in this way, no matter who they are, but particularly a human being who has gone above and beyond to be unnecessarily kind and measured in this conversation. I don’t know that I can reason with people who think the bad guy in all of this is the woman who just last week was their heroine; that she must be wrenched from her throne for standing up for free speech, the truth, and womankind. So I will appeal to those not currently whipped up into a violent frenzy on social media, sharing pornographic threats; those who are not full of hate, but stay silent in the middle of it; those who allow a few women to drown, so they can keep their hair dry. At what point will integrity and the truth matter more than the comfort of your friends, employers, or Twitter followers? Stop justifying what is unequivocally wrong and do something that is actually bold: tell the truth, and stand up for women.
Meghan Murphy is a writer in Vancouver. She is the host of The Same Drugs. Her website is Feminist Current.
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