I originally wanted to add a paragraph or two to my original post on the JKR controversy, but it became too long, so I decided to just make another post.
So, in case you’re living under a rock, J.K. Rowling continues to be transphobic. Her latest book involves a cis man dressing up as a woman to kill cis women. This is an transphobic trope that was already problematic in Silence of the Lambs. However, JKR is not an idiot who’s just being ignorant and she knows exactly what she’s doing: in her infamous essay, she states that this is exactly how she views trans women.
That’s on top of her past tweets, the deal with blocking Stephen King because he said ‘trans women are women’, and the whole ordeal with the Harper letter. Also, did you know that JKR shares the very pen name that she uses for her crime novels featuring Cormoran Strike, Robert Galbraith, with a psychiatrist who did conversion theraphy on homosexuals and ‘frigid women’? She has failed to address this, and her new transphobic book is published under this very pen name. It could be a coincidence, but it certainly doesn’t help her case.
I largely stand by my original post. We do not need to collectively trash our books, dvds and merchandise (unless you want to; then, by all means, have at it — I get it!). We do not need to stop reading Harry Potter. I realize well that the franchise has been formative to a lot of people and it’s impossible to erase these memories or the support/escapism we might’ve gained from the Wizarding World or the fandom. Whatever you do with your current books and merch is a personal decision and completely up to you. Whether you would still like to reread the series is also completely up to you.
However, as time progresses and JKR keeps spouting her beliefs left and right, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate author from book. I’ve stated this in my original post, as well as why declaring ‘death of the author’ doesn’t really work. I would like to add, however, that we should think critically what sort of effect posting about Harry Potter (or her other books) and buying her books/merch has. If you really care about trans rights and you want to support the trans community, there are some issues you need to think about.
Buying JKR’s books
As stated in my previous posts, her books do not exist in a vaccuum, so separating book from author is complicated. Buying books or merch lands money in her pocket — even if you make a donation to a trans-supportive charity organisation to compensate. We live in a capitalist society, and if we no longer buy her books new, we convey a signal that her bigotry is not okay. In the US, Harry Potter book sales have already been declining. If you do buy her books, however, you’re effectively telling her (and her publisher) that her transphobia doesn’t matter.
Moreover, posting about her books promotes her and thereby enlarges her already significant platform. It can cause more people (who might be unaware) to buy her books and merch, and spreads the word that there is no issue.
Remember that there are still plenty of people who kiss the ground she’s walking on simply because she’s J.K. Rowling and Her Word is Law. This makes her doubling down on throwing an already very vulnerable group that faces discrimination under the bus even more problematic. So, if you still want to buy/read one of her books, go second hand or borrow them from a friend.
What am I conveying?
The second thing you need to think about is about what message you are communicating when posting about Harry Potter. What are you conveying to others by happily posting a Return to Hogwarts post with your books and merchandise on September 1, as if nothing happened? What are you conveying by listing your Hogwarts House in your bio on Instagram or Twitter, or still retaining your HP related username?
They say that silence is compliance; though you may not intend it, it signals that you don’t care that she’s being harmful to the trans community, and that showing off your love for a book series is more important than real life issues. Is that what you wish to convey on your blog or social media account?
Of course, the trans community is not a single-minded monolith and I’m cisgendered. Some might be triggered by Harry Potter related content, some might not be offended by what’s been going on at all. Still, these are some things to think about.
Freedom of speech
But what about freedom of speech? Well, you have freedom of speech. So does J.K. Rowling — she hasn’t been thrown in jail or killed for her opinions (though she received death threats, which I obviously do not condone — just unfollow her, block her is you must, but do not send threats). She isn’t censored and she has a large platform to speak. However, similarily, others are free to call her out on her ‘opinions’ and do with Harry Potter what they wish. That means they are free to decide to cancel JKR, burn all their Potter items, or use the books as toilet paper if they so desire. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequences. If I decide to publically spout negativity on social media about previous jobs, for example, I shouldn’t be surprised that this will bite me in the ass when applying for a new job in the future (or even puts my current job in jeopardy). JKR is no exception.
So you’re free to post what you want, I’m not here to police you, and others can’t police what you do or don’t post, or what you do or don’t read. Perhaps you don’t really care, well, then this post is obviously not for you. This post is for people who haven’t considered the implications of their Back to Hogwarts posts or showing off their fancy new edition of The Chamber of Secrets. I’d like to raise awareness: think and reflect about what sort of effect your posts and Harry Potter hauls have.
And, perhaps, that means maybe not buying yet another fancy new edition or maybe not posting about Harry Potter on September 1 next year.
On a more personal note
As for me, upon further reflection I decided to remove my past review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them from this blog, as I do not want to promote her unnecessarily. I am still on the fence whether to leave my post about the Harry Potter exhibit online. It’s a post from 2017 with pictures; I suppose it at least allows people the opportunity to get an impression without having to buy any tickets? I’ve added a disclaimer for now.
I haven’t gotten rid of my books or films. Yet. As I’ve said, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the author from the work, and Harry Potter is giving me a bad taste in my mouth simply by association with its author. I have good memories reading them back in the day, which are difficult to erase (despite some more issues regarding portrayal of race and anti-semitism coming to light). If anything, I will not be rereading them soon and I put them somewhere at the bottom of my shelves. I did get rid of most merchandise, including my Slytherin scarf. I also got rid of the Cormoran Strike books a while ago.
I do have a cute plush of a cute random snow owl that I bought years ago on a vacation in London. As of now, it’s mysteriously without a tag. It had a different name, but it’s now called Yuki.