An annual book festival taking place this week in New Zealand has announced that events will not include a Harry Potter quiz. Organizers chose on their own to cancel the event to keep from promoting the franchise’s controversial author J.K. Rowling because of her anti-trans statements.
The organizers for the Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival said they consulted LGBTQ community members before making the decision, but now fans of Rowling are decrying their decision, calling it yet another result of cancel culture.
“The overwhelming response was there was a risk around causing distress to particular members of the community and that was the last thing we wanted to do,” said festival chairman Peter Biggs to the New Zealand outlet Stuff. “We always thought Booktown should be an inclusive, welcoming place for everyone, so we took the decision not to go with Harry Potter.”
Biggs said that the decision was not made “lightly.” He didn’t cite any pressure from anyone outside of the festival organization to make the decision but noted that local supporters of the festival have also supported the decision.
Phil Quin – a gay man and resident of nearby Wellington, where the festival is being hosted – said he supports the festival’s decision because “the transgender community is a contributor, participant and an attendee at Booktown, and were last year, and will be again next year. They’re part of the broader family, and it’s about how those individuals feel.”
Tabby Besley, founder of the New Zealand organization Inside Out, said, “I think it’s a strong decision that shows they’re really trying to be an inclusive community and support their rainbow and transgender young people.”
But Jane Whyte, a lesbian “feminist activist” who agrees with Rowling’s views on trans people but she is “not transphobic,” claimed that the Featherston Booktown is just trying to cash in on the “fad” of “cancel culture.”
“I think they might be trying to capitalize on the current fad of cancel culture,” White said, further claiming that “Featherston Booktown has a session selling tickets to a panel discussing cancel culture, so there’s an irony certainly.”
Whyte, who resides in Featherston where the event is taking place, claimed that her and Rowling’s views on trans people are “quite compassionate and reasonable,” and said that it was “madness” that people in New Zealand criticized her at all.
Now the Booktown’s social media has come under attack from people with similar views to Rowling and Whyte, decrying the festival’s self-made determination.
“Boycotting everything connected with you due to Outrageous Cancel Culture fascism,” one commenter on Instagram claimed.
Last year, Rowling came out swinging against transgender equality advocates, writing Twitter threads of tweets for her 14 million followers that attacked transgender identities as fake, wrote a rambling essay where she compared the existence of transgender women to domestic violence, showed support for conversion therapy for transgender people, and even plugged a disgusting website that sells transphobic mugs and pins.
When she faced criticism, she claimed that she was just exercising her “free speech”… before she threatened legal action to shut down critics and even forced a children’s news website to apologize to her publicly.
While many celebrities criticized Rowling, others came out in support of Rowling’s transphobia – claiming she was being silenced – while she published a book about a man who dresses up as a woman so that he can get close to women and kill them.
The annual festival is still going on as planned from May 6 to May 9 at Featherston’s Royal Hotel. A panel discussion, dubbed, “Do Artists’ Morals Matter?” will take place on the afternoon of May 8, delving into how “‘cancel culture’… has invaded the Aotearoa New Zealand literary and arts worlds,” naming a New Zealand author who has been accused of rape.
“Expect sparks to fly and literary and artistic reputations to be ruthlessly reviewed,” the webpage for the discussion concludes.