Antisemitism, Discrimination, Queerphobia, Racism

The Bigotry that is JK Rowling

I was a teenager from Long Island taking the Long Island Railroad into Manhattan. From there I took the A C or E subway train to Greenwich Village in order to arrive to my program at Hebrew Union College.

There was often a wait at Pennsylvannia Station on the way home on the Babylon line of the LIRR. If you have ever been to Penn Station, there are a lot of shops. By the LIRR tracks there was a book store. My best friend told me about the Harry Potter book so I thought I would give it a try. I was sucked in immediately.

I had no idea how much bigotry the novel series and the author had. Once I knew, I stopped immediately but I had to grieve because I could relate to Harry being the scape goat. After my grieving process was over, I got angry.

Bigotry in the Series

Slavery and Racism

One thing I didn’t give a second thought was slavery in the series. Once it was pointed out and I did more research, I was sick. The house elves were the wizards slaves. They were described as the perfect slaves.Their clothes were made from pillow cases and rags. They didn’t get decent clothes. Ironically, if they were to receive clothes, they would be free. It was written into the story that if they were to be paid, it would be offensive.

Most of them even looked happy to be enslaved. This is a direct parallel to the “Mammy” image that the slave owners pre Civil War portrayed their slaves inside the homes. It was a political symbol. During slavery, the mammy caricature was supposed to be proof that blacks were contented, and even happy as slaves. The wide grin, hearty laughter and loyal servitude were offered as evidence that slavery was humane. This was all propaganda. The mammy was desexualized, she belonged to the family. She was a faithful worker. She had no black friends and the white family was her entire world. Much like the house elves.

Tokenization of Minorities

There is tokenization of the Asian character, Cho Chang. She was Harry’s first crush. She was a token character in the series. These are characters of minorities mixed in to make something appear more diverse. Tokenization is not diversity. They display the stereotypes of the race or ethnicity.

Cho has very little character development. She does not contribute anything substantial. She is there for a quota only. The name is very stereotypical, she does not say much, etc. This is inherently racist.

Instead of creating token characters, characters of minority groups should be complex, non stereotypical characters separate from a white protagonist. Rowling did not do any research before just sticking an Asian character in her book just because.

The Patil twins were also stereotyped in the Goblet of fire. This was a real chance at real representation, and Rowling failed yet again. Just like Cho, the characters weren’t developed at all to offer real representation. These characters were more minority tokens to appear diverse. Pavarti was sorted into Gryffindor. Parma was sorted into Ravenclaw. Harry and Ron took the sisters to the Yule Ball. Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas called them the “prettiest girls in our year.” This might be because they are different than other girls. This is objectifying them.

According to an Indian columnist, they said the names were actually Indian. They weren’t a lazy attempt at Anglicized representation. Even with Pottersville, the Harry Potter author had the opportunity to deepen the these two characters and chose not to. One of the twins, Padma, vanished from the narrative. Parvati was fascinated with Divination. It was expressed as superstitious and mysterious nonsense.

The costumes at the Yule Ball in the books where Pavarti “looked very pretty indeed, in robes of shocking pink, with her long dark plait braided with gold, and gold bracelets simmering at her wrist” Padma “was lookin just as pretty as Parvati in robes of bright turquoise.”

The movies undid this. The twin’s costumes were ranted about on the internet because “no self respecting Indian would wear those garish orange and pink lhengas to the biggest event of the year.”

Antisemitism

The Goblins that guard Gringotts, the central Wizard bank were meant to symbolize Jews. They were created similarly to how Jews were caricatured throughout history. They had hook noses and were greedy. This is what antisemitic propaganda has been throughout history.

Even on the floor of the Gringotts building, there is a Magen David (Star of David). If someone would deny that this is antisemitic, they would be lying.

Pure Blood Comes from Nazi Ideology

The Harry Potter series uses the same “logic” Nazis used when referring people as pureblood, half blood and mud blood. These terms were only used by the perceived evil characters.

Rowling claimed she invented the idea where some wizards were not considered pure.

According to Susannah Alexander, an education officer at the Jewish Museum in London, “A single Jewish grandparent ‘polluted’ the blood, according to their propaganda.”

“They graded people according to their genetics in a totally revolving and warped way. I personally think that if we avoid these issues and burst them under the carpet, we are giving the green light to people who might try and expose young people in the alternative point of view, which doesn’t bear thinking about.”

“We are in danger of saying these issues are too big, too frightening, and not deal with them altogether.”

Miss Alexander has taught children about the Holocaust. She had picked up on the striking similarities between Nazi beliefs and those held by evil characters in the Harry Potter books. She read all of them.

“The second book in particular deals very much with this idea of pure blood and half blood. It never seemed to me that some of the expressions and the language used came entirely from an author’s imagination.”

“In one particular instance, Hermoine is being picked on for having muggle parents. They call her ‘mud blood’, dirty blood. That always seemed to me to have a basis in language used by the Nazis.”

Rowling said she made this ‘chilling’ discovery but all the terms that was used was no original thought. Her “discovery” is performative at best.

Bigotry by JK Rowling Outside Harry Potter

Transphobia

This is the type of bigotry she is infamous for. In an essay on her website talking about how “sex is real.” This is the phrase a lot of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) use.

Her transphobia became evident in her tweets on June 6, 2020. She retweeted an op-ed a piece that discussed “people who menstruate.” She took issue with the fact they didnt use the word “women.”

She said.”People who menstruate. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

This tweet caused a lot of backlash, rightfully so. She had an even worse response. “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”

“I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”

She then retweeted an op ed titled “Anonymous letter from a Terrified Lesbian. ‘I never felt as shouted down, ignored, and as targeted as a lesbian *within* our supposed GLBT community as I have the past couple of years.'”

On June 10, 2020 she published a long post on her website and sent out a tweet that said “TERF Wars.”

“This isn’t an easy piece to write, for reasons that will shortly become clear, but I know it’s time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity. I write this without any desire to add to that toxicity. For people who didn’t know, last December I tweeted my support for Maya Foster, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected by law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.”

She explained that she became interested in trans issues while researching a character she was writing. Rowling also described “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism.”

New Book That “Wasn’t Inspired by the black-lash”

After the backlash of the transphobic comments, she wrote a crime novel called “The Ink Black Heart.” She said it “genuinely wasn’t” by the clapback she received from the trans community.

It is the latest volume to the crime series caked “Cormoran Strike.” It is a crime thriller series that she wrote under a pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

This book is about a woman who is killed aafter being accused of transphobia.

She claims the parallels are just coincidences.

“I’d written the book before certain things happened to me online. I said to my husband, ‘I think everyone’s going to see this as a response to what happened to me,’ but it genuinely wasn’t.

No one is tricked by this. The timing is just too perfect.

sources:

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/jk-rowling-transphobic-new-book-plot-b2157198.html

https://www.scotsman.com/news/uk-news/author-chilled-learn-harrys-half-blood-status-has-nazi-parallels-2508677

https://www.insider.com/harry-potter-wasted-chance-for-indian-representation-patils-2021-10

https://www.glamour.com/story/a-complete-breakdown-of-the-jk-rowling-transgender-comments-controversy

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/j-k-rowling-s-harry-potter-goblins-echo-jewish-caricatures-ncna1287043

https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/House-elf

https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/mammies/homepage.htm

3 thoughts on “The Bigotry that is JK Rowling”

  1. And that is not even getting into Rowling’s ableism.

    Especially in the latest Galbraith book – she wrote about a character with polycystic ovary syndrome.

    In that book there is a great variety of online trolling and this lands disproportionately on disabled characters in a very punitive way.

    [and probably inevitably but sadly there are some trans Autistic characters in the online dialogues – or people who can easily be coded as such by people who know the signs]. #WeNeedDiverseBooks #TokenRepresentation

    Someone really cool to follow in the Harry Potter vein is Audrey Armstrong – who wrote the HARRY POTTER IS DEAD series.

    I noted Rowling-the-bigot almost as soon as I read PHILOSOPHER’S STONE [SORCERER’S STONE to USians] in January 2000 – the way she mocked the working and lower-middle-class in Muggle world.

    And especially the overindulged son of the Dursleys.

    “Privet Drive was normal, thank you very much”.

    When it comes to that opening line:

    Many readers may or may not have seen what was going down. And passed it over and/or excused it because it was 1]. a children’s novel and 2]. in a comic and satirical vein.

    The first three paragraphs describing your HARRY POTTER reading experience remind me a lot of Kings’ Cross Station in the books – except in New York.

    I took a while to get into HARRY POTTER. The thing which brought me into the series were the descriptions of Quidditch and people flying on broomsticks.

    [there had previously been a series by Jill Murphy called THE WORST WITCH which had been the last entry into the Magical School genre – fantasy and speculative fiction was not a big thing among young and middle-grade readers in the United Kingdom – though some series and subgenres were in other places in the Commonwealth of Nations and in Europe].

    [and if a reader around 20-25 years of age was doing it – it was either a continuation or nostalgia. Again – that was the 1990s book and magazine market].

    [Also Rowling had a way of cleverly filling a niche where fairytale and folktale were not in the common readers’ culture].

    [thus having people THINK she INVENTED stuff which is appalling unoriginal – and terribly terribly middle-brow].

    It was not until mid-June 1999 that I thought I would give the series a try – and not until January 2000-April 2000 that I read the first three books before GOBLET OF FIRE was to be launched.

    [GOBLET OF FIRE was to have a bumpy start and lots of gut feelings involved. The way the book was saturation promoted in the mainstream and alternative presses and among avid readers].

    Seven books over seven years – time-limited investment. I would not have given this author a decade plus or minus of my life otherwise – and I did supplement with so many other authors and genres offline if not online [and I had some minor participation in fandom communities around the time of GOBLET OF FIRE].

    Then there was the whole ORDER OF THE PHOENIX and the three-year-summer [Rowling paused the writing a lot during the middle of September 2001 and deep into 2002 – thus the book was released in mid-2003].

    I believe a lot of readers made a break by the time of Phoenix – if not during Half-Blood Prince [which I believe to be the worst of the Potters – and among things which stood out to me were the Flanderisation of the Patels and Pansy Parkinson – the chief Slytherin character I really liked] and certainly the Deathly Hallows.

    I remember then that a bigot is one who thinks people or characters ought to die for what reasonable and respectful people think are at least superficial and at worst genocidal reasons.

    Rowling’s treatment of Roma or Roma-coded characters [or British and Irish Travellers – not the same people!].

    Glad you used the Independent as a source. That paper is coming back in a big way. It was established as a progressive newspaper back in the late 1980s and it has always been one of my three or four news sources [the other three being the Guardian; Daily Mail and London Telegraph – and even the Times Educational and Literary Supplements; though I did not access those, nor the main paper, regularly].

    [I love the way the Independent uses the Internet the way its canniest readers would – as source and as target – and especially the way it uses the platform to push forward].

    [The sources I would use for strictly news journalism are NOT the same as the ones I would use for opinion].

    Two other bigoted aspects of Rowling:

    The way she writes about the children and adolescents in the Children’s High Level Group/Lumos. These children and young people are from Central and south-eastern Europe. I became concerned about this in 2005 and 2006 when I read a story about Czech children being tortured and neglected in their “cages”. This ties in with the ableism and dehumanisation.

    And the way she wrote about indigenous North American mythology and folklore and culturally appropriated it in the magical school of Ilvermony.

    That was five or six years ago [2016-17].

    The website is called Pottermore.

    Also the Velvet website may or may not come from a book called TIPPING THE VELVET which was very popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s and was made into a TV series by a major British broadcaster.

    And Parma is what Australians call Parmigiana – a crumbed chicken meal based on schnitzel from Austria/Switzerland/Italy [and from the Parma region].

    As the late Tim Field used to say about bullies in leadership and management:

    [especially the serial ones – and there is no doubt in my mind and on the evidence that Rowling *is* a serial bully or at least a Mean Girl]

    “Prejudiced people are invariably unimaginative” – that is a quote which has impressed itself on my mind since I read it first in April 2001.

    [he was an industrial and organisational psychologist who specialised in preventing harrasment and assault from bullying behaviour in the workplaces of the United Kingdom – especially unionised ones like teaching; nursing; journalism and other places where people would have more recourse to retaliate and recover from psychiatric injury and betrayal trauma].

  2. Not to mention how she often infantilizes Autistic people- Hence her post about “concern” with Autistic patients seen at gender clinics & calling the patients “children.” But If she did a shred of actual research, she would learn that medical care for trans kids typically consists of psychotherapy & puberty blockers, – Which were originally invent for cis children going through puberty too early (known as precocious puberty) & are 100% reversable. When a kid stops taking hormone blockers, they go through puberty just like any other kid would. And if they have adverse side effects, the blockers are stopped.

    Granted, with parental consent only, it can be legal in some sates to have HRT or a double mastectomy at 16. But you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a doctor actually willing to do so before 18- Especially a mastectomy. It’s pretty damn rare to find a plastic surgeon actually willing to operate on a patient under 18, unless said patient is severely disfigured. The only real exception would be states where the age of medical emancipation is below 18- Which is not many- And even in those states, it’s rare. You’d be pretty had pressed to find a surgeon willing to perform a mastectomy on a patient that young, unless the patient had Breast Cancer- Which, although not impossible- Is incredibly rare to develop at that age.

    Medically transitioning isn’t even easy for adults, either. There are often long waiting lists. And there’s a lot of red tape. There’s even more red tape, too, for trans people who don’t perfectly fit within gender stereotypes. Plus, you have to be established with a therapist for at least a year (the longer the better) & prove that you are emotionally stable & capable of understanding all the risks & benefits explained to you during your initial consultation. A child medically transitioning is almost unheard of- Especially legally.

    There was also that time she post claimed hat Autistic trans men are young girls “abused into being trans.” She thinks Autistic people are too incompetent to be self-aware.

    And whenever she talks about Autism, it’s pretty evident that she does not see Autistic adults as adults.

    In the same post about Autistic patients in gender clinics, she also claimed that a lot of the patients seen at gender clinics were there for “internalized homophobia.” (Not like non-straight trans people exist or anything.) And… As a Autistic, gay trans man who struggled with internal homophobes for YEARS & just recently came to terms with being gay… Her straight ass wouldn’t know what internal homophobia if it hit her with a bus.

    Whether JK Fuckface likes it or not… I am an adult. And bodily autonomy is a fundamental human, adult right. My body, my choice. Not hers. Period.

    Honestly, Rowling is a pretty shitty person. And if you’re fed up with her behavior, then guess what?! It’s time to BOYCOTT HER SHIT. As an independent artist, I can tell you that when you directly support an artist’s work; You directly support them. Separating the art from the artist is something that can only really be done if A. The artist is dead. B. The artist no longer has the rights to their work. or C. Their work is long defunct,

    So, if you want to send a message across to Rowling or show any integrity, then…

    Don’t buy her books. Don’t buy movie tickets to any films based on her books. Don’t buy or rent copies of films based on her books. Don’t go to the theme park areas based on her books. Don’t praise her work online. Don’t send her fan art. Don’t interact with her social media posts. Don’t buy anything from businesses she promotes. Etc, etc. Because all of this validates & enables her. Don’t give her the type of attention she wants.

Leave a Reply