I just read J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues (does she always refer to herself in the third person?). It was gobsmackingly oblivious and stupid. My opinion of Rowling’s intelligence and writing ability has just been blown to bits. It just goes on and on, alternating between self-pity and denial and bad science. I’m not going to quote from it, with the exception of one sentence that is absolutely bonkers.
Ironically, radical feminists aren’t even trans-exclusionary – they include trans men in their feminism, because they were born women.
So, because they reject the identities of trans men, they aren’t really exclusionary? Trans men are OK because they’re actually women? That was so totally a TERFY statement.
That settles it. The grandkids are not ever going to get any Harry Potter books from me.
Susan Montgomery says
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dearie me. Looks like someone’s angling for a membership invite to the Intellectual Dark Web Boy’s Club. She might have a stronger case if her target audience wasn’t emotionally-stunted Millennials who still read children’s books in their mid-thirties.
Still, Tranny-bashing usually counts for a lot with the IDW crowd, so it may yet work to her favor.
Oh my god, it’s so bad. Filled wall-to-wall with TERF tropes.
Rawlings’ books introduce appealing lead characters but then embed them in a truly awful cultural system. The government and ethos of the magical world is a dystopian bureaucracy of misrule and oppression that is nonetheless unquestioningly accepted by all. It’s a mixture of cult, oppressive boarding school and failed democracy, and it’s presented not as something to be fought against but accepted as inevitable. There are no freedom and liberty seeking heroes in Rawlings world, only combatants for a side working to preserve the status quo. Beyond that, every plot resolves by having something forbidden or impossible become possible because it is the only solution Rawlings can come up with. Ultimately tedious and disappointing.
No surprise that Rawlings can’t envision a better and more accepting real world since she can’t even do so for her paper world.
Emma Watson has replied on Twitter:
“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.”
Marcus Ranum says
“Now that I am super rich, my opinion is really important.”
I see that JK’s shovel wasn’t working for her, so she decided to get a mining drill.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
So you don’t exclude those people. You just exclude their transness.
That kinda sounds like the definition of trans-exclusionary to me, but what do I know, I just singlehandedly wrote the 16 most influential dictionaries of the english language ever published.
(Spoiler: I did not write the 16 most influential dictionaries of the english language ever published. Instead I think my case that her argument is self-refuting should be so apparent to any fair-minded person that it doesn’t require any appeal to any authority.)
Also, too. The formulation of that is just weird. Feminisms include concern for the wellbeing of cis boys and cis men, and have since their beginnings. While some specific incarnations of feminism may not, that’s neither a required part of feminism (not even a required part of radical feminism), nor a particularly desirable one. If women end up in a world that is liberated and equal, but in which cis men’s lives suck, then by definition our lives would have to equally suck.
The mere fact that she implies it’s normal – or moral! – for feminism to fail to include men’s needs as topics of concern is a sign of a deeply troubled feminism.
No, it’s not women’s job to “fix” men, but yes, we want men to live good lives and understanding women’s lives and how to make them better cannot be accomplished without including study of and concern for men’s lives.
So, yeah. You’re trans-exclusionary AND you’re just a bad feminist. Sorry/not sorry.
I’ve never quite gotten why trans is the line of equal rights some people just won’t cross, no matter how liberal they seem with regards to the other oppressed classes (minority races, LGB). And not only that, why they insist on making such a public deal out of it. JK’s not the only British genre author to draw that line, loudly and vocally, that could not be crossed. Writer Gareth Roberts (Doctor Who, Sarah Jane Adventures) also is on that side of “I can go this far, but no further”…and again, had to be loudly vocal about it on twitter.
It is not just the attitude…it is the unwillingness to just shut up about it. Sometimes, having an unpopular opinion and keeping it to yourself is the right thing.
But as we’ve seen with the “no masks”, “the protesters deserved it”, “disney HAS to release song of the south”, etc, those with “unpopular opinions” feel compelled to say it, for reasons I will never understand.
Susan Montgomery says
@8 Because it makes them look cool and hip and edgy. Which goes to show just what kind of intellectual level they’re operating on.
Rob Grigjanis says
That’s the thing about these fools. They know your life and identity better than you do, and if you don’t agree with them, there’s something wrong with you, or, at best, you are to be pitied. Fuck Rowling.
Autobot Silverwynde says
Thank goodness that Harry Potter fanfic is A Thing That Exists, because if I want a Potter fix, I’ll just go for the fanfic. JK can go fornicate herself sideways with a cactus.
My response in general to what she wrote is that she appears to be justifying her transphobia as being the result of “domestic abuse and sexual assault” that she suffered in the past. The logic of this completely escapes me.
I am a butchy (no, that’s not a typo) woman who got called “sir” as recently as this past Monday. I have short hair, I have a deep voice, I’m fat, and I’m not particularly attractive. I do NOT feel safe when Rowling and her ilk feel empowered to police my presence. I don’t want Rowling’s fingers down my pants, feeling around to see if I deserve to be able to pee in a toilet in the same room as her. I’ve spent big chunks of my life feeling like I’m feminine enough to be a good woman, and I do not feel protected or respected by TERFs, who encourage suspicion of women who aren’t like themselves.
acroyear @8: Transphobia is hardly the only line Rowling refuses to cross. Have you noticed how racist the novels are, with goblins being blatant Jewish caricatures? Or her statements about how being a werewolf in her novels is supposed to be about having AIDS and most of the werewolves are evil murderers and child predators, while the one exception thinks he’s too dangerous to be allowed around children?
Ahem. (Hem hem) I think Rowling has no idea what a woman is. You can’t be born a woman, but you can grow into being one.
Also, if Rowling’s thoughts on women are reflected in her writing then I don’t appreciate them much. In her world there is a very narrow path of allowable femininity. Female characters who are portrayed negatively are either too feminine (Umbridge, but also Lavender) or too masculine (Rita Skeeter, Millicent Bullstrode).
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
Only if you believe in feminism.
Rowan vet-tech says
She can fuck off sideways into the sea and go join the oceanic garbage patch.
I have a fear of men I do not know well because I have been stalked, twice. And the first of those was when I was 17 and the guy tried to break into my house to rape, and likely murder, me since it was the guy who registered me to vote. I have been followed through downtown after midnight after helping a disabled friend get home safely and only got the guy to back off because I’d brought one of my ren faire daggers with me. These three instances occurred within a 3 year span.
One of my favorite places to go to calm down was my friend Julie’s room. Julie is a trans woman. I have never been afraid of Julie because she is a woman.
“All I’m asking – all I want – is for similar empathy, similar understanding, to be extended to the many millions of women whose sole crime is wanting their concerns to be heard without receiving threats and abuse.”
@PZ, I’m honestly astonished that you didn’t pick that up far longer ago!
She has sent mixed messages for longer ago than my adult children have been alive!
Today, again, she’ll get away with shit, again as usual because she gave a pair of same sex nods, while continuing to whore for sexism and earn more money.
That you’re surprised leaves me scratching my own head! Willful ignorance, blindspot or simply blindsight?
Given her history, it ain’t something previously surprising at all. Just, yet another rejection of a position of trust wrongfully given.
OMG, these comments are even better than on Wapo (the comments for Alexandra Petri are best). Well, not saying much, but still.
Really appreciate the comments, Crip Dyke (especially), et alia.
Moi: just another old white man in education (like the blogger), who ain’t just another old white man.
I’ve actually read several non-HP Rowling books, including The Casual Vacancy, and the first three Cormoran Strike novels. In these she was a lot more willing to tackle race and class, so the accusations that Rowling’s books present an oversimplified view of society puzzles me. No… that’s just the books that were popular.
On the other hand, there were definitely things to complain about in her books, especially stereotypical representations. And indeed there was a trans character in The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2), who was treated very poorly. I admit I don’t recall this making much of an impression at the time (one can always chalk these things up to an unsympathetic protagonist), but in retrospect looks pretty bad. And my complaints about the other novels would surely come into greater relief if I were ever to revisit them–but fortunately I have no plans to do so.
What’s especially disappointing is how much of a garden variety TERF Rowling is. She hits all the usual points–TERF is a slur, a sob story about a mother who refuses to admit her child may be trans, bathrooms, trans desistance, friggin ROGD! It’s like a copy/paste job. I checked what my trans friends are saying on twitter, and they’re mad about the part where she pretends autistic people are victims of trans ideology–the rest of it I guess they’ve already heard a million times.
Okay, PZ’s post and the comments here set the bar really low but hotshit, damn, that’s an aweful article. It’s really bad, I wasn’t expecting to be this shocked given the expectations I started with.
Dave Hodgkinson says
The books stand alone. Yes, you can read government oppression into them, anti-semitism, slavery and such, but that’s the point of them. Don’t deny your grandchildren a magical world.
That said, since she finished them, she’s become an awful person.
Can someone recommend a good detailed analysis or reply to Rowling’s text?
I suspect that her points are cherry picked and distorted, but on the surface level they seem like legit arguments, so I would like to read a proper rebuttal.
I recently saw a screencap of a series of tweets (sadly I can’t remember from whom) pointing out that there is a scene where Hermione uses polyjuice to become physically identical to Harry (not like a glamour, as we know polyjuice canonically creates an actual physical transformation – in this case, complete with bad eyesight), and the author continues to refer to her as she/her.
The tweet-writer points out that JKR is thus perfectly capable of unreservedly referring to someone as a woman when that person has male genitalia, and therefore presumably capable of understanding that a person’s gender is not necessarily derived from their configuration of bits.
Also, the language she uses is very similar to white identitarian, race realist stuff.
As you say, feminism has never been about “excluding males” except for safe spaces for women and separatism. Separatist feminism has always been a tiny branch of feminism, and safe spaces are even more tiny in terms of how much of the world has been set aside for them.
Since Rowling is clearly not a separatist in her writing or her life, it is absolutely bonkers for her to claim that she is not trans-exclusionary because she excludes all men from feminism. (And also misses the point. Trans women are women. Excluding them from feminism because they are male in Rowling’s mind is just saying the same hateful thing a different way.)
Seriously, i find appalling how some people thinks has some say in how someone indentify his or her gender.
The only things people shouldn’t do is discriminate trangender people, but treat them like the normal human beings they are and support a public health system that helps transgender people feel more confortable with their body (cirurgy, treatments, therapy and such things).
Because english isn’t my language, i hope what i wrote isn’t offensive in any way.
And if it seemed – because of my bad writing – discriminatory or paternalist, please, accept my sincere excuses.
I can accept that Rowling’s treatment of the purebloods vs. muggles is a good enough metaphor for fascist-style racism. But all those other things you mentioned? Not so much.
What an excellent observation.
otto @13: Not looking for props, but that’s exactly what I thought when all of the bathroom bills were being considered. It would literally put masculine lookin women and effeminate men at risk. It was nothing but 100% pure bigotry.
@chrislawson – it is, isn’t it! I’m only sorry I can’t find the name of the tweet-writer in order to credit them. (maybe others have seen it?)
Schnitzel Von Knobbschafft says
Her terrible writing was evident half way through her second book.
Not as bad as Dan Brown but not worth taking seriously either.
Opposable thumbs @33
I think I saw the same one – here: https://mobile.twitter.com/qpheevr/status/1269637114297298946
fernando: the only reason I could tell that you aren’t a native speaker is that it’s “surgery” in english (the ‘g’ and the second ‘r’ flipped when the word crossed the channel).
As for Rowling, gah. I don’t understand the fear and hatred in her.
Chuck Tingle summarizes well:
weekendviking, yes that’s the one – tweeted by @qpheevr (this must be the whole thread that the screencap I saw was taken from)
Akira MacKenzie says
She’s gone full Roald Dahl.
All right, it may not be up to me to decide who’s a feminist and who isn’t, but if Rowling is still defining womanhood by their reproductive organs, she is making it very hard to take her feminism seriously.
Matt G says
Why is Harry Potter great? Because he comes from a good bloodline. Is that really the message we want to send to kids?
SC (Salty Current) says
anat @ #15:
It’s only the most famous line of The Second Sex. Nothing feminists need to be aware of.
“Why is Harry Potter great? Because he comes from a good bloodline.”
Where on earth did you get that idea? His mother was a mudblood. The reason he was the ‘chosen one’ was the protection his mother gave him
Yeah, mothers belong into fridge or in the kitchen. There isn’t a single instance of a healthy working mum.
Lily and Tonks get killed. Neville’s mum is dead. Most single women are simply evil. Despite the teachers, who have to be single and chaste. Ginny ends her career to become a mum. Mrs. Weasley is a SAHM despite all her kids either being away at boarding school or grown already and the fact that she can literally magic the annoying housework away and her family being dirt poor.
Oh, and then there’s the special case of Merope, whose “crime” was to die in childbirth and not, for example, drugging and raping an innocent man.
Mad, not dead.
I saw this tweet thread cataloguing issues with her article. I’d also point to Julia Serano as a resource.
Chaos Engineer says
Here’s a long rebuttal to the essay: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1270787941275762689.html
There is mention of a mother working at the Ministry. She is the mother of Marietta, the girl who betrays the DA. Yes, if you are a working mother (even if just while your child is in boarding school) you can’t instill decent values in your child and they go and snitch on their friends.
Hermione’s mum works as a dentist, not many parents feature much now that I think about it.
Personally I don’t have an issue with Rowling’s essay. She is certainly entitled to express her opinion, with justifications, on her own website, just like anyone else. She posted something on twitter that she was attacked for, so she is explaining herself, not “Now that I am super rich, my opinion is really important.”.
I’m actually confused as to why exactly “It was gobsmackingly oblivious and stupid.”
I tried reading the #47 rebuttal, but it seemed to be more interested in picking apart her language than addressing her actual points. For example:
“Surely if this is an issue facing all cis women, age doesn’t factor into it?” when Rowling’s quote said nothing about it being an issue facing “all cis women”.
“Note the use of “biological women” instead of the correct adjective “cis”.” For readers unfamiliar with or not emotionally invested in gender identities, the term biological women is easy to understand, while cis is not. Rowling is writing to a wide audience.
Personally I would like to see a rebuttal that addresses her points, rather than her character. This reminds me of the apologies that some celebrities have made on other issues that are never good enough. I remember PZ being happy with one such apology, before having to backpedal and explain why it was unsatisfactory.
I’m disappointed that JK turns out to be awful, but not shocked. I still kind of like the HP series, although there are definitely some problematic aspects. And it’s definitely not a book that pushes the boundaries of YA literature. I can’t help contrasting it with Hunger Games, which IMHO subverts the young hero trope, where HP reinforces it.
FWIW, “liking problematic things” is a topic I’ve seen discussed in a lot of places, and not just about JKR. Marion Zimmer Bradley and Robert Heinlien come to mind. John Campbell would, too, if I didn’t find his stuff almost unreadable. I guess Lovecraft, too, for those who like that kind of stuff.
FWIW, I can’t really get all that worked up over this. There are plenty of TERFs and worse out there, many far more hateful and with a lot more power than JKR. I grew up surrounded by and in the power of people who hated anyone who didn’t fit in their prescribed boxes, and who almost drove me to suicide; and I’m still here. JKR can’t do anything like that to me, so what do I care what bigoted nonsense she spouts? Mud wrestling with pigs, and all that. (Now, if she gets to be an MP or, Dog forbid, PM, then I might worry.)
Susan Montgomery @1: “She might have a stronger case if her target audience wasn’t emotionally-stunted Millennials who still read children’s books in their mid-thirties.”
You know most people who read the Harry Potter books when they were released are now in their 30’s, right? The HP books are and were a huge part of popular culture for the better part of two decades. So yes, there are a lot people who are adults now that had these books be a very important part of their childhood. Hell, there are a whole lot of people who discovered reading for pleasure through the HP books who have since moved on to other things. I don’t know how being upset that the author of books that had a lot of meaning for you has turned out to be a terrible person means that you’re “emotionally-stunted”. It means you have a past, and feelings about it.
Allison @52: I think that the conversation of “liking problematic things” or “liking things by bad people” is one that’s going to go on for a long time, and I don’t think there’s a single right or wrong answer. For me personally, when I found out MZB was a rapist (of children!), I threw her books in the recycling (except one written with two other authors I love). The Mists of Avalon was hugely important to me as a teen, but if I’d still had my copy in that moment, I might have set it on fire. But that’s because MZB set herself up as someone with moral authority and the moral high ground as a feminist who lifted up so many women fantasy author. Heinlien (who was also a formative author for me) has only been pushed to the back of the shelf, partly because he didn’t commit those crimes (though he did support MZB and her rapist husband), but also partly because I never thought of him as an author with a moral philosophy I wanted to follow.
If a piece of art was created by a bad person (or a person with very problematic positions), but that piece of art helped a lot of people get through terrible times in their lives, who am I to tell them they must give up that art? As Autobot Silverwynde said above, thank goodness for fanfic. The HP universe has expanded beyond JKR, so for me the question is, can it leave her behind entierly?
Kathi Rick says
Rowling has always been a crap writer
I’m guessing that it’s not personal for you, or that, in other words, you are not a trans person who has been discriminated against in employment, housing, medical care, etc. Rowling is not taking sides in an abstract argument; she is taking sides in a political and societal issue which has direct and intimate impact on all trans people, for instance, on where we can pee.
Has anyone said that she’s not entitled to express her opinions? As opposed to decrying the content of those opinions? In other words, is that a strawman argument?
Rowling describes her protagonist as being “of an age to be interested in, and affected by, these issues”. By doing that, by exclusion she sets up a group of people who are NOT of an age to be “interested in, and affected by, these issues”.
This is a weapon which has been used against LGBT people for a long time, that there is an appropriate age to talk about us, and that we are an inappropriate topic prior to that age. The implication there is that to talk about our existence is to talk about something which would be inappropriate for certain ages, for instance, to describe sex graphically and perhaps gratuitously, rather than as necessary, and in age-appropriate neutral terminology. This weapon can be subtle enough that allies can internalize it. For instance, when I told my mother that I was trans, one of her questions was whether we had told our children (then aged 3 and 5). We had, in age-appropriate terms. She, a firm feminist and LGBT ally, said that she thought they were too young. I pointed out that the real question was what we were going to model for our children; were we going to model open communication and trust, or were we going to model that it was okay to hide very important things about yourself from your children, teach them that you were not who you actually were, for years, and then shock with with a surprise, later? To her credit, she thought about it and agreed that we were right.
Trans children exist. And children of all kinds share a world with trans adults, and the fact of our existence is not shameful and not inappropriate to discuss with children.
By this logic, it would be acceptable (and, to be clear: it’s not) to refer to people of color as “colored people”, if you were writing to a wide audience, and concerned that some of your audience (perhaps non-native speakers of English) would not understand the former term. If you must introduce a term of art, then you introduce it.
But she doesn’t need to introduce it; “cis” is extremely widespread, and easily searched. When I searched on “cis” in an incognito window, definitions of the word were well-represented on the first page of searches at Google and DuckDuckGo. Also, it is the correct neutral term for that group of people, in the same way that “straight” or “heterosexual” are the correct neutral terms for those groups of people (and isn’t it interesting that “homosexual” is not, but in many contexts, a reliable dogwhistle). Arguing that it is not is exactly like arguing that “straight” or “heterosexual” are offensive terms; it is an attempt to set up the term “cis” as unneeded because we already have a word for it, and that word is “normal”.
In discussions centered on trans people, which this one is, “cis” is as much a term of art as “gigabyte” is in a discussion about computers. If it needs definition, then the reader has not done the homework.
You are apparently unaware that “biological women” is an offensive term because of the implication it contains that trans people are not natural. But we are. We occur naturally in every human population; we are just another category of human. Rowling, a professional writer who has set herself up in the post at issue as well-read on the topic, (a) should be well aware of the nuance, and (b) chose to use the term. She chose the offensive term, in her writing about a group of people. It’s not a neutral choice. It carries meaning.
Maybe you need to read the rebuttals with a deeper understanding of the topic and the context of the discussion.
And now, I have spent far too much time hand-crafting a custom response to someone who spoke up in public without knowing the background and the context. Sometimes I get drawn in; I could do this every waking moment and still have millions of people peeping like little baby birds, “But why? Why? Why was it offensive?
Lots of people have spoken and written about everything I’ve written, here. It’s a big Internet. Feel free to self-educate.
@ Michael, #51
Oh yeah, I remember the difficulty I had when I first encountered “cis.” It took me at least 30 seconds to grasp the concept. Maybe a whole minute; my brain is slow, and so is my internet connection.
Seriously, it’s an essay posted to a website. If someone encounters an unfamiliar term, it’s never been easier to look it up.
Also, if someone isn’t “emotionally invested in gender identities,” why would they read an essay like that in the first place? Genuinely curious, because caring about the genders of people who aren’t you is an emotional thing. Approaching the gender identity of others from a purely logical standpoint gets me to ‘they aren’t me, so their gender identity is neither my concern nor mine to determine.’
Susan Montgomery says
@53 I tend to group HP fans who are over 18 with Bronies and adult readers of comic books. I’m sorry for my misapprehension of the HP fandom.
@52 I’m smelling a libertarian troll here. The giveaway is that you make the assumption that only a government official has any real power. This is either an incredibly naive or incredibly dishonest assertion. Whether we like it or not, there’s no denying the power and influence celebrities have over public opinion and countering disinformation (whether they “mean it” or not) is important. Waiting until the last minute to do anything about it (and not doing anything even then because it’s then “divisive”) is also Alt-Right Bullshit 101.
Susan Montgomery says
@19 This is something I’ve discussed here before. Why are we so willing to trust that some people are on our side? As has been observed elsewhere in this discussion, Rowling’s fantasy world is unquestionably conservative. From what I’ve read about it, she’s not advocating those notions but simply assuming them to be universal.
So, how did anyone left-of-center think otherwise? How do we keep falling for this?
“Has anyone said that she’s not entitled to express her opinions?”
That was the take I got from the comment “Now that I am super rich, my opinion is really important.”
Having not read Rowling’s unpublished book, “age” was ambiguous. It could refer to the age of the character, which I had my doubts about based on the description. It could also refer to the time period the book is set, much like civil rights in the 60’s. The criticism just seemed picky as in trying to find something she left out so they could complain about it.
I understand your point regarding “colored people”, but I think you are arguing outside the times. In the 1970’s using the terms “colored people” vs “black” vs “Negro” was quite common as it was a transition period when not everyone was on board regarding what the appropriate terms were. I would argue that we are in a similar transition period, and not everyone is up to date on what the appropriate terms are, nor are the majority of people fluent in the 64 different terms for gender identity and expression. I suspect even those will change somewhat over the next 5-10 years.
@56 As George Carlin said, “Realize how stupid the average person is, and consider that half of them are stupider than that.” You can’t just assume that your readership understands every term, or is going to bother looking up the definition. A friend of mine works in a hospital, and is instructed to write their notes at a grade 8 level. How many people are going to take the time to watch this link? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHMoDt3nSHs&t=1s
I also find a lot of these criticisms relate from confusing sex and gender, so when one person is talking about sex, they get criticized from the perspective of gender.
There are plenty of those, given that none of Rowling’s points are original, and have all been addressed in the past without any reference whatsoever to Rowling. I understand that these rebuttals can take work to find… but then, do you understand that they also take work for us to find, and to do it on behalf of some rando who probably won’t read any of it anyway? I mean, I put a link to Serano above and you clearly didn’t see that. Go away.
But it’s OK to expect little boys to share a bathroom with those people?
See, this is where I actually question the sincerity of people making that argument. Because actual predators are at least just as likely to target little boys as little girls, yet they are expected to share a bathroom with cis men where dicks are on public display.
First of all, nothing, literally nothing is keeping cis men away from women’s bathrooms. They don’t need to claim to be women, putting on some jaintor’s clothing is enough.
Second, transphobes want to force people to use the bathroom according to the gender assigned at birth. Which includes beefy trans dudes with beards and occasionally dicks.
Third, I don’t know what you all do in public bathrooms, but I generally use them for peeing, pooping, and taking care of my menstrual hygiene. I don’t care what the person in the next stall is doing. What’s the procedure where you live when one bathroom is being cleaned? Here it’s to send everybody to the one bathroom that isn’t being cleaned. Yes, everybody. The world hasn’t fallen.
And finally and most importantly : even if letting trans people use the bathroom according to their gender (they have been doing so in many places for ages, yet there’s no evidence that they pose any risk to cis women) meant that cis men could take advantage of this and harass out assault cis women, it still does not follow at all that this should have any consequences for trans people. Why should trans women be punished for the crimes of cis men? This makes only sense if you do not group trans women in with cis women, but claim they are still men. In which case I have nothing to say to you that wouldn’t be extremely profane.
Oh, P. S., as a German I’m used to a culture that is pretty relaxed around nudity. I’ve shared a sauna with men that were equally strangers and stark naked. Nothing happened. Because sexual assault isn’t the result of the presence of a penis, but the presence of a sexual predator.
Susan Montgomery says
@62 Isn’t it odd that “all men are rapists” is both the rallying cry of Second-Wave Feminism and conservative sexual offenders?
Susan Montgomery says
63a Isn’t it odd that “all men are rapists” is both the rallying cry of Second-Wave Feminism and the all-purpose excuse for conservative sexual offenders?
Yep, took only 58 posts for someone to bring up the phantom menace of, “People with the wrong genitalia might be a danger to someone in a bathroom.” Never mind that this is a) common in some places, even with showers, never mind bathrooms, where there are usually these things called “stalls”, and b) kind of like the argument for how someone who is raped is “dressed”, what bathroom they are in has nothing to do with whether or not a predator decides to follow you into it, and @62 mentions. This is a freaking straw man at best, and a dog whistle for some seriously screwed up people, who, I suspect, also share a whole laundry list of other things they “imagine” put people at, “higher risk of predators”. They are, in my experience, always wrong about those things (or, when they are right its bloody coincidence. Sort of like someone telling you that wearing blue on a Monday is a bad idea, and then crying, “See, see!”, when someone wearing blue on the Monday gets hit by a car.) Actually reality is – if a predator decides to go after someone the sign on the f-ing door isn’t going to magically stop them from doing so. But.. Some people just can’t flipping comprehend this basic concept.
Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says
“She is certainly entitled to express her opinion, with justifications, on her own website, just like anyone else. She posted something on twitter that she was attacked…”
You don’t care about opinions or you wouldn’t bring them up because the responses are opinions too. Not “attacks”, that’s a subjective statement that needs to be made objective with examples. I can accept you feel there was an attack but you have to show it.
“Surely if this is an issue facing all cis women, age doesn’t factor into it?” when Rowling’s quote said nothing about it being an issue facing “all cis women”.’
Why is that relevant? It wasn’t directed specifically at JKR and you ignored that. Now you can respond to it.
“…the term biological women is easy to understand, while cis is not.”
Because you say so? HA! If it was easy you would explain. I don’t believe you.
“Personally I would like to see a rebuttal that addresses her points, rather than her character. ”
Tough shit, character matters too. The people here are interested in the things they are and you can participate or go away.
“This reminds me of the apologies that some celebrities have made on other issues that are never good enough. I remember PZ being happy with one such apology, before having to backpedal and explain why it was unsatisfactory.”
Nice, an accusation that PZ can’t defend themselves from because you don’t cite it. Given how insulting that is (and it makes your character relevant) how about you find your spine and actually be concrete instead of gossipy.
Cat Mara says
I made a similar point discussing this with friends recently: say you’re a creepy guy who wants to do his creepy guy thing & get glimpses of women’s underthings in a public bathroom or changing room. Do you a) dress in drag and enter the space, risking detection & possible violent retaliation; or, b) dress as a janitor & install a spy camera so you can get your creep on from a safe distance? How often have you heard TERFs make a fuss about scenario a), yet what is the relative frequency of the two scenarios in the real world? Call it anecdotal but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of b) happening far more often than a).
Related : Chinese tech vlogger Naomi Wu made a video last year with some other women makers about the kind of surveillance devices that can now be purchased cheaply in Shenzhen. It’s downright scary:
Cat Mara says
PS My block script thanks you, PZ, for this post, as the ones about trans rights always attract the kind of tendentious, ignorant (yet surprisingly crunchy) blowhard that it likes best. Bon appétit, little fella!
With as much sexual harassment, including actual sexual assault, that women endure, it strikes me that not wanting to share a bathroom with someone with male genitalia is one issue on which the TERFs are not entirely off the wall, especially when it comes to expecting little girls to share bathrooms with people with male genitalia
Yeah, no. If you know what a stranger’s genitalia looks like from being in a public restroom with them, something has already gone badly wrong*, regardless of what it looks like. If you don’t, why do you care what shape it is? I don’t know how often I’ve shared a bathroom with a transwoman. Don’t care either. Don’t know how often my kid’s been in a bathroom with a transwoman. Don’t care about that either. As long as the people in the bathroom are respectful and wash their hands, it’s all good.
This is, BTW, the same argument used against lesbians: Do you want a woman who is attracted to other women in the bathroom ogling the little girls, hmm???? That was the argument when I was a kid about why GLB people should be subject to conversion therapy. It’s probably still being used.
*The only exception I can think of to this rule is that if someone in the next stall wails, “For love of dog, does anyone have a pad they can loan me?” one can probably reasonably deduce that they have a uterus and it is bleeding.
Rowan vet-tech says
@57, Susan Montgomery
Aaaand what exactly is wrong with being an adult that reads comic books? It’s a story, in a visual format, and many are geared for adults. Do I read many? No, but that’s because I’m not a fan of super heroes in general. But I have enjoyed the Critical Role comics for the origins of Vox Machina. And I have all of Minna Sundberg’s books that she’s put out because A Redtail’s Dream and Stand Still Stay Silent are fucking awesome stories. In a visual format.
Also what is wrong with enjoying the stories you enjoyed as a kid when you’re an adult? Do I turn 18 and then suddenly have to have only an interest in Important White Man novels, or the rare Important White Woman novel? I read to escape reality, so it’s mostly fantasy for me. Does this make me suspect, as I’m 37 years old?
Susan Montgomery says
@70 And where, pray tell, do you see this halfway point?
(1) consider that in this country with our culture, there’s an awful lot of people who feel personally uncomfortable when there’s a black person nearby. Your argument works perfectly well for segregating bathrooms. We don’t allow that, because your right to be comfortable doesn’t trump a black or trans person’s right to basic dignity.
(2) consider that forcing people to go to the bathroom they were assigned to at birth means some butch men are required to be in women’s bathrooms, and vice versa. Which might cause the very discomfort you’re so worried about.
would you favor abolishing sex segregated bathrooms altogether and just have unisex bathrooms that everyone can use?
Cool with me. It’d remove the inequality in how long people wait for the next stall at least. I’ve been in restrooms with men. I’ve been in changing rooms with men. I’ve been in saunas with men. The only problem I’ve ever had is when one yelled at me for inappropriately wearing a bathing suit in an FKK area. (It was my fault–I missed the sign.)
But here’s why, in this country, and with our culture, it’s always going to be an issue: Both law and culture recognize that emotional discomfort is a real harm.
So you acknowledge that in “this” country (by which I presume you mean the US, even though not all of us live in the US), the harm done to women by forcing them to use the men’s restroom is recognized and acknowledged. I’m not in the least worried about a transwoman who is minding her own business being in the stall next to me. OTOH, I’d be very creeped out by having JK Rowling or Ophelia Benson in the restroom with me ogling my chest, groin, and neck to make sure I”m woman enough to be in the same restroom as her.
The creepy landlord is the wrong analogy. A transwoman or ciswoman or cis- or transman who peeks under the stall to look at me peeing has done wrong, certainly. I can sue and probably win the lawsuit if someone did that. I can’t and shouldn’t be able to dictate who can peacefully pee in the stall next to me. A closer analogy to the demand that transwomen not use the women’s restroom is the white people who felt uncomfortable with blacks using ‘”their” water fountain. Were they really uncomfortable? Probably at least some of them were. Some might think that blacks were more likely to spit on the fountain or have some other narrative to explain their discomfort. Some may even truly believe that narrative and feel very uncomfortable with the idea of blacks using the same water fountain as them. Should that be more important than all people’s right to take a drink?
Rowan vet-tech says
Hello coldhardrealist. I’m an actual cisgender woman who has faced sexual assault, stalking, and has a fear of men. As the ‘women’s’ bathrooms have these things called “stalls” that I’m not sure you’ve heard about, I would never… ever…. see the genitalia of another person that is also in that multi-unit bathroom unless they were in the common area waving it about and I wouldn’t want to see that even if the person doing so was in possession of a vuvla. Thus, I have no idea what genitalia the other women in that bathroom have, and none of them know mine. My cisgender woman cousin is regularly mistaken for a young man because she’s narrow of body and face and is naturally highly androgynous looking which has been augmented by having short hair. Which bathroom should she use then, since many women do look at her and think she’s a guy?
@ coldhardrealist, #58
I’m a queer man, but for over half my life I identified as a straight cis male. During that time I was raped (twice), assaulted, and sexually harassed, all by straight cis men.
I don’t feel comfortable sharing any confined space with a man, be they cis or trans. I don’t think about their genitals at all. I assume anyone who enters a men’s room, who appears to me to be a man, is a man. It doesn’t matter if they actually have a penis or not, both because I have no way of knowing the configuration of a stranger’s genitalia, and because I know all too well that a person has many other ways to hurt me if that is their intent. Men read as potential threats to me, AMAB or not.
I have no interest in using the women’s restroom either. I don’t have anywhere near the same level of anxiety around women as I do around men, but I don’t trust any stranger enough to make myself vulnerable around them in a confined space.
I’ll wager most people who’ve been assaulted feel the same way. Their mistrust is magnified around people who remind them of their attackers, but they don’t trust any stranger when they’re in a vulnerable state. Barring a small portion of the population who just want to use the toilet from using certain bathrooms doesn’t really make anyone feel safer. Nor does it make them safer in practical terms.
See, here’s something you, and all the people who make the argument you’re making, ignore: the gendered placard on the door is not some magic talisman. A man who intends harm isn’t going to be stopped by a law banning trans women from using women’s restrooms. A man who intends harm is already intending to commit serious crimes, why would they balk at adding another minor offense to their list?
You want a real solution, as opposed to some TERFy nonsense? Change the way restrooms are built. Each toilet in its own little room, with a proper locking door. No asinine gender segregation necessary. The handwashing area can be unisex.
Sure. It goes away with single-use and “family” bathrooms, too, which is why new construction is trending in that direction.
Sure, and also, not all emotional harms are valid. Others have already brought up the race analogy, and the argument there hangs essentially on whether race is a valid basis for restricting someone else’s behavior or access to public accommodations. It turns out that it’s not, even though, to this day, some people get upset about having to share a toilet with a person of color, and even though, to this day, some people will assert that Black people commit crimes at higher rates than white people (despite the many problems with the data which purport to show that), and that therefore Black people represent a threat in various circumstances. That exact argument used to be used to keep bathrooms segregated by race.
Is the fear which some cis women direct toward trans women reasonable? Well, surely, if it were, we could find lots of instances of trans women assaulting people in bathrooms. And yet, we don’t. That’s a thing which happens so very rarely that the transphobes have had to resort to making things up, and have done so, only to be exposed.
So it looks like that fear is misdirected, and because of a category error. Because trans women are women, and women are not the source of danger in this situation. (Mind you, neither are the vast majority of men, which is why many countries get along just fine without sex-segregating their bathrooms.)
There isn’t one. On the one hand, a minority of cis women fear trans women, because they miscategorize us en masse as men, and because of that, they seek to control our behavior and limit our access to public accommodations of many kinds. On the other hand, trans women are not seeking to control cis women at all. We think they should be able to use the bathroom which is designated for women, and more power to them. So we have one group advocating burdensome restrictions for another group, and another group advocating no restrictions on the first group. Which group should face a higher burden of proof in order to prevail? The group attempting to control people, or the group seeking to go about their business in peace? I would argue that the group which seeks to control should be able to justify that control on the basis of evidence. And the evidence isn’t there.
(Aside: trans women use women’s bathrooms routinely, all over the place. And we use them very carefully. The vast majority of trans women go well out of our way not to cause anyone any consternation, because (a) most of us are decent folk who don’t want to alarm others on principle and (b) we know how that story ends, and it ends with us getting assaulted, whether by other women, or by the security guards, or by the police. Most cis people don’t know this, precisely because we fly below the radar mostly successfully, and also because we’re not assaulting anyone in bathrooms, and so the fact that we’re in there seldom comes to anyone’s attention, in the moment.)
The issue is not genitalia. We know this, because literally no one has proposed inspecting genitals at the door. Everyone who wants to police this issue advocates for making these determinations based on what you can see as someone walks down the street in their clothing. No one seeking to keep trans women out of the women’s room would be comfortable in the women’s room with Buck Angel, or Kinnon MacKinnon, or Jake Graf.
The issue is fear, and the imposition of that fear as a tool to control the behavior of others.
There is a scene in the Harry Potter series where Hermione drinks a polyjuice potion and her body changes to match Harry’s body. We know this is an actual change, not an illusion, because there is physical pain involved in the transformation, and because she remarks on how shortsighted he is as she puts his glasses on. There is nothing in the narrative which would lead us to suppose that, while she is transformed, Hermione does not have a penis. And yet, throughout that passage, Rowling-as-narrator refers to Hermione-with-Harry’s-form as “she”. Rowling is clearly capable of distinguishing Hermione’s identity, and gender, from Hermione’s physical form. She accords this courtesy to Hermione, who is fictional and cannot be hurt, and declines to accord it to trans people, who are real and numerous and frequently feel the effects of discrimination directed against us.
Oh, for heaven’s sake.
Literally EVERY RESULT is a link to an explanation of the term. We’re not talking about something obscure, here.
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
Oh, god, JK is using DV and rape trauma to justify her bigotry, too. You know, because battered women are just so delicate, they’ll be traumatized by the presence of a trans woman. (A woman who, BTW, has probably been through worse than most of the other shelter residents.)
Trans women are women, and deserve equal access to women’s services, regardless of surgical status.
Also, as a survivor, I don’t appreciate my trauma being appropriated to support transphobia.
coldhardrealist @58: In Washington state everyone has been able to the bathroom or changing room that suits their identity for several years now. The sky is still in its place. Twice the conservatives tried to overturn this by ballot initiatives, twice they failed to gather enough signatures. It turned out to be a non-issue once implemented. The only problems were caused by transphobic men deliberately entering women’s restrooms as a provocation.
A. Noyd says
I’m in the same situation as otto @ #13. Just two days ago a student asked me if I was a girl or a boy.
Trans women aren’t going to do anything to me in a bathroom, but I often worry about what transphobes might try. Especially that time I had to “pee” standing up and facing the toilet for a few weeks when I had a catheter and needed to empty the collection bag. (That was in the US where stall doors are very short.)
TERF arguments about cis women’s comfort are absolute BS.
Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says
The fear of trans women affects cis women who aren’t feminine. Almost like a part of society that’s trying to enforce a set of rules on people. I’m pretty sure someone around here mentioned something about that.
@ 51 Michael
You have to understand that Rowling’s essay is like an encyclopedia of TERFism. It’s all transphobic tropes, transphobic talking points, transphobic caricatures. All her “points” have been refuted a thousand times.
With just a little exaggeration, it’s like someone saying, “I’m not anti-Semitic, I have no problem with Jews, I’ve got Jewish friends… I just have some concerns about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the faking of the holocaust, Jewish degeneracy, and the international Jewish conspiracy to control the world’s banking system…”. Her “concerns” are all bigoted nonsense.
The twitter thread you were pointed to does indeed address her talking points not just wording, but if you want something more, Zinnia Jones compiled a list of her own writing over the years debunking those points in more detail. Start here:
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
I could respond to coldhardrealist.
There are even responses I’ve thought of that others here haven’t covered perfectly well. (Thanks, others!)
But here’s the thing: I think that there’s a greater than 50% chance that coldhardrealist has been previously banned using another name, and i won’t waste my time on a truly dishonest interlocutor. Therefore, unless and until PZ validates that this person isn’t someone previously banned, coldhardrealist’s comments are worth less than what I flushed down the toilet today.
@ 70 coldhardrealist
This is false, by the way.
A Gallup poll of all the US asked:
52% of women said “gender identity”. (vs. 40% who said “birth gender”.)
You gotta love how transphobes just make things up they want to believe and assume they’re true. Very Trump like.
… OH, unless coldhardrealist meant the UK where Rowling’s from. There the British Social Attitudes survey (PDF, see Page 15, Table 5) asked:
The results were:
47% Very comfortable
25% Quite comfortable
14% Neither comfortable nor uncomfortable
9% Quite uncomfortable
4% Very uncomfortable
So that’s 86% not bothered to comfortable, 13% uncomfortable.
John Morales says
Crip Dyke, I concur — I too smell a whiff of miasma. Though I might be wrong.
Also, I’ve never ever seen wall urinals in women’s toilets, only stalls.
So yeah, this is a big tell (as others have noted):
The second most obvious question invited by this sort of claim is: given the stalls, how the fuck could anyone tell what sort of genitalia someone else has, unless it’s uncovered?
(The euphemism “bathroom” has always amused me — around here, they’re called toilets (and yes, I do know that etymology, thanks) or, at worst, ‘rest rooms’.
Never seen a bath in them.
When I was a kid in Spain, they were called ‘retretes’)
Coldhardrealist is the most recent incarnation of a ten year old sociological experiment, and since you’ve now blown my cover, I’ll now reveal the results. Over the last ten years or so, I’ve been posting here under probably a dozen different names, all but one of which have been banned. I’ve said a great many things that I don’t really believe, a few things that I partially believe, and some things that I really do believe, mostly to see what the reactions from others would be. (More about that in a minute.)
Does that make me a dishonest person? No more so than any other experimenter who doesn’t completely level with the subjects in advance that they’re part of an experiment.
In this incarnation, I’m a recently returned Iraq war veteran, who started life as a political conservative, has become greatly disillusioned with conservatism, is moving left, but isn’t quite there yet. He’s basically an honest person who sees holes in his previous world view, sees both sides to a lot of issues he once thought were cut and dried, and is really wrestling with difficult issues. Would someone like that be welcome here? Answer: No. We all know that even without Crip Dyke blowing my cover, coldhardrealist was probably about 24 hours away from being banned, after spending that 24 hours being excoriated by most here, just because he sees an issue as being a bit more complex than those here would like it to be.
And that, in one way or another, has been what most of my different personas here have been about: Can I convince a group of hard core lefties that some issues are more complex than they realize, and sometimes the other guy at least has a point, even if you don’t ultimately find the point persuasive? Answer: Not really.
I’ve done the same experiment, by the way, on a fundamentalist Christian blog, with basically the same results: There is no nuance, there is no such thing as a complicated issue, and only a dishonest idiot could fail to see it my way.
And if you want to know my actual world view, it’s this: Life, and life’s issues, are far more complicated than the over-simplifications from either the left or the right.
Now, after ten years, I think this experiment has run its course and I’m probably not coming back again. You’ve all been great subjects and I sincerely wish you well.
John Morales says
Wow. Not that often that a flounce includes an admission to having repeatedly failed at trolling.
chigau (違う) says
Where are you going to publish the results of this ?
Or was it just 10 years of public wanking?
@88 CHR: I think the IRB would like to have a word with you about the ethics of doing research on humans without consent.
PZ Myers says
OK, thirdmill, so now you confess. I don’t think you’ve thought through your experiment, though: the one consistent result from trolling here under a dozen pseudonyms, and at other sites, is that nobody likes you and you always end up getting banned. Have you considered that the conclusion that you ought to take away from all this wasted effort on your part is that you’re an asshole?
You admit up there that you’ve “said a great many things that I don’t really believe, a few things that I partially believe, and some things that I really do believe” — in other words, you present yourself dishonestly. Have you also considered the possibility that everyone can see your inconsistencies, become suspicious, and treat you as a dishonest actor because of that? For instance, anyone who labels themselves “coldhardrealist” is already clearly walking in to the discussion with a chip on their shoulder. You think of yourself as smarter than everyone else (you’re not), most people see right through you, and your pretense of “doing an experiment” is just that, a pretense.
Amended conclusion: you’re a stupid asshole.
Banned again. Cleanup in progress. I’ll leave your confession up since it’s so damned revealing of your character.
Whenever I see someone bring up talking points they’ve heard on subjects they clearly haven’t critically engaged with in any real depth, it feels like I’m watching this:
And so often, the resulting discussion tends to go something like:
“Before we go any further, let me help you take that bucket off so you can see what you’re talking about.”
“No! Everything I want to know about the outside of the bucket is inside my bucket! I refuse to learn anything else!”
Whether they’re TERFs or Kent Hovind, the reactions of certain types of people to arguments and information that don’t support their current positions are remarkably consistent. Sometimes people get committed to a position just because they’ve now argued it and don’t want to be seen as ‘backing down’.
coldhardrealist, you should be aware that such talking points are carefully crafted to appeal to common biases and to frame situations as if there is an intractable conflict, often between ‘trans invaders’ and ‘vulnerable women’, attempting to appeal to concern for victims or for justice and focus attention on canned narratives in order to slip past critical examination. I hope that some of the responses in this thread have revealed some problems with this particular talking point to you. There are other talking points that use similar methods, because there are committed dishonest people out there looking for any way they can to attack support for trans people. When someone falls for such a point, their future engagements in discussions of the topic can spread the talking point, which can do real harm as it spreads.
Ha. So much for that. I do wonder at what ‘nuance’ is expected from repeating standard talking points. I can only guess that you actually did find such points convincing if you thought they were worth using as tests of ‘nuance’.
There is, as ever, an XKCD for everything:
Susan Montgomery, please stop shitting on adults who read children’s books. There’s lots of us who do, and there’s seriously nothing wrong with it. We’re not emotionally stunted or anything, that was just the book we wanted to read at that moment.
Susan Montgomery says
@97 & 71
I tease because I love. I know the phrase “some of my best friends are…” is suspect, but it happens that I do indeed have good friends who are adult comic book fans – and one ex-fiancee who was an aspiring comic artist and a furry – most of whom are at peace with the stereotypes surrounding the genre.
Obviously, it’s wrong to assume everyone is the same way as the handful of people I know and I apologize for offending you.
So, that’s a yes.
Another detail that has come up:
Robert Galbraith Heath was a crank ‘scientist’ who pretty much invented “conversion therapy”, torturing LGBTQIA people to make them “straight”.
The TERF’s pen name for “the silkworm” was Robert Galbraith. Does anyone naively believe that name was chosen that by accident?
Sarah Z released a great video about this today which goes through this situation point-by-point, in terms of both the timeline (Rowling’s manifesto has merely confirmed what for years most of us have suspected/known) and the manifesto itself. She then follows this up with an argument against divorcing Rowling from her creative works, which has been a bit of a trend since she made her TERF leanings (and to be clear, she’s leaning at like an 89 degree angle from the vertical here) apparent. Anyway, I won’t spoil any of her arguments – you can find the video here:
But I want there to be nuance about whether black people deserve human rights, trans people deserve to be safe or women should be treated fairly at work!!!!!
Maybe don’t be so judgemental about the media people like to consume. If someone derives joy and meaning from something, so long as it harms none, I don’t see where you get off telling people they shouldn’t like it or that they’re “emotionally stunted.” That’s incredibly shitty, and you should be ashamed of yourself. You don’t like it when people enjoy media outside their intended demographic? Then shut the fuck up and do something else with your life.
As for Rowling, fuck her right to the sun – she’s made her bed, let her sleep in it.
The TERF infection of British centrists is virulent, and we should use examples like this to combat it. I feel for my trans-sisters in Britain who are in a precarious position right now, with the government inclined to listen to the “””concerns””” of angry, evil white “feminists” like Rowling and shape policy as a result. Especially under the leadership of Boris Johnson, the British Trump. Our Trump just made it more likely for me to be murdered in a hospital if I get refused care.
It’s shameful and disgusting that we still need to cope with this shit.