Now JK Rowling takes on the critics

Now JK Rowling takes on the critics
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Away from the scenes in eastern Europe, a very different terf war was playing out on Twitter yesterday between JK Rowling and former New Statesman journalist Laurie Penny. The latter is a consistent and very public critic of Rowling's views on sex and gender, having previously suggested the Harry Potter author is a transphobe for whom the label 'terf' – 'trans exclusionary radical feminist' – seems applicable.

Penny, one of Tatler's top 100 'people who matter' in 2012, has been complaining bitterly that her latest literary offering has been panned by the critics. It was in this spirit that longtime provocateur Julie Bindel chose to poke fun at Penny's activities, tweeting:

I am on a train, and have just diagnosed myself with Complex PTSD because a fella has just opened a packet of Cheesy Wotsits. I should be cured by the time I reach Darlington (unless some homophobe reviews this tweet & says it's crap in which case I will be on a Section by York

Rowling's response – 'thoughts and prayers Julie' – prompted a furious rejoinder from public school girl Penny.  Declaring that 'I'm the person whose mental health history is being mocked in this tweet' she said 'I hope you don't think it's ok to shame people like this' adding 'I know [you] wrote about your own experience of violence and abuse, and nobody should ever shame or attack you for that.' To this, Rowling hit back: 

Laurie, you’ve been flinging terms like ‘fascist’ and ‘transphobe’ against women who disagree with you for a very long time. I don’t recall you showing the slightest empathy for other women’s trauma while you dismissed their, in my view, reasonable and rational concerns.

Doubling down, Rowling added that while she was self aware enough that 'however upsetting the death and rape threats your fellow activists throw at me are, there are literally billions of people suffering more than I am.' She continued: 'You claim to be suffering PTSD because of *bad book reviews*' before closing with the suggestion that:

Bad reviews are part and parcel of being a writer. If they cause you equivalent trauma to being bombed out of your house or witnessing the murder of loved ones, maybe find a job where dishing it out, but not being able to take it, is a key requirement.

Penny could only retort that she was 'not claiming to be suffering from PTSD because of bad book reviews' before condemning 'threats of violence towards you'. Twenty points to Gryffindor.

Mr Steerpike has checked his privilege, and he’s a radical feminist. Middle class, self-loathing and instinctively liberal, how could he not be? He might not be as educated as Penny: after all, he was only a day boy. 

But given the rather unedifying way in which she has handled recent online feedback, perhaps some remedial lessons in humility are in order?

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

Topics in this articlePoliticsjk rowlinglaurie penny