Feminist icon Judith Butler dissects why JK Rowling continues to speak out on trans lives

Vic Parsons
·2-min read

Feminist writer Judith Butler has given her theory on why JK Rowling has deemed it necessary to speak out on trans lives.

In an interview with Guardian journalist Owen Jones, Butler spends an hour talking about trans rights, feminism and intersectionality – and, after JK Rowling’s explosive and controversial “TERF Wars” magnum opus in June, it was inevitable the Harry Potter author would crop up.

In the video, published Friday (1 January), Jones asks Butler a question that has reverberated throughout the UK’s queer community.

“JK Rowling has been treated as a martyr by much of the British media after using her very large platform to make comments on trans people and trans rights,” he says. “What’s your take on that?”

Butler replies: “It’s terrible that she chose to make public these views, and that she didn’t have a chance to work them out in a less public venue.

“I understand she has a traumatic history, many of us do, but a traumatic history – it’s terrible, to be subjected to sexual violation, for anyone, absolutely terrible – but that of itself does not mean that all men are rapists, or that the penis wields this nefarious power on its own.”

Stating that Rowling has “not used her public position well”, Butler argues her words have “fostered hated and misunderstanding”, but suggests that this is a result of her own trauma.

“It is, in general, a responsibility not to pass on your trauma…. I don’t think that she should be reviled or treated with hatred, I don’t think she should be insulted or told to die or threatened with death or any of this, I think we need to take the conversation down several notches and find out what is the deep conflict here. What is it about? How can we reflect on that?”

In a September interview with the New Statesman, Judith Butler – a leading feminist and intellectual whose work on gender, sexuality and philosophy spans several decades – made it crystal clear that they are absolutely, 100 per cent not here for the kind of feminists that exclude trans women.

Despite the interviewer’s best efforts to paint trans-exclusionary feminists – sometimes called “gender critical” feminists – as mainstream and popular, Butler was very clear that this is a “fringe movement”.