Produced by the conservative news site The Daily Wire, the documentary What is a Woman? is best known for creating controversy. Pitched as a film about gender identity, its host/narrator Matt Walsh is notoriously transphobic and was accused of using a fake company to trick trans people into participating under false pretenses. Released to coincide with Pride month (an obvious piece of anti-LGBTQ+ trolling), What is a Woman? was ultimately too niche to receive mainstream reviews.
Then on Sunday, J.K. Rowling complimented the movie on Twitter. Bizarrely, this crossover between Rowling and a far-right troll began with a controversy involving Macy Gray.
Quote-tweeting Matt Walsh to her 13.9 million followers, Rowling wrote, “women who stand up on this issue” receive “endless death and rape threats.” The issue in question is trans rights, with Rowling saying that cis women face harassment if they push back against trans women identifying as women. In the quoted tweet, Walsh had written, “women who publicly renounce the definition of “woman” for fear of mean comments from trans activists deserve all the scorn they get.”
Walsh’s tweet was a response to Macy Gray, who recently attracted criticism for saying, “just because you go change your [body] parts, doesn’t make you a woman, sorry.” At the time, Rowling tweeted her support for Macy Gray. However, Gray then walked back her comments, saying she’d “learned a lot.” Voicing support for the trans community, she explained, “if you in your heart feel that that’s what you are, then that’s what you are.”
Matt Walsh characterized this turnaround as “gutless cowardice,” which Rowling found objectionable. “I’m not there for men calling women cowards when they never have to face this stuff themselves,” she added in a separate tweet.
At the same time though, she complimented Walsh on his documentary, saying, “your film did a good job exposing the incoherence of gender identity theory and some of the harms it’s done.”
Rowling’s exchange with Walsh sparked immediate criticism, with people highlighting Walsh’s history of overt bigotry—and the fact that he trollingly describes himself as a “theocratic fascist.”
Above all, this is an explicit example of something many LGBTQ+ people have been concerned about for years: The increasing overlap between trans-exclusionary feminists and the far-right. Rowling sees herself as a feminist, while Walsh is a straightforward right-winger who promotes racist Great Replacement rhetoric and opposes abortion access. However, they can politely agree on sharing similar transphobic values, something Rowling was happy to confirm on Twitter.