It’s the hatred for JK Rowling that is truly ‘nasty’
We need to talk about the arrested development of Rowling’s shrill critics.
I don’t particularly like the term ‘mansplaining’. But I’ll make an exception for the twentysomething bloke who ekes out a living by spaffing off clickbait columns for a hundred quid a pop thinking he can tell billionaire author JK Rowling where she’s going wrong. That really happened this week. A young-ish male scribe at the knackered New Statesman devoted 2,000-odd words to berating the eighth best-selling writer of all time for being too ‘nasty’. If that’s not mansplaining, it’s definitely brass neck. Or just being a wanker.
The writer is one Nick Hilton. He lambasts Rowling for being ‘brittle, insecure, cruel’. Did his word count preclude him from adding ‘hysterical’? His main beef seems to be that some of Rowling’s characters are wrong’uns. So in the Robert Galbraith books – the crime novels Rowling writes under a pseudonym – there are ‘paedophiles and domestic abusers, rapists and far-right terrorists’. Fetch my smelling salts! These uppity female novelists with their dark storylines – why can’t they write about the search for a husband like those lady novelists of old?
The headline of the hit job originally referred to Rowling as ‘Britain’s nastiest novelist’. It was later tweaked to ‘Britain’s gloriously nasty novelist’ following a backlash from women online who think women should be free to write about whatever the hell they want. Yet the rest of the piece still drips with venom for Rowling’s recent twisted writing. The ‘nastiness of her fiction… has bubbled up to the surface like lava’, says Hilton. Her ‘talent for intricate world-building, so evident in Harry Potter’ has given way to a penchant for ‘sickening violence and penetrating satire’. Shorter version: stick to tall tales about wizards, love, and leave the dark stuff to the fellas.
Hilton’s reminiscence for the Potter era is telling. It surprised me not one jot to discover that, like many in his generation, he was a Potterhead. He has previously penned columns on ‘my life trapped in Harry Potter trivia’ and ‘how I became a successful Harry Potter webmaster’. There’s so much arrested development in the Rowlingphobia of these millennials who devoured her Potter books when they were smart-arse kids and who now can’t believe she’s writing about paedos and, worse, giving voice to the heretical belief that men aren’t women. ‘You’ve ruined my childhood!’, these muppets think whenever they see the architect of their childhood fantasies say something like, oh I don’t know, rapists shouldn’t be put in women’s prisons.
What has really ‘bubbled up to the surface like lava’ is millennials’ own infantile rage against the mother-like figure who once furnished them with a world of wizards and witches but who later turned out to be… well, a woman, with views, who wants to write about domestic abuse as well as boy wizards. A lot of Rowling-bashing speaks to the social retardation of a generation that was encouraged to fear the transition to adulthood. Mollycoddled millennials thought they could hide in Hogwarts forever, away from the ‘nasty’ world of adult responsibility, and then they discover that even the builder of Hogwarts is ‘problematic’. So Hogwarts is no longer a ‘safe space’, and of course adulthood isn’t a ‘safe space’, so where are we meant to go?! ‘Fuck you, JK Rowling!’, is their tantrum-like response to these demands of maturity, this stress of growing up, the unavoidable lure of autonomy.
We end up with a former Harry Potter trivia freak – nerd! – lambasting Mother Rowling in the pages of the New Statesman for revealing her ‘full, nasty glory’ of late. It is telling that Hilton says Rowling was donning ‘the mask of adulthood’ when she started writing under ‘Robert Galbraith’. This instinctive association of ‘adulthood’ with tales of ‘paedophiles and domestic abusers, rapists and far-right terrorists’ says more about the existential fears of Rowling-era millennials than it does about Rowling herself. Also, better the ‘mask of adulthood’ than the sand pit of forever childhood these literary millennials seem keen to frolic in, right? In shifting from kid wizards to paedos, Rowling reminded her millennial fanbase that childhood isn’t forever, and some of them will never forgive her for that.
Of course, her worst offence, what really makes her ‘brittle, insecure, cruel’ in the eyes of her critics, is her gender-critical heresy. Not only has she had the temerity to write about dark things – she also has the audacity to think that people with penises are men, not women. Her sin is to know biology, and to believe women have the right to their own spaces, free of the male sex. This makes her a TERF, which is PC-speak for witch. Thus has the inventor of witches become one herself, outraging her millennial fans by refusing to do what so many of them have done: bow down in spectacular deference to the orthodoxies of the insane new elites.
Hilton says his essay is just about Rowling’s books. Pull the other one. It’s about Rowling and her refusal to bend a dainty knee to correct-think. She has ‘transitioned from national treasure to liberal pariah’, he says. She has pissed off her ‘millennial fanbase’ with her crazy biological beliefs. ‘She condemns vicious keyboard warriors and hysterical reactionaries in her books but engages in similar behaviour herself online’, he says. Oh really? When? Where? Surely Mr Hilton doesn’t think a woman standing up for women’s rights is ‘hysterical’ and ‘vicious’ – because if he does, someone needs to tell him that the slur of ‘reactionary’ is a far better fit for him than her.
‘[She] has liked a post from a far-right account on Twitter’, he says. Again, when? Also, you’ll forgive us if we decline to take lectures on the far right from a magazine that once ran a front cover about a ‘Kosher conspiracy’ of all-powerful Israeli lobbyists, back when it was edited by a man who was latterly exposed as having a penchant for child porn. Just saying. And then comes Hilton’s killer line: ‘In another world, JK Rowling could be a character in a book by Robert Galbraith: brittle, insecure, cruel.’
There it is. This isn’t about the art, it’s about the artist. Under the cover of literary critique, yet another male wail against Rowling’s reality-based feminism is being issued. A new generation – well, the privileged, overeducated section of that generation, the part that knows you need the ‘right’ views to get ahead – has convinced itself that you can have bollocks and be a woman. Literally a woman. It’s religious delirium packaged up as radicalism. They truly believe that fighting for the right of a bloke to get his knob out in the women’s changing rooms is the new civil-rights issue. And that anyone who thinks women shouldn’t have to look at a knob unless they want to is a horrible bigot. They have no idea how deranged they sound to the rest of us.
What is really ‘brittle, insecure and cruel’ is the noisy trans lobby and its influential allies. These people will melt into a puddle of self-pity and tinny angst if you so much as ‘misgender’ them. They will arrogantly demand access to every women-only space and denounce as a TERF / witch any woman who stands in their way. I’d call that brittle. I’d call that cruel. The sins you people see in Rowling’s behaviour are really your own. It’s time you all grew up, hard as that might be. Wizards aren’t real, women are, and JK Rowling owes you precisely nothing.
Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy
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