The row on J.K. Rowling is not dying anytime soon. Her latest release Troubled Blood published by her pseudonym Robert Galbraith adds fuel to the ongoing fire. A cross-dresser man who kills gullible women is the perfect extension to her discourse on gender and sexuality.
Back in June, Rowling wrote her concerns about giving trans-women access to washrooms allocated to the gender they identify with because they are essentially men and capable of inflicting violence on vulnerable women and children. As you might have guessed, it didn’t go down very well with netizens. To make matters worse, she came up with another essay in response where she stated the reasons for being ‘gender critical’. Her latest release was the reason for her interest in gender studies. An interdisciplinary field that focuses on the complex relationship between gender and other identity markers like race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, etc. Although academia is not perfect, young and inquisitive people all over the world are trying to make their work more inclusionary. Why should you be a gatekeeper and close the doors on people whose femininity you deem performative?
Rowling guises her staunch anti-trans stance as the result of the academic and philosophical pursuit. She calls it ‘the simple truth’ in her tweets. Has the truth ever been simple? It’s deplorable how she puts the bodies of so many trans-people under the microscope with relentless reminders of their gender dysphoria like “Ironically, radical feminists aren’t even trans-exclusionary – they include trans men in their feminism because they were born women.”
Shortly after the essays, she began tweeting about The Ickabog. But in between, kept sharing and writing tweets about how trans-women are potential perpetrators and taking advantage of resources meant for ‘biological women’. Whenever someone brings her transphobia to notice, she has two concrete escape routes. Firstly, she becomes the cinnamon dough rolling children’s fiction author and a mother.
How dare trans-activists or well-meaning people pollute the sanctity of her online presence, where she interacts with children that are fans of her books, with their agenda? Or she is a fierce intellectual woman donning a “This witch doesn’t burn” t-shirt. People are trying to bring her down because they can’t handle an opinionated woman. Repeatedly, in a condescending tone, she gaslights people that someone’s identity is debatable. It is okay for her, a white cis-het woman, to thwart a person’s freedom to live and express themselves. She gets to have the loudest voice in telling trans-people how to perceive their gender identity.
Cancel culture kills the space for reform. But, this is a grown powerful woman who refuses to reflect on the repercussions of her online tirade. The harm and hurt she is causing people is not secured in an online vault but leaking into real lives. In August, she again sparked controversy by retweeting a tweet that said trans-woman shouldn’t be allowed to play sports in the women’s category because they are, well, men. Since scientific research has proven men are stronger than women, they can hurt the other players significantly. Now, I can write extensively about how science, like any other academic field, is capable of reinforcing sexist stereotypes. But, I suggest picking up Angela Saini’s brilliant book Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong to read more on the subject (or this article will be too long).
The fascinating thing is that she uses a male pseudonym to publish these books. A way to dissociate her legacy as a beloved children’s fiction author from her problematic views on feminism and gender issues.
One can’t help but go back to her wonderful and compassionate Harvard commencement speech circa 2008. I want to write down one line from the same, on the power of imagination, on a sheet of paper in beautiful calligraphy and gift her words back to her: “In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it (imagination) is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”