There are a lot of platforms through which celebrities choose to voice their opinions. J.K. Rowling, the famous writer of the Harry Potter franchise, has in the past few years tweeted a lot of questionable content but the tweets in the past month have raised a lot of concern among her fans and the LGBTQ+ community in general.
PEOPLE WHO MENSTRUATE
The idea behind Rowling’s tweet was to perhaps raise awareness of the discrimination women have “been” and are still facing but at the same time she disregarded the discrimination the transgender community faces. Rowling found the term ‘people who menstruate’ controversial because, according to her, the term ‘women’ should only be reserved for women who menstruate. It is obvious to see how this narrative is problematic.
With the anti-gender movement gaining traction in the past few years and with people like Rowling who have shaped generations of young people with her books, showing bigotry and prejudice on such a big platform, one worries how long will it take till we have actual equality and just how much damage is being done to the movements today that stand for equality and solidarity. The online community showed their support for the trans community and criticized Rowling for being uninformed on the matter. This was her response.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE INFORMED
People have a tendency to claim to understand things just so they don’t come off as uneducated. The stigma of coming off as not informed seems to overpower curiosity. In this case the very definition of transgender is being put into question by Rowling who herself claims to have read numerous “books, blogs and scientific papers by trans people”. Having read those, it is curious to see how she can raise the question of whether transgender women are women. A lot of people do their research before they voice their opinions but oftentimes it seems their sources are somewhat questionable. What Rowling is doing is similar to what the anti-gender movement is doing as well.
By manipulating feminist language they advocate for the transgender community to be alienated. To claim to be a feminist and then to base the entirety of your existence on your body goes against the very logic of feminism. Are you as a woman solely defined by your body?
Rowling’s attempt to come off as someone who does not discriminate is confusing looking at how she first states that the term ‘women’ should be reserved only for women who have been born biologically as women and then states that she „respects every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them“. What Rowling fails to understand is that a person who is transgender isn’t solely transgender, they know whether they are male, female, non-binary, somewhere else on the spectrum or whether their gender identity is more fluid, they know how they feel. To say that one can live comfortably but then impose on them a rule that is strictly bound to binary terminology is irrational.
Transgender women are women and that doesn’t take away another woman’s rights nor do her struggles mean any less. Even though someone was born with male genitalia, they may have never felt like they are of male gender. To state that they are not women or to insinuate that because they do not menstruate they are not real women means that, we as a society are letting periods dictate who we are. When women reach a certain age, when they go into menopause, are they not women anymore?
Numerous young cis-women are not able to have periods due to genetic disorders, birth defects of the reproductive organs that block the flow of menstrual blood, poor nutrition and other health issues. They do not have menstrual bleedings but they are as much of a woman as a young woman with menstrual bleedings and a transgender women with no menstrual bleeding. Society has already imposed so many rules on us, rules that don’t make sense and only lead to psychological and in turn possibly physical harm. To stigmatize one community and try and justify doing so by saying that you are protecting another, you are doing harm to both communities. A trans person identifying as a woman is not a threat to the fight for women’s rights.
Many of the actors from the Harry Potter franchise voiced their disagreement with Rowling’s sentiments. The statement that perhaps stood out the most came from Daniel Radcliffe who has in his personal life advocated for nonbinary rights and allyship. His response was, however, met with some backlash from the online community.
According to some Twitter users Radcliffe should not be giving speeches on the matter of ‘women’. It is fair to say that their point of view, being women themselves, is not to be ignored. However, if we are struggling, do we help our cause by using hate speech against others that share their opinions on matters such as the discrimination of women and the transgender community or do we use this chance of open dialogue to educate others on these issues. The women writing these tweets are perhaps of the opinion that they are ‘protecting’ the term ‘women’ by reacting this way but trans women need to be protected by women’s rights, as well.
We want to end with a small part of Radcliffe’s aforementioned statement, because he sums up this article’s thesis perfectly:
“Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo (Rowling) or I.”
Daniel Radcliffe’s Response to JK Rowling’s Tweets on Gender Identity – The Trevor Project