April 4, 2022 - 3:00pm

One of the biggest lies about the conflict between feminists and trans activists is that ‘the debate is toxic on both sides’. It’s trotted out in just about every article that takes a supposedly neutral position, even though the authors never produce any evidence for this slur on women who’ve never threatened anyone.

The other side is, of course, a different matter. JK Rowling is a favourite target and now a music video has emerged in which trans campaigner Faye ‘Trust Fund Ozu’ addresses the author with the chilling words ‘hope you fit in a hearse’. The video also features vocals about ‘killing TERFS’.

It sounds like a death threat and Rowling certainly regards it as such. She posted screen grabs of the song on Twitter, adding: ‘I’m afraid I can’t give a shout out to everyone promising to murder me – there are so many of you, and I’m a busy woman – but this one deserves a mention for the nineties rave vibe, @TrustFundOzu’.

But here’s the twist. When the actor James Dreyfus reported the post to Twitter, the social media platform failed to uphold his complaint. Even more bizarrely, it claimed that the alleged death threat hadn’t ‘broken its safety policies’. It’s a colossal piece of cheek from a platform that regularly hands out suspensions to women who state facts, such as saying trans women are not biological women, or ‘misgender’ trans athletes like Lia Thomas. 

Dreyfus made exactly this point in his response: ‘So, death threats = Good. Saying “women are women” = Bad. Congratulations, Twitter Support. You’ve hit rock bottom. Seek help.’ He’s right, of course, and it’s clear that platforms like Twitter are penalising gender-critical women for what is, since Maya Forstater’s successful appeal, protected speech.

What this episode tells us, however, is not just that we are dealing with entitled, narcissistic individuals. We already knew that. It’s becoming clear that there has been a collective decision that trans people are the most vulnerable group in society, regardless of what the statistics tell us, and anyone who speaks for them (or claims to do so) is endowed with the same mantle of victimhood. 

Hence they’re given a free pass even if they are gloating about the imagined death of a children’s author or clutching a baseball bat and threatening to murder feminists. I’ve seen it so often that I’m more shocked by the widespread refusal to acknowledge the hateful reality than the threats, which have been documented on many occasions.

There is nothing even-handed about this debate (it isn’t even a debate, thanks to the other side’s refusal to engage, but that’s another matter). Feminists who use words and reasoned arguments are up against extremists who issue rape and death threats, try to get people sacked from their jobs and set off smoke bombs. 

Social media platforms and commentators who use the ‘toxic on both sides’ excuse under the guise of being ‘kind’ should hang their heads in shame. In these circumstances, kindness is unkindness, as Orwell didn’t say — but maybe he should have.

Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.