Here’s a new acronym for everyone to learn: TERF. This stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” which appears to be a feminist who doesn’t conform to transgender advocates’ views of what a feminist ought to be, specifically regarding the issue of transgender rights.
The term does seem to invite some problems. Hordes of Twitters user and authors on far left media sites went after Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling after she made a political misstep into TERF territory.
Rowling committed a thought crime by tweeting her support of Maya Forstater, a tax expert and now former visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development, “an international thinktank that campaigns against poverty and inequality.” She was fired from the think tank after tweeting that transgender individuals cannot actually change their biological sex.
“My belief … is that sex is a biological fact, and is immutable,” Forstater told The Guardian in the wake of the ruling. “There are two sexes, male and female. Men and boys are male. Women and girls are female. It is impossible to change sex. These were until very recently understood as basic facts of life by almost everyone.”
J.K. Rowling took issue with Forstater’s termination as an exercise in censorship.
The backlash against her was swift, and in some cases, vitriolic. Aside from the normal tweet storm this might engender, both the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal took aim at Rowling with derivations of “Trans women are women. Trans men are men.”
Meanwhile, LGBT-interest magazine The Advocate quickly condemned Rowling with the headline “Author J.K. Rowling Rushes to the Defense of Transphobe” and Esther Wang at the feminist publication Jezebel wrote: “While it’s tempting to call Rowling a TERF here, it might be the wrong term for Rowling, who is far from what anyone would describe as a radfem.”
Wang’s condemnation rings rather hollow given Rowling’s politics, and her personal heroes. In 2008, Rowling donated £1 million to the Labour Party. While she might not be a Jeremy Corbyn fan, she is a close friend to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah.
During the Brexit referendum campaign, Rowling also argued that it was "nonsensical to pretend that racists and bigots aren't flocking to the 'Leave' cause, or that they aren't, in some instances, directing it.” Similarly, she said “Voldemort was nowhere near as bad” as then-candidate Donald Trump.
Rowling counts among her political heroes avowed communist Jessica Mitford, and the late U.S. Senator from New York Robert F. Kennedy. She received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope award alongside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. As Trump's impeachment loomed in the House, Rowling made sure to save room for Pelosi’s speech at the expense of her own.
“I am going to try to express myself quite briefly, because no one wants to hear from Nancy Pelosi more than I do,” Rowling said in her acceptance speech according to People.
Rowling’s politics generally are in conformity with leftist positions, and she goes the extra mile in some instances. It is curious then how such a student of leftism, beloved worldwide for her literary works, can so quickly catch the ire of those who loved her for so long. One tweet, one misstep outside of the camp of leftist dogma, and she’s being thrown to the wolves.
It seems as though the feminist and LGBT movements – or at least those parts of them that staff Jezebel, The Advocate, and the Human Rights Campaign – are intent on cannibalizing even their highest profile advocates, for rather minor transgressions. Only pure blood ideologues are to be suffered to live.
Rowling then, seems to be falling prey to the feminist movement as described by Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind:
Feminism, on the other hand, was, to the extent it presented itself as liberation, much more a liberation from nature than from convention or society. Therefore it was grimmer, unerotic, more of an abstract project, and required not so much the abolition of law but the institution of law and political activism. Instinct did not suffice. The negative sentiment of imprisonment was there, but what was wanted, as Freud suggested, was unclear. The programmatic language shifted from ‘living naturally’ (with reference to very definite bodily functions) to vaguer terms such as ‘self-definition,’ ‘self-fulfillment,’ ‘establishing priorities,’ ‘fashioning a lifestyle,’ etc. The women’s movement is not founded on nature. Although feminism sees the position of women as a result of nurture and not nature, its crucial contention is that biology should not be destiny, and biology is surely natural.
Rowling’s crime is that she followed an instinct. The fact that science backs up her instinct does not matter to the movement that is attempting to cancel her. Nor is one woman standing up for another woman’s right to free speech of any consequence or merit to those directing the transgender movement.
In these groups, if you aren’t in line, you’re on your way out.
[Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons-Executive Office of the President, public domain]
Anders Koskinen is an Editorial Associate at Intellectual Takeout. He earned his BA from the University of Minnesota in December 2016 where he graduated with a double major in Journalism and Political Science.