J.K. Rowling’s decision to double-down on her resistance to transgender dogma is not surprising but it is powerful, and for one particular reason: her feminist framing.
After irking leftists for more than a year with her increasingly public opposition to the movement, the “Harry Potter” author self-published a long, thoughtful essay explaining her reasoning on Wednesday. You can read the full post here. It is compassionate and reasonable and exhaustive.
Rowling has been labeled by detractors as a “TERF,” or trans-exclusionary radical feminist. Connotation aside, the label pretty much fits. She criticizes transgender ideology from the left, not as one of us toothless Christian rubes you might find in, say, a Taylor Swift video. It’s exceptionally rare for celebrities to challenge LGBT dogma, let alone someone as influential as Rowling. As observers have already noted, she’s basically “too big to cancel.”
Rowling’s influence makes her a rare voice of opposition, sure. Her statement is powerful in a climate that leaves most public figures too intimidated to represent the other side of this pressing and consequential debate. But I think that’s even less important than the way Rowling framed her argument, which might actually just make it persuasive.
Read this paragraph (emphasis added):
[A]s many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive. Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.
Rowling is rightfully claiming the feminist mantle. Transgender ideology, which allows men to literally claim the experience of womanhood despite not being born as biological women, dilutes and undermines the significance of the female experience. That is not a feminist cause, as TERFs have long argued.
The biological and cultural implications of femininity demand a women’s movement that fully accepts that reality. Otherwise, it cannot fully represent women’s interests because it does not acknowledge them. (Camille Paglia has long questioned why women’s studies programs don’t include biology.) Affirming the particular experience of womanhood is what the feminist movement should be all about.
It’s mystifying how feminists who share Rowling’s perspective on this issue have been cast aside by the movement. That defending this perspective now means she will receive days of bad press from the world’s most powerful media outlets is similarly baffling. It is simply common sense. The feminist left’s embrace of transgenderism probably means a lot of younger people have never encountered a feminist with Rowling’s position on trans issues. To some of them, such a feminist is unthinkable.
Daniel Radcliffe’s apology for the pain Rowling may have caused the LGBT community is a textbook case of mansplaining. It should make true feminists fume—a man stepping in to correct a silly woman who’s menstruated and birthed children, explaining to her what womanhood really means. Instead, he’s cast as the protagonist, and Rowling is the villain.
Accepting the farcical progressive definition of sex leads to policies that harm women, and take away some of the advantages earlier feminists fought hard to secure. “I want trans women to be safe,” Rowling wrote. “At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe.”
From children to sports, there is much to say when it comes to the dangers of this dogma; Rowling covered much of it. The author truly is too big to cancel. Her essay is drawing a lot of eyeballs to a well-argued defense of biological reality from a prominent writer, which may at the very least convince some people their opponents are reasonable and not bigoted.
Rowling’s essay is certainly significant for its reach, its quality, and the credibility of its author. But her thoughtful presentation of the argument from an authentic feminist perspective makes it even more persuasive, and means it’s likely to do some serious good.