Bias Watch

JK Rowling mocked for saying she’s “a reclining sofa” in bizarre tirade about analogies

Oct 20, 1999; Washington, DC, USA; Author J.K. Rowling who writes the Harry Potter books appeared at the National Press Club where she did a reading and answered questions from young and old alike. Mandatory Credit: Tim Dillon-USA TODAY
J.K. Rowling in 1999 Photo: USA TODAY via IMAGN

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling spent the better part of Sunday ranting about how she identifies as furniture now after she was mocked for not understanding what an analogy is.

“I identify as a reclining sofa, stop misfurnituring me you bloody bigot,” she wrote yesterday in the middle of her series of posts.

The joke – well, at least to her – started yesterday when she shared a screenshot of a Tumblr post from someone else discussing the famous “define a chair” argument. The argument, as it’s generally presented by pro-LGBTQ+ people on the internet, is a response to the right’s demands that the left define what a woman is (the right almost never demands the left define what a man is in the context of trans equality).

In one famous iteration of this argument, someone asked anti-trans activist Graham Linehan to define what a chair is, and to do so in a way that “includes all things which are chairs and excludes all things which aren’t.” Linehan responded, “a separate seat for one person, typically with a back and four legs,” and someone else posted a picture of a horse, which one person can sit on and has a back and four legs.

The discussion with Linehan and some people online, a screenshot

The point of the metaphor is that some words are hard to define in a way that satisfies every possible case and that language is a series of conventions and not hard-and-fast rules with clear boundaries (like in the old debate on whether a hot dog is a sandwich). Even if it is hard to come up with a definition of “woman” or “man” that applies to all cases, people can say that trans women are women.

This apparently made Rowling mad, who shared the discussion and wrote, “You might think you’re progressive, but have you ever unironically compared women to chairs?” This isn’t even technically true since the person she was referring to compared two words – woman and chair – as linguistic forms, not what those words refer to. Moreover, the reason the person referred to the word “woman” and not “man” is because the right always asks, “What is a woman?” and never, “What is a man?”

She apparently thought this was funny, and she started to joke about identifying as a sofa. Identifying as random objects is a common joke told by transphobes to denigrate the idea of living as one’s authentic self.

People then mocked Rowling for being perhaps the wealthiest living writer in the world while understanding basic concepts like metaphor and analogy.

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