Harry Potter and the Author Who Failed Us
June 11, 2020 12:31 PM   Subscribe

The Harry Potter book series helped me realize I’m nonbinary. Now I know that had nothing to do with J.K. Rowling. By repudiating Rowling’s anti-trans comments, millions of Harry Potter fans are also turning the series into a symbol of the power of a collective voice to drown out an individual one. The power of fans’ love and empathy for trans people and other vulnerable communities, and their steady rejection of Rowling’s prejudice, is a potent, raw form of cancellation — one undertaken not out of a spirit of scorn and ostracism, but with something closer to real grief — and it deserves to be a part of the story of Harry Potter.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (172 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
For a more specific point by point refutation of the transphobic screed JKR posted to twitter yesterday, this twitter thread is a good counterpoint. (Unrolled for slow connections)
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:38 PM on June 11 [20 favorites]




Yes- the aforementioned transphobic screed. I was trying not to link it directly because of the bigotry.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:42 PM on June 11 [66 favorites]


Indeed, if I had seen your comment before I posted mine I would have used the word screed. I still think it's worth reading the original as well as the critique.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 12:45 PM on June 11


We had a conversation about JK Rowling letting her TERF flag fly free last December, but she’s really committed herself to it here.
posted by pharm at 12:46 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


I read the damn thing. I had wanted to know how far she was gone, and sadly, it's pretty far, although she coats it with sugar and Concern (TM).

What struck me the hardest is when she talks about how she would have wanted to be a trans man if she'd felt it was an option when she was a teen, but she's now happy with being a woman. Ergo: trans men are teen girls who were victims of misogyny. Thing is? I was that girl. There weren't a lot of trans men visible in the '90s, but I knew it was an option. And I was a fool of a child in every possible way, full of internalized misogyny, but even I did not somehow trick myself into being trans. It's not that easy. It's not easy at all. JKR is mistaking her own feelings for everyone's.

She's also mistaking the danger that cis men pose for a danger posed by trans women. Possibly this is due to PTSD from an assault, but that assault was by a man, not a woman. Which is what a trans woman is. I pity her, although I would feel a lot softer about it if she was just somebody's mom instead of a wealthy and powerful writer.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:50 PM on June 11 [39 favorites]


If you haven't seen it, Daniel Radcliffe's response - written as a guest blog post with The Trevor Project - is astonishingly lovely.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:51 PM on June 11 [67 favorites]


It's best not to know anything about the actual creators of the things you love.
Like Halsey says, "…don't meet your heroes, they're all fuckin' weirdos".
posted by signal at 12:56 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Interested in this essay's argument about Tonks, which I find rather convincing, except that I don't imagine it was Rowling's conscious intention to write a dysphoric character who "outgrows" dysphoria (to be clear, I think that making these artistic choices without consciously considering your motivations is actually worse). What's also interesting about the Tonks/Lupin marriage is that it's a two-for-one: a butch outgrows her butchness through marriage to a character whom many people read as queer before he was made explicitly straight. (It's also a marriage of two shapeshifters -- you could write a lot, I imagine, about voluntary and involuntary shapeshifting in Rowling as a site of queer coding and a way to present queerness/transness as either involuntary and tragic, or a pleasurable experiment that is nonetheless only to be undertaken when forced to by unlikely circumstances.)
posted by thesmallmachine at 12:57 PM on June 11 [23 favorites]


[One comment removed. Transphobia isn't an "equally valid" opinion and if you feel otherwise you should get off MetaFilter and never come back.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:03 PM on June 11 [309 favorites]


It's best not to know anything about the actual creators of the things you love.

This piece argues against separating the creator from the work--at least in this case, and maybe generally.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:04 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


@MissEllieMae: There's no need to read JK Rowling's blog. If someone wrote a blog advocating, say, the end of women's suffrage, you wouldn't think "oh I better read that, and really engage with it." You'd know it was a waste of time and an insult. Transphobia is not a special class of bigotry.
posted by zachlipton at 1:06 PM on June 11 [52 favorites]


It's been really weird for me because suddenly people are turning for me for an "official" take on Rowling and I really don't feel fit to provide such.

She's scum, that was proved a long time ago. It's really nice to have the support of so many HP movies people. The art itself is still affected, of course. I spent a bunch of time tonight talking to comrades about Robert Galbraith, about Rita Skeeteer, about how Rowling views femininity and what is acceptable. I feel it was a productive night. It's hard in that my generation is the Harry Potter generation. Hermione was a role model for so many young women I know.

But for my friend and comrades, it's been a big few years wrt to Harry Potter. We went from considering them as our role models to interrogating their life choices. No one wants to be an auror. State violence is primary concern. Cops are trash.
posted by Acid Communist at 1:08 PM on June 11 [17 favorites]


Daniel Lavery today posted an excerpt from his book that does not answer this specifically, of course, having been written earlier, but resounds with it.

For whatever reason, whenever these people—who I believe truly cared for me, who actively willed the good in my life, who wanted to support trans people as much as possible—heard that I was transitioning, their very first, preverbal response was to imagine: Well, what if someone had forced me to transition?

As to separating the art from the artist, it's something I always found difficult to do, as a woman in a misogynistic culture. Now I'm embracing not doing it. (Part of the time. The other part of the time, I'm actively avoiding learning anything about people whose works I love.)
posted by Countess Elena at 1:09 PM on June 11 [10 favorites]


I feel bad for the millions of people for whom the books were (and are) so important. How disappointing for her to turn out to be so gross and bigoted. It’s been coming out for quite some time but she just keeps making it worse.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:10 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


Probably the most frustrating part of this saga (speaking as the father of an almost-seven-year-old who frigging LOVES Harry Potter) has been watching parts of the internet circle their wagons and double down on defending this ridiculous transphobic lady, even when they should know better. Like, LGBQIA spaces (note the missing T) loudly encouraging her, without any acknowledgement that 20 years ago they themselves were facing just as terrible condemnations from every mainstream source. There's no hint of intersectionality, just a bunch of folks who have decided to fly their "women's rights" flag on literally the worst possible flagpole.
posted by Mayor West at 1:12 PM on June 11 [16 favorites]


I've been waiting for this FPP.

I feel like Rowling keeps doubling down because she thinks we don't quite understand what she's saying and that's why we're mad about it. As if we haven't had this bullshit ENDLESSLY explained to us over and over again.
posted by Horkus at 1:13 PM on June 11 [43 favorites]




Daniel Lavery today posted an excerpt from his book that does not answer this specifically, of course, having been written earlier, but resounds with it.

Something a bit more recent and direct.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:18 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


The screed reads better in the original German.
posted by scrump at 1:21 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Harry Potter is ours now, and we make the rules.

This feels like an odd framing for something that the “serious” Harry Potter fans have been doing for a while now - it’s not like all of the fanfic to which Romano is linking to spontaneously appeared in response to the recent kerfuffle. While an interesting perspective on a painful reality, there’s nothing in this essay that seems to describe radical new action on anyone’s part, or even much of an adjustment related to Rowling’s works. Romano says that people need to “grieve and move on” but what, exactly, does that mean?
posted by Going To Maine at 1:21 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I was disappointed to see that Hadley Freeman -- who I've read a lot of over the years! bought some of her books! generally always liked! -- went on twitter in defense of JK Rowling's essay. The replies to the tweets seem like they're coming from another world. It's so weird to see all these people that I generally thought of as reasonable insist that they're defending women, when they generally seem to be, at best, tilting at windmills.
posted by grandiloquiet at 1:25 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


One of Rowling's strengths as a writer was to create deliciously nasty, horrible characters you loved to hate, a talent she shared with Roald Dahl, who had some vicious prejudices of his own. Now I wonder: is it possible to create Dolores Umbridge or Miss Trunchbull without having a little piece of them inside you to begin with?
posted by theodolite at 1:29 PM on June 11 [40 favorites]




I support trans rights but I tried to read it in actual good faith. I admit that I don’t know that much about trans issues. I just go with a life philosophy of “let people just live their lives, damn”.

But I read her essay because I was curious. Was I being too naive? Am I missing something here?

And it turns out no, I wasn’t missing anything. It was just a checklist of tired “arguments” that run the range from making zero sense to faux outrage to being outright dangerous for trans people.

The awful thing though is that her influence will have people read this drivel and think it’s actually well reasoned and eloquent and feel like finally someone is speaking to their truth.

But it’s really really not very good. I’m not even taking into account her bad “research”. Just her statements at face value are idiotic. Trans people taking away, I don’t know, the legitimacy of lesbians or something like that? Sexual predators registering as women so they can go in women’s bathrooms? Like.. wtf are you talking about?!

The only glimmer of sympathy I have for her is her sexual trauma. I feel very sad for her that her pain has manifested itself this way.
posted by like_neon at 1:36 PM on June 11 [18 favorites]


100% I swipe negative on anyone who mentions Harry Potter like we're in our 20s now if you're going to mention anything like that it better be BLM or they can go to hell.
posted by Acid Communist at 1:37 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Fuck you, Jo Rowling.

George Lucas trained nerd culture that the author isn't necessarily the best owner of a story. Nerd culture has long been re-examining its beloved stories, and has been more and more willing to see it with new eyes (everyone admits Xander is trash now). The Wizard of Oz survived its really racist author, and the Harry Potter books will probably survive, though with a lot more side-eye. Frankly, one of the rites of passage of parenthood is finding out how awful many of the books you grew up loving have become.
posted by rikschell at 1:38 PM on June 11 [17 favorites]


Now I wonder: is it possible to create Dolores Umbridge or Miss Trunchbull without having a little piece of them inside you to begin with?

Even if such innate nastiness is necessary for the creation of such characters, it is not sufficient. Case in point: Gl_nner's “Black Books”: anybody who has known an actual bastard bookseller (and that is an archetype) will know that Bernard Black is a watered-down, cuddly, almost lovable travesty of this archetype.

Charlie Brooker was far better at making deliciously awful characters (think the original Nathan Barley in TVGoHome, or various characters from Black Mirror), and so far hasn't turned out to be a terrible human being. I just hope that it isn't an iron law that he must be one.
posted by acb at 1:39 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


I'm just going to claim retroactively that my user name was based on J.K. Simmons.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 1:45 PM on June 11 [42 favorites]


One annoyance is that, as well as having a knack for loathsome characters, Rowling had a knack for coining metaphors that transcended her books and made their way into everyday life; i.e., the Hogwarts houses (“s/he's a Slytherin”), the Sorting Hat, horcruxes, and so on. The problem with metaphors is that they can carry the mindset of their authors in them, and just as Lovecraft's work is inseparable from xenophobia, Rowling's may be inseparable from a sort of reactionary gender-essentialism. And, of course, by using her words, one keeps her works in public discourse, rather than letting them decay into the huge pile of forgotten books.

It may do well to compile a lexicon of untainted alternatives for these terms and get them into common usage (for example, “horcrux” could be “phylactery” or “life token”; others, like personality taxonomies based on houses, may be taken from better works of fiction).
posted by acb at 1:47 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I didn't realize it until someone pointed it out to me in a discussion about this the other day when it dropped but I now I can't help but wonder if it was intentional on Rowling's part that she chose "Robert Galbraith" as her crime fiction nom de plume, given it's echoing of Robert Galbraith Heath, as in the Tulane University psychiatrist who who was one of the more prominent proponents of gay conversion therapy.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:50 PM on June 11 [9 favorites]


Well, she does have a tendency to telegraph characters in names; she named a werewolf Wolfy McWolfface, for example.
posted by acb at 1:54 PM on June 11 [21 favorites]


Well, she does have a tendency to telegraph characters in names; she named a werewolf Wolfy McWolfface, for example.

"cho chang" - some vague asian character, so of course in ravenclaw
"seamus finnigan" - irish character, so obviously a joke about explosives
"anthony goldstein" - jewish character, so of course in ravenclaw

of course that might have been too subtle to be noticed by people who wanted an "entertaining read"
posted by anem0ne at 1:58 PM on June 11 [26 favorites]


"cho chang" - some vague asian character, so of course in ravenclaw

Also, wasn't there another cookie-cutter model-minority swot whose name was almost “Priti Patel”?
posted by acb at 2:02 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


ugh, yes.

"padma patil" - some vague desi character, so of course in ravenclaw
posted by anem0ne at 2:04 PM on June 11 [8 favorites]


Rowling had a knack for coining metaphors

She did not. All of the narrative features you mention predate her. She popularized them and gave them currency. That is a different process requiring different skills.
posted by PMdixon at 2:05 PM on June 11 [20 favorites]


This comes at a bad time for trans rights in the UK. We have an Equalities minister who has been dog whistling the same kind of TERF nonsense as Rowling. The GRA consultation, which should finally report this summer unleashed two years of increasingly unhinged transphobia, capturing the majority of national newspapers. Rowling's essay made the front page of three of them. Over the last few months, councils have been withdrawing trans inclusion guidance for schools to avoid the costs of defending against legal challenges crowdfunded by TERFs. Who knows if this billionaire has thrown anonymous donations at this or any of the other sketchy crowdfunders that UK TERF orgs run all the time.

I worry about the reach of her comments, the way that TERF arguments have been honed into a weapon that sounds reasonable to the uninformed. I wonder who will be radicalised by this and the endless think-pieces by cis-writers that, whichever side they're on, simply further the idea that my rights and the rights of my community are up for debate. And what cover might be given to politicians who want to roll back the gains we've made in the past twenty years.

Last night my partner and I talked about where we might be able to go if things go really badly here in the UK. I know we're not the only ones.
posted by xchmp at 2:20 PM on June 11 [35 favorites]


I have a dear friend who was absolutely crushed to see this news. The HP books were such an important part of her youthful imaginative life and inspired her to write her own stories as an adult. She was afraid that she would not be able to continue to connect with those positive outcomes in her own life, given the horrible taint of the author's bigotry. I sent her what I thought was the most powerful part of Daniel Radcliffe's post and it seems to have helped. He said:

“If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred. And in my opinion nobody can touch that.”

I know it's important to wrestle with the cognitive dissonance of bad, harmful people making work that speaks so deeply to so many people, but I also think that Dan Rad has it right. The things in those books that were so important to my friend are hers to keep.
posted by merriment at 2:25 PM on June 11 [42 favorites]


She did not. All of the narrative features you mention predate her. She popularized them and gave them currency. That is a different process requiring different skills.

Most of Hogwarts is just a magical retread of the old Boy's Weeklies as reviewed by Orwell (cw slurs, racist caricature): "Needless to say, these stories are fantastically unlike life at a real public school. They run in cycles of rather differing types, but in general they are the clean-fun, knock-about type of story, with interest centring round horseplay, practical jokes, ragging roasters, fights, canings, football, cricket and food... Naturally the politics of the Gem and Magnet are Conservative, but in a completely pre-1914 style, with no Fascist tinge. In reality their basic political assumptions are two: nothing ever changes, and foreigners are funny."
posted by BungaDunga at 2:27 PM on June 11 [31 favorites]


In reality their basic political assumptions are two: nothing ever changes, and foreigners are funny.

Gee, that doesn't remind me of a certain author being discussed in this thread at all.
posted by PMdixon at 2:33 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


An aspect that hasn't been discussed so far in this thread is how hurtful and harmful what Rowling wrote is to autistic people, many of whom are trans. Here are a few responses I've seen so far:
Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network: AWN condemns JK Rowling’s anti-trans and ableist comments against trans women, autistic trans youth, and other trans people

Thinking Person's Guide to Autism: Autistic, Trans, and Betrayed By J.K. Rowling
And some Twitter threads (first tweet linked):
@autistichoya I'm horrified+enraged that JK Rowling isn't just openly a TERF now, but using autistic people as pawns. I'm autistic. I'm openly nonbinary and transmasculine. I was not brainwashed or manipulated into being trans. That's just rank, disgusting ableism on top of anti-trans hate.

@LaurakBuzz So, I've not read Rowling's transphobic manifesto, because fuck putting myself through that, but my mentions make it clear she's used the "Autistic people are being tricked into being they're trans by the evil trans lobby because they' don't know better" arguement, right? ...
Slightly more cheerful, from Chuck Tingle (who continues to prove love): jk rowling orginal tweet has 30 thousand likes right now (she has 14 million follows so 0.21 percent like it) and rival chuck tweet has 6 thousand likes (with 60 thousand followers) thats 10 percent. so chucks take proves about 50 TIMES MORE LOVE thank you for this quick math way
posted by Lexica at 2:33 PM on June 11 [39 favorites]


Gl_nner's “Black Books”

No! Dylan Moran is the main creative force behind Black Books and he has denounced the person in question.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:35 PM on June 11 [18 favorites]


I read the Harry Potter books in my late teens and twenties, so it wasn't a book that meant a lot as a child -- I enjoyed them in a different way. But the book that meant a lot to me, at 12, was The Mists of Avalon, and finding out, 20ish years later, about MZB cannot undo that, nor do I want it to. Just because the creator of something that mattered to you, or still matters to you, is a monster doesn't turn you into one. (I enjoyed her Galbraith books! I am feeling sad about the next one now.)

I might not love the term "menstruators" ("people who menstruate" is fine, thanks) but "natal women" is creepy.

(The Patels were twins, but the Gryffindor one was no less vague.)
posted by jeather at 2:38 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


I hope this also puts pressure on Warner Bros. to drop their representation/relationship with her. Up until a certain point they could shittily deny her being a TERF but she's being quite loud about it at this point. She really needs to just stop talking and disappear:

Evanesco!
posted by Fizz at 2:43 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Most of Hogwarts is just a magical retread of the old Boy's Weeklies as reviewed by Orwell

There is something very Blair-zeitgeist about Harry Potter: taking unexamined a bunch of traditions and institutions formed at the time of Empire and, with a new lick of paint, reframing them as something progressive and welcoming, as long as one isn't one of those joyless do-gooders who inquires too deeply about whether they really are progressive or welcoming. They're the literary equivalent of all that Union Jack tat that was around on the covers of lad's mags with Britpop rockers posing around it.
posted by acb at 2:45 PM on June 11 [50 favorites]


I suppose what is galling about JK Rowling's anti-trans stance is that it is so easy to ready the Harry Potter books as being a defence of the vulnerable against the powerful; of revolutionary new ways of thinking against the tired status quo; of the radicalism of youth versus the complacency of middle age. To find that, no, your particular minority are on the dark side, in Rowling's head, is galling.

(Supporters of Scottish independence, a cadre which is heavily supported by the the "Harry Potter Generation" demographic within Scotland but which Rowling has labelled bigots, could tell a similar tale of disillusion with the author)
posted by rongorongo at 2:47 PM on June 11 [16 favorites]


There is something very Blair-zeitgeist about Harry Potter

I've never even been to the UK and this comment just rings incredibly true for me. Wow.
posted by nickmark at 2:49 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Chuck Tingle: on completely unrelated note: YES i am working on new fantasy romance novel about trans wizard harriet porber.

I hope he has access to better legal representation than the Russian author of “Tanya Grotter and the Magic Contrabass”, a Potter-inspired work set in a wizarding school based on Slavic folklore, which was nuked into a smoking crater by Warner's lawyers.
posted by acb at 2:53 PM on June 11 [18 favorites]


it is so easy to ready the Harry Potter books as being a defence of the vulnerable against the powerful; of revolutionary new ways of thinking against the tired status quo; of the radicalism of youth versus the complacency of middle age. To find that, no, your particular minority are on the dark side, in Rowling's head, is galling.

The house elves tho. It was right in the text that trying too hard to be a good person was foolish. Rowling thought trying to end slavery was ridiculous. Literally, she chose to take a subplot where one of her main protagonists was trying to end literal slavery and make the takeaway that that protagonist was ridiculous and disproportionate to do so. Rowling was always this. I am really sorry people are experiencing loss of something important to them, but it's really important to distinguish genuinely unanticipated surprise actions from things that were going on the whole time that we weren't paying enough attention to. I did not put the books down at that point and that's on me. I treated that narrative choice as acceptable. That's on me. Rowling didn't make me do it. It's important for me to recognize that about myself.
posted by PMdixon at 2:57 PM on June 11 [60 favorites]


Separating the art from the artist can be really difficult, especially when you've grown a real connection to the art before learning the truth about its creator. Sometimes we can hindsight the whole thing and realize how much of the awfulness of the creator made it into the art, but often times we cannot. It's not my place to tell anyone what to like, but for myself I ask myself cui bono?

If the artist is dead and the rights have gone into holding, or their estate/family, and so far as I know none of them are monsters, then I will probably continue enjoying the art in most cases. But when the creator is still alive, still profiting, and still being terrible, yeah, no, fuck that. Which is why, for example, I don't listen to The Smiths or Morrissey any longer, even when they come on the radio.

I will not be purchasing or reading anything further from Ms. Rowling, nor will I now ever get around to watching the latest fantastic beasts movie (which perhaps is no great sacrifice, anyway). She has earned her way back to napkin scribbling obscurity, in my opinion.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 3:00 PM on June 11 [8 favorites]


Literally, she chose to take a subplot where one of her main protagonists was trying to end literal slavery and make the takeaway that that protagonist was ridiculous and disproportionate to do so. Rowling was always this. I am really sorry people are experiencing loss of something important to them, but it's really important to distinguish genuinely unanticipated surprise actions from things that were going on the whole time that we weren't paying enough attention to.

When someone shows you what they are, believe them.
posted by acb at 3:05 PM on June 11 [18 favorites]


Indeed, we've talked at length on the blue in several previouslies about her lack of knowledge, sensitivity, or concern for minorities as portrayed in her books and films. She's a huge piece of shit.
posted by Fizz at 3:16 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Is that what happened with the house elf plot? I honestly wondered, and wasn't willing to read it again to do so.

Kids, if you are sad about this, you are already better than she is.

(HUGS)
posted by allthinky at 3:33 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Most of Hogwarts is just a magical retread of the old Boy's Weeklies as reviewed by Orwell

Do check out Frank Richard's reply[pdf] to Orwell's essay; it's where I learned that people this reactionary are real.
posted by thelonius at 3:41 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


What is it about Englishwomen of that age? NGL, occasionally I google "Hilary Mantel TERF" and hold my breath until I see that there are no real results.
posted by praemunire at 3:55 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


I want to see a Potterverse fanfic exploring the historic use of Polyjuice potion to experiment with gender change.
posted by panglos at 3:58 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


it's not just english women, but english people; transphobia doesn't have the same visible linkage with the conservative/religious right as it does in america (even though funding for those english groups often do come from right-wing american sources). it's to the point where even the technically liberal/left garunaid's article on rowling's screed focused not on the transphobia, but on her white tears.

also, regarding polyjuice.

if someone wants to write that fanfic, let them. rowling's in damnatio memoriae territory for me, much like orson scott card, richard k morgan, john boyne, phillip pullman, and glinner.
posted by anem0ne at 4:03 PM on June 11 [14 favorites]


TINGLEVERSE SORTING HAT????? I am both curious and afraid to look.

Anyhoo.... it seems like JKR has been losing sanity for several years now. She wasn't the world's best writer in the first place, but everyone loves her worldbuilding and some of the characters are great. But seriously, she just gets more and more whackadoodle. Once she said that wizard poop shit I thought she had gone round the bend and it only gets worse. Did being rich and famous do it? Being allowed to write whatever she wants without editing? Does she need a medical exam of some sort to check her head?

Seriously, why the heck is she so freaked about trans people? They're not gonna steal her vagina or something. Why does she feel threatened?
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:04 PM on June 11 [8 favorites]


So regarding JKR and other TERFs who are trying to support feminism, to the exclusion of trans people. Every time they open their mouths on the topic, they do feminism, of whatever stripe, whatever the opposite of a solid is. Supposedly they want to help women. But raging against trans women, who are a small subset, hurts their whole cause. From a pure, macchiavellian perspective, wouldn't it do women better if the TERFs kept their bigotry to themselves?

Seems like, looking only at the end results, TERFs aren't doing Fs any good at all.
posted by notsnot at 4:16 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


TINGLEVERSE SORTING HAT????? I am both curious and afraid to look.

THE TINGLEVERSE SORTING HAT IS PLACED UPON YOUR HEAD
posted by Lexica at 4:22 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Sorry to talk so much but this is such a lot for me. It's really a lot. The last time I remember crying properly was when I read Dumbledore's death scene. I was killing time in the school library, my dad was doing training and the school year hadn't started and I just cried for hours on the couch in the library.

Ever since roughly then I've felt broken. There's a fancy ABC journo intern comrade who is great, but for me I think I'll always remember that her FB inbox somewhere contains me just turned 15 trying to cry and failing because I can't cry properly anymore and my emotions feels all broken and fucked up and I just think about estradiol so often and how Rowling and their allies would make my life so much harder if they could.
posted by Acid Communist at 4:30 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Aww fuck no.

So, here's the thing.
The Sun has decided to weigh in by publishing a front page story / interview with her abusive ex. husband.

The responses I've seen so far from trans-allies are so far universally to say something along the lines of:
"Rowling is wrong, but this behaviour is completely reprehensible. The sun can get to fuck"
Or words to that effect.

I hope this will be a lesson to the people who say that trans-allies are misogynist.
Rowling is wrong. But you don't get to behave that way.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:37 PM on June 11 [21 favorites]


THE TINGLEVERSE SORTING HAT IS PLACED UPON YOUR HEAD

Your head if you're LUCKY
posted by Mayor West at 4:42 PM on June 11 [18 favorites]


I was much too old for Harry Potter when it came out, so for me they have always been weird mediocre kids books that people were inexplicably obsessed with. They are filed in the same spot as stuff like the hunger games in my mind. That said, I did eventually read them to see what the fuss was all about, and am not surprised at the prejudices of J.K.R. given all the weird and very British classism and bigotry in the books.

I’m not judging people who grew up with the books as an important part of their childhood, because goodness knows the stuff I loved and read and reread as a kid (Narnia anyone?!?) are quite different from the eyes of an adult, and the authors are not people to look up to at all. but the seeds are all there in the books. Heck, the main protagonists are kind of a jerky, anti-intellectual jocks.
posted by fimbulvetr at 4:50 PM on June 11 [9 favorites]


Sarah Z (@MarySueWriter):
when i was younger i was annoyed by how jk rowling handled houses, bc you're sorted as a CHILD and it's treated as immutable, informs your lifelong treatment, politics, and friendships, can never be breached/changed, and this assignment system is never criticized in-text and.. oh
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:50 PM on June 11 [69 favorites]


What proves to me that JKR is lying about every single thing she said in that essay is that SHE ACTIVELY DEFENDED JOHNNY DEPP: a cis man who violently abused his spouse, a cis woman, on camera in a viral video. She not only defended him but also insinuated that Depp was blameless:
For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful. However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected. Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.
Yeah. So her concern for actual victims of male domestic violence is nil in relation to concern for her profits. But oh, doesn't the facade of concern make such a lovely shield for furthering her TERF agenda! See how it glitters even though it's cheap and see-through? It's made of pure white-woman-tears.
posted by MiraK at 4:51 PM on June 11 [24 favorites]


Some are now speculating that Rowling is the source of a lot of the money of the UK's suspiciously well-funded anti-transgender movement. Until now, the usual explanation was that the money was smurfed actoss the Atlantic from US Religious Right groups like Hands Across The Aisle, though that doesn't explain why the US's TERFs/FARTs aren't swimming in as much cash as the UK's.
posted by acb at 4:55 PM on June 11 [8 favorites]


It sounds like her fear, which I believe is genuinely felt by her (I'm not commenting on its validity), is the root of a lot of this. How do we deal with that fear?
posted by amtho at 5:00 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


It's wild to me how quickly and widespread this kind of anti-trans senitment has taken hold in the UK. (It can't all be Mumsnet radicalization, can it?) I mean, it's not like N. America is some kind of trans paradise, but just the sheer amount of UK anti-trans stuff coming out of high-profile people like Rowling or Linehan and even sometimes in mainstream outlets like The Guardian and the BBC is mindboggling to me. What I find even more baffling is that a lot of these people are old enough to have lived through the evolution of gay rights from, say, the 1980s to the present. Can't they see that most of these so-called arguments are just recycled from anti-gay stuff from back then? I could have sworn there was the same kind of hand-wringing over gays in public bathrooms & locker rooms as well as brainwashed / peer-pressured children. All of this anti-trans stuff seems like a retread of that anti-gay stuff.

There's a tweet referring to the latest BLM civil rights protests in the US that goes: "how u gonna be on the wrong side of history while it’s repeating itself like bro ur failing an open note test" I feel the exact same way about this TERF stuff.
posted by mhum at 5:03 PM on June 11 [26 favorites]


I'm trans and a Harry Potter fan. JK Rowling is older than I am but we're both Generation X, and in her remarks I hear a lot of attitudes that would have been fairly common in progressive people circa 1995. Like, the most out-there riot grrrl with blue hair and a septum piercing, she may well have said crap like this. I heard plenty of it. Rowling has lived long enough that her 1995 lefty values have become embarrassingly dated, she doesn't realize she's decades behind the times. Fingers crossed she comes to her senses before she becomes some tiresome crank ranting about these snowflake kids today. She may not realize it, but she's come to a very dangerous fork in the road. One path leads to her remaining the JK Rowling we know and love, the other leads to her being the darling of Fox News, celebrated by the people she grew up hating. She's smart enough that I still hope she will look around soon, realize she's surrounded by a bunch of smiling Dolores Umbridges, and ask herself, "How did I get here? "
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:04 PM on June 11 [28 favorites]


It sounds like her fear, which I believe is genuinely felt by her (I'm not commenting on its validity), is the root of a lot of this. How do we deal with that fear?

Depends on which fear?

Like, her "fear" of male violence is not only baseless in this context but it's also fake - pure performance. If she was terrified of empowering violent men, she would not be working with Johnny Depp, let alone speaking in his defense.

Her fear of losing her cis privilege, on the other hand, is extremely real. It should be dealt with exactly as we are doing now: by telling her to fuck off en masse in all our various ways.
posted by MiraK at 5:10 PM on June 11 [16 favorites]


> amtho: "It sounds like her fear, which I believe is genuinely felt by her (I'm not commenting on its validity), is the root of a lot of this. How do we deal with that fear?"

I can't speak to Rowling herself, but one thing I've noticed from some anti-trans stuff I've seen on the internet is that the anti-trans people seem like they're talking about trans people as more of a theoretical phenomenon rather than as, well, actual real-life, living and breathing people. Like, it's all about these weird thought experiments and hypothetical situations and rarely about actual lived experiences. And when real experiences are referenced by terfs (invariably in a negative light), they're most often either deeply misleading, unrepresentative outliers, or just plain lies.

So, assuming good faith -- which given how all of this has unfolded over the past few years, I'm not sure we should be granting that -- we could chalk up Rowling's fear to simple ignorance that could be alleviated just by having her sit down with some trans people and talking it out. But, she's a grown-ass adult millionaire, one of the richest women in the world. If she wanted to do this, I'm guessing she would have done it already.
posted by mhum at 5:43 PM on June 11 [14 favorites]


I think...I have a lot of feels about the Potterverse. Like: JKR is awful but the Potterverse stories I’ve been reading and rereading for decades are all on AO3, and they’re often radical, queer, transmogrified if you will from what they were. Is it possible to still love the fanon but not the canon? Can’t we just take moral ownership of the ‘verse from her and give it to the fans who are largely far better and kinder writers? Or does it taint it too much?
posted by corb at 5:53 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


I think you can love the creation of the vilest creator, if you can, but if that person is still alive, better not put any cash in their pocket or throw any love their way. One thing you can know with absolute certainty is that JKR is not getting any money from the AO3.
posted by praemunire at 6:17 PM on June 11 [23 favorites]


I'll quote from the end of the article, which answers this question. I recommend clicking through and reading because quite a lot of this quote has bonus links.
But if we can’t erase Rowling, what can we do instead? We can break up with her.

We can grieve, nurse our wounds, and be sad we loved someone who hurt us so badly. We can celebrate happier times while mourning a relationship we outgrew — one that became toxic — and regretting the time we spent waiting for a problematic fave to change and grow. We can give ourselves time to heal. And we can consider accepting that the microaggressions we may have noticed in Rowling’s books themselves were, perhaps, warning signs obscured by a benevolent, liberal exterior.

Jo can keep the money, and Pottermore and Cormoran Strike, and definitely all of Fantastic Beasts. She can keep the house elves who really love their enslavement, the anti-Semitic goblin stereotypes, Dolores Umbridge, Voldemort, the Dementors, and Rita Skeeter. I’ll take Harry and Hermione and Ron and Draco, Luna and Neville and Dumbledore’s Army. I’ll take Hogwarts and pumpkin pasties and butterbeer and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and every other moment of magic and love this series has given me and countless others.

Trans and queer Harry Potter fans get to keep Tonks and Remus and Sirius Black and Charlie Weasley and Draco, because I say so; Harry Potter is ours now, and we make the rules. J.K. Rowling lost custody over her kids and now we can spoil them, let them get tattoos, express themselves however they want, love whomever they want, transition if they want, practice as much radical empathy and anarchy as they want. Harry Potter is Desi now. Hermione Granger is black. The Weasleys are Jewish. Dumbledore’s Army is antifa. They’re anything you want and need them to be, because they were always for you.

As for me, I won’t be reading or rereading Harry Potter any time soon. I have endless Harry Potter fanfiction and novels written by Harry Potter fans who grew up to explore instead. Above all, I have the Wizarding World that lives on in my heart — queer, genderqueer, deviant, diverse, and currently defunding the Aurors.

That’s the Harry Potter we all created together, without J.K. Rowling. And we all know that’s the version that matters, in the end.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:18 PM on June 11 [30 favorites]


It's wild to me how quickly and widespread this kind of anti-trans senitment has taken hold in the UK. (It can't all be Mumsnet radicalization, can it?)
No it’s not all mumsnet. I don’t know that anything’s got to the bottom of it but this tried. I say tried, there’s missed nuance as I was part of the UK skeptics community mentioned there for example and while some parts have gone super transphobic, myself and others haven’t and have lost friends to the other side, often very acrimoniously. Some on the pro-trans rights side work super hard to be more inclusive and less awful in that way and others, but would still label themselves as part of that grouping.

I think it’s a deeply complex phenomenon with roots going back further than are obvious, and one needs to be careful not to malign some really lovely trans friendly people along the way. But I hope we figure out how to do away with it as it’s so shameful and incredibly hurtful.
posted by edd at 6:22 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Is it possible to still love the fanon but not the canon?
Sure yeah lots of things are possible especially with emotional postures people hold.
Can’t we just take moral ownership of the ‘verse from her and give it to the fans who are largely far better and kinder writers?
Moral ownership according to who?
Or does it taint it too much?
Taint by whose standards?

I mean I think at the end of the day we're all responsible for signing off on our own decisions about engaging with cultural artifacts created in the world we have, because very few of them will be the ones we would make in a world that didn't have the axes of oppressionis embedded in it this one does. The way I try to reason about it is whether those axes are load bearing ones of the work in question. That is roughly by definition extremely subjective.
posted by PMdixon at 6:22 PM on June 11


I can't speak to Rowling herself, but one thing I've noticed from some anti-trans stuff I've seen on the internet is that the anti-trans people seem like they're talking about trans people as more of a theoretical phenomenon rather than as, well, actual real-life, living and breathing people. Like, it's all about these weird thought experiments and hypothetical situations and rarely about actual lived experiences. And when real experiences are referenced by terfs (invariably in a negative light), they're most often either deeply misleading, unrepresentative outliers, or just plain lies.

So, assuming good faith -- which given how all of this has unfolded over the past few years, I'm not sure we should be granting that -- we could chalk up Rowling's fear to simple ignorance that could be alleviated just by having her sit down with some trans people and talking it out. But, she's a grown-ass adult millionaire, one of the richest women in the world. If she wanted to do this, I'm guessing she would have done it already.
i don't know why one should assume good faith. this is exactly the same kind of behavioral pattern other bigots use when talking about the groups they hate: not as people, but as hypothetical objects to be debated. you see this in conversations about race, about sexuality, about women...

they are not interested, by and large.
posted by anem0ne at 6:35 PM on June 11 [21 favorites]


amtho, I do it by trying to live my best life. To decide when and where I feel safe ish wearing my plus sized pretty dresses. Not even comfortable, just safe ish.

By picking my fights carefully, by trying to disagree with the opinions and beliefs but not the person. By reminding myself that existence is resistance, on the days when even existing feels hard. By reminding myself that plenty of people love and admire me. That I'll never know what little ripples of love and kindness I'll spread, what inspiration I'll be just by sharing my world.

And at the end of the day, no bigots can push me from my chosen hill. Yeah, they can spew hate and incite violence. Yeah, they can make my life harder and riskier and oppressive.

But they can't change who I am. Nobody can. It was hard enough to carve out this little peaceful cave from the mountains, and their hate can not move me.
posted by Jacen at 7:21 PM on June 11 [15 favorites]


THE TINGLEVERSE SORTING HAT IS PLACED UPON YOUR HEAD

Your head if you're LUCKY


elsewhere if you're luckier

dibs on house unicorn
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:23 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


A tangential question: anem0ne mentions Phillip Pullman as one of a series of authors who have turned out to have noxious personal views. His work is for obvious reasons controversial amongst Christians, but I have been unaware that his private views were reprehensible. The wikipedia article doesn't explicitly mention anything like this. Can someone explain or point to enlightening source of info about Pullman in this regard? Or have I misunderstood anem0ne's point in their list?
posted by bertran at 7:30 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I believe Pullman's issue (as I've seen it drift across my feeds) has been a repeated "Oh, I couldn't possibly understand all this, isn't it a big hullabaloo about nothing" which's worn thin for a lot of people. I'm sure other people have better receipts, but that's what I've seen split across time.
posted by CrystalDave at 7:36 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


JKR is a genius at imagining a mythic school, but regrettable in our real life.

(That ongoing stupid myth of a masculine pervert barging into the ladies public bathrooms with the intention of perversion upon the pretext of gender identity has never been documented. Maybe if you ask reddit, they could easily fabricate some fake anecdotes. Or some generic frat boys so drunk that they got the wrong door.)
posted by ovvl at 7:38 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


Can someone explain or point to enlightening source of info about Pullman in this regard?

Tor.com: His Dark Materials Fails to Deliver a Much-Needed Update of the Original Books where the first sub-heading is, "The Demonization of Non-white and Indigenous Peoples". (The article itself is a bit of a "compare-and-contrast" between the new TV series and the books.)

The TL:DR is that His Dark Materials has some problematic racial & colonialist approaches to characters and world-building.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:44 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Is it possible to still love the fanon but not the canon?

I can only share how it worked for me. I was a huge Pern fan, and the crazier Anne McCaffrey got -- and she was emailing me during the tent peg blow up -- the harder it got for me.

For a while I kept kind of faith with my former self and tastes and tried to separate McCaffrey from Pern. But then once the kind of spell of that initial wonder of discovery and suspension of disbelief is over, you start to notice things better, like I'd glossed over the issue of 'women who don't want to have sex don't mind later if the rapey stuff was good!" and gay people can't be leaders (even though HEY GAY PEOPLE., this was a long time ago) etc. etc. and then I gradually lost my taste for the whole thing and I put it all away on the bottom shelf and then a box and then finally I realized I didn't want to hand my now-teen kid any of the books and so I gave them all away. And I'm okay with that.*

All the problems in the writing were always there, and it was not just McCaffrey who ended up having weird ideas, it was me who grew out of accepting the problematic parts. I still understand why I loved the parts I loved, too. But the parts that were not whole, were never whole. With JK Rowling, I am not a super fan but I have read the books twice, on my own and with my kids, and on the second reading I definitely tripped up on spots that I feel like connect with this streak in her to negate entire swaths of human existence.

I suspect the same thing that happened with me and Pern is going to happen with a large swath of Harry Potter fans. And it will be okay. There are still great books out there worth reading, although these days I do guard a small part of my heart and keep an eye on Twitter.

She did not. All of the narrative features you mention predate her. She popularized them and gave them currency. That is a different process requiring different skills.

Yeah, I went to a school in the 80s which had actual houses, named for the first four headmasters, and that kind of invention is definitely not even a literary trope, it's just a trope. David Frum graduated from this school and we have sometimes joked that the reason he came up with "axis of evil" is that it originated in house rivalry, so.

Now I wonder: is it possible to create Dolores Umbridge or Miss Trunchbull without having a little piece of them inside you to begin with?

Uh...I hope so. :)

I don't think it needs saying, but on preview of a comment that is hopefully about to be deleted, maybe it does, that JK Rowling is not just wrong, but she is negating an entire aspect of human experience and hurting real people. That is some dark shit.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:50 PM on June 11 [21 favorites]


* Oops I forgot to say, but I am glad I spent so much time in my youth on the Internet roleplaying hiding in caves from acidic worms from space/dragons breathing on them to kill them, it seems to have been a good set up for a coronavirus pandemic.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:54 PM on June 11 [9 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. Again, Mefi isn't a place for a debate over basics about transphobia or people's lives.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:58 PM on June 11 [17 favorites]


I was also similarly really bummed when I found out that Orson Scott Card is crazy homophobic.
posted by gt2 at 8:02 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


What is it about Englishwomen of that age? NGL, occasionally I google "Hilary Mantel TERF" and hold my breath until I see that there are no real results.

Mantel writes eloquently in Giving Up the Ghost about her painful relationship with her gender as a child -- her ardent wish to become a boy, and her despair at the slow recognition that it wasn't going to happen. I read that book recently and appreciated very much that she seems to be able to just sit with that memory as an adult, and whatever emotions it may bring.
posted by thesmallmachine at 8:14 PM on June 11 [15 favorites]


I believe Pullman's issue (as I've seen it drift across my feeds) has been a repeated "Oh, I couldn't possibly understand all this, isn't it a big hullabaloo about nothing" which's worn thin for a lot of people. I'm sure other people have better receipts, but that's what I've seen split across time.
this would be correct. for instance, this, from 2018, and you can see good explanations from Magdalene Visaggio and MeFi's own Avery Edison, for example; only to come back within a very short time with this, and then regularly retreating to calls for "civility" and milquetoast both-sidesism, continually framing it as a "debate" while being super passive-aggressive and feigning ignorance, and then agreeing with bad faith interpretations of what's going on.

is it on the same level as jk rowling or richard k morgan or orson scott card or graham linehan? no. is it about as bad as what john boyne is doing? maybe. is it really more just at this point i don't want to waste time with people who pull this shit over and over? yeah.
posted by anem0ne at 8:40 PM on June 11 [18 favorites]


I just assume that everyone thinks this way about me, until they prove otherwise. It's disheartening, yes, but at least I'm not surprised or shocked.
posted by Pong74LS at 8:47 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


It's so frustrating because she sounds like one of her antagonists. Aunt Marge, Petunia Dursley, or Umbridge would say this thoughtless, cruel shit. If your favorite author writes hawkish CIA gun porn thrillers, you'd expect them to have gross views in their personal life. But Harry Potter is about found families and love triumphing over evil. It's just sad. I hope she realizes what a fuckwit she's being someday, but I'm not going to count on it.
posted by lovecrafty at 9:05 PM on June 11 [13 favorites]


Thanks, anem0ne, for the links and your further remarks; I understand your inclusion of him in that list now.
posted by bertran at 9:13 PM on June 11


I haven't gone through all the links, but I don't think anyone has posted this comic yet. It's from the last time she pulled this shit.

And John Cleese is on Twitter defending Confederate statues as I type this.

I don't want to live in this timeline any more.
posted by jrochest at 9:17 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


It really does feel like the UK media is becoming more and more openly transphobic as time goes on, like things are going backwards.
posted by Mauve at 11:22 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I reactivated this damn account after almost a year away JUST to drop into this thread to express my profound anger towards The-TERF-Who-Does-Not-Deserve-To-Be-Named.

And it's not even anger. Or disappointment. It's actually gone beyond outrage at this point. I am fucking livid. She thinks she's a Hermione when this entire time she has always been a Dolores Umbridge.

Daniel Radcliffe on the other hand remains perfect and I agree that Hogwarts belongs to us, not her, it's irrevocably ours now. Her having the emotional intelligence of a teaspoon or maybe a grain of sand just nixxed her permanently from this space forever.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:50 PM on June 11 [53 favorites]


.
posted by Coaticass at 12:22 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


It's wild to me how quickly and widespread this kind of anti-trans senitment has taken hold in the UK. (It can't all be Mumsnet radicalization, can it?)

Part of it is that on the supposedly 'left' side of politics, there's this tradition of political lesbianism, established in the 1970s/80s, where straight women became lesbian because you can't sleep with your oppressor. That was already a fairly homphobic movement, well know for being violent against actual lesbians.

That movement and generic second wave feminism in the eighties had led to a coterie of celebrity feminists who had lost any real relevance decades ago but who are still being published in the Grauniad. People like Suzanne Moore, Judith Bindel, Hadley Freeman, Germaine Greer and such. For them being transphobic was a career move. It was those people who made transphobia respectable in a section of the liberal left.

Meanwhile for the rightwing press, most noticably The Times, trans people make good culture war fodder for their elderly bigots to get outraged about.

Combine that with a glinner being furious people didn't like his transphobic joke on the IT Crowd and Rowling being a massive arsehole et voila.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:26 AM on June 12 [19 favorites]


I came here to post what Just This Guy, You Know said. The overall online reaction of "JK's views do not justify this misogynistic threat, and The Sun are evil for doing this" really highlights who is sticking to principles and who is taking sides for its own sake.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:01 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Her blog post is a perfect execution of DARVO.

Aside from that Black Trans Lives Matter and I cannot stand centering a white cis TERF during pride month.

I feel very sad for my trans friends in the U.K.
posted by nikaspark at 4:38 AM on June 12 [13 favorites]


I'm generally not sympathetic to the 'read another book' crowd - cultural touchstones become cultural touchstones because they're widely known enough that you don't have to explain the references - but I honestly wonder how much punishment people have to take before they decide that it's not worth loving something that clearly doesn't love you back. Even the things that people agree on - the special wizard school with the houses that divide people up by what temperament you had at 12 - are problematic. The worldbuilding is rubbish. (How many people live in Diagon Alley, exactly?) At what point do people go, fuck it, let's get a wiki, let's reboot the setting and file off the serial numbers, and have our own thing that captures what we like about these books without the stuff that's bigoted or just short-sighted.

Maybe, one day, people will invent good rules for quidditch.
posted by Merus at 5:17 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


At what point do people go, fuck it, let's get a wiki, let's reboot the setting and file off the serial numbers, and have our own thing that captures what we like about these books without the stuff that's bigoted or just short-sighted.

Depends on what motivates them. For people whose connection to the piece is not actually to the piece but the community around the piece, a lot of times the answer is "never." If the reason you're in the conversation has nothing to do with the details of the books or the authors, it's unlikely that anything in the details of the books or authors will make you leave it.
posted by PMdixon at 7:15 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


This whole situation is so heartbreaking. I know for so many of my queer friends, Harry Potter held a special place in their hearts, and now they have to deal with taking down their idol over and over and over again. I think it has all of us wondering who will come out and casually repeat the dogwhistles next. It has got me wondering about how to counter TERF rhetoric against people who haven't heard it yet or are undecided. It is insidious but effective, which means that dealing with it and the misinformation is critical.

I don't know how TERFs work in the UK, since I'm not from there, but I am familiar with their online strategy. Basically, you know how many (most?) queer people have a lot of trauma related to growing queer in a queerphobic society? Sometimes people who are traumatized react in weird ways. TERFs pick up on the things traumatized trans folks say and then broadcast them as if they were agreed-upon by all trans people and supporters of trans people.

Today, I was reading a comment thread on another place about fashion and exclusivity. The topic veered to femininity and how women are "forced into femininity." Then a non-binary person said that cis women should not use that phrase because only trans women are forced into femininity, because cis women can wear sweatpants. I understood the point they were trying to make about how cis women have a broader range of societally acceptable clothing than trans women, but what they wrote was "cis women can't claim to be forced into femininity." Which is false, but also exactly the kind of thing that would set off a TERF. TERFs find these things, claim that they are representative of all trans people ("trans people are trying to say cis women never have to deal with problems of feminine social expectations! They are literally trying to take the concept of misogyny away from us and erase our experiences!"), and use their carefully curated images to seduce people who are unfamiliar with actual trans thoughts.

Of course, this is an extreme minority opinion. Most trans folks of all stripes I've spoken to don't think that cis women never have to deal with onerous expectations of femininity. Most trans folks I know are feminists. Many trans women fight for abortion rights, even though they themselves will never have need for them, because they have compassion for and solidarity with other women. But TERFs will wait for one person to say "cis women aren't oppressed because they can wear sweatpants" and use that to strike an emotional chord with every uninformed cis woman who has never read about trans people, but had their own traumatic experiences with gender growing up. This is why so many TERFs are lesbian, bi, survivors of domestic abuse, have/had eating disorders. Not all of them, but TERFs know to target these groups with these messages because it works so well. It's emotional manipulation.

I was reminded of how Rowling said she was learning about trans people by screenshotting tweets. I wondered whose tweets she had screenshot before she started Liking them. What were the messages that caught her eye? I wouldn't be surprised if she had come across exactly these out-of-context, emotional cries painted as an evil plot to oppress cis women. Screenshots designed to leave out the other non-binary person who responded to the OP, saying that they were not being fair or realistic about the sweatpant situation. Screenshots that find well-meaning but mis-informed cis allies and amplify their misunderstandings. Screenshots designed to ignore the incredible diversity of thought within trans circles.

This is why it's important for cis allies to be well-informed about trans people. (It is not trans people's responsibility to clean up cis people's transphobia.) I've seen so many cis allies mess up and say things are just not true while attempting to defend trans people. Platitudes aren't enough: "trans women are women", "trans men are men," "non-binary people are non-binary" is wonderful but it is only the beginning. If cis allies want to be committed to the cause, they need to delve deeper and engage with more trans readings and experiences. I've seen cis allies say the wildest things like "if we make it okay for cis men to wear dresses, this will hurt trans women!" Like... no?? What gave you that idea??? These well-intentioned folks are woefully unable to deal with TERF rhetoric unless they're already speaking to people who agree with them. Cis folks need to step up their game because when they mess up and say nonsense like that, it affects trans people down the line.
posted by phonemefox at 8:42 AM on June 12 [49 favorites]


As the parent of an 8-year-old trans Harry Potter superfan, I would like to say that this is an enormous fucking drag. Reading JK's comments over the course of the last year, I knew this was where she was headed, but I didn't want to believe it. Please stay tuned for the AskMe in which I beg the hive mind for guidance on how to talk to your kid about one of their heroes being a fucking bigot who doesn't think they should exist.
posted by la glaneuse at 11:17 AM on June 12 [24 favorites]


I wish I could favorite phonemefox's comment a few more times—there are few things in my life more humbling than thinking what a great ally I was to trans folks back in my younger days before making a few IRL trans friends who very patiently, and with great grace and forebearance, set me straight on a whole lot of the leftover bullshit and progressive-feeling wrongheaded notions that I'd taken for granted in my smug sense of being woke. The main thing, and this applies to a lot of other pressing cultural issues right about now, was a simple request—listen to us.

It seems simple, right? Listen, and don't try to reason out your understanding in big philosophical ways, or talk through your understanding like you're on the debate team in high school, or look for the tempting gotcha spots and but-but-buts as you benefit from someone else's lived experience. Just shut up, pay attention, and learn.

It's so easy to get lost in that cramped little echo chamber of your own ideas and terribly important feelings on things when it's just you batting ideas around your head without the resource of someone who knows it from the inside. Having come of age and come out as a standard-issue cis gay when that was much, much harder than it is now, I'd think we'd all have a very personal understanding of how often arguing for one's place in the world was too often being mired in fighting off one persistent dumb idea or another, seemingly without end, but we still manage to forget. The prize in your having been wrong, other than building enduring friendships in the process, is an increasing mastery of the exquisitely fine art of not making things about you.
posted by sonascope at 12:08 PM on June 12 [13 favorites]


Jill Sobule has this song about our (Western) Heroes being disappointing and it keeps playing in my head. If she does get around to adding some more verses (as she has promised) I won't be surprised if JK makes the list.

@la_glaneuse Tamora Pierce made a statement against transphobia and she is the perfect author for your kid to read at their age.
posted by possibilityleft at 12:10 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


jrochest, Jon Rosenberg has another cartoon of current relevance.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:22 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I made a lengthy tumblr post about my current feelings on this subject , which boil down to:

Rowling's takes are bad and she should feel bad, and the fandom that built itself around her work should take a page from another book and move the whole damn castle to somewhere she can't get at it.

Also, I made a spite donation to Mermaids, which helped a little.
posted by nonasuch at 12:52 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]




is "gender critical" a term where they are implying that gender is critical to their feminism or activism or something (like being born a cis woman), or is it being critical of gender (ie gender is a societal construct or a spectrum)?

I've never heard the term before, and if I google it now, I'm just getting a million links to stuff about this JKR situation.

on topic: This sucks and JKR sucks and treating people as some kind of "theoretical problem/threat" to be assessed sucks, and I really am irritated by her level of "terror" in this screed, and also by her continuously trying to frame her personal garbage opinons like they're coming from larger and larger groups of women. Like just because she heard from some other garbage people that they were also "terrified", isn't indicative of the feelings of everyone she didn't hear from. There's no way she heard from millions of women, so she shouldn't say "millions of women".
posted by euphoria066 at 1:27 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


"gender critical" is used often in opposition to "gender ideology", which is what trans rights activists, aka "TRAs" (that formulation, of course, is used to echo "MRAs") espouse.

"gender critical", TERFs, and some of those more deep into the anti-trans movement have a whole jargon and abbreviations of their own.
posted by anem0ne at 1:30 PM on June 12


This JK thing also has reverberations where you end up finding out that your British fave also has abhorrent transphobic views because of how they interact with her tweets. I found out that the singer for my favourite band harbours these same UK feminist perspectives this way and I'm still reeling from it. Again, another person who was probably quite lefty in the 90s and now is behind the times.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:12 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


The Actually Autistic community is rather peeved to be co-opted for her TERF hate-mongering.
posted by _paegan_ at 3:01 PM on June 12 [16 favorites]


^Similarly, I have been heartened that a lot of gay and lesbian people in my circles have come out to say "hey also, hell no at the implication that to be gay/lesbian means having to be cis and date cis people."
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:43 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


It's the same dynamic in any bigotry. You can see when someone has been imagining a prospective harm from an imaginary Other who is a scary caricature vs. when someone has been listening to actual harms experienced by actual people.
posted by straight at 4:57 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


This piece argues against separating the creator from the work--at least in this case, and maybe generally.

While I agree that learning about an author's background can help you interpret their writings, I think you can also go to far in the other direction, like the blog writer does in your linked article. For instance, Harry Potter clearly has the message that your own actions are more important than your bloodline, but the blog writer, accio, has become convinced that the whole book series must actually be promoting classism and racism. Accio points to absurd examples to prove this theory, like that Harry looks like his parents or that Harry was raised by his aunt. I'm not saying Harry Potter is free of racists or classist themes, but it's also not secretly a Minstrel play. You have to look at the text itself to understand it. This is true for everything. Sir Conan Arthur Doyle believed in literal fairies and ghosts, and saw skepticism and science as simple-minded, but he also created Sherlock Holmes. Holmes make more sense when you realize his creator hated him, but it doesn't make Holmes less fun to read. (Conversely, Doyle's best friend was Houdini who was famously skeptical and scientifically-minded, despite wowing crowds with magic tricks).

JK Rowling is older than I am but we're both Generation X, and in her remarks I hear a lot of attitudes that would have been fairly common in progressive people circa 1995.


I started reading Harry Potter when I was 14 and the last book came out when I was 20. I loved them, I waited in the midnight lines, I obsessed with friends over what would happen in the next books. But, I was also old enough that I could tell these were fun books with some great, fun ideas and a few great characters, but also weren't The Best Books Ever Written. It hasn't surprised me or really upset me that Rowling has ended up being your aunt at Thanksgiving, because I never saw her books as all that progressive to begin with. They were 90's books with 90's ideas. But, even though there's been a lot of trans visibility recently, a lot of people still aren't familiar with it or understand it. I know I had to read a lot of stuff on it before I really understood it, and I'm not a 50+ year old person who grew up in the 70's and 80's when "Women can have jobs besides mom, teacher, and nurse" was just getting acceptance.

I think the main backlash against Rowling is that a lot of her fans are reaching the age where they start to examine their childhood heroes. And, as always happens when you reach that age, you get a bit disillusioned. You have to contend with the fact that your heroes are people, and not always the best. It's kind of funny, but her character Harry does the same thing when he learns that his dad wasn't the hero he'd built him up to be, but a bully.
posted by Stargazey at 6:38 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


So the Variety article that jenfullmoon links is a good one but holy smokes is that a good example of "don't read the comments." Metafilter has clearly spoiled me for the regular internet *shudder*.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:07 PM on June 12


I think the main backlash against Rowling is that a lot of her fans are reaching the age where they start to examine their childhood heroes.

No, the main backlash against Rowling is that she is transphobic. It's not the age of her fans or some rebelling against heroes. She is transphobic and people are reacting. It's that simple. Calling it anything else other than "JK Rowling is a transphobe" really really REALLY undersells the pain she is inflicting.
posted by FritoKAL at 7:36 PM on June 12 [40 favorites]


Oh lord, I didn't read the comments on it.

I did see an article mentioned in there by Nicole Maines saying she wasn't ending her fandom, but pretty much for the reasons Daniel Radcliffe said.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:48 PM on June 12


This evening I finally read her post because I was reading so many reactions to it, I felt I ought to just go ahead and read it for myself.

It left me vaguely nauseated.

Later, I read jscalzi's blog post where he hypothesises a connection between a certain kind of transphobia and Gen-X. It's a blind spot for many of we Gen-Xers in a different way than it is for boomers.

I also think, for the same generational reasons, it's strongly connected with second-wave feminism and those of us for whom the second-wave was formative. I know a lot of middle-aged people who you can tell, whether they self-identify as "feminist" or not, largely see things through the second-wave lens.

Deeply related to this is white and middle-class privilege. The overlap between transphobic feminists and white feminists who are defensive in response to criticism by feminists of color is pretty large, I think.

This all is upsetting to me — though, of course, infinitely less so than it is those who are trans — because, setting aside for the moment other that I'm male, I was born at the boomer/X cusp and my introduction to feminism in 1985 was very much second-wave.

I must confess that 90% of my education about trans issues and experience has been here on MetaFilter, primarily from the many people who have been courageous enough to speak out in the face of bigotry and adversity and the infuriating and soul-sucking having to repeat the same things over and over and over. I've only come to understand what it's like to be in this position as a disabled person and it's fucking exhausting and dispiriting — far more than I suspected it to be and I've come to have enormous respect and thanks for those who shoulder this kind of burden. I understand much better than I did, why some people just leave the site as self-care.

Anyway, the point is that I've learned a great deal in the last six years and it's almost entirely by listening to what trans people have had to say. Only after listening, a lot, does an analytic or theoretical examination have any value. The people who don't want to learn tend to work very hard to avoid listening and, instead, construct or seek out some sort of abstracted framework to both cling to and use as a defense (and offense). All of this is very evident in what Rowling wrote.

As someone whose second-wave views were informed by and evolved into third-wave feminism and beyond, it's painful in a difficult-to-describe way to read Rowling's words and those of other TERFs.

What's weird and painful is that because I share much of the background (excepting, of course that I'm a man), the underlying foundation upon which the explicit transphobia has been added is very recognizeable and familiar to me. I can see how she and people like her get to the place they're at, given exposure to the explicit, elaborated transphobia of her obvious influences.

And it's just so transparently a facade. Even disregarding that these arguments are based upon many, many falsehoods, it's striking how many logical flaws there are, how much hand-waving there is, how blatant are the appeals to the emotions of fear and xenophobia. Or how much intersectionality is disregarded and her particular lack of privilege and her experience of oppression is leveraged to attack another oppressed group.

It's striking to me how much of all of this we've struggled through here at MetaFilter and how much I and many otgers have learned. When Rowling claims to have done the work, it seems pretty clear that the "work" she's done is simply to relentlessly seek out ways to validate her pre-existing prejudices.

It's so dispiriting and infuriating. As a cisgender man, I can't know how hurtful this is to many of you, but it's clear that it is. You have my wholehearted support and love.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:04 PM on June 12 [22 favorites]


No, the main backlash against Rowling is that she is transphobic. It's not the age of her fans or some rebelling against heroes. She is transphobic and people are reacting. It's that simple. Calling it anything else other than "JK Rowling is a transphobe" really really REALLY undersells the pain she is inflicting.

Yep, this. And I have spent a fair bit of time reexamining my childhood heroes (I was 14 the year Goblet of Fire was released). I reread most of HP last year and the year before, for fanfic reason, and I actually came away more forgiving of the adult characters and their in-text mistakes than I would have been ten years ago. And much, much less forgiving of the way Rowling's own biases, and the unquestioned assumptions therein, informed (poisoned) the worldbuilding. Before this, I could resolve that by thinking critically about the books themselves, by close reading, by writing stories that questioned the baked-in assumptions.

Now, my anger at Rowling is something that exists independently of her books. I'd be mad about this if I was never an HP fan at all. I'm mad that's she's using her giant megaphone for transphobic rhetoric; she's also retroactively making her books less worth my time, but that's secondary.
posted by nonasuch at 8:38 PM on June 12 [9 favorites]


Please stay tuned for the AskMe in which I beg the hive mind for guidance on how to talk to your kid about one of their heroes being a fucking bigot who doesn't think they should exist.

Look up how people dealt with Minecraft's creator going off the deep end.

I also think, for the same generational reasons, it's strongly connected with second-wave feminism and those of us for whom the second-wave was formative. I know a lot of middle-aged people who you can tell, whether they self-identify as "feminist" or not, largely see things through the second-wave lens.

Yeah, I agree with this - as far as I can tell, having been a white dude trying to learn the history of feminism, was that second-wave feminism tried to declare solidarity amongst all females against the oppression of all males, so it needs that gender binary to exist to be able to function. Part of why a third wave even happened was because that isn't workable with transgender people, and it's even less workable these days, where we know that even 'biological' sex is on a spectrum. (The other big sticking point was porn - third-wave feminism argued that porn wasn't inherently oppressive, and that women should be able to enjoy sex and porn.)
posted by Merus at 2:57 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


second-wave feminism tried to declare solidarity amongst all females against the oppression of all males, so it needs that gender binary to exist to be able to function

Second-wave feminism has the failure mode of decaying into chromosomal nationalism, and slotting neatly into a fascistic world-model in which the world is comprised of homogeneous, internally disciplined nations defined by common heritage or immutable biological characteristics, locked in perpetual struggle for survival and dominance. In this model, feminism can become Team XX über alles.
posted by acb at 3:30 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


I know I'm insanely late to this, but is anyone else super pissed about how she--in all her TERFery dismissing of LGBTQ existences in general--just handwaved polyjuice potions as "something only evil witches and wizards do, for espionage purposes."

But come on. If such a thing actually existed in real life...you know who would be like, 90% (or some other big figure I'm pulling out of thin air) of polyjuice users? Trans people and the Otherkin community. Sure, there would be some bad apples who would use it for a temporary disguise, but you know what my initial reaction to the polyjuice potion was? My personal reaction? It was "cool, I get to see what it's like to be a man."
posted by Delia at 5:50 AM on June 13


Calling it anything else other than "JK Rowling is a transphobe" really really REALLY undersells the pain she is inflicting.

I'm not justifying or forgiving Rowling, just saying that I'm not surprised. This saddens me to say, but her views are not unusual or even on the extreme end, especially for an older British person. Even 10 years ago, her admission that being trans is real for even some people would have been considered pretty liberal.
posted by Stargazey at 6:49 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


I want to add, in my last post, I said her views didn't upset me. That was unclear and why I shouldn't write posts super late at night. It does upset me that she's transphobic, as it upsets me that transphobia exists at all. It doesn't, however, upset me in the sense that it's just yet another transphobic, older person. I'm not more surprised than learning that HP Lovecraft was a racist, because of course most any white American born in 1890 was racist.
posted by Stargazey at 6:59 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


when i was younger i was annoyed by how jk rowling handled houses, bc you're sorted as a CHILD and it's treated as immutable, informs your lifelong treatment, politics, and friendships, can never be breached/changed, and this assignment system is never criticized in-text

Rowling's Harry Potter universe does seem to be devoid of Hogwarts graduates who have decided to rebel against the house structure, the rules and all the other orthodoxy. In that respect it differs a lot from real boarding schools. The most famous graduate of my alma mater (which happened to be boarding school located in a Scottish glen) was one Robert McMillan - somebody who was notable for totally disowning the school as soon as he was able wipe its dust from his shoes (link followers will note the clear HP connection). As an author, there is indeed an arrogance in assuming that nobody could ever choose to throw off the yoke of the small space in your universe to which they were assigned as a child. I can't presume to speak of the journey undergone by trans people - but I do believe it is a completely normal thing for some people to look at the teachings of their upbringing in the manner of an allergy: one that can play out as either an immediate acute reaction or a delayed one manifests years later.
posted by rongorongo at 7:09 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


> Trans people and the Otherkin community.

Unless you’re both of those, please don’t do this. It’s close enough to the kind of comment you’d see on KiwiFarms (count yourself lucky if you don’t know what that is) that my prior on it being said in good faith is ... not high.
posted by this one sparks joy at 7:11 AM on June 13 [11 favorites]


Second-wave feminism has the failure mode of decaying into chromosomal nationalism, and slotting neatly into a fascistic world-model in which the world is comprised of homogeneous, internally disciplined nations defined by common heritage or immutable biological characteristics, locked in perpetual struggle for survival and dominance.
What's the success mode then?
posted by PMdixon at 7:30 AM on June 13


What's the success mode then?

Third-wave feminism?
posted by mikelieman at 7:54 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


but is anyone else super pissed about how she--in all her TERFery dismissing of LGBTQ existences in general--just handwaved polyjuice potions as "something only evil witches and wizards do, for espionage purposes."

If anything, this reminds me of some of those wretchedly reactionary Sad Puppies/Castalia House scifi stories, about the heroic godlike-AI ships that wage war against transhumanism, because it is a blasphemy against natural law or something. The upholding of the natural order, and the evil of anyone who seeks to overturn it, seems to be a fixation of conservatives from John Milton onwards, and Rowling appears to stand alongside Vox Day here.
posted by acb at 9:59 AM on June 13


What's the success mode then?

At a guess, intersectionality, and/or focussing on the dismantling of “natural” hierarchies of privilege like patriarchy rather than identitarianism as an end.
posted by acb at 10:01 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


What's the success mode then?

Second-wave feminism was, like all revolutionary ideologies, rooted in its particular time and place. That its tools and methodologies could not answer every question is not a failure. Indeed, without second wave feminism, we wouldn’t be having the conversations we are having now, because we never would’ve got this far. That does not change the theoretical weaknesses of second wave feminism nor its inability to adapt itself to changing times and concerns, But the problem is not the ideology itself but the large number of people who cannot recognize its failures and move on to newer ideologies better suited to the current situation. MacKinnon and Dworkin, two second wave feminists I would put on the wrong side of the sex wars, nevertheless expressed support for trans women, So, while I think their theories have significant problems, transphobia is not an automatic result of second wave feminism.

Anyway, back to the main topic of the thread, I think one reason why the reaction to Rowling is so strong is that there is a large group of her readers who found messages of acceptance and growth in her stories, and built development of their own self-identities with those messages, and discovering that the author who wrote the stories does not hold those beliefs is shattering. I think there’s also a degree of “fear of contagion;” if I really like books by somebody who has abhorrent views, what does that say about me? I think it is entirely possible to enjoy works by people who are terrible, and to draw important lessons from them, but I don’t think a strong rejection of the works as well as the creator is unreasonable or wrong. I’m not super-invested in Harry Potter, so I can say “fuck Rowling and her shitty transphobia” easily; I had to do a lot more work with Lovecraft (not to spot his racism; I was onto that pretty early, but to find a way to engage with his work and legacy that fully acknowledges that).
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:18 AM on June 13 [8 favorites]


Also, being dead, Lovecraft's unlikely to show up on Twitter promoting bigotry.

Has anyone checked who ultimately gets the royalties that go to his estate? He didn't sign it over to the KKK or something by any chance, did he?
posted by acb at 10:37 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Also, being dead, Lovecraft's unlikely to show up on Twitter promoting bigotry.

I don't want to create a derail around Lovecraft, even though he has mentioned in the article, but, yes, this is a factor. The history of his estate is kind of fascinating, but I don't think this is the place to discuss it. If you really want to know, drop me a memail, and I will be glad to tell you all about it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:43 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


People who grudgingly admire JKR's world-building should check out the book series The Worst Witch, published in 1974.
posted by xo at 11:07 AM on June 13 [8 favorites]


Are other folks are not surprised that a 53-year-old woman is a TERF because of her age or her generation? That is no excuse. I'm a 60+ white woman, and I am not a fucking TERF. I am a feminist, full stop. I grew up poor and in the Southern Baptist Church. I ran as far away from that church as possible. I benefit from white privilege, cis privilege, and appearing to be straight. Despite all those factors, I have managed to understand that trans people are people (and no, I am not looking for cookies).

One of my friends is a parent with two trans children; three other friends have, among their children, one trans child each. None of those children deserve JK Rowling's bullshit. Neither do any trans adults. While she spews bigotry on Twitter, "the Trump administration on Friday finalized a regulation that will erase protections for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies, a move announced on the four-year anniversary of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando and in the middle of Pride Month." (From New York Times, may be paywalled.)

My brain cannot handle the disproportionate amount of attention that JK Rowling is getting compared to Trump's damaging move yesterday. We know that bigotry kills. It happens every damn day somewhere. Thanks to Trump (and, possibly, to JKR), now it may kill more. I just can't even.

Thanks for the tip, nonasuch. I'm going to stop ranting and go give Mermaids some money.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:16 AM on June 13 [24 favorites]


Also, from the Mermaids website, an open letter to JKR that has really great stuff, including:

...At Mermaids, we join you and our friends at some of the UK’s longest-standing feminist organisations in calling for all women to be protected from violence and misogyny and we call for the dismantling of the patriarchy which causes so much harm at all levels of society, including to men and boys. We should also acknowledge that the vast majority of voices sharing misinformation and openly attacking trans people online, in the press and in politics, are women. While this phenomenon is framed in the context of women’s rights, our many proud female supporters are proof that being a feminist in no way justifies demonising or dehumanising trans people.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:33 AM on June 13 [8 favorites]


What's the success mode then?

Pretty much every grown-ass feminist white woman you know between the ages of about 40 and 70.
posted by praemunire at 12:17 PM on June 13 [4 favorites]


(I say that not to exclude women of color, but because I feel like the particular backdrop of second-wave feminism was never "standard" for women of color the way it was for white women, which of course is its own big problem, but if we're blaming it for what it decays into, we should also recognize that many people did use it as a starting point for what grew into a more inclusive feminism.)
posted by praemunire at 12:20 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


Yeah that was a glib dumbass comment out of frustration at what I see as a pattern of movements intended to be liberatory in the Vietnam era ossifying into reactionary rigid boundary defense in the present day and should not have been made, sorry.
posted by PMdixon at 12:54 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]


JKR is mistaking her own feelings for everyone's.

My son socially transitioned just before he turned 5. About a thousand people said to me, "I was a tomboy, you know," or "I wanted to be a boy when I was little, and I'm perfectly happy to be a woman now." And I was like, "that's great, has nothing to do with my son, OMG, get out of your own rear end for a minute."

My son is now 12, about to turn 13, so he transitioned 8 years ago. He just did his first T injection on Friday—yesterday! He's been thriving all along.
posted by Orlop at 5:31 PM on June 13 [40 favorites]


I just can't get over her solipsism. Making the argument all about her. It hurts because I expected so much better. And because now I am wondering how much hate speech my fandom has helped fund.

I enjoy my cis privilege but worry about some of my students. The fan culture has been such a gift and a means of bonding with kids (and adult fans too of course!) but now I will never say "ten points to Griffindor" ever again. Because I don't want to hurt their feelings. And I want them to live.
posted by Coaticass at 1:30 AM on June 14 [6 favorites]


My mum is 60 and a massive TERF, she's always forwarding stuff like this to me, I await my inbox (my old one, with my former name, because she won't send anything to Abigail) pinging with the Sunday Times article later today when she spots it. I fully expect that if I don't leave, at some point during the next four years of my university course I'll be told to start using the men's toilets by the uni.

That is some fucking bullshit and I'm really sorry that living your life as the woman you are is being challenged and prevented by family and state. My wife's aunt is a trans woman, and I teach and (academically) advise several trans and genderfluid people among my students, and so have had better opportunities in the past few years to listen and learn than I personally have ever had, and their stories fill me with sadness and anger, especially because they are each some of the loveliest people I know.

J.K. Rowling is a lousy person for believing these things, for not seeing how she's obviously projecting her own fears and prejudices outward, and most of all for not shutting the fuck up if she doesn't have anything constructive to say. I just do not understand how people with microphones this loud don't ask themselves, every day, if their words are making the world a better place or a worse place. I mean, you can just not say stuff and stop hurting people!
posted by LooseFilter at 7:24 AM on June 14 [5 favorites]


JKR is mistaking her own feelings for everyone's.


I think this really explains a lot of what is going on for trans-exclusionary radical feminists/people who identify as "gender critical" (which, euphoria066, means "being critical of gender (ie gender is a societal construct or a spectrum").

My read on it is that these are people who are AFAB but feel that their soul/inner person does not have a gender (what the current woke/progressive culture might call agender, non-binary, genderqueer, or genderfluid). But they feel that their life is strongly influenced by their AFAB body, and the female social role that they have been socialized into (and constrained by, struggled with, delighted in, relished, resented...our constructions of femininity have both awful and wonderful aspects, I think). Their relationship to their bodes doesn't seem to be a common factor, varying from dysmorphia to loving acceptance.

A lot of people who have the experience just described don't become transphobic or anti-trans activists. I think it turns dark and twisty and bigoted because of additional factors:

1. They think their experience applies to everyone. ("I don't feel like I have a gender, so therefore gender does not exist and no one has a gender.") This goes hand-in-hand with a lack of empathy and curiosity about others' experiences and inner lives. It's incredibly solipsistic to believe everyone's experience must be the same as your own.

2. The language frameworks of the current woke/progressive culture don't provide them an easy way to talk about their experience. "My soul is non-binary/agender, but my body is female. I identify as female only because my body is female." (for the record, this is how I identify myself) doesn't fit with the way mainstream progressive culture talks about this stuff right now, I think. Most would say that if your soul is something other than female, then you/your body are something other than female. I think? I would love to be pointed towards discussion about this. People who don't move in circles where there is nuanced discussion about gender perhaps don't really confront this gap in our current lexicon. But some of those who do, who have the experience of gender I describe above, feel excluded, unheard, unable to communicate, unrepresented.

3. And then the poison at the heart of all bigotry: fear that mutates into hatred of difference. Labeling of things as disgusting or wrong. Seeing an us vs. them divide where one side must be defeated, instead of looking for connection. Dehumanizing the other.
posted by amaire at 1:51 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


I want to add to my point (2) above --

Or they hear something like: "You are cis and just don't realize it because if you can stomach having a female body and being identified as female, your soul is actually female and you are just taking it for granted." (This is particularly painful to hear, as it directly dismisses one's own experience of one's gender.)
posted by amaire at 1:58 PM on June 14


Trans and cis are just two of an infinite numbers of labels which approximate our lived experience that lie beyond anyone’s right to determine for another person and there are blurry edges where these two terrains meet and antagonize.

The rigid cis binary harms ALL PEOPLE and the only way through is to tear down the the rigidity that one must be born and fixed to an immutable state.

There is literally no path forward until we are able to understand that humans are always growing and becoming. We are all born BABIES with life potential and we need to seriously get away from “born this way” essentialism. The essentialism is the harm, and anyone engaging in essentialist rhetoric is engaging in harm against everyone no matter what your gender prefix is.

I don’t know what drives a terf, I don’t care, what I do know us that until they drop the essentialist eugenicist fascist crap there is no path forward but the eventual genocide of all trans people.

This is what we’re up against.
posted by nikaspark at 3:59 PM on June 14 [9 favorites]


"They think their experience applies to everyone. ("I don't feel like I have a gender, so therefore gender does not exist and no one has a gender.") This goes hand-in-hand with a lack of empathy and curiosity about others' experiences and inner lives. It's incredibly solipsistic to believe everyone's experience must be the same as your own."

Yes, and this is the core of basic bigotry. This lack of imagination and empathy, coupled with insufficiently restrained egocentricism and a strong attraction to categorical thinking, all drive intolerance. When it's in the context of the things that are central and common to self- and social-identity, it often becomes monstrous.

I talked about the second-wave to third-wave transition in feminism because my personal experience of this transformation in thinking has everything to do with deliberately countering all those tendencies.

It's certainly true that people who lack privilege on one or more major axes are forced by society, as a fact of daily survival, to have and utilize an expanded awareness — they're forced to see through the eyes of the privileged, whether they wish to, or not — but I think it's a mistake to assume that everyone in such positions will internalize this into a generalized empathic and imaginative habit of thought about other people and their experiences. In fact, I've come to feel that for a minority, it's possible to use their particular experience as a means (or excuse) to retrench into the opposing tendencies.

The second-wave feminism I grew up with was very keen to construct some theoretical notion of universal women's experience. But, as we're now only too painfully aware, it was almost exclusively the project of a sociopolitical environment lacking significant diversity. The criticism of this blinkered feminism drove the emergence of third-wave feminism, which has worked to deconstruct all the privilege which was institionalized in second-wave feminism.

The result is something which, more often and hopefully, challenges individuals to examine their privilege, habits of thought, and limits of empathy and imagination. We're asked to stop aggressively centering our personal experience as a way of pigeonholing others.

What I feel like I see, especially from TERFs, but also more covertly by some unreconstructed second-wave feminists of my generation, is a backlash against third-wave feminism and its critique. This is both not surprising and a tragedy because it's best understood (empathically and generously) within the context of the preceding backlash against second-wave feminism by the patriarchy. I think feminists of a certain place and time found themselves attacked on two fronts, the right and the left (so to speak), and felt themselves grievously besieged. And they already had a tool they were comfortable with, a "hammer" , and everything was seen as a "nail". Which is to say, all criticisms are misogynist and can be responded to by hardened second-wave arguments. And I think TERFism is a prominent example of this which has a certain allure to some as a badge of defiance.

I mean, we can go deep in the weeds trying to make sense of how TERFs manage to combine gender-skepticism with biological essentialism. In my view, it's all deeply incoherent. But I dont think it's really necessary to tease out the various influences and bigotries and sophistries. It's enough to just recognize it for what it is: a regressive backlash from people lost in the past, unable to recognize or question their own privilege, and who therefore, like all such, punch down while loudly asserting asserting how they're the ones being bullied.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:37 PM on June 14 [11 favorites]


2. The language frameworks of the current woke/progressive culture don't provide them an easy way to talk about their experience. "My soul is non-binary/agender, but my body is female. I identify as female only because my body is female." (for the record, this is how I identify myself) doesn't fit with the way mainstream progressive culture talks about this stuff right now, I think. Most would say that if your soul is something other than female, then you/your body are something other than female. I think?

This is, I think, a deep subject. What I'd say, generally speaking, is that most people find sexing their body differently from their internal experience to be a source of dissonance with a degree of distress that varies by the individual. This leads to an insistence on respecting how each person talks about their body, which would tend to accommodate what you're describing. On the other hand, that can also lead to some polite skepticism of people who insist on maintaining a distinction there, depending on how a person talks about it. I think it's common for re-thinking how you sex your own body to be a step that trans people go through early on, as part of accepting their transness, but this model can be a poor fit, as you say, for people with weak or no internal experience of gender.

What wouldn't be acceptable is someone discussing their self/body distinction in a way that universalizes it, because then you're talking about how other people should understand their own bodies. Unfortunately, that's how a lot of women grounded in second wave feminism would want to approach the conversation, based on their theoretical understanding of the subject, and how that's informed their own experiences of having a gender and being gendered by others.

The other part of what you're hitting at is identity, and I do think that trans-informed ways of understanding gender can make it hard to support a distinction between internal experience of gender and your identity. I think most people would tie identity, "you", more closely to that internal experience of gender than to your body, which in this context I understand as shorthand for both the physicality of the self but also how other people gender you based on that physicality.

I'd say that it's likely more legible for someone to adopt both their internal gender and how they are gendered by other people as their identity (e.g. "nonbinary woman", etc), than it is for someone to take their top-line identity only from the latter. That's not to say that that's invalid, only that it is harder to understand, depending on your framework of understanding.

At the level of an particular interaction, when you bump into that kind of legibility issue, the tenor of the discussion begins to matter immensely. Does the framing of the discussion have room for good faith and nuanced discussion? Then people can discuss the details, and understand each other more deeply than first brush against framework or terminology would allow for. If not, then understanding can be impossible.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:32 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Either you die James Potter or you live long enough to become he who shall not be named
posted by interogative mood at 7:39 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


She did not. All of the narrative features you mention predate her. Sot he popularized them and gave them currency. That is a different process requiring different skills.

When I read the first Harry Potter book, I couldn't see what all my friends were so excited about—it didn't seem all that different from a thousand other fantasy novels where an orphan discovers he's special in some way and is whisked away to a school of some kind to learn to be super-special.

I did get kind of fond of the books when we read them with our kids, though the later books got kind of bloated and tedious, I thought.

I'm not claiming that i "saw from the beginning the flaws that nobody else saw." Only that I'd read so much of this stuff that I recognized the tropes—and enough British public-school fiction (and George Orwell) to recognize the structures of Hogwarts. Also, as a mother of four by that time (my first was a baby when The Sorcerer's Stone came out), I could not abide the abuse Harry suffered—from being sent back to the Dursleys' every summer, to regularly not being given information that would have prevented him making some terrible choices, to en during a punishment that literally scarred him for life.

It's not a bad thing, necessarily, to wield familiar tropes—they are part of the pleasure of reading genre fiction. You alway go in wondering what has been done with the tropes, and whether you like it, and whether you think it's good.

I found Rainbow Rowell's Carry On a welcome antidote—the Dumbledore character turns out to be a bad guy, and one student at the school just decides to walk away from the whole wizarding world. It's not a great book, but it's a pleasant palate-cleanser.
posted by Orlop at 10:27 AM on June 15 [7 favorites]


but "natal women" is creepy

Our trans 12yo just started testosterone, and in our consultation with the doctor, this is close to the language she used, talking about our son's "natal sex" appearing on certain paperwork for legal reasons.
posted by Orlop at 10:30 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Trans people’s doctors are not famous for their sensitive use of language.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 12:04 PM on June 15 [4 favorites]


“Visually guessed based on little actual knowledge of the variability of human bodies” sex.
posted by nikaspark at 12:24 PM on June 15 [5 favorites]




Shitty response from Hachette U.K. Power to the workers speaking out.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 7:43 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


If Hachette's workers refuse to work on Rowling's new book, perhaps Vox Day's publishing house will put it out.
posted by acb at 6:00 AM on June 17


Determined to ruin Harry Potter for us all, J.K. Rowling continues to tweet [AV Club]
“J.K. Rowling seems unable to stop commenting on the lives of transgender people. After multiple tweets and a full-on essay spreading dangerous misinformation about trans people over the past few weeks, the Harry Potter author was back on Twitter Sunday morning to defend her thoughts yet again—this time bringing anyone with mental health issues into the picture.

Sunday’s tweetstorm was instigated after a Twitter user noticed that Rowling had liked a tweet that stated, “Hormone prescriptions are the new antidepressants. Yes they are sometimes necessary and lifesaving, but they should be a last resort - not the first option. Pure laziness for those who would rather medicate than put in the time and effort to heal people’s minds.””
posted by Fizz at 2:40 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


I heard of some Rowling related reddit drama this last week. Anti-trans people tried to evade Reddit’s bans on hate speech by setting up an alternate JK Rowling fan subreddit using her name as code for their hate. Fortunately it was banned. The mods of the groups tried to feign ignorance on /r/modsuport but got smacked around by the other moderators.
posted by interogative mood at 6:46 PM on July 5


The "gender critical" slide

I think that's accurate in that we can expect a lot more of this from JK from here on out.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:26 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


I don't want her to cause more harm but I do want her to keep leaning into this part of herself so that she does something stupid and gets banned from Twitter the way Graham Linehan did. She can go "blog" to her fans who have no problem with her being transphobic and people can rest better knowing she's not on this massive platform spewing ugly thoughts and bad science.
posted by Fizz at 9:57 AM on July 6


the sad thing is, if the past is any guide, that means we're in for years of jkr's bullshit before twitter does anything.
posted by anem0ne at 10:30 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]


Lindsay Ellis's hot take: Stop buying her stuff. Which I am pretty sure I will not be doing anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:22 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


On a somewhat lighter note, "Judy Blume" is currently trending on Twitter because some fool tweeting in Rowling's defense made the claim, “Not long before Rowling was published, women authors were unheard of” and they're getting mocked pretty damn hard.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:11 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


That was a supremely bad tweet. BUT to give very marginal credit, the account has been retweeting all the replies they have gotten that are BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN authors.

But yeah the original was some face palm moment.
posted by like_neon at 6:31 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


The "stop buying JK Rowling" stuff is a tricky one for me - because my niece, who's going to be 12 in September, is a big Harry Potter fan and she asked for some of the books for her birthday last year - but I only gave her the first five volumes, with the teaser that the rest would come next year.

My niece is only eleven and likely hasn't heard about the J.K. Rowling mischegas. But finishing out the series helps Rowling out.

I may still finish out the series, but not throw in any of the fun tie-ins (like I usually do). Or, if I do, make sure that they're unofficial ones that a fan did instead of Rowling herself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Can you buy them used?
posted by like_neon at 7:11 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Like_neon - yeah, I was considering that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:12 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


You could probably even buy 'em off MeFites. I know my parents have at least two copies of the later books, since they bought several to keep me & siblings happy. There's loads of lightly used copies floating around, especially of the later books.
posted by BungaDunga at 8:12 AM on July 7


I feel like there’s enough mefites wanting to get rid of these we could probably source the books without having to put a dollar in JKR’s pockets.
posted by corb at 8:46 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Buying used is a great idea. Frankly, if you post to your local Craigslist (or whatever) there are probably people who'd be willing to give their books to you. It feels like everyone born 1980-1990 already owns a set -- there are so many copies floating around that online resale value is basically nil+shipping markup.

The hole JKR is digging is really something. My mother is a baby boomer who is not on Twitter, nor is she particularly interested in LGBT+ issues. She heard about JKR's most recent eruption and mentioned it to me -- "Wow, JK Rowling has gone crazy, huh?" If there was any space for British terf derangement around American liberals, I'd say it would be in my mother's demographic. I was relieved to see that she was horrified and baffled as the people in this thread.

(I've decided not to spend any more money on the JKR extended universe, but in truth I've found the Fantastic Beasts spinoff awful enough that this is not exactly a sacrifice.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:13 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Huh. Okay, lemme dig up the exact editions I got (for "complete set" vibes) and then I'll post that here, and if anyone wants to offload their copies we can set that up. I can pay market price even if you want, and pay for shipping. (My niece's birthday isn't until September so there's plenty of time.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on July 7


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