Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:47

[OPINION]: J.K. Rowling: In Defence of women, free speech and commonsense - Joshua Nwachukwu


2 years ago, I attended a workshop on preventing Sexual and Gender based violence (SGBV) and Torture. The workshop which was sponsored by several NGO’s including the United Nations Democracy fund (UNDEF) had in attendance a select number of lawyers, medical doctors, Journalists and some CSOs’. 

Before the workshop began, we exchanged pleasantries and began to familiarise ourselves. While familiarizing, I got to know that the gentleman to my left was a Medical Doctor who schooled in the UK and was specializing in Public Health.

As the workshop began, the very first task was to differentiate between a man and woman. I felt the question was unnecessary and overly too simplistic as the differences weren’t in doubt. However, it turned out I was in for a shock.

As part of the differences, a lady stated that women have the capacity to get pregnant, give birth and to breastfeed, commonsensical, one would say. However, hardly had she finished that one of the participants quickly disagreed. The objector said men could get pregnant and give birth and although they cannot breastfeed they can bottle-feed.

On hearing this, I was shocked, I was more shocked when I turned and realised that the objector was the gentleman at my left.  This issue which I thought was a walkover, turned out to be very contentious and it caused a temporary disruption. When I finally got myself, I asked the medical doctor, “as of today, does a man have a womb and a fallopian tube, he said no. How then can he get pregnant and gave birth? He tried to make references to future scientific and technological possibilities; I replied that even though that might be a possibility, the process will not be biological and natural to man and since we don’t even have those possibilities now, it is erroneous to object to someone’s differentiations as those differentiations are valid. He grudgingly concurred and raised up the issue of hermaphrodites. I would not bore you with the rest of the conversation.

Whenever, I narrate this experience, people think, the workshop held either in America or Europe, or in South Africa, if at best it was in Africa.  When I tell them, it happened in Lagos, they are shocked, their countenance changes, they become more attentive and serious.  

I remembered this story, thanks to what has happened to J.K Rowling these past weeks. J.K Rowling is the author of Harry Potter, many of us grew up either reading or watching Harry Potter, quite a few did both and some others have re-read or re-watched it.

Recently, J.K Rowling in a series of tweet, sought to defend biological sex. The tweet reads, “If sex isn’t real, there is no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth”

In another tweet, she disagreed with an article that has a title, which was, “Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate,” by suggesting that the word “women” be used instead since indeed it’s only women that menstruate.  

As expected, she has received several backlashes and cancellations, her tweets have been termed; offensive, bigotry, hate speech, disappointing, ignorant and uninformed, you name it.

Even members of Harry Potter cast and Fantastic Beasts haven’t spared her, the likes of Emma Watson (who played hermione granger), Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter) Rupert Grint (who played Ron Weasley) and Eddie Redmayne, distanced themselves from her tweets and affirmed their support for the LGBTQUIA group. Two of the biggest “Harry Potter” fan websites, MuggleNet and The Leaky Cauldron condemned her and committed to distancing themselves from her by not featuring her pictures or quotes.

Also in protests, three authors of her agency, Blair Partnership, resigned in protests to her remarks, after the agency refused to affirm “their stance to transgender rights and equality”. Also, a school in West Sussex has dropped plans to name one of its houses after JK Rowling, because she "may in fact no longer be an appropriate role model" for pupils.

This kind of backlashes is not new, even our dear Chimamanda Adichie, who is poise and an expert in political correctness, got a taste of the ire in 2017 when she was accused of implying that trans-women aren’t “real women” when she said “When people talk about, ‘Are trans women women?’ my feeling is trans women are trans women.”

We must admit that we live in a very strange and trying time, despite our scientific advancement as further evidenced by the recent SpaceX exploration and extreme engineering, science seems undecided to answer who a man and woman is, a question that ought to be easy. When it pertains to issues of sexuality, clearly science is no longer pure and neutral; it has now become heavily ideological and political. Previously known and respected for conclusion, it is now known for its inconsistencies and inconclusive statement. Ironically, the same people who proclaimed science was superior to faith are now proclaiming that feelings and people’s desires are superior to science and reality. Concepts like male and female which have been known and settled for centuries are now being questioned, we now have funny concepts like sexuality, sexual orientation, 100 types of gender, gender identity, gender dysphoria, preferred pronouns, gender fluidity, gender spectrum, non-binary etc

Notwithstanding the times, rather than run off and kowtow, we can learn from J.K Rowling how to adapt and stand for our opinion.

Despite the backlash and being termed homophobic, transphobic, Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) J.K Rowling has not kowtowed to these ideological and anti-intellectual bullies, on the 10th of June, she published a pretty long easy doubling down on her tweets.

In the essay which is available on her website, she highlighted the difficulty in discussing this issue which is surrounded by toxicity. In her essay, she highlights that these accusations and name callings have been sufficient to intimidate both people and institutions to cower before the tactics of these new transactivists. She wouldn’t cower and she gave 5 five reasons why she would not remain quiet.

The first reason is the fear that new trans activism is pushing to erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender and this is going to affect her charitable work which focuses on women, particularly, female prisoners and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

Secondly, as the founder of a children’s charity, which interest in both education and safeguarding, she is concerned about the effect the trans-rights movement is having on both.

The 3rd reason is the impact on freedom of speech, the 4th, is “the huge explosion of people transitioning and also the increasing number of people detransitioning (returning to their original sex) because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably”. According to American physician and researcher Lisa Littman: ‘Parents online were describing a very unusual pattern of transgender-identification where multiple friends and even entire friend groups became transgender-identified at the same time”. “Littman mentioned Tumblr, Reddit, Instagram and YouTube as contributing factors to Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, where she believes that in the realm of transgender identification ‘youth have created particularly insular echo chambers”.  In other words, the social media and peer influences are factors that influence kids choose to identity as another person or thing.

This is important because in many Hollywood films, videos and even cartons, there is an attempt to mainstream the LGBTQUIA lifestyle, just last month, Cartoon Network which is meant for kids, celebrated Pride Month and encourage people to push for equality, also Nickelodeon announced that SpongeBob Squarepants will now identity as gay. This indoctrination is inappropriate and it should be a cause of concern for parents.

The firth reason is her concern about the consequences of trans activism.

In defence of motherhood, she said “I’ve read all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive. It’s also clear that one of the objectives of denying the importance of sex is to erode what some seem to see as the cruelly segregationist idea of women having their own biological realities. Also she declared as dehumanising and demeaning, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’.

The vitriol on J.K Rowling, which is not an isolated case, is an eye opener to what to expect when society goes the slippery slope of admitting the confusion surrounding gender and sexuality, like Rowling, while showing sympathy and fight against violence, lets refuse to bow down to a movement that is intolerant and is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode woman, commonsense and freedom of speech.


Nwachukwu, a lawyer, writes from Lagos, he can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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