Photo by Tolga Akmen

Why are TRAs body-shaming J.K. Rowling?

In the discourse about “TERFs”, vicious misogyny is never far from the surface

Artillery Row

Over the weekend a group of prominent feminist women, from a variety of walks of life, gathered together at an unknown location. Pictures of the gathering have surfaced on Twitter overnight. One of those women was J K Rowling. She sits amongst Julie, Suzanne, Kathleen and others. For these photos, she is just Joanne. Fellow warrior, sister and feminist “witch”, advocating for women’s rights according to their sex and the law.

These women are very well aware that simply gathering in this way is a political act which will cause trans activists to seek to punish them for their audacity, for daring to show openly their love for other women. Predictably the backlash from trans activists to these photos was swift and it was vicious. Deep misogyny dripped through the internet like poison.

In the photos posted JK Rowling, in a flowery tea dress with a low-cut neck, looks stunning — elegant and graceful. She wears her 56 years happily, with pride. The tweets focused on her body and her looks, however. One user @effingfaded wrote, “This is what hate does to your titties #JKRowling”.

The twisted message here is that political viewpoints expressed about the female experience of life, will in return destroy a woman’s body. The dark implication suggests that “wrongthink” about gender identity will make you less attractive to men. Your body will turn against you if you do not accept the dictates of trans-identified men about what a woman is or who the term “woman” should include. If like Rowling you think a woman is an adult human female then your body may wither, age and sag. It will betray you.

Women viewing these photos can see nothing at all wrong with J K Rowling’s breasts. We see the smile on her face first. We do not view women in the same way that men view women. We know what a female body feels like and moves like because we share the experience of living in one. A man does not, however he chooses to identify.

Trans activists don’t seem to like the reality of female bodies

These trans activists don’t seem to like the reality of female bodies in all their beautiful variety and are quick to pounce on a body that does not conform to a porn-dictated stereotype. Their tweets reveal a fear of the female body which is not surgically altered or surgically constructed from a male body. Any perceived imperfection is judged as personal failure. A woman must be held rigorously to account if her body ages, or suffers illness or the rigours of pregnancy. Even if it moves naturally during an encounter with friends it can be found repulsive. If it is found wanting in the lustful eyes of men then she should be ready to accept their judgement and subsequent ostracism from sanctioned groups of aesthetically pleasing women, which includes male people.

She must also be measured against men who are performing a version of “woman” more effectively than women. The user @pinkomalenko joined in to comment, “These are the cis white women that think trans women are jealous of their appearance and want to look like them” followed by a series of laughing emojis.

In this tweet women are seen to be in direct competition with men who identify as women to prove who is the more perfectly female. Inaccurately and ludicrously it is J K Rowling and the other women in the photos who are found wanting. The tweet conveniently ignores women of colour and the racism of that is glaring. Women viewing these photos did not see them like this. Women do not look at them in the same way as men do. We enjoyed it with our hearts. We smiled.

The difference between a trans-identified man looking at a woman’s body and a woman viewing the same, is that only the woman has the shared experience of living inside a female body. We know that our breasts move and that if we lean forward, they often go with us as Rowling’s did. If we turn too quickly, they may forget to follow us and linger, joining us a second later, clapping. Or that in bed, when we are lying on our backs, they may seek the mattress like spreading cake dough in the oven. More so as we age or give birth to children.

No porn-obsessed man will understand, however he identifies

We women know that time will lead them further south and we learn to embrace that, if we can, despite the misogynist society women are raised in, which teaches women to be ashamed or fearful of ageing. When women talk with each other of our bodies and the perils, pitfalls but mostly the joys of them, the laughter is often raucous and untamed. Periods and menopause, orgasms and body hair. This free and easy camaraderie around our shared female experience is something no porn-obsessed man will hear or understand, however he identifies, because women do this in spaces away from men. This secret world of women terrifies these men.

The relentlessly facile trans activist India Willoughby went further and tweeted about one of the photos featuring a well-known and well-loved lesbian woman named Liane: “Here’s JK Rowling meeting fellow members of the GC movement today. Not being funny, but how come I’d be banned because my presence would ‘traumatise’ women — but not the woman on the right?”

Lianne is head of security for Filia and posed for an iconic photograph outside the Woman’s Place UK conference in January 2020. She is an effortlessly cool woman who many of us would love to sit at a table with. India Willoughby obviously fails to see that a trans-identified man performing a female stereotype in lipstick and heels, will never lead women to place a male body above a butch lesbian woman’s, in some strange hierarchy of Willoughby’s imagining. The inherent lesbophobia of the comment is striking and shocking but we know that this hatred and envy of women lies at the heart of the trans activist movement.

I have been through a caesarean section, menopause and a radical hysterectomy. I love my female body because despite everything done to it and by it, it still carries me through the world. It is a miraculous body. It has survived so much. When my female oncologist viewed my scar post cancer operation I pointed proudly at it and said, “Look at this! How good is this?”

She replied, “Yes. That is fine work I have to admit. I have skills.” Then we laughed because we are both women. There is a shared experience and care. If I were to show that scar openly on Twitter, the shaming from trans identified men would be immediate, I suspect. The realities of life as a female are too ugly to comprehend. A body that has suffered is a body that has failed. It is broken.

When women show each other our bodies we do it with pride, love and humour. I am grateful to the woman who gave birth to me, the women who healed me after abuse, and the woman who saved me from death. Being alive in this body, imperfect though it may be, is a gift that women gave me. No trans-identified man on the internet will teach me to hate this body or that of any other woman.

Women are beautiful.

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