Authors spit dummy and resign from Rowling’s literary agents

 

Goodbye-ee!  Goodbye-ee!
Wipe the tear, baby dear, from your eye-ee.
Though it’s hard to part I know
We’re quite happy to see you go…

As we learned from the Guardian yesterday, a small group of authors have thrown their toys out of the pram and flounced off the Blair Partnership’s list of clients because they couldn’t bully the literary agency into kowtowing to their inflated sense of entitlement by making some pointless, cringeworthy gestures.

Obviously, the Guardian doesn’t put it quite like that, going instead for more subtle, low-key humour and saying the four had “resigned after accusing the company of declining to issue a public statement of support for transgender rights”.

Wow! They actually accused them of that? How very, um, serious.

I mean, really? They resigned not because of anything the agency did but because of something they wouldn’t do, something there was no need to do. Further down the Guardian piece we learn that not only did the authors want a public statement but they wanted the company to “conduct staff training with the group All About Trans”, a group that promotes itself as “Positively changing how the media understands and portrays transgender people”.

But why? Had the Blair Partnership said or done anything, either publicly or internally, that could be construed as anti-trans? It seems not.

From the statement issued by the Blair Partnership:

We are disappointed by the decision that four clients have taken to part ways with the agency. To reiterate, we believe in freedom of speech for all; these clients have decided to leave because we did not meet their demands to be re-educated to their point of view.

On Twitter one of the authors, Fox Fisher, expressed dismay at the company’s choice of wording saying it made the authors sound unreasonable.

That’s because they were. When you make a request – however politely – under threat of resignation, it amounts to a demand and there was absolutely nothing reasonable about it.

It is a sign of these disquieting times that a bunch of upstarts would expect these actions from a company that had done nothing wrong and that they can’t see how obnoxious their behaviour is, though many of the responses they got on Twitter should leave them in no doubt.

I know nothing about the literature business but the Blair Partnership appears to be an extremely successful company that, even after the four of them left, still has 85 clients, some of whom are so famous that even I have heard of them. They include Jane Asher, Pete Townshend, Frank Lampard, Tom Watson and Maajid Nawaz.

Oh, and someone called JK Rowling.

According to a statement signed by three of the four (the fourth, sensibly, has chosen to remain anonymous, though her identity is widely known):

After J. K. Rowling’s – who is also signed to the agency – public comments on transgender issues, we reached out to the agency with an invitation to reaffirm their stance to transgender rights and equality. After our talks with them, we felt that they were unable to commit to any action that we thought was appropriate and meaningful. Freedom of speech can only be upheld if the structural inequalities that hinder equal opportunities for underrepresented groups are challenged and changed.

What they don’t say publicly is what exactly they object to about JK Rowling’s public comments. Let’s have a quick reminder of what she said. The tweet that started the latest outbreak of mass hysteria rightly mocked the phrase ‘people who menstruate’. This was followed soon after with these:

 

What exactly do they think is wrong with these comments? We are not told.

The only clue as to why they might object to anything JK said appears in the fifth paragraph of their statement:

Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid. 

So is it that JK isn’t afraid to speak the truth?

Another sign of the times is that people think they can just repeat nonsense like the above quote without any attempt to explain or support it and that it will be accepted as fact when it quite plainly isn’t…though their next sentence does suggest they are aware that the tide is turning. Presumably it’s the leaked report that the government has not only scrapped the proposal to amend legislation in favour of self-identification of gender and but are also planning new safeguards to protect female-only spaces, that inspires this pathetic whimper.

This is a particularly difficult time when it must sometimes feel like the world is closing in on you. 

Jesus wept. Here’s a trans person with a different view.

Trans people don’t lack rights Debbie Hayton 15.06.20

Naturally, all the trans people I respect support JK Rowling. Two trans voices of reason on youtube have vlogged the issue: a week ago, Rose of Dawn and more recently, Blaire White.

I feel a bit sorry for Blaire, who seemed to think that it’s trans allies rather than trans people themselves who are behaving like total arseholes over Rowling. Of the four authors, both Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir aka Owl Fisher and partner Fox Fisher are both transgender. Owl Fisher wrote an atrocious piece for the Metro last year, which I demolished here.

Fox Fisher took part in the documentary My Transsexual Summer, whose impact on me I mention in My Peak Trans story. Another transsexual, Sarah Savage, met Fisher while also appearing in the documentary and the two of them have co-authored a book for very young children which, being open-minded, I bought and which I will demolish now.

Are you a boy or a girl? By Sarah Savage and Fox Fisher

The book is targeted at age 3+. Each page contains a colourful illustration by Fisher and a line of text. On the first page:

We’ve moved to a new town because my Dad has a job as a bus driver.

On the second page, we learn that they have a beautiful new house – it’s big, it’s pink and it’s detached with no sign of nearby neighbours. Just how much do bus drivers earn in what appears to be the back of beyond? And on the third page, we learn that it was Dad who built Tiny the special bed that looks like a castle.

It would have been nice to challenge traditional gender stereotypes from the beginning. Couldn’t Mum have the job as the bus driver or be a rocket scientist or something? Or at least have the DIY skills?  In fact, Mum only merits one mention in the book. Shown pushing a pram accompanied by the line:

Mum lets us dress up whenever we want.

So Mum is a pushover raising another generation of over-indulged snowflakes.

Soon we meet little sister, the very girly-looking Fiona. Doesn’t she look sweet in her nurse dress– standing next to sibling Tiny in the white coat and stethoscope? (By the way, I’ve recoloured the red cross emblem on her costume, as I don’t care to be in breach of the Geneva Conventions.)

“Tiny,” asks Fiona, “are you a boy or are you a girl today?”

Answer came there none.

Enough already! Are Savage and Fisher seriously promoting the idea that people can switch sex on a day-to-day basis? No, of course not. That would be idiotic and unsupportable at every level. What they are doing is far more sinister. That is the promotion of the idea that the words ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ do not, in fact, represent male and female children, but are mere performances of rigid gender stereotypes, which children of either sex can play. Though why they would want to, instead of just being themselves and expressing themselves however they like without the need for labels, isn’t made clear. I mean, I assumed when I bought it that that was the very purpose of the book.

On the eighth page, we see that Tiny has decided to dress up as a butterfly and, as everyone knows, all butterflies wear skirts. Fiona dresses up as a cowboy which, as someone who proudly wore a cowgirl’s outfit nearly 60 years ago, seems regressive to me. But gender ideology apparently holds that if you do something active and outdoorsy, you are a boy. And, of course, any child can be one of those.

In spite of apparently being the main breadwinner of the family, the only family meal we hear about is cooked by Dad with one hand, while the other holds what appears to be a recipe book to his nose. It may only be spaghetti but it’s evidently not something he’s yet learned to do by heart. I’m guessing he’s just stepping in for the shoot so we don’t have to see Mum do yet another housewifey thing. But what’s with the chef’s hat, Dad? Another treasure from the dressing up box?

At last, Tiny starts his new school and we move on – temporarily – from the preoccupation with clothes to names and activities.

A boy shouts, “Tiny, what a silly name, I can’t tell if it’s a girl or a boy.”

It turns out that the boy is even more improbably named. Anyone called ‘Buster’ isn’t perhaps best-placed to mock anyone else’s name but at least we can be sure which sex he is. Today, anyway.

Buster turns out to be a less of a boy than a clichéd obnoxious little twerp – the standard device used by writers of children’s fiction whose primary purpose is to get some supposedly worthy message across. I was reminded of a review I wrote years ago about an appalling piece of anti-vaccine propaganda disguised as a kid’s book.

In this case, the message that shines through is that dressing up is fun, though most kids probably don’t need to be told that any more than they need to be told that women can drive fire engines and play football. This isn’t the 1960s.

The very worst thing about the book is that it promotes the contemptible Mermaids charity on the last page.

According to the authors, the book is intended to “start a conversation about gender”. In a promotional video they made they say,

The problem with children’s books at the moment is that they portray gender to be this fixed binary idea or gender isn’t even discussed at all.

Well, no. It shouldn’t be discussed at all unless it is to be challenged as a collection of regressive ideas that hurt people and one that we should do away with altogether in favour of letting children dress as they please and pursue the activities and occupations they want to without leading them to believe they can be what they are not i.e. the other sex.

I’m afraid this is a book that reinforces rather than challenges stereotypes and that is why I won’t be giving it to my grandchild.

Published 23.06.20

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