A billboard was recently put up in Vancouver, Canada with the message “I ❤️ JK Rowling”

Photo of I ❤️ JK Rowling Billboard
Chris Elston, Twitter

Being aware of the controversy around Rowling’s statements on the use of the word “women”, I first thought this was a 4chan trolling campaign like It’s okay to be white: an aim to find an inoffensive phrase that would still outrage people.

A councillor, Sarah Kirby-Yung, responded as expected:

It's hateful. The billboard was clearly intended by having a message that said I love J.K. Rowling to target the trans community, be an anti-trans message without getting into the statutory definition in the realm of hate speech.

The clear intent here is to incite hate against the trans community to incite division. It's clearly designed to cause harm and distress and that's not something that we want to see in the city of Vancouver.

I was surprised to see that this was actually put up by a gender critical group (or at least two activists: Chris Elston and Amy Hamm), rather than a troll. I expect the desired outcome was the same: have people react in a manner that appears to be way over the top, thereby harming their own cause. Objections to support for a controversial celebrity are one thing; declaring that supporting that celebrity is akin to “inciting hate” and “causing harm and distress” is another, especially when the controversy isn’t referenced and the celebrity is known for more things than being controversial.

I think phrases are now seen as more contextual by default: “All Lives Matter” and “White Lives Matter” are more clearly offensive (if obviously true on the face of it) due to the “Black Lives Matter” movement being so popular and all-consuming. Still, the counter “what, you think white lives don’t matter?” is simple and powerful. Initially, Black Lives Matter spoke out for white victims of the police, such as Daniel Shaver: it’s a lot easier for a white person to support a group that’s against police brutality than a group that’s for black power.

I can only see this level of “you’re either with us or against us” leading far more people to turn against them.