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Hard work

April 26, 2021

Every week for the past several weeks, I’ve been posting a “Sunday dinner with” pic on Twitter. This week it was Sunday dinner with Robert Galbraith (aka J K Rowling).

This book is hard work on more than one level.

At 900+ pages, it’s hard work just to hold it up in bed. Anyone who’s ever been to my house knows there are no doors which require propping open, but if I did need a doorstop, I’d have one now. Feels like an upper body workout without the need for a gym.

It’s also hard work because of, well, you know, the baggage.

Last year I began seeing comments from people on Facebook trashing Rowling for being some sort of transphobic harridan.

In early November I had an email exchange with a friend in the UK who told me his daughter was giving him grief for buying a copy of Troubled Blood. I told him (have just looked up the message): “I haven’t followed all this brouhaha as closely as I might, but from what I have read, at no point did Rowling strike me as transphobic. I have a feeling her attitude is much the same as mine: Be who you want, love who you want, have sex with whomsoever you wish (other than children), but preferably don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”

A bit flippant, yes, but you get my point.

Shortly afterwards my friend Krys posted the following in a Facebook readers’ group to which we both belong: “Just finished Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the earlier books in this series but this one needed to have about 400 pages cut. Dragged and was pretty dull as mysteries go. I suspect, once she’s tasted success, Ms Rowling is an editor’s nightmare. I don’t understand, however, why it got the trans community in such a flap.”

Oh, my god! The comments section positively erupted.

Troubled Blood has been sitting in the pile of books beside my bed since Christmas. I’ve been putting off reading it largely because I thought, once I did, I’d have to somehow engage.

Since first seeing the transphobia allegations I’ve read many things (including this essay Rowling wrote) that either trash or support her.

As far as I can make out, one of her earliest sins was taking exception to a reference to “people who menstruate”, daring to suggest that these individuals are called “women”. Well, I’m sorry, but I’m with her on that. (Thank heavens I don’t have the number of followers she has or in ten seconds I’d be having a shitload of hate hurled in my direction.) That doesn’t mean, for example, that I don’t think my cousin who was born with male genitalia which she knew from a very young age was some kind of cruel error (subsequently corrected) isn’t as much a woman as I am, because I very much do.

Nor do I have any objection to any individual who might have male genitalia using the women’s toilets if this makes them most comfortable. (As long as they wash their hands and don’t pee on the seat.) Try as I might, I cannot get my head around Rowling’s objections to this. As my friend Jane wrote in that Facebook eruption: Trans women are women.

Now that I’m finally doing the upper body workout that reading Troubled Blood requires, I find myself asking a different question: Who can be a serial killer?

Although there certainly aren’t as many serial killers as mystery writers would have us believe, they do exist, which is why they are popular with said mystery writers.

Rowling is being virtually eviscerated because the serial killer character in Troubled Blood is… Actually, I’m not sure what he is yet, as I haven’t made it far enough into those 900+ pages to know. Is he a man who has dressed as a woman (what I believe we still call a transvestite or cross-dresser, although I could be wrong – these things seem to change by the day at the moment) in order to instill a false sense of security and lure women to their deaths? Or is he supposed to be someone born with male genitalia who does not identify with same? My suspicion so far is the former, but whatever the case, the fact that he is trans-something apparently makes Rowling an evil, transphobic bitch.

So, who can be a fictional serial killer? If the serial killer was a Black or Asian man, would that make Rowling a racist? If the serial killer was a woman, would that make her a misogynist? (Is female misogyny even a thing? Sadly, yes it is, as Psychology Today has pointed out.) If the serial killer was a gay man or woman, would that make Rowling a homophobe? Is it now the case that any mystery writer who decides to tackle a serial killer plot must make the villain an unabashedly macho white man who only kills straight white women?

I’m not saying this would be a bad thing. I’m just wondering.

Now, back to the heavy lifting.

From → Columns, Reading

  1. krysross permalink

    Well, it wouldn’t be such heavy lifting if an editor had been allowed to cut…
    Just sayin’

  2. janeshead permalink

    I suspect the book wouldn’t have attracted quite the ire it has had it been written by someone else, but since Rowling was already known for weird views on trans people (women especially – the men in dresses using women’s washrooms to terrorize “real” women that she witters on about) people were primed for it, so I don’t think it’s so much that she’s written a trans serial killer or whatever that makes her seen as a transphobe, it just adds to her existing body of transphobia.

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