[For some context, the image above reads ‘If Harry Potter has taught us anything, it’s that no one should live in the closet – J.K. Rowling’. Ironic.]
J.K. Rowling is known for her various distasteful and down-right ignorant tweets but on Saturday, she took to Twitter to share her thoughts on sex, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement. J. K. Rowling stated she disagreed with the term ‘people who menstruate’, saying, ‘I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben?’ This caused outrage with comments surging stating that ‘she continues to align herself with an ideology which willfully distorts facts about gender identity’. However, what is it that she is saying about gender? J.K. Rowling’s comment came from a piece published last month on Devex, expressing the need for equality post COVID-19 for those who menstruate. J.K. Rowlings tweet was outrightly transphobic, however, even after backlash, she stood by the sentiment continuing with a thread of tweets. She used the typical, ‘I know and I love trans people’ card to defend herself: ‘it isn’t hate to speak the truth’. She tweets that she would march with ‘you’ if the trans community was under threat but that her definition of woman is determined by her own experience as a female, ignoring any sense of personal life experience or suffering of individuals. ‘You’ solidifying the otherness that trans individuals face in society.
The issue of this tweet has two bodies. The first is how wrong she is by stating that only women menstruate. Trans women do not menstruate, but that does not make them any less of a woman. Women who have been through menopause may not have periods, that does not mean that they are no longer a woman. Individuals who no longer identify as female but menstruate, such as trans men and non-binary people, are not women because they bleed. Periods do not define sex or gender. J. K. Rowling proceeded to state that accepting trans and non-binary inclusive language is ‘erasing the concept of sex’. The second body of her ignorance is the power her words have over her fans. Like any celebrity figure, their words hold some sort of power in societies eyes but specifically in their fans eyes. In J. K. Rowling’s case, her fan base are as young as primary school children meaning the implications of her words can affect a young and impressionable person’s ideology. This is perhaps the true danger. The misleading and miseducation from an influencer is something we are sadly accustomed to but we need to change this. #CancelJKRowling is storming Twitter and rightfully so: fame should never be a free pass to spread misinformation.
Daniel Radcliffe went on record Tuesday stating that he hopes that J. K. Rowling’s comments will not ‘taint’ the Harry Potter series, however is this the bigger picture? No! The bigger picture is that people care more about the Harry Potter franchise then the spreading of misinformation on gender and sexuality. Radcliffe’s statement expresses that whatever feelings you have with the book series or films, if you feel that a ‘particular character is trans, non-binary, or gender fluid’ then that is ‘between you and the book’, ignoring the opinion of the author of said book. However, is this how it should be? Should we ignore the personal opinions from the authors of the books we hold dear or should we, as Twitter stated, CANCEL her and the series? Can a text exist away from its author?
I think the way we should look at this situation if through the eyes of Scarlet Marie, a big Harry Potter fan who recently came out as trans. She commented that J. K. Rowling has taken the magic away from the book and film series, ‘I know [J. K. Rowling] thinks I can’t be a woman because I wasn’t born one’. This is what we should be focusing on, how her fans who may have used the series as an escape throughout their transition have had that magic taken away from them.