I never fucked with Harry Potter. At least not in the same incredibly overzealous way other people did for most of the 00s. I was a casual peruser after the first book (which didn’t hook me)–just to see what, exactly, all the fuss was about this cultural phenomenon that had managed to get so many otherwise illiterate Americans to read. Clearly, that illiteracy still applied here. Or at least a total lack of discernment. Preferring something “absorbing” that could make children and adults alike gobble the stories with as much ease as their binge watching. At the time of Harry Potter’s peak popularity, it was sacrilege to say something like this (and probably still is to many devotees). But with J.K. Rowling’s recent controversy regarding transphobic–or just plain insensitive–comments, the schadenfreude within couldn’t help but surface in response. Mainly for those, like me, who never fathomed why Harry Potter and the Bumfuck Such and Such was engaging to the masses.
All-consuming on that rare level so as to actually make a person feel left out if they weren’t on the bandwagon (one imagines this is also how it was for someone who never caught Jonathan Taylor Thomas fever). Rowling’s extensive influence not just in “literature,” but all of pop culture was irrefutable. She started a trend in series books that would carry on well into the present. Yet it’s strange, when one examines it, that the women (whom Rowling would not call “people who menstruate,” but instead full-stop females, as she made clear in her controversial stance) putting out these serialized books–the ones who clinched the notion that in order for a book to get published a.k.a. a writer to make a bankable living out of said profession, it absolutely needed to have movie franchise potential–always seem to come from such narrow-minded backgrounds. Take, for example, Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, who also experienced a great level of success during the same period as Rowling. Born and raised Mormon, Meyer’s portrayal of heteronormative ideals is all over the pages like a fervid dog pissing on its territory.
While Rowling’s cast of characters might have been more “fluid,” there can be no denying the same heteronormative thread throughout the arc. Of course, the marginalized grasping at straws during an era when Bush was still president thought it better to interpret Lord Voldemort’s relentless quest to subjugate all Muggles and “purebred” wizards that support them as Rowling’s message to always believe in the power to fight back against a tenacious oppressor. Turns out, Rowling put a little more of her own personality into Voldemort than we thought. Adamant about keeping the word “woman” separate from any trans people who identify as such, Rowling went on to make matters worse for herself after the original tweet that caused a firestorm (“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”) by writing an essay on her blog that continued to defend her opinion on the issue. Citing that, among other reasons, she feels trans women deemphasize focus on the rights of “real” women, Rowling also added, “It’s been clear to me for a while that the new trans activism is having (or is likely to have, if all its demands are met) a significant impact on many of the causes I support, because it’s pushing to erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender.” Who gives a fucking shit, Voldemort? The entire benefit of living in an allegedly modern world is not to make the same small-minded mistakes as our forefathers–whose biological gender, as we know, fucked over many a human being and established a worldwide system of patriarchy still being battled today. If only those men had identified as women, maybe things would have been less vicious. Then again, there’s women like Rowling, so…
How people classify themselves should not be a matter for someone else, least of all the “law” to validate, or, more accurately, invalidate. Instead, Rowling reduces the majority of trans people to having an impetuous case of “gender dysphoria,” something that psychiatrists shouldn’t engage young children and adolescents with in terms of “allowing” them to change their sex too early on in life. She further belittles those seeking to transition by commenting that she never felt obliged to become a man just because she was living in a sexist world in the 1980s (gee, thanks for that scintillating breakdown of “hardship” and further giving white women a bad name in the vein of Elena Richardson). Instead, she soldiered on bravely with the help of Simone de Beauvoir (by the way, if she was reading so much Simone, why isn’t her writing better?).
She builds and builds to her fear-mongering point about trans women being dangerous in a manner that is, to use an overwrought term at this point, peak Karen. Essentially stating that while she thinks trans lives matters she feels the lives of biological women matter more, hence, “I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman–and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones–then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside.”
Nim Ralph, a trans activist working in the U.K., commented of Rowling’s 3,600-word negation of their existence, “Through her own legitimate experiences of violence, she’s evoked the threat of gender-based violence against women in order to connect it to fear of trans people.” What’s more, Rowling seems to be giving predatory men way too much credit in terms of the roundabout way they would attempt to go about rape or assault. Pretty sure he would just throw the door open without bothering to lay claim to being a woman in order to get inside. Rowling’s comments and reasoning are so far-removed from the common “man” that it’s hard to believe she ever might have been one. What’s more, as Ralph so succinctly put it, “It’s devastating [that] somebody as powerful–[with] as wide a reach as J.K. Rowling–spend(s) her time in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a global uprising for black lives, and in the middle of Pride month, [to] write an essay with a lot of misinformation and transphobia.”
Rowling put herself on the cross for the majority of her self-defense, again invoking Simone de Beauvoir to brand her own feelings as going against the tide, the barrage of vitriolic faux wokeness with, “There’s joy, relief and safety in conformity. As Simone de Beauvoir also wrote, “…without a doubt it is more comfortable to endure blind bondage than to work for one’s liberation; the dead, too, are better suited to the earth than the living.” But, Rowling assures she will not conform to trans activists’ or trans supporters’ opinions. She is, through and through, the only definition of a true woman. Or, unfortunately for perpetuating the stereotype, a true woman of white feminism.
Ralph further notes of Rowling’s vehement defense of her “superior” womanhood, “White women have always tried to control the definition of women and there is a legacy of black feminist and women of color who have fought against that singularity. White feminism… has a long lineage of scientific racism and biological essentialism and this is just another extension of that.” Of course, Rowling will clearly never believe anything other than the fact that trans women are just men in disguise trying to connivingly get their rapist jollies.
Can it be any surprise that her pedestrian “novels” resonated so much in America, world capital of inequality not hiding so well behind the hypocrisy of calling everyone equal? The last book alone in the Harry Potter series sold eleven million copies in the U.S. in the span of twenty-four hours. No American has ever been that interested in reading. Where Rowling is concerned, maybe, for once, Americans were better off enlisting their usual anti-literature stance. It might have made them slightly smarter. Not have infected their brains with all this talk of “purity” vs. “non-purity.” While trans people were interpreting the message in their favor, there were many readers filing it away as yet another subconscious reason to look at someone different from them as “the other.” And how could they not when taking into account the author’s outlandish statements? Clearly there all along from the start in her work.