J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling

Forget fantasy, fact might be what ends J.K Rowling

They came for her like death eaters, a malevolent force of misogynistic fury intent on wiping out the word that must not be named.

No, not Voldemort. Far worse: women.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who has captivated millions with her tales of wizardry and magic, was last week subjected to a deranged witch hunt. Her crime? Daring to speak about biological fact.

In a late-night series of tweets last Saturday, Rowling criticised an article that referred to "people who menstruate".

"If sex isn't real, the lived reality of women globally is erased," she wrote.

"It isn't hate to speak the truth" about natal sex, she added.

That one tweet generated more than 45,000 comments and 225,000 likes.

Many, including transwomen, thanked her for speaking out.

But it was the threats of violence toward Rowling that were truly appalling and illustrated the horrific abuse women are subjected to from transactivist trolls.

A restrained respondent apologised for having previously calling her a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), adding: "What I meant to call her was a vile rotten raggedy old hag as well as a Terf."

A tweet from Harry Potter author J.K Rowling has seen her receive death threats. Picture: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP
A tweet from Harry Potter author J.K Rowling has seen her receive death threats. Picture: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

"You're dead to me you hateful bitch," one wrote.

"Smack JK Rowling so hard I give that fool a lightning scar on HER forehead," another said.

She was called a "whore" and "c**t". She received threats of violence, abuse about her genitalia and constant comments to "suck my d**k".

Fans demanded her books be burnt, while some removed their Harry Potter tattoos.

Regardless of whether you agree with her opinion or not, no one should be subjected to that level of toxic, hateful hounding.

So, last Wednesday, Rowling published a lengthy essay on her website empathising with trans people who had faced violence because she had personally suffered domestic and sexual abuse.

But her piece also perpetuated her fear that allowing transwomen into female toilets could make it unsafe for women.

Would someone really endure the emotional and physical pain of transitioning gender just so they could assault a woman in a public toilet? Of course not.

A predator does not wait for permission or approval to attack. Rowling's statement disregards the fact that rape and violence against women by a stranger is rare. Women are most likely to be victims of sexual and violent assault from a male they know, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Harry Potter star Emma Watson has called out Rowling’s comments about trans women. Picture: AP/Joel Ryan
Harry Potter star Emma Watson has called out Rowling’s comments about trans women. Picture: AP/Joel Ryan

Rowling herself is evidence of this. "I'm not sorry for slapping her," her ex-husband Jorge Arantes, 52, told The Sun.

But what Rowling has highlighted - and what has been drowned out by the screeching accusations of transphobia - is the deliberate dismantling of the definition of women.

Women are not "menstruators", "cervix carriers" or "womb vessels", just as men are not "ejaculators".

But to appease a minority (1,260 people identified as sex and/or gender diverse in the 2016 Australian census), must natal females' identity and lived experience cease to exist?

Apparently so. The Department of Health's National Cervical Screening Programing fact box states: "People are due for their first Cervical Screening Test at the age of 25." The word "women" is not used once.

It is also happening in the jealous raging abuse hurled at women online who say biological women are real.

Humans, like all mammals, cannot change their sex. Yes, intersex exists (0.018 per cent of the population, according to a Journal of Sex Research study), but a rare occurrence does not justify the cancellation of binary sex.

 

And if biological sex is a "social construct" or does not exist, what are people transitioning from?

Saying biological sex is real is not transphobic and should not invalidate the identity and acceptance of transgender people, just as "women" should not be a biased word

If we have learned anything from the current global need for unity, it is that we need to listen to and learn from lived experiences.

"I do not understand the struggle of growing up as a biological female, entering puberty, dealing with menstruation, pregnancy, or any of the other realities that biological females exclusively experience. That's simply a fact, and stating it is not hateful or bigoted," transgender commentator Blaire White said.

Transgender women do not know what it is like to be born and raised as a biological female. To accept that does not invalidate transwomen.

But to deny natal females the right to be called "women", denies them the same right to identity and acceptance that transactivists demand for themselves.

If we are to navigate a more inclusive and kinder society, the cycle of brutal, ignorant rage targeted at biological women must stop.

The fact is women are women. And no amount of magic can change that.

Lucy Carne is editor of Rendezview.com.au

Originally published as Forget fantasy, fact might be what ends J.K Rowling