Tuesday, January 10, 2023

letter about the J. K. Rowling controversy

I wish I didn't care about certain things so deeply, as I'm sure it's a waste of my time and energy. Today there was a front page article in the Star about how the game quiddich, invented by J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter series, has taken off in popularity. But they're changing the name to quadball, because they've decided J.K. is a vicious anti-trans activist and want nothing to do with the writer who invented not just the game but the entire world around it.

The article quotes several people excoriating her but offers no opposing viewpoint: i.e., where exactly are these spewings of hatred they're talking about? Could you quote one, please? Like so many others, the journalist accepts the received "wisdom" of the Twitter mob.

So, because I'm a dork, I had to write. Like J.K., I am an absolute supporter of the human rights of trans women. But I do not insist that a woman born as a woman, and a man who makes the often painful, difficult, and much desired transition to becoming a woman, are the same. They are not. That does not make me, or her, a bigot, a terf. It makes us realistic about biological science. That's all.

Dear Janet Hurley:

I cannot let your front page article go by without addressing it. 

            You are a respected senior journalist, so I wonder at your one-sided article on the J. K. Rowling controversy. Her story is a case study in how misinformation is amplified by hysterical social media mobs and then by legacy media, in articles such as yours. 

You quote an incendiary tweet about “TERF wars” without putting it into any kind of context. You quote a millennial ex-fan about Rowling “spewing such hurtful and hateful and … dangerous things.” Then you quote an academic saying she’s behaving “like a complete dick and destroying people’s childhoods.” Really?

Where are the opposite viewpoints any good journalist should include? Have you done any investigating into exactly where Rowling spews hateful things? 

Recently, a gay journalist in England decided to check for herself. She reported that she could find no such hatred.


            Rowling has the audacity to believe that women born as women, and men who become women later in life, are biologically different. To deny this scientific reality is lunacy, but that is what some trans activists and their supporters wish to do. That is why she has drawn such hatred.

            She fiercely objects to the erasure of the word ‘woman,’ as do I. A recent ad for a vibrator states that this object is for “vulva havers.” There are perhaps four billion women or so on the planet, but we are no longer allowed to use the word? 

            As soon J. K. spoke up in defense of biological women and the actual word “women,” she was viciously attacked as a terf. No one stopped to question why a woman who has written a glorious series of books fundamentally about tolerance of the other would suddenly start to spew hatred for a persecuted minority. A woman who has donated a vast portion of her hard-earned fortune to charities for the vulnerable, especially women and children.

            What has happened to her is indefensible. Why would a respected journalist use defamatory quotes without even an attempt to look deeper into the issue?

            Your job is to tell all sides of important stories. This one is important, not because of renaming a game for spurious reasons, but because it’s just one of a series of profound injustices caused by Twitter mobs. J. K. can defend herself. Others cannot.

            I hope you will rectify this.

PS. An early Twitter thread from Rowling: 

The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women—i.e., to male violence—‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences—is a nonsense.”

“I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so."

Amen, sister. But I have to say that even posting this on my blog frightens me.


  1. This is a fabulous letter, Beth. I hope it gets printed and shared widely.

    1. Thanks. But it's risky to weigh in on this - the Twitter mob is relentless and vicious. So I didn't send it to the editor, just to the journalist, who replied, and I wrote back, more or less saying - it's lazy journalism to accept the mob POV without investigation or opposing viewpoint.

  2. Yes, great letter. Good for you to write it. I don't use social media, Beth. I consider it a huge waste of my precious time. 2023 Resolutions? Cancel your social media accounts, is what I say.

    1. Juliet, I love social media and think I handle it well, though it does take too much of my time. I like connecting with a huge variety of people on FB, sharing my pictures and seeing theirs on IG, checking in with Twitter though I never write there myself. It all creates a snapshot of part of my world - makes me feel, rightly or wrongly, that I have a sense of what's going on out there, in general and specifically with friends. It has brought all kinds of interesting people into my life, including people from my childhood. The important thing is: don't engage with the banshees.