JK Rowling has become a controversial figure among Harry Potter fans with many questioning whether to support Hogwarts Legacy. Here because.
Like most 30-somethings, we spent our childhood absorbed in the world of Harry Potter. We were seven when the first book came out, and we were 17 when the last came out. We devoured those pages, to the point where we read the first four books in just one week. We wrote a letter to Fred and George Weasley, and we got an autograph in return. Like many others our age, we have extremely fond memories of the escapism afforded by JK Rowling’s Wizarding World.
But we are not excited about Hogwarts Legacy, the title coming out on February 10 in which we can all become students of Hogwarts. We will not buy it. We won’t play it. Someone will be able to do it happily, but we can’t separate the art from the artist. One might argue that Hogwarts Legacy is entirely the work of Warner Bros., but there’s no getting around the world within which Hogwarts Legacy is built, and JK Rowling may not have had a say in its development, but she still made money. from the sale of the licence. Hogwarts Legacy will have a direct influence on the already enormous popularity of Harry Potter.
Those who have stayed away from social media may not know why JK Rowling has become such a controversial figure. The means by which Rowling stays in touch with her audience is generally a Twitter account, where she has no fear in sharing her opinions: and the opinions that have most annoyed the network are those relating to the definition of a woman.
The root cause —
It all started in 2020, when Rowling criticized the title of an article that referred to “people who menstruate”, that is, people who menstruate. It was intended to be an inclusive description: a definition that also includes transgender men who continue to menstruate and excludes biological women – like yours truly – who do not, whether due to menopause, hysterectomy, anorexia or other fertility problems.
Commenting on the article, Rowling tweeted: “’People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there is a word for these people. Somebody help me”. Then she, in English, made fun of the term “woman”, pretending not to remember what that word was: “Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”. The comment was initially seen as transphobic, but the author strongly denied these allegations. “I respect the right of all trans people to live in whatever way they think is authentic and comfortable for them. I would march with you if you were discriminated against for being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by the fact that I am female. I don’t think I’m inciting hatred by saying that.”
‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?
Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate https://t.co/cVpZxG7gaA
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
That doesn’t change the fact that many felt hurt by her comments that transgender men aren’t real men and the implied notion that women who don’t menstruate aren’t real women. Just four days later, the writer published a lengthy post on her website titled “TERF Wars,” a reference to radical feminists who think transgender women are actually men. The post was full of inaccuracies: it claimed that a woman had been fired for transphobic tweets and that a judge had ruled that gender is not determined by biology. Both falsehoods.
The woman mentioned in the article had not been fired: she had a fixed-term contract that had not been renewed after the tweets were discovered. Furthermore, that judge had not ruled at all on the meaning of sex: his ruling stated that misgendering is not protected by free speech and is not “deserving of respect in a democratic society”. The facts were against Rowling, but that didn’t make her flinch from her point of view even an inch. And so did the millions of fans who expressed their disappointment at the views she was sharing.
A month later, Rowling tweeted about the effectiveness of giving medicines such as antidepressants and hormones to young people. She compared it to gay conversion therapy, a practice that has been linked to several medical conditions and is illegal in many countries. “Many, myself included, believe that we are seeing a new type of conversion therapy for young gay men, who are being taken down a long path of medicalization which could result in the loss of their fertility or full sexual function.” Again, she wrote that transitioning is seen by some as the solution to being gay.
Many, myself included, believe we are watching a new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people, who are being set on a lifelong path of medicalisation that may result in the loss of their fertility and/or full sexual function. 5/11
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) July 5, 2020
Trans people, and those in the know, would surely refute these claims. It is true that a small percentage of trans people go through a process of detransition, a term for when a person reidentifies with their biological sex. However, the vast majority of trans people are happy with their transition and only finally feel like themselves after making this decision. Many people who transitioned late in life wish they had done so sooner in hindsight. Additionally, many trans people are also gay, although they were viewed as heterosexual before their transition.
The Weight of Rowling’s Tweets —
Rowling’s influence cannot be underestimated, and while her opinions are hers alone, she knows that spreading them on social media will lead many to believe them to be facts, rather than mere opinions. However, Twitter isn’t the only way she’s expressed them. Also in 2020, the writer published Restless Blood, a novel that follows the story of a biological man who dresses as a woman when he commits murders. Thus the idea that trans women are only ‘pretending’ to be women so that they can get away with committing crimes is promoted.
Discussion of the topic has since escalated, with lawmakers beginning to legislate which bathrooms transgender people should use. There are fictitious commercials where transgender women enter women’s restrooms to assault biological women. And we’ve seen people, on social networks like TikTok, asking for the biological gender of people in public restrooms, and this seems to happen to both biological and trans women in equal measure.
Writing a book like that only adds to people’s unfounded fears they already have about trans people. What’s more, this conversation writes off trans men, suggesting they should use women’s restrooms. And, if you ask them what they would like, we’re sure the answer would be just to use the bathroom in peace.
Before Hogwarts Legacy —
Rowling states that “now that hundreds of trans activists have threatened me with beating, raping and murdering me, I understand that this movement poses no risk whatsoever to women”. After that it seemed like she took a little distance from her Twitter, or at least she kept certain opinions to herself. Of course, no matter how much you disagree with someone, nothing justifies sending death threats.
In 2022, however, he released another book. “Un Cuore Nero Inchiostro” tells the story of a youtuber accused of sharing racist, transphobic and ableist opinions. The book was mostly written in the style of a tweet, and ends with the main character being stabbed. To some it may appear as an attempt to justify and victimize oneself, an interpretation which the author has denied. “I think everyone will see this as a response to what happened to me but, really, it wasn’t. The first draft of the book was already finished when certain things happened,” she explained.
Yes, but now hundreds of trans activists have threatened to beat, rape, assassinate and bomb me I’ve realised that this movement poses no risk to women whatsoever. pic.twitter.com/qb1RrCFqy0
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) July 19, 2021
Maybe you can separate the Harry Potter books from Rowling, or maybe you agree with her statements. Or maybe you think that the hate she has received as a result of these statements of hers makes her the victim of this story. But there are millions of people who don’t. And, whether or not you want to play Hogwarts Legacy in February, now at least you know why.
Written by Georgina Young for GLHF