Dear JK Rowling, Welcome to the Feminist Hall of Shame

Bushra Mehdi

JK Rowling has struck again and we are having none of it. Yes, you read it right. The renowned author of the Harry Potter Series, who was once celebrated as a hero, has gathered a lot of negative attention from the netizens. But why is that so? We are going to dig deeper into the unfortunate string of events that resulted in the admission of the former queen of the magical world into the Feminist Hall of Shame, so read along to find out what caused an uproar in the public sentiment and what the author did (or did not do) to salvage the state of affairs. 

Over the years, Ms. Joanne Rowling has been subjected to severe backlash for her books being blind and tone-deaf to the concepts of diversity, LGBTQ+ rights, and a platform of cultural appropriation. At one point, she was considered the epitome of revolution and creativity, but in recent years, the celebration has particularly piped down. One thing that should be highlighted here is that the Harry Potter series is not her sole literary work; however, she is most revered for it. But as time passed, she somehow went farther and farther from people’s hearts. 

It all started in March 2018, when JK Rowling came under fire for liking a trans-phobic tweet where Trans women were referred to as "men in dresses." She denied any ill intention and blamed it on a mistake-hit but soon after, more such events were discovered. Twitterati, neither forget nor forgive. In June of 2020, she made tweets rejecting Trans women's right to self-identity. That was the beginning of events that later took a life of their own. The Trans community and the members of her franchise called her out on her problematic beliefs. She went on and made several tweets regarding the identification of women by their biological sex ONLY. Various dedicated fan sites like Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet distanced themselves from the author. 

It's like we were living in a world where she weaved from her imagination but could no longer identify with her thought process. Even the Harry Potter stars Danielle Radcliffe and Emma Watson publicly supported the rights of the Trans community soon after, taking responsibility in times of need. This backlash didn't budge JK Rowling, even though she was now being called a TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist). Unmoved by the hurt she caused, JK Rowling replied with an essay on her website titled "TERF Wars'' and further cemented her beliefs and comments.

Cancel culture was at its peak in 2020 and has not subdued; instead has taken many shapes and forms. Fans use it as a tool to register their protest against certain beliefs or antics of their idols. We have an example of celebrities like Halsey who faced backlash for problematic tweets from her pre-fame era but later apologized, never to repeat the same mistake which is a sign of personal growth. The idea of peaceful co-existence is still relatively new (unfortunately), and the voices of influential celebrities like JK Rowling, if used correctly, would have made a much-needed positive impact, but the author went the other way. 

The media outlets, with their breaking news every second, have cursed us with an attention span of a doorknob. This thirst for scandal and ostracism sweeps the pressing issues under the rug. If you point the finger at every little move a celebrity or author makes; eventually, your voice will be just noise.  The recent release of "The Ink Black Heart'' is a prime example. Rowling again delved into the same anti-trans agenda and seemed to take inspiration from her own life experiences (which she has denied, by the way). But at the same time, she repeatedly receiving rape and death threats over personal comments does not help the cause. Threatening to assault a woman over anything that is an opinion, no matter how problematic it is, basically reverses the power dynamic of the pro-feminist movement, and no true supporter of the change will ever get behind such behavior. 

Weaponizing crimes against women is no way to deal with such a meaningful conversation.   To say that it is all disappointing is an understatement. Why has nothing changed in all these years? We had a chance to grow up; some of us took it while others didn't. To quote the author herself from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we are." As Harry Potter fans, JK Rowling was someone we all looked up to. But there are times in our lives when even the ones you rely on may fail you. They may not live up to your expectations or could save you from the horrors this world holds within. But at some point, you need to stop expecting from these heroes and be your own.   

The process of unlearning and relearning is the most difficult. Is it scary to think that one has been wrong all this time? Yes. But that's the first of many steps a person is bound to take. Although later, JK Rowling also tried several times to put a band-aid on the wounds she caused, fake woke additions to the context like Dumbledore and Grindelwald having a homosexual relationship or that there were Jewish students at Hogwarts does not help. In contrast, Asian communities have expressed hurt over characters like Cho Chang and Parvati Patil being stereotyped and misrepresented, hence a poorly researched and therefore failed attempt at being inclusive in the first place. She was even accused of queer baiting after the Dumbledore-Girndelwald fiasco, and the internet was quick to call her out for such offence.

Adding “diverse" characters out of fear of backlash or making a passive attempt at including marginalized background stories is not "woke". Her comment in 2021, “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman”, on account of Scottish Police arresting sexual offenders and registering them with the gender they identify with, actually makes her a hopeless case at this point. Comments like these aggravate the public sentiment and the actual matter is ignored. Her fans are rooting for a  world where everyone has a seat at the table beyond their gender, sexuality or ethnicity. One may wonder why JK Rowling, a successful author, chose to walk this path and continues to do so. Is this how she would like to be remembered?  

The character development in the Fantastic Beasts Series is better (both on paper and on-screen), but I still think it's centuries behind, and so are we. Also, it feels like kind of a moot point. Are you disappointed in your childhood hero? I bet you are, and rightly so. Not because the books weren't what they could have been and should have been, but because the author was just unwilling to accept her negligence and learn. In times like these, when every day it feels like the world couldn’t get any worse, celebrities like JK Rowling have a huge responsibility to shoulder, especially when they have so many young impressionable minds looking up to them for inspiration. Therefore, passing on half-hearted, unreasonable, and irresponsible remarks over such sensitive yet imminent issues is neither appreciated nor reciprocated.

Bushra Mehdi

"The path to self-actualization is lonely but it doesn’t have to be. It may take a village to raise a decent human being but only one empowered woman can change that dynamic forever. I am here because I felt the need to conceptualize the world that breathes within my imagination – paying homage to the woman I became in the process; the one I never thought I could be, and artil seems to be a perfect place for that."
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One comment on “Dear JK Rowling, Welcome to the Feminist Hall of Shame”

  1. Beautifully written!
    JK Rowling better go check her tea-leaves. She continues to benightedly make a grave mistake of forgetting that the biggest chunk of her audience from the last
    two decade has grown up, out of the magical world into a very grim, real one, and can be ruthless against their own role model in favour of humanity.

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