18 votes

Mermaids writes an open letter to JK Rowling

30 comments

  1. [21]
    Qis
    Link
    This is undeservedly polite for an argument which does not hinge on a question of tone. Rowling's essay was purposefully bigoted; her concern for trans people and the victims of assault as pitched...

    This is undeservedly polite for an argument which does not hinge on a question of tone. Rowling's essay was purposefully bigoted; her concern for trans people and the victims of assault as pitched in that hostile essay is entirely disingenuous. She presented her "argument" as an example to her bigoted community of how to pretend you don't understand the question being asked. Clearly she cannot be convinced otherwise with either honey or vinegar. She should be banned from public forums and her legacy obliterated. Mine is not a "destructively dismissive position of too much passion which sensitive moderation should decline in favor of more politically appropriate tones", there is no level where political consensus can intervene in this issue except to facilitate and platform bigotry; that's Rowling's strategy.

    15 votes
    1. pallas
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I would argue that the intended audience of open letters is usually not the addressee, and that the politeness is important for the true audience. If Rowling were the actually the intended...

      This is undeservedly polite for an argument which does not hinge on a question of tone.

      I would argue that the intended audience of open letters is usually not the addressee, and that the politeness is important for the true audience. If Rowling were the actually the intended recipient, there would be little point in having the letter be open.

      Here, as I often think is the case with open letters, the intended audience are most likely the readers of Rowling's statements, the people who, not having the benefit of more information, and likely following her statements for reasons not related to these matters, read her views and think to themselves that she makes good points. The letter responds to those readers, with the references that Rowling did not provide in her essay, to show how Rowling's points are wrong. Regardless of one's views on civilized conversation and the handling of problematic voices, it is right to treat those readers politely, if you are writing to theme: they are not at fault for having read Rowling's essay.

      As you note, this letter is very unlikely to convince Rowling of anything, but I think it is very possible that it will be convincing to readers of both. In her essay, Rowling makes a number of claims of scholarly evidence, and tellingly, of course, provides no actual details or references: an ignorant, credulous reader could be forgiven for taking at least some of her arguments seriously as a result.[1] The response provides concrete, referenced rebuttals.

      I have to agree with Bal's response to your argument here, however (Edit: the initial response, not the subsequent comments). It's unclear what you propose by the argument that she be "banned from public forums and her legacy obliterated," but such a response, particularly when not backed with substantive discussion of what you mean, and with unsupportably absolute claims about Rowling's intentions, seems to risk lending unwarranted support to Rowling's unjustified attempts to paint herself as a victim in these matters.

      I would agree that ignoring her statements, rather than amplifying them, would make sense. But I'm not sure what you propose, particularly as her essay appears to be on her own website (I would take more issue with the tweet that led to the essay, rather than the essay itself, as it was in a public forum, and didn't even make an attempt to cast itself as reasonable).

      [1] While off-topic, I have a bit of a Foucault's-Pendulum-style fascination with ridiculous arguments, absurd pseudoscience, and so on, and as such I continue to be fascinated and baffled by the bathroom-predator idea, especially as described in Rowling's essay, where she seems to link it, somehow, to domestic violence. The argument seems to rely on an incantatory view of rules and laws, and I've never read a substantive argument as to what scenarios are actually envisioned, probably because they would need to be so utterly absurd that writing them out would expose that absurdity. I would contrast this form of argument with some others in the essay, which, rather than being based on fundamentally absurd premises, are based on false evidence.

      12 votes
    2. [19]
      Bal
      Link Parent
      Banned from public forums, her legacy obliterated? Disagree with her as much as you want, but that is a legitimately insane thing to say.

      Banned from public forums, her legacy obliterated? Disagree with her as much as you want, but that is a legitimately insane thing to say.

      11 votes
      1. [3]
        Qis
        Link Parent
        Perhaps you should not vote for my application for a moderator role on this site -- I am not burning my childhood books either but don't say it doesn't seem like she'll come out ahead anyway....

        Perhaps you should not vote for my application for a moderator role on this site -- I am not burning my childhood books either but don't say it doesn't seem like she'll come out ahead anyway. She's gained Twitter followers this week, goddamnit. We even already knew this was an opinion of hers, and yet there is apparently no apparatus with which to censure her. It's obscene that we still cannot even fathom the effective cancellation of the rich.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          pallas
          Link Parent
          Could you clarify whether you are stating this seriously?

          Perhaps you should not vote for my application for a moderator role on this site

          Could you clarify whether you are stating this seriously?

          4 votes
          1. Deimos
            Link Parent
            They're not. Nobody's applying to be moderators, and I still don't have any solid plans for giving mod-like permissions to other users yet.

            They're not. Nobody's applying to be moderators, and I still don't have any solid plans for giving mod-like permissions to other users yet.

            11 votes
      2. [15]
        Gaywallet
        Link Parent
        Do you agree that her message of hate is harmful? If so, what do you think is an appropriate response in order to suppress her preaching intolerance? If not, what are your thoughts on the paradox...

        Do you agree that her message of hate is harmful? If so, what do you think is an appropriate response in order to suppress her preaching intolerance? If not, what are your thoughts on the paradox of tolerance?

        6 votes
        1. [13]
          Bal
          Link Parent
          I don't agree that it's a message of hate. I think she's wrong, but her statements didn't strike me as hateful as much as ignorant. In general, though, I don't believe in suppressing speech at...

          I don't agree that it's a message of hate. I think she's wrong, but her statements didn't strike me as hateful as much as ignorant.
          In general, though, I don't believe in suppressing speech at all. There are a large number of currently mainstream opinions that used to be frowned upon - if they had been suppressed, our society would look very different. The only way we should combat speech that doesn't incite violence is through reasoning.

          4 votes
          1. [3]
            moonbathers
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            She's been vocal about this on Twitter for a while now, I don't think she gets that excuse anymore. To her, I'm a danger to women's rights despite voting for the people supporting women's rights...

            I don't agree that it's a message of hate. I think she's wrong, but her statements didn't strike me as hateful as much as ignorant.

            She's been vocal about this on Twitter for a while now, I don't think she gets that excuse anymore. To her, I'm a danger to women's rights despite voting for the people supporting women's rights every opportunity I get. I'm an "activist", used negatively in this case. I'm the thought police or even a Nazi for saying that she's transphobic (in general, I don't have Twitter and have never talked to her). I as a teenager was misguided and groomed by a predator, and now I'm a predator myself who wants to make as many people trans as I can.

            These are all either things she said or implied in her most recent essay on the topic. She's written a dozen books, she knows how to use words and what they mean. She uses language that gives her plausible deniability and makes a number of statements that are either only things a handful of people say or just pulled out of her ass: that trans people don't understand that they can't biologically change sex, that anyone can just say they're trans and get to walk into women's bathrooms, that trans people and their allies are doxing TERFs (I prefer Feminism-Appropriating Reactionary Transphobe or FART myself) when it's in fact the TERFs doing the doxing.

            She surrounds this all with a bunch of statements about how she cares about trans people and has sympathy for them when it's repeatedly shown in the exact same essay that she doesn't actually care about us. Her concern for trans men is only in that she thinks they're women trying to escape misogyny, and her concern for trans women goes no farther than saying it; she'd prefer we use the men's bathroom and risk the assault that she claims to be aware of rather than risk a man claiming to be trans just so he can creep on women in the bathroom.

            She's not concerned about our well-being in the slightest and she's had enough conversations with people on Twitter to know better. She uses the right-wing phrase "virtue signaling" and then claims it's actually not that bad, but she uses it as a negative. She uses the "people on the other side were mean so I became a TERF" argument when we all know that's bullshit from the four years of use Republicans have gotten out of it. People who "became" a TERF were already one, they just use a trans person being mean to justify their beliefs. And finally, she uses the free speech defense, which is admitting that you have no argument but that it's not literally illegal to say what you're saying.

            She knows better. None of this is ignorance.

            Edit: At what point do I and my trans brothers, sisters, and siblings get a break from having to justify our existence and our right to be treated with the same compassion that everyone else deserves?

            18 votes
            1. [2]
              kfwyre
              Link Parent
              This is incredibly well said with many great points. You didn't waste a single word of what you wrote. Each one carries considerable weight and is backed by focused conviction. Together, they do a...

              This is incredibly well said with many great points. You didn't waste a single word of what you wrote. Each one carries considerable weight and is backed by focused conviction. Together, they do a fantastic job of highlighting how hostile Rowling's positions are -- even when she dresses them up in either neutral-sounding or "concern"-based language.

              My heart goes out to you. You and your trans siblings have faced way too much hate for way too long, and it is both unjust and indefensible. You deserve much better than this.

              5 votes
              1. moonbathers
                Link Parent
                Thank you ♥ It's come up a lot lately, I guess because it's that time of year. I read the entire response to JKR's essay that someone linked a few days ago and I just needed to speak up.

                Thank you ♥ It's come up a lot lately, I guess because it's that time of year. I read the entire response to JKR's essay that someone linked a few days ago and I just needed to speak up.

                4 votes
          2. [6]
            Deimos
            Link Parent
            This is a false dichotomy: the only two options aren't "allow all speech" and "disallow all speech that expresses non-accepted viewpoints". Can you come up with any examples of speech based around...

            This is a false dichotomy: the only two options aren't "allow all speech" and "disallow all speech that expresses non-accepted viewpoints". Can you come up with any examples of speech based around treating a particular group of people as lesser than others that was frowned upon on in the past, but is now accepted and valuable?

            15 votes
            1. [4]
              Bal
              Link Parent
              That's a very specific set of criteria, and I assume you wouldn't accept ideological groups as an answer. Feel free to disagree with me, but I don't expect you to change my mind. Limiting speech...

              That's a very specific set of criteria, and I assume you wouldn't accept ideological groups as an answer.

              Feel free to disagree with me, but I don't expect you to change my mind. Limiting speech is a slippery slope and I don't think we should engage in that except in the most extreme circumstances.

              1 vote
              1. [2]
                Deimos
                (edited )
                Link Parent
                Yes, it's specific for a reason: because there are types of speech that we can and should suppress because they cause harm, and doing so doesn't mean that we also have to suppress things like...

                Yes, it's specific for a reason: because there are types of speech that we can and should suppress because they cause harm, and doing so doesn't mean that we also have to suppress things like radical scientific theories. It's not impossible to distinguish between them.

                This is probably also a good time to mention that Tildes may not be the right site for you if that's a principle that you feel strongly about, because I absolutely shut down that kind of speech here. If you're uncomfortable with moderation, you probably won't be happy here overall.

                20 votes
                1. Bal
                  Link Parent
                  I do feel somewhat strongly about this, but not enough to leave the site - I've had some lovely conversations here in other subjects. I might just avoid these kind of topics, it just feels a bit...

                  I do feel somewhat strongly about this, but not enough to leave the site - I've had some lovely conversations here in other subjects. I might just avoid these kind of topics, it just feels a bit weird to have to do so despite not disagreeing on the actual social issues.

                  5 votes
              2. Death
                Link Parent
                It's specific because it's working towards a goal, it's not intended to exist purely for it's own sake. If you can only conceive of freedom of speech in a vacuum where context and specifics are...

                It's specific because it's working towards a goal, it's not intended to exist purely for it's own sake. If you can only conceive of freedom of speech in a vacuum where context and specifics are unnecessary you're always going to talk past people who see it as part of a broader system.

                2 votes
            2. ohyran
              Link Parent
              Silly question not very serious but just thrown in there: Is "Nobles" or "Royalty" a form of people? I mean they can't stop being nobles or royalty, or rather when they've tried in the past during...

              Silly question not very serious but just thrown in there:
              Is "Nobles" or "Royalty" a form of people? I mean they can't stop being nobles or royalty, or rather when they've tried in the past during times of [ ... can you even call it persecution though? You know what I mean] they've often failed because they are no matter what they do a perceived threat. So something they can't stop being and are born in to.

              (again, in total transparency: I know its a silly example - I've had a hang up on the Rococo era and this ticked a box so wanted to toss it in there)

              1 vote
          3. [2]
            Gaywallet
            Link Parent
            Would you consider someone talking about how minorities have lower intelligence and citing scientific papers as hateful speech or ignorant? Just curious where the line between hate and ignorance...

            Would you consider someone talking about how minorities have lower intelligence and citing scientific papers as hateful speech or ignorant? Just curious where the line between hate and ignorance is, when you have someone who is misinterpreting science to espouse a position in which they are asserting some form of bigotry.

            4 votes
            1. Bal
              Link Parent
              Depends on how it's presented - there are definitely many ways in which a person doing that could be hateful.

              Depends on how it's presented - there are definitely many ways in which a person doing that could be hateful.

              1 vote
          4. ohyran
            Link Parent
            [HEY you reading this, this is long rambly and disjointed - just woke up for coffee and felt like replying and then got in to some kind of zone - at the first words below I had no idea where the...

            [HEY you reading this, this is long rambly and disjointed - just woke up for coffee and felt like replying and then got in to some kind of zone - at the first words below I had no idea where the last words would go read it in the voice of "that annoying uncle who've gotten a few too many drinks at the christmas table and is now trying to make sense"]

            Click her for rambly uncle who should shut up Ok while I sorta-kinda-but-not-totally agree with you the idea with absolute free speech demands a combination of things to work I've always thought.

            First off repercussions and an acceptance of them. Currently there seems to exist this idea in everything-is-free-speech-circles that its wrong to dislike someone for their opinion openly stated. Stopping someone from saying something is wrong, but often the claim is that going "Well Jeff, you're a moron" as response is somehow wrong too. I don't want to hang out with Jeff if Jeff is, for example, a racist. And my response, in discussion or in practice needs to be as accepted as Jeff's initial right to say this nonsense.

            Second - a set of standards in information. I feel that this doesn't exists right now.
            As a random, probably cherry picked example: I hang around this ancient site that has been running since 00's dedicated to extreme free speech and it really goes in waves what is talked about and the level of conversation. So right now the number of racist, antisemitic and fascists are high - which has happened before but now the quality of information is dismal. Someone posted a printed out page with the BLM logo on it with a lot of demands and core points (obviously along the lines of "murder all white women"). It was an awkwardly obvious fake.
            Now fascist douches are not known for their high IQ, but even then the number of "Well I KNEW it!" was scary. And after they finally accepted that the whole thread was based on a lie they slid in to "Well sure it was wrong NOW but this is typical of what they really want!". The norm and convenience of anecdotal evidence is just absurd. So the best counter argument to most things now is "Well I actually know you're cousins-buddies-roommates-sister and she said you misunderstood her totally and also she said you're kinda smelly"

            Assuming good intent and honesty - which is the biggest issue. Take this place where MOST are following these tenets strictly even here it becomes obvious in divisive topics that people can't always do that. There are attempts of attacking the messenger, often a forgetfulness of the humanity in the other, or that the other person is not privy to all the information. Often arguments are read not to look for the actual intent but how to bend the communicated intent to mean something more easily struck down. Or just random derailing, demanding irrelevant information as a part to steer away from main points.
            But for total free speech to work, we need to be able to avoid those issues. Part of them come from being unable to see the person you debate with. Its just text on a screen.

            The death of social media as we know it. That is another thing. I despise the people I agree with on Twitter for being sealioning, abrasive, abusive, moralistic, moral-majority morons. On Twitter. Everywhere else they can keep it going but something about that place demands that users pile on, and demand more and more from the victim until that person can't respond any more - and then cheer each other on because that is some kind of proof.
            I mean take people arguing against TERF's. I am team screw-TERF's through and through - except on twitter. I don't comment on threads, I avoid those topics totally.
            Also there is no end. No way to stop. Say that JK Rowling for example has a change of heart from her, in my opinion, shitty view of humanity - now ANY good pr person would say "ok so never apologize and make certain that you never mention the topic of gender again". Because she can't. She can't say she's sorry. She can't paddle back. There is no out. Ever. Twitter is designed for a constant shaming. At the drop of a hat an old screenshot will circulate and back to the village square we go again. Nothing changes and the joy of being outraged in a group at a person is the only relevant detail.

            The idea of moral purity needs to die too. All our heroes are people who had the good fortune of dying before they put their foot in their mouths. Or hands where they don't belong. (Whats the saying "A hero is just a villain who died too soon"?) The ideal is that people need to be perfect at all times to be supported, and that lowering the moral standard of one, is the support of another - a counterargument to that is to bring up what the other side did as a sort of tit-for-tat.
            The demand of purity makes it impossible to say that, for example uMkhonto we Sizwe did some pretty horrid things to people often for even worse reasons. Because that is interpreted as an attack on ANC or the South African liberation fight. It doesn't matter that they did, stating it is in modern discourse seen as praising Apartheid.
            We need to be able to get away from that concept - from the seesaw logic of a constant diametrically opposed set of groups who can be measured by accusations of impurity.

            Essentially I agree with you, yet don't.

            3 votes
        2. pallas
          Link Parent
          I think that's a difficult question, because it would seem to me that the problem is not necessarily her, or a matter of suppressing her preaching, but one of the media system as it exists now,...

          If so, what do you think is an appropriate response in order to suppress her preaching intolerance?

          I think that's a difficult question, because it would seem to me that the problem is not necessarily her, or a matter of suppressing her preaching, but one of the media system as it exists now, which gives an incentive to platforms and media sources to amplify extremist voices and create controversy and fury, regardless of what that controversy is. Is the problem here a need to suppress her voice, or a need to prevent it from being amplified? Should we respond to her directly, and seek to suppress every hateful voice at its source? Or should we fault the reporters who took what would have been a marginal essay and amplified its readership enormously with two-sided reports on it, or, worse, as in the case of the Sun, turning it into absurd and itself harmful drama? Or, perhaps, should we fault a social media system of link-sharing that offers a way for hateful voices to be amplified enormously and uncritically?

          I think an argument could be made here that the major problem lies with page-view-supported media sources and social media link-sharing.

          3 votes
  2. [8]
    DanBC
    Link
    Mermaids is a UK charity that provides support to trans and gender-diverse children and families. They've written a letter in response to the JK Rowling stuff. It's pretty good. For all my trans...

    Mermaids is a UK charity that provides support to trans and gender-diverse children and families. They've written a letter in response to the JK Rowling stuff. It's pretty good.

    For all my trans friends going through this: sorry. I stand with you and I hope for better days.

    8 votes
    1. [7]
      DanBC
      Link Parent
      Well, this isn't the discussion I thought it would be. I guess Tildes has changed a bit.

      Well, this isn't the discussion I thought it would be. I guess Tildes has changed a bit.

      1 vote
      1. [6]
        Qis
        Link Parent
        I've been here since pretty early on and I don't think this is an especially acrimonious thread, do you? To be clear, I thought the essay is well composed and I'm glad mermaids made a statement;...

        I've been here since pretty early on and I don't think this is an especially acrimonious thread, do you? To be clear, I thought the essay is well composed and I'm glad mermaids made a statement; it's just constructive and patient in ways that tire and frustrate me. I think it's ridiculous and strange that this is the hill so much feminism is now beached upon...

        6 votes
        1. pallas
          Link Parent
          Is it, or is it simply that the way voices are amplified online pushes discussion in that direction?

          I think it's ridiculous and strange that this is the hill so much feminism is now beached upon...

          Is it, or is it simply that the way voices are amplified online pushes discussion in that direction?

          5 votes
        2. [2]
          leigh
          Link Parent
          For what it's worth, I think that might be at least partly a UK-specific phenomenon. Most people I know who see themselves as "feminist" very much include trans women in their feminism. Most of...

          I think it's ridiculous and strange that this is the hill so much feminism is now beached upon...

          For what it's worth, I think that might be at least partly a UK-specific phenomenon. Most people I know who see themselves as "feminist" very much include trans women in their feminism. Most of the anti-trans rhetoric I see in Australia, as well as online from places like the US, seems to come more from the right, particularly the religious right, rather than TERFs specifically.

          4 votes
          1. cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Sadly, it's not just UK-specific or strictly coming from the right wing in Aus/US anymore, and hasn't been for some time now. See: /r/gendercritical and the #gendercritical (and now...

            Sadly, it's not just UK-specific or strictly coming from the right wing in Aus/US anymore, and hasn't been for some time now. See: /r/gendercritical and the #gendercritical (and now #IStandWithJKR) twittersphere, which seems to feature people from all over, and every political persuasion. The unfortunately reality is that this hateful TERF ideology seems to be growing Internationally and across the political spectrum, and JK seems hellbent on helping it gain even more adherents.

        3. [2]
          DanBC
          Link Parent
          I agree with you. I'm talking about the people saying Rowling isn't spewing hate. To me she's clearly, unambiguously, directing hate towards the trans community.

          I agree with you. I'm talking about the people saying Rowling isn't spewing hate. To me she's clearly, unambiguously, directing hate towards the trans community.

          4 votes
          1. Death
            Link Parent
            Rowling is putting in the effort to not say the quiet part out loud and so people who aren't predisposed to finding her statement hateful are probably doing their best to give her the benefit of...

            Rowling is putting in the effort to not say the quiet part out loud and so people who aren't predisposed to finding her statement hateful are probably doing their best to give her the benefit of the doubt.

            It's kind of insidious really, how much Rowling just isn't saying but leaving up for interpretation.

            2 votes
  3. kfwyre
    Link
    This is compellingly written and deeply important. Thank you for posting it here. As a teacher, I've had a number of trans students, so the issues facing trans youth are particularly close to my...

    This is compellingly written and deeply important. Thank you for posting it here.

    As a teacher, I've had a number of trans students, so the issues facing trans youth are particularly close to my heart. Rowling's line about being an ex-teacher in her essay stuck out to me in a bad way. It felt so hollow.

    If she could see, like I have seen, the social and familial difficulties so many trans youth have; if she could see, like I have seen, how transformative it is for them to be able to live openly and with authenticity; if she could see, like I have seen, the strength, courage, and resolve it takes for them to be able to navigate the already very difficult landscapes of adolescence and young adulthood, then she never would have written what she did in the first place.

    If she could see those things, then her concern wouldn't be the effects trans people are having on "education and safeguarding". Her concerns would instead be on the effects a lack of education and safeguarding are having on trans people. If adolescence is a mountain that we all have to climb, too many trans youth have to do it alone, with the wind in their face, and without knowing if peace and safety await them at the peak.

    That is unacceptable. We can do better than this. We have to do better than this.

    8 votes