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Controversy over transphobia in J.K Rowling's new book

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for a philanthropist to later become or be revealed as a bigoted asshole

this is precisely the critique of a system that eschews public assistance in favor of private charity; the decision is not taken by duly constituted democratic authority deliberating with due process, but is rather arrogated to a private decision, rooted apparently in 'bigotry' covered by a 'blindness' that allows no criticism. her alleged charitable contributions are accordingly not unimpeachable, even sequestrated fictitiously in isolation from the rightwing politics.

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3 minutes ago, sologdin said:

for a philanthropist to later become or be revealed as a bigoted asshole

this is precisely the critique of a system that eschews public assistance in favor of private charity; the decision is not taken by duly constituted democratic authority deliberating with due process, but is rather arrogated to a private decision, rooted apparently in 'bigotry' covered by a 'blindness' that allows no criticism. her alleged charitable contributions are accordingly not unimpeachable, even sequestrated fictitiously in isolation from the rightwing politics.

I think Rowling's views on transgender issues are horrible, but I think it should be pointed out that she seems to be coming at that from the "TERF" (trans-excluding radical feminist) perspective and so otherwise her politics are not "rightwing".  She seems to definitely be a supporter of the Labour Party in the UK, which of course would definitely make her leftist in terms of US politics.

I realize that is a separate issue from whether or not private charity by billionaires is a good thing or not. But the great majority of Rowling's politics aren't "rightist".

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_J._K._Rowling

 

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4 minutes ago, Ormond said:

I think it should be pointed out that she seems to be coming at that from the "TERF" (trans-excluding radical feminist) perspective and so otherwise her politics are not "rightwing"

One does not cancel out the other.

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1 minute ago, IlyaP said:

One does not cancel out the other.

TERFs are definitely a leftist (or at least leftist-originating) movement. Since it's largely an on and offline hate mob it's not always easy to sort into categories, but it's a brand of leftist shitbaggery, not right-wing shitbaggery. 

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15 minutes ago, IlyaP said:

One does not cancel out the other.

Who's trying to cancel out anything? One needs to accurately understand and characterize those one disagrees with.

There's a whole cultural thing going on here. Rowling's opinions on this did not develop in a vacuum. She happens to live in the UK, where anti-trans ideas for reasons unknown to me are way more prominent among vocal leftist feminists than they now are in the USA. (I don't know about Australia or New Zealand.) She has a community supporting her ideas in Britain that she wouldn't have in the USA, and one has to take that into account in deciding how to counter the problem. 

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But those groups in the UK have been receiving funding from far right US groups for years and have been getting more and more open in their association with right wing politics. It's definitely more complicated, originated is probably reasonable although I'd put more weight on their prior alignment with left style/aesthetic rather than substance. There's always been there linkages there that the US right are exploiting now.

TERFs are also hitting the point of pivoting to open slather homophobia generally and I'd expect them to picking up other far right bigotries too. Highlight I saw recently was one of them unironically saying "the only other people saying what we're saying are nazis". And she actually used the word Nazis, that's her honesty not my interpretation.

On the off chance the up thread conversation about Silence of the Lambs was in good faith - it's possibly for a work to have an unintentionally harmful influence due to the audience associating what was depicted with a real group of people. It the case of SotL from what I've seen in the last week that harmful association was not intended by the author and subsequent statements and work have attempted to compensate for that inarguably harmful association. In this case it's very clear from JK's online activism that the association and corresponding harm is very much intentional, she's using this novel to argue exactly the same bigoted point she does online. Pointing out that it's a man disguising himself as a woman is not a defense for her when her claim is that that is exactly what trans women are. We are not, but the two are inseparable in her construction.

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 I'd put more weight on their prior alignment with left style/aesthetic rather than substance.

 

I mean it's going to depend on how doctrinaire they are (and obviously a lot of TERF's aren't really ideological in that sense, in that they don't neccessarily care or understand what their supposed arguments are beoynd using them as cudgels, but that isn't unique to TERF's by any means) and I don't think TERF's are even sortable in that sense (which makes sense for howit originated) it's "Radical feminists who for whatever reason exclude transpeople", their reasons can differ and aren't at all consistent between TERF's, although in the internet environment they tend to flow together. 

 

 

 

 

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30 minutes ago, karaddin said:

But those groups in the UK have been receiving funding from far right US groups for years and have been getting more and more open in their association with right wing politics. It's definitely more complicated, originated is probably reasonable although I'd put more weight on their prior alignment with left style/aesthetic rather than substance. There's always been there linkages there that the US right are exploiting now.

TERFs are also hitting the point of pivoting to open slather homophobia generally and I'd expect them to picking up other far right bigotries too. Highlight I saw recently was one of them unironically saying "the only other people saying what we're saying are nazis". And she actually used the word Nazis, that's her honesty not my interpretation.

 

My question would be why do "far right US groups" have to go to the UK to give funds to this issue? I am sure in a country of over 300 million people that we have a few people with "TERF" opinions in the USA, but it just isn't as prominent here. What is it about feminists in the UK that made them easier to exploit this way than feminists in the USA? No matter who is funding them, it's still the case that there is a more visible community backing these ideas in Britain. 

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8 minutes ago, Ormond said:

My question would be why do "far right US groups" have to go to the UK to give funds to this issue? I am sure in a country of over 300 million people that we have a few people with "TERF" opinions in the USA, but it just isn't as prominent here. What is it about feminists in the UK that made them easier to exploit this way than feminists in the USA? No matter who is funding them, it's still the case that there is a more visible community backing these ideas in Britain. 

I don't really know a lot specifically about anti trans groups in the UK, or anywhere for that matter, but I think the left in the US has more of a tradition of being associated with identity politics than it does in the UK. I suppose the pro trans rights etc position fits more naturally into becoming left wing orthodoxy in the US than it does in the UK.

Edited by ljkeane

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30 minutes ago, Ormond said:

My question would be why do "far right US groups" have to go to the UK to give funds to this issue? I am sure in a country of over 300 million people that we have a few people with "TERF" opinions in the USA, but it just isn't as prominent here. What is it about feminists in the UK that made them easier to exploit this way than feminists in the USA? No matter who is funding them, it's still the case that there is a more visible community backing these ideas in Britain. 

I'd say the lack of intersectionality and also that the US feminist movement, for lack of a better word, was never quite as able to become entrenched in various positions. Like in the UK there are all these sorts of feminist institutions that kind of have to be at least given lip-service to even by conservatives, that never really happened in the US. This means that you have a lot older white women in various degrees of official positions of power. 

There's probably also something to how since in many countries feminism has been tightly wound with particular issues like childcare, parental leave, etc. that tends towards a more essentialist reading, and since in the US never really won that fight there's let of an entrenched feminist movement that sees these particular things as fundamental. 

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3 minutes ago, Galactus said:

I'd say the lack of intersectionality and also that the US feminist movement, for lack of a better word, was never quite as able to become entrenched in various positions. Like in the UK there are all these sorts of feminist institutions that kind of have to be at least given lip-service to even by conservatives, that never really happened in the US. This means that you have a lot older white women in various degrees of official positions of power. 

There's probably also something to how since in many countries feminism has been tightly wound with particular issues like childcare, parental leave, etc. that tends towards a more essentialist reading, and since in the US never really won that fight there's let of an entrenched feminist movement that sees these particular things as fundamental. 

Yeah I think the bolded has a lot to do with it. These groups are rooted in "respectable" academics and journalists from respected institutions - prestigious universities, major newspapers etc. In a lot of cases those decades/centuries of operation breed a certain kind of conservatism in culture (distinct from conservative politics - conservatism with respect to maintaining the power and prestige of the institution.

I'm less sold on the second part, while some of the most famous feminists from Australia are TERFS that hasn't caught on as a dominant thing like it has in the UK. I guess in part because gaining that fame can lead to increasing ties to the UK anyway - Germaine Greer is Australian but she's functionally British now in terms of where she lives and the culture she's immersed in. Sheila Jeffreys was at Melbourne Uni for decades, but she's still in those same British and certain American social circles and Melb Uni seems to be extracting itself from the legacy of her followers over time since she left.

The irony of that last part is that TERFS are undermining the gains of radical feminism in the areas of bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom with their attacks on trans people. Supporting employers rights to have gendered clothing requirements because that would let them deny trans people dressing how they want, even though it will open the door to regressing dress codes for women. Empowering bathroom "police" etc that will hurt far more cis women that aren't perfectly feminine than it will trans people because there are so few of us.

49 minutes ago, Ormond said:

My question would be why do "far right US groups" have to go to the UK to give funds to this issue? I am sure in a country of over 300 million people that we have a few people with "TERF" opinions in the USA, but it just isn't as prominent here. What is it about feminists in the UK that made them easier to exploit this way than feminists in the USA? No matter who is funding them, it's still the case that there is a more visible community backing these ideas in Britain. 

I think that's really a larger question than this issue. The US right has a lot of money and are trying to export their culture war everywhere they can, whether it's TERFs in the UK, homophobic governments in African nations, or the tiny religious right in Aus - they'll throw money and influence at anyone who will take it. Christian dominionists believe they have a duty to spread it. They certainly fund groups in the US as well, one of the larger groups to notice this opportunity was Hands across the Aisle who are definitely active in the US as well as exporting it.

A very prominent lesbian TERF from the US that I'm scared to name because she name searches and used to be in the habit of doxxing and threatening employers of trans women that mentioned her - she's a wealthy lawyer so was able to bully women that can't afford to defend themselves against that. She worked with HatA in doxxing a trans high school kid a few years ago, I'm pretty sure it was HatA in that case, before the cross Atlantic connection was really established. It was also before British radical feminism started really intensifying in it's TERFiness. I'm pretty sure that incident was what opened the US right's eyes to the opportunity and they followed up from there.

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This Vox piece delving into the links and history is too long for me to get through this late at night

https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/9/5/20840101/terfs-radical-feminists-gender-critical

But it does also put forward the same idea as Galactus and I think my reservation was rooted in thinking about it the wrong way. It's not that winning the fight on reproductive rights makes feminism transphobic, but that being embroiled in the fight for reproductive rights inoculates against it. So developing as the UK has is just a possibility of this scenario, not the only outcome. I think that makes much more sense than how I was thinking you meant it.

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37 minutes ago, karaddin said:

I think that's really a larger question than this issue. The US right has a lot of money and are trying to export their culture war everywhere they can, whether it's TERFs in the UK, homophobic governments in African nations, or the tiny religious right in Aus - they'll throw money and influence at anyone who will take it.

This.  I'm far from an expert on UK politics and am almost wholly ignorant of the inner-workings of the TERF movement, but I strongly disagree with @Galactus' notion that the US feminist movement has not acquired entrenched positions over the past half century.  From interest groups to professional associations to academia to civil organizations, there are plenty of entrenched feminist institutions in the US and most are leftist.  Hell, while an offensive name, when I was growing up my mother was very active in our local Junior League and they were one of the most influential organizations in the city - they pretty much single-handedly helped preserve the Susan B. Anthony House in the nineties - and decidedly leftist.  But I'd put a lot of money down on a healthy percentage of those women holding transphobic beliefs. 

While I haven't seen research on this specifically, I'm very confident there are plenty of American leftist feminists that are also transphobic with the same general horrid bullshit the TERF movement spouts.  Prior studies have demonstrated plenty of white leftists rank high on the racial resentment scale, and homophobia and transphobia cut across all ethnicities.

So, why are US groups funding the UK's TERF movement?  Because US groups have a lot of money!  Like karaddin said, why does the religious right fund Israel, or (largely symbolically) try to stop US-affiliated groups from providing birth control/abortion throughout an entire continent, or..?  Because they have the money and their dogma tells them to spread the good news and oppress all peoples with their beliefs worldwide.

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2 hours ago, Ormond said:

My question would be why do "far right US groups" have to go to the UK to give funds to this issue? I am sure in a country of over 300 million people that we have a few people with "TERF" opinions in the USA, but it just isn't as prominent here. What is it about feminists in the UK that made them easier to exploit this way than feminists in the USA? No matter who is funding them, it's still the case that there is a more visible community backing these ideas in Britain. 

It's evangelical xtians, a US born and bred movement, which is actively anti-woman, anti-sexual rights for anyone, and determined to declare that gay, lesbian, bi, trans are nothing but evil personal choices. They are very active all over the world funding politicians and influencers to carry their banner.  And it goes even beyond same sex, both sex, sex-sex They began doing this in Africa, and their eradication agenda includes erasing not just Islam, but all the traditional African religions and practices.  In many places now, people are afraid to be anything in public except xtian.  They burn children as witches, even.  They are very active in Haiti, and South America too.  They are absolute supporters of t---- and all his evil minions, cohorts and worshippers.

Evangelicals  been doing this for a very long time, but didn't really move into Europe or England until the last elections there -- and here.  Lots of stories about it, for a long time.

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/10/trump-evangelical-transgender.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/24/evangelical-christians-homophobia-africa

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Zorral said:

Evangelicals  been doing this for a very long time, but didn't really move into Europe or England until the last elections there -- and here.  Lots of stories about it, for a long time.

Yep - lots of stories. Have had some encounters with this particular brand of special here in Australia.

 

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On 9/18/2020 at 5:22 AM, Lightsnake said:

It's not "serious blindspots." Look, it sucks to face up to, but she's a bigot. She's a bigot who truly feels she isn't a bigot. She is 100 percent self righteous and committed to the idea she is the victim here, which is what makes her changing incredibly unlikely.

 

 

Not just a bigot who isn't a bigot, but even on occasion's when she's been right or trying to do right she's never responded well to the idea she even slightly possibly might have been wrong. She'll never admit that going 'oh Dumbledore was gay' after the series finished is some weaksauce bullshit representation. When idiots were throwing fits coz a black woman was cast as Hermione in the play, instead of going 'well she wasn't black in the books but who gives a fucking shit' she tried to make out like she'd deliberately left the possibility open and anyone reading Hermione as white was projecting. There's almost no chance based on past behaviour that she takes any criticism on board with this.

Also she might be personally liberal on everything other than this but if you look at Harry Potter with a critical eye rather than a 'oh this is whimsical and charming and cool' eye there's a lot of dodgy stuff in there, from classism to slavery-but-they-like-it to the goblins that fall headfirst into multiple anti-semitic tropes. Most of them were probably subconcsious or just completely accidental but she was never problem-free. 

Edited by polishgenius

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1 hour ago, polishgenius said:

Harry Potter with a critical eye rather than a 'oh this is whimsical and charming and cool' eye there's a lot of dodgy stuff in there, from classism to slavery-but-they-like-it to the goblins that fall headfirst into multiple anti-semitic tropes. Most of them were probably subconcsious or just completely accidental but she was never problem-free. 

There’s no real positive representation of anyone isn’t a wizard in Harry Potter.

The Dursleys are practically the only significant “muggles” in the series.

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In defence of the HP series, the fucked-up-edness of the society is lampshaded often, especially in Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix. It's not meant to be a utopia. I'm not sure if JKR ever realised fully quite how creepy the place was though. See the attitudes of wizards towards squibs - the children of magical parents born without magic. It's funny when Neville talks about it in Philosopher's Stone, but does suggest a world in which non-magical life is treated as having barely any value. 

All of her works set in the HP universe show - deliberately - a society of people that has deep deep problems with recurring embedded prejudice against more or less everything save a very small circle of purebloods. 

Edited by dog-days

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I think PG hit the nail well on the head. Yeah, wizard society is fucked up, but in a lot of ways, we're just supposed to accept 'muggles' are lesser beings. Like, Hermione erases her parents' memories of her, wizards screw with the minds of non magical beings...we're supposed to buy they see them as people worthy of respect on their own?

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For me, personally, after the slaves only happy in slavery, it was that she left out the presence of African Americans and the incredible cultural expression and influence they made in the US in the 1920's -- not a peep about that in the Beasts, which takes place in NYC in that period, and which would have allowed for so much innovative and entertaining treatment, if the author had true creativity and vision.  Honestly?  I was shocked at that absence, which was glaring in its absence.

But then, what she did with Native American 'magic' was atrocious.  She doesn't know the US and its history and cultural development at all, it seems, beyond a very broad, gate-keeping kind of history, though I am giving her credit for seeing at least the relationship between the growing fascist impulse in both the UK and US.

This was even prior to the gay and TERF issues that increasingly emerged to critical judgment.

OTOH, I read few of the Potter books and haven't watched most of the movies, though I did watch Beasts because I hoped that the film could bring in African American 'magic' and expression, even just a little bit.  I didn't see it in a theater though. (Also, the actor who played the protag is one whom I don't enjoy watching.)

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