The genius of the ‘I ♥ JK Rowling’ stunt

Trans intolerance has made even the most benign statements unsayable.

Jo Bartosch


It’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for social-justice warriors – it must be exhausting finding things to be offended by. The latest is an advert reading ‘I ♥ JK Rowling’, which was paid for by the campaign group Standing for Women. This fairly innocuous message, displayed to mark the birthday of the best-selling author, has now been removed by Network Rail following online complaints of transphobia. Despite clearly signalling support for those who identify as transgender, Rowling’s expressions of concern about the loss of women-only services for victims of domestic abuse has led her to be branded a bigot. Identical ‘I ♥ JK Rowling’ billboards have been spotted across the United Kingdom. It remains to be seen what the wider response will be.

On 29 July, Network Rail Scotland, which sports a rainbow in its Twitter logo, tweeted: ‘This advert is no longer being displayed at Edinburgh Waverley. The poster in question is against our code of acceptance for advertising in our stations owing to its political nature. We do not allow advertising that is likely to support or promote one viewpoint over another.’ It seems statements in support of a children’s author are now political.

The strategy of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (aka Posie Parker), the brains behind Standing for Women, is a smart one. By placing simple statements in public spaces, she has exposed the hyperbolic claims and bullying tactics of the online mob to the less flattering light of the real world. Following bans from Twitter, Facebook and ‘Mumsnet’, she explained on her podcast that Standing for Women’s approach is to ‘take back the public square’. For Keen-Minshull, who has been censored online, ‘real life interaction’ gives her ‘a chance to breathe’. She explained to me: ‘I hope the general public can see the weight of woman hatred behind this censorship. It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s the only thing that makes sense.’

It would be disingenuous to pretend there isn’t a message underpinning the ‘I ♥ JK Rowling’ statement, but arguably it is no more political than the rainbow flags which now bedeck public buildings during what has become the ‘LGBTQ+ Pride season’.

This is not the first time companies have been pressured to remove potentially ‘triggering’ messages. In 2018, Standing for Women paid for a billboard reading ‘Woman / wʊmən / noun / adult human female’ to be displayed in Liverpool outside the Labour Party conference. Condemnation was swift, and it was soon removed. When Standing for Women stickers bearing the slogan ‘Women don’t have penises’ were found, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson responded by stating on Twitter that ‘we will remove stickers and work with the police to identify those responsible’.

This latest action by Standing for Women coincides with the introduction of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill. According to the Scottish government, the bill provides for the ‘modernising, consolidating and extending of hate-crime legislation in Scotland’. Central to this is the creation of new offences relating to ‘stirring up hatred’; behaviour considered ‘abusive’ will be criminalised and the necessity of proving intent in ‘stirring up’ offences will be removed. A little like gender identity, ‘hate crime’ depends upon the perception of the person reporting the crime. As such, people may be prosecuted, with the possibility of up to seven years’ imprisonment in this bill’s case, simply for expressing an opinion someone else found ‘hateful’, without any intent being proved. In this context, perhaps a statement of support for JK Rowling could indeed be considered a transphobic hate crime.

The progress of the hate-crime bill through Holyrood suggests Scotland is still sinking into the quagmire of identity politics. But more widely there are signs of change. Minister for women and equalities Liz Truss has heavily hinted that the proposals to allow ‘self-identification’ of gender will be dropped. The BBC has quietly shed the links to transgender groups from the advice offered on its websites, and the NHS has also begun to change the information it offers on gender identity. As elsewhere in the UK, in Scotland there has been a concerted push back against the march of identity politics, though arguably there is political capital to be made from divergence from the rest of the UK. Notably, some within the SNP who have previously defended freedom of speech and women’s rights have remained tight-lipped on the draconian implications of the hate-crime bill.

The outrage prompted by a simple advert shows there are some people who seem to expect the real world to work like social media, where if something offends you it can be blocked or deleted. At present, for the most part this holds true, with statutory bodies, private companies and universities abasing themselves over accusations of wrongthink and begging for forgiveness. But as the demands of the social-justice mob become further detached from reality, there will come a point where this is unsustainable. By pandering to the escalating tantrums of perpetually offended transgender activists, companies like Network Rail risk losing credibility. Finally it seems ordinary citizens are waking up to the offline reality of online identity politics – let’s hope Scotland gets the memo before articles like this one become criminalised.

Jo Bartosch is a journalist campaigning for the rights of women and girls.

Picture by: Getty.

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John Glasspool

5th August 2020 at 1:19 pm

You can chop off a bloke’s willy & goolies and fill him with hormones but every nucelated cell in his body will have a “Y” chromosome, so he’s MALE. Simples.

Tony Benn

4th August 2020 at 9:51 am

“Despite clearly signalling support for those who identify as transgender”

Why does every argument by those not on the left have to be couched in these “We have evidence she’s not a bigot” way? Isn’t it possible (and indeed right) that people can decide lopping of bits of people’s bodies and filling them with hormones when there is no scientific evidence that there is a “female” or “male” brain is a bad idea?

I don’t support transexuals because I don’t believe they exist, I think there are people who have convinced themselves or have been convinced by others that they are in the wrong body, but I don’t believe there is any evidence they are and until I see that evidence I won’t believe it just to stop the shouting.


3rd August 2020 at 10:04 pm

It seems strange that Ireland and Denmark changed the law to allow gender self-ID without any major outcry while in this country the same proposal causes mass hysteria. It says a great deal about the English character.

Tony Benn

4th August 2020 at 9:53 am

That’s because people in this country have a grasp on reality. You cannot just change your gender because you say you want to any more than you can change your height.

Tolar Owen

31st July 2020 at 1:52 pm

Thanks Jo for another great call-out of transactivist misogyny. The only disappointing thing about Spiked are the predictable woman-haters who show up on every single piece on transactivism letting us know how mean and selfish women are when they stand up for themselves. I appreciate your capacity to ignore their insults.

Danny Rees

31st July 2020 at 11:46 am

The only intolerance is from feminists who cannot tolerate having their opinions and worldviews called out.

Feminists like Bartosch complain about identity politics but they are quick to cry “misogyny” whenever their views are challenged and debunked.

“”Finally it seems ordinary citizens are waking up to the offline reality of online identity politics – let’s hope Scotland gets the memo before articles like this one become criminalised.””

Oh this feminist would love that. Give her the chance to be a victim.

James Knight

31st July 2020 at 1:12 pm

Rowlings views on biological sex have not been “challenged” or “debunked”.

Tolar Owen

31st July 2020 at 1:47 pm

So you attack this female author, and feminists in general, because they’re “intolerant” of being attacked as women and as feminists. Does that gaslighting work on the women in your life? You’re obviously trying to proactively silence women whom you attack on the basis that they’re women, by ridiculing their use of the term misogyny to describe your obviously misogynistic behavior. That’s some serious mental gymnastics there, dude.

TeanaciousV M

31st July 2020 at 2:56 pm

Said a man… once more!

Sian Muthusamy

31st July 2020 at 10:24 am

Wouldn’t it be just lovely if instead of opting for or against any particular opinion or political statement (like rainbow coating your brand), Network Rail could just run the frikking trains properly…?

Mr Nobody

31st July 2020 at 11:48 am

Just like the Italian fascists? Only joking btw, on-time trains would actually be a white supremacist thing to do. 😉

Jonathan Palmer

31st July 2020 at 10:20 am

If you can get fired for an “All Lives Matter” stunt then the world is open to arbitrary organisations exercising an authority they should not possess. Network rail!!!!!!!!!!!!

CJ Hawes

31st July 2020 at 9:41 am

It’s good to see that the spirit of Monty Python still lives in the Trans activist world. The poor luvvies don’t u derstand their comic genius however. I’m sure if they were told to go and play with the traffic – they would.


31st July 2020 at 9:16 am

Surely, the lesson of all this is that social media has given immense power to the mob. At first one responds: ‘Well, anybody who considers the J K Rowling poster to be ‘political’ is clearly immensely stupid and ignorant, and should be locked away for their own safety.’ But involving oneself with a social media zeitgeist is much like taking part in a demonstration that gets out of hand; people get carried away and end up doing things that they wouldn’t dream of in daily life. In this instance Network Rail should grow a pair, and not give in to the mob.

Michael Thompson

31st July 2020 at 8:01 am

“Hate-crime”. Is there any other type of crime? Loving crime? I really care about you crime?

If all crime is seen as hate crime then there is a distinct loss of identity for those who claim to be transgender or homosexual. It is just a phrase they have invented to distinguish themselves from all other victims of crime. It does not accurately describe anything in particular but is just another example of manipulating language to suit themselves.

If they are so sure of their identity then they would not need to manipulate the language. They would be content with calling it crime like robbery and assault are crimes. It shows the extent to which they must try and change the language which society universally accepts in order to affirm their ‘identity’

They place themselves above the rest of society by appropriating meaning to words on which the rest of society agrees. Such arrogance is a sure sign of insecurity.

Tony Benn

4th August 2020 at 9:56 am

The Scots are about to making thinking and making a logical argument illegal, good luck in the future Scots.

Dominic Straiton

31st July 2020 at 7:03 am

Theyd be much better off putting the message on a banner towed behind a plane, over a specific event to obtain maximum offence and laughs.

Gordon Al Gopher

31st July 2020 at 1:46 am

Why should there be women-only services for victims of domestic abuse?

If one man has abused someone what are you saying about all men? That they’re a danger as well?

Surely someone who doesn’t hate men would want to do the opposite; have kind and caring men at these places so that abused women can see it isn’t the fact that their ex is a man was the problem but that he’s an arsehole who beats up his partners. Most of us don’t.

Kay Warner

31st July 2020 at 7:08 am

You’re right in one way, Gordon. Statistics say that around 98% of violent crimes are committed by men and around 99% of violent and sexual crimes on women are committed by men. That doesn’t mean that 98% of men commit violent crime or 99% of men abuse women. Women are aware of that. However, women that have suffered domestic violence, rape, sexual assault are traumatised. The last thing they need is to go to a place of safety and find themselves in the presence of a man, however kind and caring, or even to hear a male voice. Bear in mind too, that children of a woman who has suffered domestic violence are very often terrified of men too.It can take a long time for an abused woman to have trust in anyone but her own sex. That is why it is important for women to have spaces that exclude men.

CJ Hawes

31st July 2020 at 9:45 am

I’m not sure rhetoric works that well here Gordon.

Tolar Owen

31st July 2020 at 1:50 pm

So, the battered women’s movement needs to center your fee-fees. Got it.

TeanaciousV M

31st July 2020 at 3:04 pm

Why do men not make room for the Trans women in their spaces? It is always women who facilitate the needs of others. you can share your wards with Bruce Jenners of the world…wheres the harm to you? A flasher gets charged and put on sex offenders register but a man who claims he is a woman in a female changing room would not? Chemical castration of kids- to keep their bodies child like while teaching them about sex with adults…can you not see the dark side?

Vivian Darkbloom

3rd August 2020 at 12:59 am

Yeah but get with the programme mate. These men are basically saying that they make better women than actual women. Why would men make space for other men? They do that anyway. Let’s be honest here; certain blokes in transition, not all, want access to women’s toilets because they’re autogynephylic. They’re straight men who are turned on by the idea of being women whilst being turned on by women. They say they’re lesbian and I call bullshit. They have a paraphilia; deal with it. Other trans women are gay, but research shows they are outnumbered by straight male trans. Of course, neither groups can actually be women, it’s contrary to biological reality.

A woman’s toilet is different. If a gay man were to come into this space I doubt there would any problem because I’ve seen this happen and the reason is that there is no threat from a gay man, however tough and macho they might be. The threat is from straight men masquerading as women and demanding access to a woman’s space. I have nothing against mixed-sex toilets because the vast majority of men are decent people and we’ve all had a piss in the company of the opposite sex with no problems but this is a paraphilia concerning a small but vocal group of men who get a kick out of playing at being women for their own sexual pleasure.

Yes, I can see the dark side.

T Zazoo

31st July 2020 at 1:43 am

Heck, if my name was Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull I’d get myself a pseudonym too.

James Conner

31st July 2020 at 7:27 am

If my name was T Zazoo, so would I. 🙂

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