Sad Story: Lady We've Never Heard Of 'Canceled' Just For Being Terrible

The Internet
Sad Story: Lady We've Never Heard Of 'Canceled' Just For Being Terrible

If there is one surefire way to get attention these days, it is to write an article in a major publication read the world over about how you were "canceled." Especially if not that many people even know who you are.

I did not know who Gillian Philip was until yesterday, when I read a Daily Mail article she wrote about how she lost her career as a ghostwriter of YA books about magic dogs or something just for saying that trans people shouldn't be allowed to exist. And how is that fair?

She writes:

The first sign of trouble was the unusually high number of new Twitter notifications that had pinged overnight on my mobile phone.

As a successful author with an established social media profile, I’m used to a steady stream of messages, but this ran to hundreds. And the tone of them was different – horribly so. [...]

It was far from a pleasant start to my day but, if I’m honest, I had been expecting at least some negative reaction.

The reason? I had dared to offer support on Twitter for J.K. Rowling’s stand against allowing transgender people to self-identify as male or female.

Oh? Is that all? Just a casual condemnation of a person's right to exist and assert their own identity? Okay then.

What did surprise – and devastate – me was the cataclysmic fallout over the next 24 hours of posting the simple hashtag ‘#IStandWithJKRowling’. I couldn’t have dared to imagine the damage that it was possible for a faceless mob of trolls to inflict.

But much more of a shock was the spineless way that my publishers capitulated in the face of this foam-flecked online protest.

They summarily sacked me and, in doing so, destroyed my livelihood without making any attempt to hear my side of the story.

So it turns out that Philip's whole deal was that she was one of six authors who wrote under the pseudonym Erin Hunter — sort of like how there were a bunch of people writing the Sweet Valley High books, but in this case Erin Hunter wasn't a real person like Francine Pascal. Philip goes on to brag about this for several paragraphs, ostensibly so that those of us who have never heard of her know how important she was.

Yet as much as she feigns shock over the fact that her publishing house would fire her for making herself repulsive to those who might want to read her books, Philips was literally told, by her agent, not to do this.

However, a few years ago, and before the J.K. Rowling controversy, I tweeted my opinion on the self-identification issue – something that my agent advised against.

I’m not remotely transphobic, but the idea that a man can simply declare himself to be a woman, fully intact, without surgery or hormones, and be allowed into women’s prisons or hospital wards is a crazy situation that I sometimes want to shout about.

So I set up an anonymous account and used that to express those opinions, leaving my professional account for promoting my books.

So ... like a faceless troll?

Philips then goes on to recount the tragic story of how people did not like her friend's sweet picture book about how trans children don't exist.

Then, late last year, a friend of mine, the poet Rachel Rooney, was accused of transphobia. She had written a really sweet picture book called My Body Is Me about body positivity and how no one’s body is wrong.

Her ‘crime’ was that she wrote the book to counteract what she described as an ‘explosion of titles promoting the idea that children who felt confused about their gender may be “trapped in the wrong body” ’.

She received such a vicious backlash – not only from activists, but also other authors – that she actually gave up children’s writing.

I was angry about that and told my followers as much, but also directed them to my anonymous account should they wish to hear my views ‘for adults’.

At that point, the managing editor of Working Partners, James Noble (more of him later), who was already a follower of my professional account, simply followed my personal account as well.

The book was literally published by an activist group called "Transgender Trend" — whose main deal is that they think trans identities are just a fad and want to ban trans students from sports and bathrooms. Shocking that there would be a backlash against that from people who are not bigots.

But what Philip is establishing here is that her support of Rowling was hardly the one-off she initially suggested it was. Her views on this subject were known and her agent was aware that they were likely to cause problems for her.

Philip then explains that the inciting incident for her official cancellation came about when Rowling was mad about the term "people who menstruate."

It was greeted by an avalanche of criticism from the trans lobby, along with some of the actors who had enjoyed so much success as a result of the Harry Potter films, including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.

After she wrote an essay in response, revealing that she was a survivor of domestic abuse and arguing that allowing trans women access to single-sex spaces was a danger to women, I felt morally unable to stay silent, so added #IStandWithJKRowling to my Twitter handle.

I know a lot of writers who disagree with the hardest line of trans ideology – that anyone has the right to legally self-identify as whichever gender they please – yet are far too scared to speak out. But I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning.

However, no level of furious response that I could ever have anticipated matched the venom I received.

Trans people, for the record, are four times more likely to experience violence than those who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Philips goes on to explain how she got into it on Twitter with "trolls" and also maybe said some "snarky and snipy" things like accusing those people of being homophobes and "lesbian haters," and also maybe published the email address of someone who sent her a critical email and, according to her publisher, swore at a fan.

And then, cruelly, she was sacked by HarperCollins imprint Working Partners, even though HarperCollins was going to publish a book by Piers Morgan, noted disparager of trans people.

That night, I crawled exhausted into bed at 5am and woke a few hours later to find several missed calls from my agent. When I called her back, she said that Chris Snowdon, the managing director of Working Partners, wanted to speak to me.

He was quite sympathetic, but explained that he didn’t know how HarperCollins would react and we would have to wait until 9am New York time (2pm in London) for their response.

I was concerned, but not unduly, since the people at HarperCollins had always praised my writing and I’d twice completed US book tours for them despite family medical emergencies back home.

Moreover, I’d never been particularly struck by signs of ‘wokeness’ at the company. They are, after all, part of Rupert Murdoch’s empire and will later this year publish Piers Morgan’s new book Wake Up, billed as an attack on the very ‘cancel culture’ of which I was about to become a victim.

However, the news from New York was devastating. ‘HarperCollins say you’re out,’ Chris told me.


The fact is, Philip's publisher made a decision based not on feelings but on cold hard cash. They had to decide if if whatever they made publishing her book was worth the backlash they'd get, they had to decide if people would still buy them in spite of her behavior. Or some other publisher would say "Oh boy, what a mistake they made, let's pick her up!" But no one is doing that. There isn't enough of a market for her work, and that is her own damned fault.

Unless it's the children who are wrong.

Now, as I contemplate writing again as myself rather than Erin Hunter, I’m left asking if ‘cancellation’ has become the default corporate response to mob pressure.

Despite a record of good work and dedication, I wasn’t consulted by HarperCollins before the axe fell. Instead, they chose to listen only to an anonymous band of trolls.

Surely we should be teaching children how to think and how to engage in reasoned argument so that they listen as well as shout? Instead, the message is, ‘Join a Twitter pile-on and get a grown-up cancelled within 24 hours’.

Instant gratification for young keyboard warriors, but what a dismal lesson for life.

And she had her own instant gratification, her own anonymous Twitter account where she could freely say cruel things in hopes of getting trans women canceled, like so, so many others who share her views. They too try to inflict "mob pressure" to get their way, and this was literally the entire purpose of the #IStandWithJKRowling hashtag. The difference is that they didn't have a particularly compelling argument.

It is understandable that this woman is upset about not being published anymore. Anyone would be! But 99.99 percent of the world doesn't get to be published, including a whole lot of people who would very much love to be. Not everyone gets that chance and Philip blew hers by saying and doing hurtful things. Piers Morgan is a jackass, but he gets more leeway to be a jackass because being a jackass is his brand. That is why whoever it is that is into Piers Morgan is into him. It's not, however, a great brand for a children's book author.

That being said — JK Rowling is still doing just fine. Fantastic Beasts 3 is coming out soon and there are still 47 "Pick an ice cream flavor and I'll tell you which Hogwarts House you belong in" Buzzfeed quizzes a week. I don't know what this says about us as a people, but there really are very few modern examples of those whose work people genuinely love being fully "canceled." You pretty much have to go full R. Kelly for that, and even that will take several decades.

[Daily Mail]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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