By: Emma Sauer
(Alternative title: JK Rowling needs to be blasted from a cannon straight into the sun.)
J.K Rowling is one of those rich people who could have had things so easy. She wrote a beloved children’s book franchise, sold upwards of 500 million copies, and made a crap-ton of cash from her beloved books becoming equally beloved movies. I can only guess the billions of dollars in sales she got from those life-size Dobby statues.
All she had to do was shut up and live out the rest of her days in her stupidly lavish multi-million dollar mansion. But for some reason, that’s never enough for celebrities. They have to feel big and important, so they become activists on whatever suits their fancy–animal welfare, poverty, the whales. Usually that’s harmless, but JK Rowling wanted to champion herself as a woke-AF independent woman™. This started as her declaring characters such as Albus Dumbledore to be gay, and embracing fan visions of the characters as POC (people of color). A nice gesture, if a bit of an empty one, seeing as how she never actually put in the effort to include quality representation into her books (We have only a few POC characters, and they’re riddled with stereotypes. See Cho-Chang, whose name is a couple letters away from an asian slur.)
As the years have gone on, she’s gone from being an insincere activist to a mouthpiece for transphobic politicians. To be more specific, she’s an outspoken TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist). TERFS identity as feminists, but they exclude the rights of transgender women from their advocacy of women’s rights. Often TERFS appear progressive on the surface, and will be loud and outspoken about their desire to protect and empower cis women. Underneath that facade, however, is an ugly rhetoric that harms trans women’s sense of self and safety (Which, if you ask me, makes them pretty lousy feminists). TERFS often partner with certain lawmakers and political groups to push against transgender equality in areas such as athletic competition, access to public spaces, and healthcare for trans kids.
Rowling in particular is dangerous to the feminist cause. It’s one thing for a celebrity to make a mistake, an off-color joke, or have done bad things in the past. It’s a whole other thing when they actively campaign against a group on social media. In Rowling’s case, it seems to be even easier to attract people to the TERF cause because of the language she uses. One of her “deepest concerns” is that by allowing trans-women into public spaces such as bathrooms, sexual predators will also be invited in. In her own words:
“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. That is the simple truth.”
Except no, it’s not. Nondiscrimination laws say nothing about allowing men into women’s statements. Allowing transgender folks in bathroom is a civic necessity. The discomfort, shame, and fear they feel of not being able to have that access is very real, and Rowling is willing to shove all that aside for the false claim that it will allow men into women’s bathrooms. Rowling either believes a false version of the law or is deliberately lying to further her point. In this statement Rowling also alludes to the long-held myth that sexual predators pretend to be trans and skulk around women’s bathrooms all day, ready to strike at any moment. This myth has been debunked over and over by watchdog groups like Media Matters.
As someone who has enjoyed Harry Potter into even adulthood, it’s difficult to grapple with the fact that someone who has created such a beloved property could have bigoted views–especially when Rowling is so outspoken about the importance of feminism. I can agree with her there–but I don’t want any part in a version that doesn’t include all women.