Dear Book Community –
This appeared in its bare-bones form as a post a while back on my page, I decided that a long-form explanation with more information was going up on my blog so here you go. Let us begin yeah?
Putting a disclaimer at the end of a post featuring Harry Potter books and/or merch stating you don’t support her views is a cop-out. Saying “Harry Potter has no author” isn’t a thing. Death of an author is not something we can apply to Joanne, and yeah if you follow my Instagram you’d have seen that I shared that meme in my storiesjoking that the series was authorless or with the various false authors credited. But it’s not reality. Harry Potter has an author, saying it doesn’t and that the fandom is owned by the Harry generation is not okay, it doesn’t fix what she’s done and is doing and you can’t change the fact and information available to suit your narrative. And I say that as someone from deep within the Harry generation.
So, let’s break this down some;
Joanne is a cis female billionaire who created a fantastic world. Her books have and will continue to offer an escape for many people, they are a coping mechanism for many, myself included. I had a childhood I often wanted to escape from, and Harry Potter was that for me. It was the book I dove into when my mother was in a drunken rage or even just after a day that felt never-ending. Every time I picked it up it was the warm hug of books. I will forever appreciate that. I will forever have that connection to it. It is undeniable that there are people out there who feel the same or more. This series of books shaped a generation and taught love and acceptance. However, JKR has created a fandom without precedence in a time of social media that affords her more power and influence than almost everyone, and that is why we cannot separate her from her work.
Joanne is an author with a platform that enables her to reach a staggering amount of people. On twitter, her soapbox of choice, she has over 14 million followers, a number that can be hard to comprehend. She is, essentially, standing in a room with 14 million people listening to her words, frequently without question.That is over 155 full-to-capacity Wembley Stadiums, that is four million MORE people than the population of Sweden. That is more people than words in the entire seven books that make up the Harry Potter series.
She uses her platform to spread her personal, genuinebeliefs as information, activism and feminism, whiletouting ‘I have spoken to a trans friend’, ‘I’ve received emails from the trans community’, and ‘research’ from sources that if you scrape below that surface layer lean heavily into her opinion while discarding actual research that has taken place in reputable settings. She plucks articles off the internet to support her belief and pushes it on the masses. To her core, JKR believes the things she is saying, that is why this is the particular hill she is choosing to (albeit so very slowly) die on. So why does this matter? Why can we not just ignore JKR and her TERF nonsense, enjoy posting the series, the merch, have the account names with Harry puns or spells?
This ‘death of the author’ way of thinking is trying to find a logical solution to a problem that is rooted in morals and ethics. While you personally may make peace with a separation of artist and art, if you continue to engage in public forums online, particularly the book and film communities, then without any doubt, the artist will come into play, ultimately forcing them into their place whether you want that or not, regardless of the personal stance you have taken.
Unlike an author such as (for example) Lewis Carroll, who has an iffy background and moral compass, he has been dead for some time now. He is entirely unable to partake in the work he created, use his profits to support his belief system and he is unable to speak to any of the claims against him, which means, to half-arse quote Hamilton, we can do whatever the hell we want cause he is Super Dead.
JKR is fairly young (55 as of 09/2020) and given her financial resources, will continue to be around for a fair long while yet. She has significant control over her product as well as a deep root within the fandom. There are very few creators quite so deeply a part of their own creation as her, and she knows this. She has had the masses on the hook so to speak, since she entered the public stage about the books. Dolling out information and approving concepts as ‘canon’, not to mention Pottermore, JKR has made sure that she is there and will continue to be there so long as she or the fandom live and this gives her an unfathomable amount of power when it comes to what she is putting out there, she has ready-built respect, a ready-built audience and she straddles a very wavy line in the sense that she has historically been supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community at large. She points back to this support, calling herself an ally and saying she will ‘march in the streets’ with the community (she hasn’t) all while she erases an entire margin of people. She also fails to realise that there are a lot of issues within the lgbt+ bubble, that there is a firm and steady section who do not believe trans people who identify as heterosexual should even be there. So, when she spouts off on her ‘real women’ crusade, at surface level it can be hard to spot her TERFery when you have her reference her ‘ally’ past, when openly lgbt+ people are supporting her and validating her, feeding into the rhetoric and reinforcing the concept on which she stands.
Also, let us be clear here. The concept she is arguing in a lot of her tweets isn’t even one that anyone inherently disagrees with. She has made comments along the lines of ‘if sex isn’t real…”. No one is saying that sex isn’t a real thing, we all agree that sex based on your chromosomes and the genitals you present with at birth is real. Sex being binary is a whole other conversation.Quite frankly, to say that only real women menstruate or get pregnant, that trans women are erasing ‘real women’ is asinine. Not all that are assigned female at birth menstruate or can have children, women who have gone through complete hysterectomies or menopause also do not menstruate or carry children. Are they still women? Hit me up Joanne, keen to chat.
You cannot control the way an author uses their influence in this world and ultimately JKR is knowingly using her influence to takes us back important steps in the trans rights movement. She will, if she hasn’t already, build an echo chamber around herself of like-minded people to further stoke her fire of righteousness and none of this looks like it will change anytime soon. This is quite literally what she believes at her core, despite her access to various resources, she has made the choice to not educate herself and instead uses her platform to support her own beliefs with zero fear that she will slip into obsoletion. Reinforced by the success of her adult books under the pen name ‘Robert Galbraith’ (we ain’t even diving that wormhole right now) JKR took her transphobic belief so far as to make the murderer of her latest adult novel ‘a man in a dress’. While at a base level this doesn’t seem like a massive deal given that there have been killers who cross-dress to get close to their victim, JKR has set this up to solidify the idea that firstly, trans women are just ‘men in dresses’ and secondly that this is harmful to cis women. She is adamantly opposed to neutral bathrooms/people using the bathroom they associate with because of her bizarre idea that a man will state they are trans to access the female bathroom and go on some sort of sexual assault bender.
I bloody hate to break it to people but anyone, man or woman, in the mindset of committing murder or rape, isn’t going to get to a toilet door sign and think ‘this is the line I can’t cross’. They’ve committed to a heinous crime already Joanne, a stick figure in a skirt won’t be stopping them.
Her most recent foray includes a shirt that states, ‘this witch won’t burn’ and is sourced from a store that is quite firm on the TERF train. This is the level she is at, petty shirts that poke fun at people who oppose her and elevate her to a status that either aligns her with the witches she wrote about and people love, or the historical sort that was burnt at the stake for being nothing more than progressive smart females. If you take the former interpretation, well, she is definitely not progressive and for the latter – honey everything burns if you have the right fuel.
All of this underlines how problematic JKR is as a person, without us even pulling apart the actual text that makes up the series itself. The fatphobic, racist, and stereotypical portrayals in Harry, things that as younger people went straight over our heads and as adults we could or would turn a blind eye to, things we didn’t fully comprehend and understand the true gravity of. When you combine those micro-aggressions with her current rhetoric, it shapes a wholly problematic author who pours all of these things into her books, continuously underscoring them to those who see them for what they are and subliminally telling the reader that these things are okay, that yes, a man in a dress is an inherently bad thing, again feeding into her platform. You can’t separate her from any of it when she has woven her feelings throughout.
Every time you post Harry Potter books, Harry merch (official and unofficial) you’re feeding that platform and aligning yourself with her, despite the ridiculous ‘I don’t’ support JKR’ disclaimers. And for what? Because you love Harry Potter? Because Harry made you feel better when you were 11, 14, 22, 30 – whenever. Because Harry Potter was your warm book hug? Is showing your love of Harry publicly really more important than the health and safety of a person? Is your new scrunchie, bookmark, funko pop more important than a living, breathing, confused, terrified teenager. A person that doesn’t feel like their body is right, that doesn’t understand what’s ‘wrong’ with them.
You may have posted pride stacks and queer YA books and jumped on the ally bandwagon for June. Maybe posted about your outrage in your stories when Joanne really let her TERF hair fly and the world took note. Now you continue to post Harry content, have your house displayed in your bio, or a ‘fun’ JKR related username all the while insisting that you love trans people and support them.
Honestly, I need to understand why. Why you need to know what my Hogwarts house is. Why your username or house is so crucial. I need to understand how any of those things are more important than a real person at times wondering why they are even alive. My messagesare open. The comments are on. Explain it to me, because morally and ethically, you can’t separate this.JKR quite literally, won’t let you. She has more wealth than she could spend in a lifetime and it is entirely self-perpetuating at this stage so all there is left is her influence and we need to do what is right here, we need to support our trans community, entirely, wholeheartedly.
I’m not saying you need to sell your books or throw out your merch, you can continue to love Harry Potter. Love that it made you feel safe. Love that it saved your life. Don’t ignore the very real damage the author is doing. If the lives and rights of the trans community are important to you (they damn should be) then just stopwith your public support of Harry and her.
Also, as a community that lives and breathes books, there are more books in this world than you can ever hope to read in your lifetime. Find another book to obsess over. The potential is endless.