On Sunday morning, the Sunday Times, a British newspaper, ran an interview with Judy Blume with the declarative headline, “Judy Blume: ‘I’m behind JK Rowling 100 per cent.’” Are you there, God? It’s me, a grown woman distraught at the possibility of another beloved children’s book author setting up camp on TERF turf.
But mere hours after the Times published the piece by Hadley Freeman (we’ll get to her in a moment), Blume tweeted a statement that countered the interview’s implication that she sympathizes with Rowling’s anti-trans agenda:
I wholly support the trans community. My point, which was taken out of context, is that I can empathize with a writer — or person — who has been harassed online. I stand with the trans community and vehemently disagree with anyone who does not fully support equality and acceptance for LGBTQIA+ people. Anything to the contrary is total bullshit.
Blume is the only one who can really know what’s in her heart, so I take her 100% at her word. However, it is worth looking through the Times piece to determine how it was crafted in such a way that, if you weren’t reading it to sniff out anti-trans bias, you’d walk away thinking that Blume did indeed back the maligned Harry Potter author’s views.
After citing her love for Rowling’s fictional characters, the piece continued:
“And I love her,” Blume immediately interjects. “I am behind her 100 per cent as I watch from afar.” Blume is referring to the abuse Rowling has received for speaking up in defence of women’s sex-based rights, and given that Blume has faced repeated attacks since the 1980s, for her books’ descriptions of adolescent sexuality and puberty, she knows what it’s like to be pilloried as an author.
Has she reached out to Rowling? “No, no. I met her very early on in her Harry Potter career, and she said to me, ‘Oh, my sister and I used to read all your books,’ and she talked about Deenie. I think once or twice we sent each other little notes. But I haven’t been in touch with her during this tough time. Probably I should.”
So: Not only has Blume not been in contact with Rowling (nor does she know her all that well), Freeman is the one to say that Blume’s “love” is referring to Rowling’s anti-trans (or “sex-based rights”) beliefs. Freeman has written extensively defending “biological gender”; she is a TERF (a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”). If you were to believe, as I do, that writers cannot be entirely objective, then it’s easy to see Freeman’s agenda at play.
The rest of the interview discusses adaptations of Blume’s books and the right’s longtime criticism of her celebration of adolescents’ burgeoning sexuality. Currently, her home state of Florida is considering a bill that would ban young girls from discussing their periods in school. “They say they want to protect kids, but it’s more like they want them to not think or ask questions,” Blume tells Freeman.
Freeman then makes a huge leap in logic to equate state-backed overreach to people getting angry at TERFs on Twitter. She continues:
It’s strange how the attacks on you have come from the right, whereas the ones on Rowling have come from the left, I say. “You would probably know better than me, and I’m not up on every word that’s been said. But it can also be said that [Rowling’s] a victim of Twitter, because people believe what they read on Twitter, whatever you actually said,” she says.
Freeman makes no effort to contextualize the outrage aimed at Rowling, despite Blume admitting that she doesn’t know what it is. By equating actual proposed authoritarian legislation to angry people online, Freeman fuels a popular anti-trans straw-man argument: that it is actually the left that is harming kids by pushing a “transgender agenda” on them.
Blume spoke about this misconception in a Variety interview earlier this month: “No child is going to become transgender or gay or lesbian because they read a book. It’s not going to happen. They may say, ‘Oh, this is just like me. This is what I’m feeling and thinking about.’”
Luckily, Blume caught on to Freeman’s spin quickly, and did her best to nip it in the bud. On Monday, Freeman responded to Blume’s statement, and attempted to defend her angle, calling it “absurd” when accused with trying to paint the beloved author as anti-trans. However, Freeman’s defense consisted only of tweeting passages from the article itself—many of the same ones I’ve included here to illustrate her TERF-y “gotcha!” tactics.
It seems exhausting trying to covertly loop people into your bigoted reasoning, like Freeman does, and then having to defend it. I’d recommend the easier, kinder, and all around better approach: not devoting your career to a hateful ideology.