Discover more from Bettina Arndt
Feminists never shut up
Tales from the gender war
There’s much to admire about JK Rowling. Her Harry Potter series inspired generations of children, particularly boys, to read big, fat books and that’s a miraculous achievement. More recently she’s been in the news for bravely taking on the trans lobby, calling out their farcical reference to “people who menstruate.”
“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Rowling tweeted.
That triggered an almighty kerfuffle documented in the recent podcast series, The Witch Trials of JK Rowling, where the author is interviewed about why she chose to champion common sense in this toxic arena, and how she reacted to the book burnings, death threats, the whole crazy witch trial which followed. Rowling’s thoughtful commentary on all this is worth hearing.
Less so the discussion of her personal life, where chat between self-described feminist Rowling and her sympathetic interviewer adheres perfectly to the ideological script, with this powerful woman – her books have sold over 500 million copies – painting herself as a quivering victim of a villainous man.
This is hardly unexpected. Rowling makes no attempt to hide her blinkered view about women’s vulnerability. A blog two years ago revealed that key to her concern about trans activism was her belief that women’s rights were under siege: “We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced. Back in the 80s, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls. Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanized to the extent they are now. From the leader of the free world’s long history of sexual assault accusations and his proud boast of ‘grabbing them by the pussy’ to the incel (‘involuntarily celibate’) movement that rages against women who won’t give them sex, to the trans activists who declare that TERFs need punching and re-educating, men across the political spectrum seem to agree: women are asking for trouble. Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.”
For heaven’s sake. How many of us wish the jabbering women dominating just about every aspect of our society would occasionally be told to shut up? As if that’s allowed to happen.
Anyway, back to Rowling’s personal life. In the 1990s, 25-year-old Rowling was living in Portugal with the young television reporter, Jorge Arantes, who would become her husband and father of her daughter, Jessica. In the podcast Rowling presents a grim picture of this “abusive” relationship, depicting Arantes as a controlling man who denied her a house key, threatened to destroy the Harry Potter manuscript, hit her and left her lying in the street after she announced she was leaving with their daughter to return to Scotland. She claimed that when she escaped to her home country, she lived in fear of Arantes. He did eventually follow her, breaking into their house which forced her to move elsewhere.
After this early history, I was struck by how quickly the conversation then moved on to Rowling’s new marriage and growing family, and the astonishing success of her Harry Potter series. Not one more word about the father of her daughter. Not one question about Rowling’s abduction of her child and whether Arantes ever got to see his little girl again. Arante simply became the abuser. That was enough to deny him any right to see his child. It doesn’t even occur to the interviewer, in all the hours of conversation, to raise a single question about this issue.
There’s information online about Jorge Arantes who has given occasional interviews. The man has apparently had a very checkered career due to his drug use and appears to have never had any further contact with his daughter. But his version of events is rather different from the official Rowling history.
Funnily enough, The Sun newspaper dared to give an airing to the Arantes version two years ago after publication of the blog by Rowling which first mentioned the abuse. The paper ran a lurid front page news story entitled: JK Rowling’s abusive first husband admits he slapped her but says ‘I’m not sorry.’
Arantes claimed in The Sun interview that it was not an abusive relationship, but rather it was “intense, and passionate… We were either in heaven or hell,” he said. Arantes did acknowledge slapping her during their fight over her decision to take their two-month daughter back to Scotland. He claimed he followed her there in an attempt to see his daughter, but Rowling then took out a restraining order and prevented any contact.
The day after publishing this article, The Sun was forced to apologize after the domestic violence industry staged a meltdown, wheeling out politicians to condemn the “disgraceful story,” which prompted 500 complaints to the media regulator. The Refuge domestic violence helpline pointed out the irresponsible newspaper story was particularly troubling during the Covid lockdown which they naturally claimed was leading to a massive increase in domestic abuse. The Sun groveled by pointing out they had labelled Arantes “sick” and “abusive” in their story and saying they did not intend to “glorify” domestic abuse.
So, there you are. Any deviation from the feminist script on domestic violence is immediately shut down. In this feminist world, Rowling can safely subject herself to seven hours of interviews knowing every word she says about her relationship will be taken as gospel. No one is even allowed to ask where the truth lies about Arantes’ behaviour. He may well be a dubious character, but it is very revealing that Rowling is simply assumed to have the right to poison her daughter’s relationship with the man, ensuring she never got to meet her father. That’s the monstrous arrogance of today’s feminism.
It's just one example of the utterly distorted cultural dialogue that has inspired my writing for over four decades. Every major social issue is now presented from a purely female perspective, slagging off at men at every opportunity. For all the talk about toxic masculinity, here we see toxic femininity at its worst, led by women so bent on constant male baiting and adherence to the feminist script that the rich nuances of real relationships totally escape them.
Last month I witnessed a very entertaining example of this behaviour in female journalists’ reaction to a remarkable book written by my close friend, Kate Legge - Infidelity and Other Affairs. The book had local media utterly agog, because Kate, a very well-known, respected journalist, told the story of the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. Kate’s husband is Greg Hywood, the former CEO of Fairfax Publications, a real heavy hitter in the media world.
Naturally, it was mainly female journalists who lined up to interview Kate about this juicy topic, and the resulting media stories and podcasts positively salivate in delight at this powerful male meeting his comeuppance. Helen Elliot in The Age gleefully described Hywood’s “treachery”, dwelling on Legge’s bravery in being so open about the desolation and rage she experienced following the discovery of his repeated affairs
Elliot’s snide tone is most revealing. “She Believed Him could have been the title for this book,” Elliot sneers, berating Legge for foolishly believing her husband when he claimed the affair he was having with one of Legge’s best friends was the only one. (Funny that there’s barely a word from these female journalists about the treachery of the mistress, a married woman with children, who carried on with Legge’s husband, betraying her supposed good friend.)
These women can’t stand the fact that Kate Legge’s sensitive, beautifully written account is nuanced and forgiving, acknowledging her own contribution to the tensions in their marriage. Elliot scoffs at Legge for having “the generosity” to remain best friends with her ex-partner despite behaviour that Elliot claims was “emotional violence.”
They all know better, these cynical women. And they hate it when Legge speaks kindly about Hywood. There’s a podcast interview with media personality Mia Freedman where Legge describes Hywood being “racked with self-loathing and guilt”. “It’s so hard for him,” sniggers Freedman sarcastically. Legge firmly puts her straight: “I know how much he’s done to try to atone for what he did to us as a family.” Legge struggles to present the true story of her marriage faced with this constant feminist contempt.
This is particularly apparent when Freedman reads out Legge’s acknowledgement that Hywood had legitimate grievances, like drought in the marital bedroom. She used to joke with her friends about husbands complaining about being in the “More Roots Club.” Legge responded to the initial discovery of the affair by deciding she too could be a sex goddess, getting a Brazilian because the mistress had one, having phone sex, buying lingerie instead of Bonds undies at the supermarket. “I took his grievances seriously; I owned my mistakes”.
Mistakes which included not nurturing intimacy in their marriage, Legge explained to Freedman, adding that Hywood is a far more romantic person who looked after her in so many ways, including buying her clothes. “That sounds a bit controlling,” admonished Freedman, who wasn’t buying Legge’s explanation that she was grateful to be spared the ordeal of shopping.
It was a fascinating confrontation between this wise older woman and the young media personality who sees everything through the blinkered lens of an ideologue, absolutely sure her view of the world is the right one. Women like her are everywhere and never shut up.