J.K. Rowling Attacked by Online Mob for Supporting Women’s Rights

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J.K. Rowling

Photography Debra Hurford Brown © J.K. Rowling 2018

J.K. Rowling tweeted in support of women’s rights. The Harry Potter author voiced her support of Maya Forstater, a tax expert who lost her job after expressing the belief that people cannot change their biological sex. In her first tweet since September, Rowling made the following statement:

“Dress however you please.

Call yourself whatever you like.

Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.

Live your best life in peace and security.

But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?

#IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill”

J.K. Rowling’s remarks have been retweeted over 30,000 times and liked by more than 150,000 people. Evidently, her words have resonated with a great many. Countless feminist organizers, politicians, and writers voiced their support. And yet – as is so often the case in conversations around sex and gender – the backlash was swift.

Pink News wasted no time in posting a hit piece about J.K. Rowling in response. Out Magazine published an op-ed entitled ‘Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling Comes Out As a TERF’ – a term that has been repeatedly linked with violence against women. Teen Vogue, a magazine that allegedly represents young women and girls, replicated this language when they waded into the debate on Twitter. Along with male-led GBT media, they performed some extraordinary feats of mental gymnastics in their interpretation of Rowling’s statement – “live your best life in peace and security.”

The responses to her tweet are littered with images of cutesy cartoon characters holding guns and knives, captioned “Shut the f*ck up TERF.” Such threats and woman-hating are standard features of gender discourse on Twitter dot com.

Among the criticism of J.K. Rowling’s comments was a persistent strain of violent misogyny. One Twitter user posted “Jk rowling choke on my prosthetic dick that’s too big for me to use challenge.” Multiple white men referred to her as a c*nt. The responses to her tweet are littered with images of cutesy cartoon characters holding guns and knives, captioned “Shut the f*ck up TERF.” Such threats and woman-hating are standard features of gender discourse on Twitter dot com.

Joan McAlpine MSP, a feminist politician who has used her platform to advocate women’s rights and spaces, thanked Rowling for speaking up. A charming fellow whose Twitter username includes two knife emojis gave the following reply: “die terf.” The violent misogyny was directed not only towards Rowling, but those women who supported her message.

Maya Forstater’s tribunal – like any other aspect of the gender debate – has proven controversial. Some see the ruling as an attack on freedom of thought, since Forstater lost her contract for expressing the (scientific) belief that a male-bodied person is not and cannot become a woman. Others see it as a victory for transgender rights in the workplace, setting a precedent that upholds self-identification. People on both sides ought to be troubled by the virulent misogyny justified as backlash to Rowling’s tweet.

(Here is a good thread on why sex-based rights, not gender identity, are crucial for women)

Although Forstater lost her case, she has been overwhelmed by positive responses from women. She raised over £85,000 through crowdfunding to pay her legal fees, and was delighted to find J.K. Rowling in her corner. Forstater quoted the author’s tweet to say “OMG! We are all crying. This is all I wanted for Christmas.”

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