Rowling vs Walsh: Whence Trans Militarism? Ex Nihilo or from Feminism? What Does This Tell Us About Her Work?
Rowling has this week disavowed any sort of alliance with critics of transgender activism who do not also believe feminism is necessary, good, or even in alignment with established facts about the differences between the sexes. The Presence went so far as to tweet that conservative journalist Matt Walsh, who has been fighting transgender over reach since at least 2017, is “no more on my side than the ‘shut up or we’ll bomb you’ charmers who cloak their misogyny in a pretty pink and blue flag.”
Walsh responded with characteristic humor:
I remain open to working with anyone who wants to stand against the trans militants and their war on women, children, and reality. Rowling and many other feminists have declined. So be it. Though it's a sad day when two best selling children's authors can't work together. https://t.co/FtOV8E5mMr
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) July 12, 2022
He went on to say, though, that Rowling’s blind spot, one he suggests “might be worth thinking about,” is her inability to see how the defining premise of feminism, the supposed absence of differences between the sexes, leads inevitably to transgenderism. Inez Stepman explains this connection in several tweets and via a talk she gave at the Claremont Institute:
The central tenet of all waves of feminism has been that the differences btw the sexes are not biological but socially constructed. That your sex *should not matter* wrt any important decisions in your life or how society interacts with you. But this is & always has been a lie.
— Inez Stepman (@InezFeltscher) July 12, 2022
The differences in our brains, and corresponding psychology, have just as much scientific backing as the differences in upper body strength. Only difference is one threatens the premises of feminism, & the other doesn’t. But they both come with societal and personal implications.
— Inez Stepman (@InezFeltscher) July 12, 2022
Rowling has blind-spots as do we all. Her relatively unique tragedy is the degree to which her status and choice of friends now serve only to foster her closely-held misconceptions and protect her from the ideas of those with whom she disagrees. The borderline hysteria of her reaction to Walsh — “You’re no better than people threatening to kill me!” — speaks to the visceral threat his cogent common sense vis a vis the origins of transgenderism represents to her core beliefs.
What does all this have to do with Rowling as a writer? Plenty.
The Cormoran Strike books are in large part an allegorical journey of two wounded people, an archetypal man ‘Fisher King’ and a woman ‘Handless Maiden,’ to come to terms with relationships with the other. This is Shakespearean psychomachia in the end about soul and spirit, but it turns in its visible representation on postmodern agonies and confusion about how the two sexes relate.
Robin has a vocation as a detective for which she has sacrificed a marriage, her financial security, and her physical safety. She has put this above the biological stirrings she has as a thirty year old woman looking at the sand run out of her reproductive hourglass and even above her feelings for Strike. All of which is painful to her because these feelings and stirrings are very real.
Strike, too, has wanted nothing more than to be a great detective — if to be free of responsibilities of protecting and providing for a woman, be it mother, sister, or wife, runs a close second. As with Robin, though, per Aunt Joan and misogynist Dave Polworth, he’s realizing that he has needs and longings beyond his vocation that only a relationship with a woman can bring him.
If Rowling is writing this drama to advance a militant feminism, I think the nuance and depths with which she is writing is undermining that cause. There is a great disconnect in the story as written thus far and the public persona she has put on to disavow the critics of feminism, men like Walsh and women like Stepman, who argue along lines very close to those of the Strike mysteries: sex matters, men and women are different, all have vocations, et cetera.
We will have to wait decades, if the Lord tarries, until the psycho-biographical volumes exploring the relation of Rowling’s personal history, beliefs, and her written work are published. Right now, though, I think serious Rowling readers are obliged to note the conflicts between her strident and uncompromising tweeting posture and the subtlety of her novels’ covert arguments with respect to sex.