A certain sector of the Harry Potter fandom has decided that the author is the devil incarnate
By Alexander Larman – April 18, 2022 | 12:50 pm – The Spectator – US edition
My cmnt: J K Rowling is NOT transphobic for stating the obvious and the truth: People who menstruate are women. A liberal state of mind is supposed to mean that you are open to discussion about any important issue. But democrats gave up classic liberalism many decades ago and the Left has never had it.
When Roland Barthes wrote his 1967 essay “The Death of the Author,” he probably didn’t intend that, fifty-five years later, a major American news outlet would be provocatively suggesting that the world’s bestselling author should be de-personed, de-platformed or de-materialized from history. And yet that is exactly what has happened with the New York Times. They recently ran a series of advertisements on the subway featuring a reader named “Lianna” who is, as much of their subscriber base now are, “breaking the binary,” experiencing “queer love in color” and meditating on “heritage in rich cues.”
So far, so predictable. But the ads took a grimmer turn when one suggested that Lianna was “imagining Harry Potter without its creator.” This example of what the Times calls “independent journalism for an independent life” has taken up one of the most disquieting contemporary developments in the culture wars, as the newspaper has shamelessly monetized it for promotional purposes. Ever since J.K. Rowling wrote a long, thoughtful essay in June 2020 to explain her views on gender-identity issues, she has been a hate figure of almost comical proportions to the woke. And now, the Times’s advertisement has given succor, even encouragement, to those who despise her opinions.
It would be funny if it weren’t so grotesque. A certain sector of Harry Potter fandom — the more excitable end, whose social-media profiles proudly proclaim their dedication to Black Lives Matter, polyamory, Palestine and whatever social-justice issue is the flavor of the month — has now decided that Rowling is little less than the devil incarnate. The terms “TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and “bigot” are two of the milder insults slung at her. It is not uncommon for Rowling’s detractors to post extreme hardcore pornography in replies to her on Twitter, along with referring to her by every sexual and scatological term imaginable. Their actions are, at best, juvenile and, at worst, prima facie examples of harassment. And now, the Times has implicitly taken their side. For Lianna and her allies, the advertisement is nothing short of just retribution. For the rest of us, it is a terrifying indictment of what modern American liberal media is capable of.
Many of Rowling’s readers are struggling to come to terms with the fact that the author they grew up idolizing does not share their social views and is happy to use her significant platform (14 million followers on Twitter) to argue her case and her perspective. Never mind that the essay that aroused so much attention and controversy was a liberal and sensible statement that included such phrases as “I believe the majority of trans-identified people… pose zero threat to others… Trans people need and deserve protection… of course trans rights are human rights and of course trans lives matter.” Rowling had dared to question the article of faith that trans women are women, and so the opprobrium brought down on her was relentless and vitriolic.
Nearly two years later, the controversy continues to resonate. She has been removed from everything from the much-hyped Harry Potter reunion show Return to Hogwarts on HBO Max to the marketing for the latest Fantastic Beasts film, The Secrets of Dumbledore, which she wrote and created. It would be infinitely easier for everyone from publishers to film executives if Rowling would either recant her heretical beliefs or simply disappear into obscurity. But she shows no interest in doing either, not least because the wealthiest female author since Agatha Christie has a near-infinite amount of what the vulgar might call “fuck-you money.” While her fellow authors are required to toe the line, on pain of career-ending cancellation, Rowling has the freedom to say and do what she likes, much to the chagrin of Lianna and, by implication, the New York Times.
We therefore arrive at the situation where a major writer is airbrushed from her own work, in a crude but potentially effective example of Stalinist revisionism in action. The Harry Potter fan site “The Leaky Cauldron” declared in July 2020 that “We will no longer be covering J.K. Rowling’s personal endeavors… Wizarding World coverage will not feature photos of or quotes from the author… Twitter posts that may be hurtful to members of this community will be hashtagged #JKR to allow for easy muting.”
Since then, frothing outrage at a woman daring to express independent opinions shows little sign of subsiding. No matter Rowling has released three bestselling books since publishing her essay, or that she has continued to be at the forefront of charitable endeavors, recently launching an appeal for children trapped in Ukrainian orphanages. She has transgressed, and is therefore fair game to be the target, implicit or otherwise, of those who have so certainly placed themselves on the right side of history.
To say “I stand with J.K. Rowling” is now a political declaration that many might feel uncomfortable making, with its attendant implication that one supports anti-trans movements or messaging. But it surely remains incumbent on every decent and open-minded reader to continue to imagine Harry Potter with its creator an intrinsic and unremovable part of the books, rather than an embarrassing addendum. Sorry, Lianna and the Times; this one just ain’t going to fly.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s May 2022 World edition.
From the community – I stand with J.K. Rowling, and so should you
What do you call it when thousands of people threaten to rape and murder a woman, online strangers tell her to kill herself and protesters post her home address online so that mobs can seek her out in person? The words that come to mind include “harassment,” “cyberbullying” and “criminal threats.” No decent person would find such behavior acceptable, particularly if they were committed to tolerance, equality and peace. But apparently the rules are different for J.K. Rowling, who, over the past few years has been flooded with death threats and even doxxed by people who claim to be pursuing justice.
Her crime? Defending women’s rights. Rowling’s hesitance to embrace policies set forth by transgender advocates is not rooted in bigotry of any sort. Rather, it’s guided by concerns about how these policies have been abused and the subsequent threat to women’s safety. And though no one is obliged to agree with what Rowling has to say, we should at least respect her right to say it without being threatened and maligned.
The controversy began in 2019, when Rowling tweeted out in support of Maya Forstater, a British woman who lost her job due to her belief that sex is immutable. (A court ultimately ruled that the decision to fire Forstater violated her protections under the Equalities Act.) As the situation unfolded, Rowling tweeted, “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya”.
There’s nothing hateful about these sentences; in fact, the Tweet explicitly endorses an extremely socially liberal viewpoint. But the mere support of the idea that sex is real was taken as evidence of undeniable transphobia.
The outrage continued in June of 2020 when Rowling pointed out the dehumanizing language in an op-ed about “people who menstruate.” She’s hardly the only one to point out the insulting trend of referring to women primarily in terms of their reproductive function, including phrases like “birthing people” and “bodies with vaginas.” Not everyone who menstruates self-identifies as a woman, and not all women menstruate, but menstruation, vaginas and giving birth are still properties of the female body. Denying this is simply illogical, and it makes it more difficult to address aspects of gender inequality such as female genital mutilation, period poverty and maternal mortality.
Other outlets’ coverage of the row were overblown to the point of absurdity. Vox accused Rowling of “perpetuat[ing] the type of pernicious hate and misinformation that leads to trans women, especially teens and black trans women, becoming victims of sexual assault” without bothering to explain how the basic fact that women menstruate could account for violent crime. Vogue, Vulture and The Washington Post joined the chorus, too, doubling down on the denial of basic reality by insisting that menstruation is a “non-gendered” experience.
Soon after, Rowling published a rich and poignant essay that culminated in an account of her experience as a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault. This, Rowling explains, is the final reason behind her concerns “about the consequences of the current trans activism”:
“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman — and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones — then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside.” [Emphasis is mine.]
The issue is not with trans people. It’s with policies that allow men to enter spaces designed to keep women safe. And it’s with the people who take advantage of those policies to harass, intimidate, assault and terrorize women in such places.
This essay should have opened a door to conversations about balancing trans people’s dignity with women and girls’ safety. You’d think that people invested in ending gender-based violence would be particularly sympathetic to what Rowling has been through.
But none of this seemed to matter to the actors whose careers she launched, the countless media outlets that reported on her “transphobia” as if it were a fact, not an accusation, the former fans who have taken to burning her books (and bragging about it on TikTok), the user behind a since-deleted account that threatened her with a “pipe bomb” and the activists who recently doxxed her. (The following day, they took down the post containing Rowling’s address not because encouraging harassment is wrong, but because they had “received an overwhelming amount of … transphobic messages” in response.)
And despite it all, Rowling refuses to capitulate. Over the last year, she’s continued to use her platform to speak out about the difficulties faced by detransitioners, the concerning trend of medical professionals prescribing children puberty blockers despite long-term health risks, the lunacy of police documenting rapists with male genitalia as women and the fear lesbians face within the LGBT community.
Of course, part of why Rowling continues to stand up for what she believes in has to do with the fact that she’s the author of one of the most successful book series in human history. Those who share her beliefs but not her fame have lost their jobs, faced ostracization and been threatened with violence.
The demonization of J.K. Rowling is a symptom of an increasingly illiberal climate that stifles dialogue, punishes dissidence and threatens the ideals of a free society. Those of us who believe in the liberal values of tolerance and open-mindedness can no longer remain silent. Support Rowling’s right to speak her mind without fear, and you’ll be defending your own right to do the same. Sit back — or worse, take part in the hate — and you’ll be feeding a monster. As Albus Dumbledore told Hogwarts students at the end of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “There will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” The rest of us have that choice, too. Let’s make the right one.