BBC nominates JK Rowling’s controversial essay on trans rights for award, defends nomination against backlash

BBC nominates JK Rowling’s controversial essay on trans rights for award, defends nomination against backlash

The BBC’s annual Russell Prize, named after British writer Bertrand Russell, has attracted public attention due to its nomination list which includes author J.K. Rowling.

The writer behind the Harry Potter series was in the running for her essay on sex and gender that triggered a public furor when it was first released in June. The essay made controversial statements about trans rights and the classification of trans women as women.

In the essay, Rowling opened up about her experience of domestic abuse and sexual assault. She said the rise of trans activism would erase the concept of sex that defines the lives of many women.

“I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman — and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones — then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside,” she wrote in the essay.

Rowling – who, it was recently learned, has been earning over £600, 000 a month in the past two years from her creation of the TV sleuth, Cormoran Strike – has yet to comment on her nomination for the Russell Award.

Predictably, several people lashed out at the BBC on social media for the nomination. David Levesley, editor at lifestyle magazine GQ, said the BBC had praised Rowling’s “entirely misinformed” and “factually incorrect” essay to justify her transphobia.

The BBC inaugurated the Russell Prize in 2017. The award is said to celebrate journalism and writing that honors the intellectual and moral virtues Russell’s prose exemplified. Journalists Ronan Farrow and Clive James have previously been recipients of the award, which has three criteria for a winner: language, erudition and moral force — “an instinctive and visceral revulsion at injustice,” according to BBC media editor Amol Rajan.

The UK public broadcaster defended Rowling’s nomination by saying that though Rowling offended many with her comments on transgender people, offense is the “price of free speech.” The broadcaster said it appreciated Rowling’s “bravery” for writing the blog despite an outpouring of harsh criticism for her views, but added that the nomination didn’t mean it endorsed her argument.

The winner of the Russell Prize is however Decca Aitkenhead with the essay, How a Jamaican Psychedelic Mushroom Retreat Helped Me Process My Grief.

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2 Comments

  1. Mandy
    December 25, 08:46 Reply

    Rowling – who, it was recently learned, has been earning over £600, 000 a month in the past two years from her creation of the TV sleuth, Cormoran Strike – has yet to comment on her nomination for the Russell Award.

    Lol. I see what you did there, Pinky. Letting us know how uncancellable JK Rowling is, huh? 😅😅

  2. Dunder
    December 25, 13:38 Reply

    This brought me joy. I really wish she had won as she has shown such loving courage through this trial but I am glad about the message the nomination sends to the mob perpetually stationed at the guillotine, looking to heal internal wounds with external carnage, ever unsatisfied, ever addicted to the destruction that always turns on those who stole it.

    As people who have suffered so much and know the sting of hate, we should be the least willing to wield the same against others. We are persecuted because we are different and so, disagree. We should never underestimate the value of difference in person and opinion. It may seem easier to become the oppressor but victory can only come through love.

    And I am not a fan o. Her books, I hear are great but I doubt that they can be as rich as many of the works of African writers I chose above hers while growing up.

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