"...JK undoubtedly presents her own type of privileged denial: cis woman fragility."PHOTO CREDIT: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Content Note: This article contains detailed discussion of transphobia

JK Rowling, who sky-rocketed to fame and fortune as the author behind the Harry Potter franchise, has long had a favourable public persona. But yet again, she has come under rightful criticism for expressing transphobic views. In December, she engendered much outrage as she defended Maya Forstater, who lost her job after voicing transphobic ideas.  

Last week, during a time when discussions of privilege were placed at the centre of public discourse, instead of fighting for minorities, this immensely powerful white woman felt the need to elaborate, again berating a community who face discrimination and violence on an everyday basis. This started with a series of tweets on Saturday night, followed by an extended essay on her blog. In response to an article that used the phrase "people who menstruate" she tweeted: ''people who menstruate.' I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?' 

"To welcome trans women into the discussion does not erase the experiences of cis gender women."

Rowling evokes a deliberately transphobic trope by claiming that menstruation is a prerequisite to womanhood. As many pointed out in response to her, this is not the case. Not all women menstruate and transgender and non-binary people who do not identify themselves as women may experience menstruation. The sentiment behind this tweet is one that excludes and invalidates transgender and non-binary identity by discrediting the distinction between someone’s sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.

She later tweeted “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." In defending the concept of sex, she seems to be ‘defending’ the right of cis women to discuss their experiences. In this last week, the discrimination and violence of minorities has been excruciatingly visible and the importance of majority ally-ship has never been more discussed, yet JK Rowling has chosen to defend a majority group and create an ideological war against a minority. Instead of punching up, she has chosen to punch down and validate a hateful and dangerous opinion. 

"Not only is the sentiment of her obviously transphobic Tweets vile to say the least, but the language and phrases she uses are equally as sickening."

But what she doesn’t seem to grasp, both in her tweets and subsequent essay, is that the cisgender female experience will never be erased. Trangender people make up less than one percent of the population. To welcome trans women into the discussion does not erase the experiences of cis gender women. Just as some white people are seemingly threatened by increased racial equality, somehow equating it with black supremacy as they defensively tweet "All Lives Matter", JK undoubtedly presents her own type of privileged denial: cis woman fragility. It also remains that inclusivity does not involve erasure: transgender women experience many of the same issues as cis women, including violence and intimidation on the streets, and domestic abuse. Seemingly, biology has little to do with the oppression of women. 

Not only is the sentiment of her obviously transphobic Tweets vile to say the least, but the language and phrases she uses are equally as sickening. Defending her ideals, she proclaims "I know and love trans people." It is astounding that she failed to recognise the weight of such a phrase that has been used as a defence of racism for years: "but I have plenty of Black  friends." The extent of her insensitivity is unbelievable. This is only more evident as she declares "it isn't hate speech to speak the truth." Is this not the same reasoning that has allowed eugenicists to defend and promote white supremacy for years? 

In amongst this rant, Rowling somehow managed to victimise herself. In response to a tweet that calls her a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist) she replies "‘Feminazi’, ‘TERF’, ‘bitch’, ‘witch’. Times change. Woman-hate is eternal." She presents herself as the victim of a sexist slur. But TERF is not a slur. It is a description of the ideological position she has taken. Each year, hundreds of transgender people are murdered, the majority of whom are Black  trans women. While cis white women are indeed the subject of sexism and misogyny, to pose as the victim when you are openly inviting discrimination towards one of the most brutalised group in society is truly abhorrent.  


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In recent years, despite her acclaim, minority communities have pointed out Rowling's failures in her so-called open-minded brand. For example, fans have highlighted the lack of diversity in the Harry Potter series, as it is apparent that in the whole of Hogwarts, there are a handful of black and brown characters. The name "Cho Chang", one of Harry's girlfriends, has been widely criticised as stereotypical and racist, along with the fact that POC characters seem only shoehorned into the franchise to aid the character development of the white protagonists. Rowling has also been criticised for antisemitism, in drawing on stereotypes of Jews in her creation of the house elves, incidentally creatures whose slave status is defended through their 'enjoyment' of slavery. 

Ultimately, to openly berate a marginalised group and to use one's power to insight hate is unacceptable. As an immensely powerful and influential woman, Rowling's responsibility is to materially support those  who don't share her privilege. Not trample all over them. In a week in which much of the world has been mobilised into action to fight for a better world, a kinder world, a more equal world, JK Rowling should strive to do the same.

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