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J. K. Rowling and the Demonisation of Women

by Louise Paine

By the time I sat down to write this, it looked like everything that could be said about the public demonetisation situation has been said; in length, briefly and succinctly, from every point of view.


The hypocrisy of those condemning the essay, the disbelief from those ‘new’ to the debate, the utter lack of respect from those whose immense wealth and subsequent careers are of a direct consequence of the work produced and the generosity in the sharing of the success with them, the discussion that the extent of this treatment stems from the fear that an environment created by the demands of a section people would be exposed for the emotionally blackmailing, toxic social control that it is, built on a bedrock of violence and bullying. How the difficult decision to reveal a deeply personal and traumatising experience has been debased by people with a troubling personal agenda. All of this is out there, if you wish to see it.


It has never been more apt for the term ‘viral’ to describe the way social and traditional media can spread an ideology, a pandemic of hate mongering and blind, hysterical, manufactured outrage.


So, what can I add to the current whirlwind?


Go back, read the first three paragraphs again.


It is a statement without context, a statement stripped of any meaning. It both means nothing and anything because it has had all detail removed; it has literally been rendered neutral by the very act of removing names and any references to who or what I am writing about.


To most reading this, it is obviously about the furore surrounding JK Rowling’s moving essay where she opened up about her experience of domestic violence and abuse; an essay she felt compelled to write, it can be argued, in order to justify her stance on defending women’s ability to define and maintain their existence. An essay written by the most successful writer of our generation to highlight the importance of language and words (something she appears to have some success with) to shape and discuss a worldwide, long standing problem that is only half acknowledged.


It has been interesting to watch the mental gymnastics involved by high profile critics. The initial backlash consisted of blanket condemnation of her essay due to a relatively minor, context setting paragraph, regarding trans activists' campaign to have all language for and about women erased, neutralised, and the danger it poses for women’s ability to talk about the very real and widespread issue of violence against them. This was couched in careful and supportive, and I believe, sincere acknowledgment of trans gendered individuals and the issues they face. Not that you would realise that if your only source was that of her detractors.


It was not until the Sun published it’s disgraceful front page, with it’s lazy attempt to pretend it was not promoting the abusive ex husband, that we witnessed a collective reverse ferret of epic proportions. Commentators were falling over themselves to backtrack and cover themselves when their wilful propaganda campaign was in danger of being exposed for what it is.


It has been often stated that JK Rowling is ‘too big’ to cancel; possibly, but she is certainly too wealthy and secure to suffer the same levels of consequences that the bullying and destruction of lives many of us have endured at the hands of these activists. I am not so convinced that her wealth and security are such good barriers against the emotional trauma the vile and disgusting comments made about her.


At the root of all this hysteria? (“My adult children are crying and suicidal because they loved your books and now you have said something about women”. Really?)


JK Rowling is a woman.


Seriously, that is it.


If you need further proof, how about this: her supportive words regarding trans individuals were tweeted to the Mermaids Twitter feed, liked and re tweeted. Her words were attributed to Robert Galbraith, the male pseudonym she publishes under.


Let a Woman Speak was born from the no platforming situation of an, admittedly, controversial woman whom we felt had something important to say and which we wanted to hear. We have continued to give a space to women who we may not always agree totally with, or who have limited or no spaces in which to have their voices heard.


The debacle surrounding JK Rowling demonstrates, on a high profile scale, that spaces like ours are needed and shines a much needed light on the continuing struggle that women have just to be heard. So, sit back, grab a beverage of your choice, and let a woman speak.

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