The issue is not Rowling’s controversial opinions regarding transgender individuals. For the record, they are not exactly congruent with my own, which is that once an individual has transitioned physically to another gender, we should respect that new identity. I do not believe, and will never believe, that individuals can change their gender by just saying so, or that the government should make laws that enforce that fiction. No matter what “The Crying Game” told us, people with male sex organs (I am not talking about anomalous intersex individuals whose physical sexuality is ambiguous) have to be officially male for public policy purposes.
None of which is relevant to why J.K Rowling is an Ethics Hero. Rowling, who is more active on social media than is wise, used Twitter to question an article’s use of the phrase “people who menstruate” instead of saying “women.” “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased,” she wrote. Predictably, trans activists and much of the “woke” establishment now want Rowling “cancelled.” The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD called her tweets “anti-trans”—this is the gender wars equivalent of calling anyone who criticizes Black Lives Matter “racist”— and wrote: “JK Rowling continues to align herself with an ideology which willfully distorts facts about gender identity and people who are trans. In 2020, there is no excuse for targeting trans people.”
Rowling did not “target” anyone. She disagreed with the use of a clumsy and misleading term for “women.”
To her great credit, unlike so many celebrities and public figures, Rowling did not retract her statements after being criticized, nor did she issue the obligatory mea culpa. Instead, she issued a long defense of her statements on the subject, causing teeth to gnash and heads to explode from sea to shining sea. This is how all individuals should respond when they are being intimidated, threatened and extorted to alter their beliefs and opinions to comport with an official narrative, be it from the Left or the Right. If more targets of the cancel culture were vocal and defiant, this dangerous trend would die out: the sinister, totalitarian-style formula seeking mind and expression control is gaining strength because, so far, it has been effective. It has been effective because so many lack the character to fight for essential personal liberties.
It is true that Rowling has an advantage that many targets of social media mobs do not. She is rich beyond imagining, and doesn’t need to publish another book or sell another screenplay to be able to bathe in gold and jewels for the rest of her life. It is indeed easier to be brave when your enemies can’t destroy you. Most of the fans of Rowling’s books couldn’t care less what her opinions on sex and gender are.
However, most celebrities are so much more committed to popularity and approval from the “right” people than to upholding the critical values of free expression and the open exchange of ideas that even their wealth won’t stiffen their spines. Rowling’s defiance is a refreshing departure from the Cult of the Celebrity Weenie, and an important one.
Before leaving J.K., I must note the epic ingratitude and disloyalty of the now grown juvenile “Harry Potter” film stars Daniel Radcliffe (Harry in the films) and Emma Watson (Hermione) , who piled on with the rest of Rowling’s attackers. Neither of them would be wealthy, famous, celebrities, or vaguely interesting without Rowling providing their vehicle to fame. Radcliffe issued an intellectually flaccid regurgitation of politically correct cant (nicely deconstructed by Ann Althouse), and Watson provided an equally fatuous tweet, “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.” Like Rowling, the two actors are entitled to their opinions, but the kind and ethical response would have been to sit this controversy out. Their criticism only feeds the flames, and they owe their careers and lives to the author.
To be fair, neither performer is as secure as Rowling, so they may feel that they have to toe the political line, or their post-Potter careers will be in jeopardy. Nobody should pretend, if that’s the case however, that their turning on their benefactor is based on anything but crass self-interest.
20 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: “Harry Potter” Author J.K. Rowling”
“people who menstruate” Wait, what?
This leaves post-menopausal women where, exactly? Besides hot, sweaty, annoyed, and brain-fogged.
Thanks for the laugh, Alicia! I nearly choked on my lunch!
My pleasure! 🙂
This leaves post-menopausal women where, exactly?
As not germane to the discussion. Rowling tweeted in response to this article, Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate
Thank you for the article. Jack’s post contained the following which is why I responded the way I did:
“used Twitter to question an article’s use of the phrase “people who menstruate” instead of saying “women.” ”
I didn’t have the article. Appreciate the clarification.
I’ll say one thing for Rowling’s defense: it is LONG. But I guess she’s big on long pieces, isn’t she.
How are these two statements dissimilar:
“For the record, they are not exactly congruent with my own, which is that once an individual has transitioned physically to another gender, we should respect that new identity.”
“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.”
I get the Golden Rule is applicable here. Bruce Jenner, now Kaitlin Jenner, should be respected and not mocked or humiliated. That’s wrong. But, I simply don’t by the gender is a fluid construct. That would mean species is a fluid construct and I am now an aardvark.
I don’t see how a surgical procedure changes anything.
Ethics Alarms endorses the Penis/No Penis bifurcation in Rest Rooms as the only fair and reasonable alternative. In regards to women’s sports, it embraces the “Trans vs Trans” position, or, in the alternative, no gender divisions at all.
The distinction is “say’ vs. actual sex change surgery.
To my Dr. Pepper-deprived mind, that is a distinction without a difference. Sorry. I understand and will honor the Ethics Alarms position here but I don’t agree with it. I am not going to be cruel about it, either.
Ultimately, the argument boils down to a definitional dispute, as in “marriage is by definition between a man and a woman.” I agree with being reluctant to reverse centuries-long understandings of what a concept means in society. But as I’m sure you’ll agree, sometimes it can’t and shouldn’t be avoided. When those times are is the question.
As for Rowling, good on her for not capitulating to the gender bullies. I saw this explode over the weekend and I was delighted to have something else to worry about than whether looting and pillaging would lay waste to my home. Then, I saw a thread on a lawyer Facebook page and, frankly, it was amusing. Someone called her (Rowling) a TERF. I had to look that up as I appear to be behind in my wokelingo. TERF means “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.” I refers to feminists who reject the view, predominant in feminist organizations, that trans women are women and/or are opposed to trans-gender rights and exclude trans women in women’s spaces and organizations. I didn’t realize that there was infighting between and betwixt the woke. Who knew?
TERF is actually used as a slur against anyone who doesn’t go along or even simply questions transgenderism. Most of the people accused of terfdom are not feminists or radical or even trans-exclusionary.
It’s simply a term used like other thought stopping clichés to make sure you know your place regarding this issue. It’s also used against women and in particular lesbians.
I would love for your thoughts on CHAZ (The six square blocks of Seattle that protestors have “ceded” from the United States and set up as the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone”)
I mean, when I was 11, “ceded” a rock in a river near my house from the territory of the United States. I maintain to this day, that rock is sovereign
soilrock, and a map of the United States should omit this tiny enclave. No one from the state department ever challenged my claim (nor did the IRS attempt to tax it).
For years, the earnest and enlightened inhabitants of southern Arizona (the Gadsden Purchase, essentially) have wanted to secede from the rest of Arizona. The new state would be called Baja Arizona and have Tucson as its capitol, breaking away from the influence of Phoenix, known to southern Arizonans as “Newark on the Desert.” (Which may not be apt anymore, given Cory Booker et al., but I think Newark was used because it is smoggy?)
CHAZ is a terrible name. Too much like “Chad.” Beware appropriation!
The better name is (reading from top to bottom – one cannot appropriate anything TRUMP):
” JK Rowling continues to align herself with an ideology which willfully distorts facts about gender identity and people who are trans. ”
That’s accurate. That she herself does the same is doubtful
Yes, she says some factually inaccurate things (see below) but that is not the main thrust of her articles, which deserve calm debate. That can be difficult when so many young people who have idolised her now see their idol has feet of clay, and take that personally.
The point of her most famous works, the Harry Potter series, is not that blood purity exists as a matter of biological fact, and that mudbloods can never be wizards (though should be treated respectfully nevertheless, just not permitted in wizard spaces or schools). And that such honesty is not hatred.
Her recent screeds saying something very similar to those ideas go rather against her fiction.
” Trans-inclusive cisgender radical feminist blogger Viv Smythe has been credited with popularizing the term in 2008 as an online shorthand. It was used to describe a minority of feminists who espouse sentiments that other feminists consider transphobic, including the rejection of the view, predominant in feminist organizations, that trans women are women, opposition to transgender rights, and the exclusion of trans women in women’s spaces and organizations.”
See the references on wiki for that. The idea that TERF was invented by Trans activists as a term of abuse or slur is not supported by the evidence, it’s just a common belief.
Re : desistance
Best evidence is 3% rather than Rowling’s 60-80% figure. Just a matter of being misinformed again. Again, not supported by the evidence, but a common belief in her circles. As no doubt I hold some common beliefs unsupported by evidence, though I try to root out those when I find them.