News & Opinion


J.K. Rowling Takes On the Homophobic Trolls

The Daily Beast

May 27, 2015

The Westboro Baptist Church—those odd, hateful people who randomly picket funerals and spout virulent bigotry—really should have thought twice before taking on J.K. Rowling.

She has sold 450 million Harry Potter books. She knows how to spin the best magic from words, which 4.67 million Twitter followers are signed up to read.

Over the weekend, elated at the vote in favor of Irish marriage equality, Rowling posted on Twitter: “Sitting here watching the Irish make history. Extraordinary and wonderful.”

Then, in response to a Tweet from someone asking: ‘What if Dumbledore and Gandalf Were Gay Together?” Rowling responded: “Then they could get married IN IRELAND,” surrounded by green love hearts, little shamrocks and rainbows.

This imagined ceremony between two imaginary characters was immediately leapt upon by the Westboro Baptist Church’s crack squad of lunatic placard-wavers, who tweeted back that if such a ceremony would happen they would picket it. Big mistake. Rowling shot back: “Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.”

In response to one reader saying she shouldn’t respond to the WBC, to not give them the oxygen of publicity, Rowling responded, “I don’t care about WBC. I think it’s important that scared gay kids who aren’t out yet see hate speech challenged.” Which makes her response doubly admirable, as well as delicious.

Gay equality clearly means much to Rowling: the day before the Irish vote, she marked Harvey Milk Day too.

Her latest zingily-worded smackdown marks the latest foray of Rowling into the public sphere to advocate for issues close to her, itself a radical shift from the very private author she once was.

When the Harry Potter books were first being published, interviews—indeed public pronouncements—by the boy wizard’s creator were rare. Rowling was careful what she said, and whom she said it to.

Back then, everyone wanted to know what would happen next, and how the saga would end, and so Rowling wisely made herself as unavailable as possible to much public enquiry. The feverishness around the books’ publication, and the movies of course, sent sales and worldwide fandom into the stratosphere.

In recent years Rowling has become a much more public figure. Her interest in social issues, and championing of the less powerful, may in part be informed by her own experience of financially struggling when a single mother of her then-young daughter Jessica before the success of Harry Potter.

In 2008, she donated £1 million to the British Labour party, saying she believed in Labour’s commitment to tackling child poverty more than the Conservatives’ “tax perks for the married,” which, Rowling said at the time, “sends the message that the Conservatives still believe a childless, dual-income, but married couple is more deserving of a financial pat on the head than those struggling, as I once was, to keep their families afloat in difficult times.”

In 2013 Rowling—president of the single-parent organization Gingerbread—attacked the then-coalition UK government for imposing cuts on the least fortunate, and stigmatizing the poor. “I find the language of ‘skivers versus strivers’ particularly offensive when it comes to single parents, who are already working around the clock to care for their children,” she wrote. “Such rhetoric drains confidence and self-esteem from those who desperately want, as I did, to get back into the job market.”

This January, she attacked Rupert Murdoch after he said it was the responsibility of peaceful Muslims to destroy the “deadly jihadi cancer” that he said was responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

Rowling’s response was as stinging as the WBC received. “I was born Christian. If that makes Rupert Murdoch my responsibility, I’ll auto-excommunicate.” 

Rowling was against Scottish independence, donating £1 million to the anti-independence campaign, and writing, “The simple truth is that Scotland is subject to the same twenty-first century pressures as the rest of the world. It must compete in the same global markets, defend itself from the same threats and navigate what still feels like a fragile economic recovery. The more I listen to the Yes (to independence) campaign, the more I worry about its minimisation and even denial of risks.”

In that referendum, as with the Irish marriage equality vote, Rowling proved to be on the right side of history—although with the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) resurgent after the General Election who knows for how long?

As she verbally karate-chopped the WBC, Rowling was also re-tweeting information about long-term missing people, being publicized under #TheBigTweet campaign.

Rowling revealed recently she had been called a “traitor,” “whore,” and “bitch” for her support of keeping the UK intact, though the same report also showed how she measuredly interacted with her online critics.

And if you still want to tangle with Rowling after seeing how the WBC fared, bear in mind that when she says she won’t tolerate bullies on Twitter, what she means is you are going to get your ass kicked, with a spike attached. Or, as she told one recent Twitter detractor, “The Internet doesn’t just offer opportunities for misogynistic abuse, you know. Penis enlargers can also be bought discreetly.”