Are We Right To Cancel J.K. Rowling?

Yes? No?

It’s complicated. A lot has been said of J.K. Rowling in the past few months, and it’s no secret that the court of public opinion’s verdict is that she deserves to be cancelled for her insensitive and downright offensive comments. But does she deserve the amount of backlash she’s faced? Does she deserve more?

I’m sure we’ve all read or heard of JK Rowling’s tweets on sex and gender by now. For those who aren’t too aware, she made comments that could be perceived as mocking the trans community when she joked that there used to be a word for “people who menstruate.” A quick, and by no means concise, summary of her views is that the anti-woman trans lobby groups are manipulating people, especially women, into transitioning into men. In her own article she claims that if she had been born 30 years later, she too might have been tempted to transition because of the “allure to escape womanhood.”  Therein lies the problem. Ms. Rowling seems to be unable to fathom that, although there might be a few people that fall into this category of transitioning for the wrong reasons, the majority of trans people are making those decisions by themselves based on their true sexual and gender identities.

Frankly, it is insulting to assume that all trans people are trans because of powerful lobby groups seeking to suppress women’s rights. Besides, in her logic, she seems to ignore the fact that men transition into women as well. She also seems to be unable to accept that trans women are women too and will face the same, and even in many cases more, oppression and systematic discrimination. Yet, if you read her blog, you’ll realize that her basic intentions are somewhat noble – she seems to want to fight for women and she’s against transitioning as a result of homophobia. And she does have a right to speak her mind, as we all do, and express her opinions. But, just like the rest of us, she has to live with the consequences of those words.

It’s no surprise that the trans community were rightly offended. J.K. Rowling, a writer long in the public eye and admired by many, should not have made such insensitive and damaging comments, especially considering how impressionable some of her younger fans are. As a celebrity, she had a duty to thoroughly educate herself on the plight of the LGBTQI+ rather than just claim she supports the trans community while her actions screamed the opposite. It is impossible to support the trans community if you deny them the right to freely be themselves and whomever they want to be. If people want to transition, they should, and if they want to detransition, they should too – and neither case gives weight to conspiracy theories against women’s rights. 

So what do you do to a public figure whose comments ignorantly perpetuate stereotypes about trans people? Pop culture says we cancel them. That’s what we do to anyone whose comments are too extreme, too deviated from the norm. But in this case, that might do more harm than good. For starters, I believe even the most offended trans supporter will agree that showing J.K. Rowling misogynistic hate and threatening her with violence and sexual crimes is wrong. That’s a given. What might not be so obvious, is how cancelling J.K. Rowling will only convince her that she is being persecuted for utilizing her freedom of speech. Yes, she is wrong about the trans community and her ignorance is dangerous, but what she needs is to be educated and corrected rather than ostracized and persecuted. If we do cancel her, then she becomes, in many ways, a martyr, as many will look at her as a symbol for all the wrong reasons.

Besides, the fact is, she is right about the fact that women, all women, are still systematically disadvantaged in most walks of life, and it’s entirely possible that if Donald Trump, a known misogynist, made such comments, he wouldn’t be persecuted as much as she has. But maybe that’s the problem, while we have come to expect such from Donald Trump, many people did admire J.K. Rowling and see her as a role model. And as a role model, she really should have done better to educate herself.

We’re not only mad, J.K., we’re disappointed.

Zoe Mebude-Steves
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