I read a post on here a while ago that made me incredibly angry. It was essentially the antithesis to this post’s title (why you can absolutely always separate books from their authors). This was at a time where I was looking for more people to follow on WordPress, so I was doing a lot of browsing. I came across this post because along with not disagreeing with them, I actually found their post outright offensive.
In this post, the author is generally talking about the whole JK Rowling situation. If you are somehow unaware, this author, one of the most famous children’s authors for writing the Harry Potter series, has now made it her life mission to discredit and harass trans women. The post’s author states that if we stop reading Harry Potter because of Rowling’s statements, then we can’t read authors such as Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. “If you think Rowling is bad, wait ’til you hear what the majority of white people thought in the 19th century!” (I’m paraphrasing here–they didn’t actually say this).
Now, I don’t usually like to call people stupid. No one should be valued based on their intelligence. But I truly just have no other words for this incredibly bone-headed and offensive take.
I’m not completely sure if the post author realizes this but authors such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens are dead. Looooooong dead. They don’t benefit from their books being sold and read anymore. As I’m writing this, Rowling’s net worth is estimated to be around £820 million. Every time someone buys a new fancy edition of Harry Potter, JK Rowling adds to her net worth. And hey, I used to buy those cool illustrated editions too, until I heard what this woman was saying to the world with her mega platform. There is a huge difference between supporting historic works of literature whose authors get nothing in the grave and supporting a huge transphobe who continues to add to her insane wealth.
There’s an argument I often hear from fear-mongering conservatives and TERFs that trying to “cancel” someone on Twitter is limiting their first amendment rights. This is just simply not true. JK Rowling is allowed to say whatever she wants, and I am allowed to not spend my money on absolutely horrific people.
Another argument the author of this blog post made was to say that there is no transphobia in the series itself, so it’s fine to read it. To this argument, I say, you, my friend, are not looking hard enough. Every author embeds small pieces of their beliefs into their writing, sometimes you just need to look a little deeper. The antisemitism, the racism, and transphobia is all there if you know what to look for. They are just extremely well hidden in dialogue, action, and character development.
I’m not condemning anyone who has the gall to utter Harry Potter in a sentence. I still talk about the series often with my brother and partner. And there is an argument to be made for LGBTQ+ communities who have benefited from creating community surround the Harry Potter fandom. Thomas and Stornaiuolo (2016) discuss the importance of “restorying” in series such as these, where marginalized communities rewrite aspects of the series to insert a more diverse spin on them. These practices have been essential to LGBTQ+ communities and people of color in finding a sense of belonging, especially for young readers.
I still will sometimes put on a Harry Potter DVD or reread my copies at home, and I think most of us whom it affected will not escape the lasting impression the series made. I just want to implore everyone who has not thought of this and people like the author of the post I read to really think about why you want to give someone like Rowling more money. It might be because you don’t care enough about trans people. Words from a hugely famous children’s author like her have an effect. And there are so many other good fantasy authors who do fantasy well, without the transphobia.