Bette Midler Responds to Backlash Over Trans-Exclusionary Tweet

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday July 6, 2022

Bette Midler
Bette Midler  (Source:Dan Hallman/Invision/AP )

Bette Midler has replied to criticism over a tweet that some took to be transphobic. Midler responded in a series of followup tweets saying that was not her message, Entertainment Weekly reported.

"PEOPLE OF THE WORLD!" Midler sent out on July 5. "There was no intention of anything exclusionary or transphobic in what I said; it wasn't about that."

In a tweet two days earlier, on July 3, Midler stumbled into the ongoing culture war around inclusive language. In the July 3 tweet, the entertainment star exhorted the "WOMEN OF THE WORLD" to push back against attempts to strip women of "rights over our bodies".

The post went on to say that those attempts extend to taking away the very word "women," seeking to replace it with "'birthing people' or 'menstruators', and even 'people with vaginas!'"

"While some fans believed that Midler's tweet was meant to criticize the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade and subsequent state abortion bans, other followers of the actress argued it was an anti-trans comment," People Magazine noted.

Indeed, others on Twitter were quick to respond to Midler's tweet.

"Midler was criticized for harping against the kind of gender-neutral language that's been adopted to include trans people, especially those seeking reproductive or other medical care," Rolling Stone recounted.

"The ire towards Midler was especially intense as such hand-wringing about gender-neutral language is often a hallmark of the gender essentialism that defines the anti-trans and trans-exclusionary feminist movements."

Rolling Stone took note of Midler's explanation that she had been moved to post her original tweet on the subject after reading a New York Times opinion piece by Pamela Paul titled, "The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don't Count."

But, Rolling Stone said, "That piece was roundly criticized as transphobic for the way it equated the right's literal war on women and reproductive rights to the left's alleged 'effectively misogynist agenda' of advocating for minor linguistic changes to help make a more inclusive world for trans people."

Midler's initial tweet recalled a similar social media post from "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, who objected to such language in a tweet from June 2020. Responding to usage of the phrase "people who menstruate," Rowling posted, "I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?"

Rowling generated more controversy with a July 5 tweet of her own in which she agreed with comments made by recording artist Macy Gray on the right-wing opinion program "Piers Morgan Uncensored," in which Gray said, "Just because you go change your parts doesn't make you a woman."

In an approving post, Rowling tweeted: "Today feels like a good day to ensure I've bought @MacyGraysLife's entire back catalogue"

The timing led some to critique Midler's tweet and Gray's comment in the same breath.

But Midler asserted her credentials as a longtime advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, following up her July 5 tweet with a spirited thread in which she defended her record.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.