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A fair trial of J.K. Rowling

Published by marco on

I found this 90-minute analysis of J.K. Rowling’s participation in the trans-gender discussion to be fair and enlightening. I hadn’t paid the years-long online battle much attention and figured there was a lot of deliberately elided context as well as exaggeration and straw-manning involved. While there is that aspect, there isn’t just that aspect.

J.K. Rowling by ContraPoints (YouTube)

One nice example is from about 27:00 into the video. She addresses the disingenuousness of just “stating facts”. She asks the important question of why are you stating certain facts? What story are you trying to tell?

“It’s not hateful to say a fact. […] A fact can’t be bigoted. And I agree that a fact cannot be bigoted. But a fact on its own…doesn’t mean very much. Usually when we discuss facts, we’re using those facts to tell a story. And facts can be used to tell bigoted stories. Suppose someone tweets the fact that the homicide rate is higher for black Americans than for white Americans. I’m going to ask: what story are you trying to tell with this fact? What political goal are you trying to support? One way indirect bigotry works is by camouflaging political struggles as intellectual debates.”

While Rowling isn’t nearly the raving madwoman she’s made out to be, she is definitely overconfident on the degree to which her original proposition covers applies to her ensuing line of argumentation. That is, she starts off from a reasonably rational, though largely irrelevant position (there are two biological genders) and ends up dug in to a much more extreme position, one that she defended in a pretty slimy way in an excruciating long and generally incriminating essay she published a few years back.

Apparently, she also published an 800-page book whose main character has suspiciously related issues,—there’s a cross-dressing[1] serial killer, an ancient trope—she took on a traditionally male pen-name to write it, and she’s quite open about fighting personal demons that are sorta/kinda related to her own sexuality, but have nothing whatsoever to do with trans people.

Rowling has also been the target of truly scathing opprobrium from some of the Internet’s most unhinged people, which goes a long way to explaining why she’s unlikely to back down on any position. As a billionaire authoress, you’re most likely imbued with no small amount of ego and are therefore unlikely to give an inch in a battle where she knows she’s right. She may have some poisonous ideas and misguided ways of presenting them, but she’s far from alone. There are a lot of examples of violent language aimed at her, which is unlikely to change anything.[2]

It seems like she’s still thinking that she’s representing herself in terms of her original argument (the moot biological one that absolutely no-one sane is even arguing) and doesn’t realize how far away the accrued weight of ensuing years of argumentation and online skirmishes have pushed her stance.


[1] ContraPoints points out that this is not transphobic because cross-dressers are not trans. She doesn’t miss a single detail, honestly. If you’re interested in refuting anything, you’d be remiss in not taking 90 minutes to watch (or at least listen to) this long essay. If you don’t watch, you’re kind of missing out, though. The bathtub scene with the floating, left-leaning, red petals is frankly hilarious.
[2] Not that there has to be, mind you. You can, of course, do you. But once you’ve told someone to choke on a ladydick and die, you’ve lost your rhetorical standing for good, really.