This came so far out of nowhere that Twitter users legit wondered whether Bette Midler had been hacked. The Hollywood and Broadway star has long been on the cutting edge of the progressive wing of the entertainment industry, so her tweet yesterday warning “women of the world” that people wanted to strip them of “even our name” looked far out of character. “Don’t let them erase you!” Midler declared, ripping the use of trans-friendly language constructs such as “menstruators” and “birthing people.”
Has Midler gone TERF — trans-exclusionary radical feminist? Did J.K. Rowling convert The Divine Miss M?
WOMEN OF THE WORLD! We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even of our name! They don’t call us “women” anymore; they call us “birthing people” or “menstruators”, and even “people with vaginas”! Don’t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!
— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) July 4, 2022
One follower predicted, wrongly as it turned out, that Midler would take it down once the trans activists landed on her (via Twitchy):
Grabbed a screenshot bc she'll delete this before dinner. pic.twitter.com/D98J9gl8wc
— Cooper_Townes (@CooperTownes) July 4, 2022
Well, Bette actually comes out against radical trans activists. Interesting. She’s usually so far extreme left it’s insane. https://t.co/JXzoiwPvXy
— Alex 1984 vs 1776 🇺🇸 (@Sinnersaint39) July 4, 2022
Er … not so fast, folks. The tweet remains up, but it’s not entirely clear that Midler’s talking about radical trans activists. This tweet came in the middle of a multi-day meltdown over the Dobbs decision, in which the Supreme Court vacated Roe and sent the issue of abortion back to the states and the people. Midler switched to the shootings in Chicago and Philadelphia when they occurred in the afternoon, but still managed to work abortion into those arguments, too:
— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) July 4, 2022
In context, it looks like Midler is confused about the “they” who “don’t call us ‘women’ anymore”. It’s not the people who follow the science of human biology on reproduction, but rather the people who deny the science of human biology and genetic sexual identity. People who oppose abortion on the basis that it kills a human being are not likely to confuse women and men in the way that trans radical activists want by using the terms that Midler (rightly) criticizes in this tweet.
It’s the trans radical activists and their enablers in the media using these ridiculous terms — and demanding that everyone keep a catalog of each person’s preferred pronouns — that want to erase the concept of “woman.” They want to erase the concept of “man,” too, along with “male” and “female.” This is not science-based, and it’s not even based on social science. It’s based on a rejection of science and language to indulge whims and fantasy.
Midler seems confused about the origin of these terms. Anyone who has followed Midler’s Twitter output wouldn’t find that surprising in the least. However, it seems pretty clear that this is Midler’s ill-informed rant against the recent decision on abortion, not about the trans activists who are doing what Midler accuses pro-life activists of doing.
Coincidentally, Politico had just published a weird profile of J.K. Rowling the day before Midler’s tweet. Rowling, an actual “gender critical feminist” (or TERF, the term used by radical trans activists), remains very popular and earns tons of money from her creative works despite the best efforts of progressives to make her toxic. Sarah Wheaton seems bemused by Rowling’s continued success against the entertainment-industry vanguard:
Rowling’s views — and her willingness to exchange biting blows with her online critics — have been denounced by fans as transphobic, a betrayal of the values of tolerance they learned from her books. Stars of the Harry Potter movies have disavowed her statements; celebrities have taken their distance; major websites devoted to the wizarding world have said they’d stop writing about her. (On the other side of the spectrum, Russian President Vladimir Putin has bemoaned that she’s been “canceled.”)
None of this seems to have given Rowling pause — or done much to put a crimp in her commercial prospects. Twenty-five years after the publication of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” her books continue to fly off the shelves. The third installment of the Harry Potter spin-off “Fantastic Beasts” hit theaters in March. If anything, as the criticism has mounted, Rowling has only become more combative, cheerfully retweeting her detractors to trigger pile-ons from fellow thinkers.
What’s more: When it comes to driving the debate, she seems to be winning. Asked earlier this year by an anonymous poster whether her battle was a hill she wanted her legacy to die on, she answered tartly:
“Yes, sweetheart. I’m staying right here on this hill, defending the right of women and girls to talk about themselves, their bodies and their lives in any way they damn well please,” she tweeted. “You worry about your legacy, I’ll worry about mine 😉”
Rowling has no confusion over the identity of people who want to strip women of their identity:
A few days later, she followed up with a 3,700-word essay laying out the reasons why she was so “worried about the new trans activism” and the effort “to erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender.”
“The ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanizing and demeaning,” Rowling wrote. “I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.”
The main criticisms Wheaton levels against Rowling here is that she will respond to attacks on Twitter, by which Wheaton accuses her of punching down, but some of those social-media attacks from radical trans activists were borderline threats. Both cases cited by Wheaton in her essay certainly came across that way, not just as criticisms or actual debate opportunities, and Rowling reacted by highlighting those who threatened her and forced them to back down. That to me falls under the “don’t start none, won’t be none” paradigm.
And Wheaton fails to look beyond the radical trans movement to get an answer to her question. Why hasn’t this damaged Rowling’s commercial appeal? Because the vast majority of people follow the science of human biology rather than the ideology of a movement that wants to erase it. Rowling understands this, while Midler has merely — and likely momentarily — backed up into that truth.