ColourPop has made the deeply upsetting decision to release a collection in collaboration with Harry Potter in the year of 2022, years after its creator and author JK Rowling has made comments/written things that indicate that she is transphobic, racist, anti-Semitic, ableist, appropriative, and fatphobic (and probably some other -ists at this point) and that she will use her platform, her money, her power, and her influence to spew forth her vile rhetoric.
For those who have managed to not have heard about JK Rowling’s commitment to anti-trans “radical” feminism, resulting in her often being called a TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), and in circles that may support JK Rowling’s beliefs, you may see the term “gender critical” feminist floating around, I’ll briefly recap and provide links to other outlets that have covered previously. You can jump to this recap first before reading on, whether you need a refresher or don’t know about it at all yet.
There are a lot of concerned customers who expressed similar feelings of disappointment, betrayal, and just general confusion how a brand that claims to support the LGBTQIA+ community would then release this collection. Here is ColourPop’s response to one of the many comments:
Thank you for your comment. It is our continued commitment at ColourPop to always foster a community of acceptance, love, inclusivity and support. This release is our most highly requested (it has been asked for almost weekly by our community!) and as you know, we are here to create magic for you all by listening, and responding to, what our community dreams of. We are also here to support and uplift this community.
Acceptance, inclusivity, and love for all is our biggest priority and that will never change. We are releasing this collection to bring the magic of the Wizarding World to everyone – and like everything we do, it was designed with love, for all. We will always support the LGBTQIA communities through all avenues available to us and will continue to make donations to organizations and charities while remaining committed to providing a platform for LGBTQIA community members via paid partnerships and more. — Source: ColourPop’s Instagram
I am reminded a lot of how MAC x Rodarte’s collection unraveled. MAC initially issued a soft statement and apology due to the initial round of backlash, which then ratcheted up to committing to donate $100K and renaming the products, and then they ended up pulling the entire collection from being released due to continued backlash.
Here, ColourPop has offered what feels like a fluffy bit of nothing that doesn’t truly address the concerns and then manages to use other customers as shields by putting the “blame” of this collection on them for requesting it so highly. Their reply doesn’t even really acknowledge the core issue (the series’ author’s anti-trans activism).
If “Acceptance, inclusivity, and love for all is [their] biggest priority and that will never change,” then this collection doesn’t live up to those values at all. It actively flies in the face of what ColourPop says they stand for. JK Rowling has forever tarnished the world of Harry Potter; as the creator but also someone who financially benefits from the franchise, and is then using her financial means to support ways to push her transphobic views.
ColourPop could have just as readily created a magic and wizard-inspired collection, neither of which are exclusive to Harry Potter, without needing it to be in collaboration with any property or franchise, and more obviously, there are other series that are set in magical worlds out there. ColourPop can say the right thing like, “We will always support the LGBTQIA communities through all avenues available to us,” and then dismiss the many comments (which seemed to outnumber the ones in support of the collection, followed by critical comments garnering 100s of likes) by the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies. You just can’t have it both ways.
I feel like if ColourPop truly wanted to show that they value all of their customers with full support, love, and acceptance, they would not have greenlit this collection in the first place. Some might argue that donating all profits would salvage the disappointing decision, but it is merely a small, saving-face step in light of backlash. The best case that I can see would be donating would-be profits or some explicit number to organizations actively supporting trans people, no longer releasing the collection, and an actual apology acknowledging their failure to live up to self-stated core values.
Similarly, this collection reminded me of the NARS x Guy Bourdin collection, which was a collection that made me deeply uncomfortable and I ended up writing a lengthy commentary on why I decided not to review it but still provided swatches (and dupes). This was also an area where some saw things through more of an artistic lens, and with the Harry Potter fandom, obviously many people have worked through or may still be working through coming to terms with just how much JK Rowling has ruined what was a big part of childhood for many folks.
Whether one can still enjoy the art of a person who has made clear their views or character are at odds with your own values and character is a debate for another time, but at a minimum, we have to acknowledge the flaws of the artist when discussing, engaging, or otherwise supporting in their art. Especially in this instance where the artist/creator wields an extraordinary level of wealth, power, and access to utilizing those resources for harm.
In the spirit of Harry Potter, I say to ColourPop, “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy,” because, “It is our choices, ColourPop, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” After all, “It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”
My Personal Commitment
I will not be reviewing or swatching the ColourPop x Harry Potter collection. I will also donate any commission earned from the use of my code/links on Harry Potter collection items to the Trevor Project.
Update 9/12, 8:15AM PT: As promised, I have donated all commission I’ve earned from sales of the ColourPop x Harry Potter collection to the Trevor Project. From 9/8 to 9/11/2022, commission earned was $2,198.40. I donated this amount and then opted to cover the processing fees associated, which is why the total amount is $2,242.37. Please see below for a screenshot of my receipt after donating online.
I will do another calculation of any commission earned after the close of this month (or any subsequent months, so long as it is being sold) as I expect the bulk of sales have already occurred.
The collection seems to be selling quite slowly, especially for the “most highly requested” collaboration. As it should. Interestingly enough, though, this is more commission than I’d normally see for a collab launch, so I think there were many people trying to offset their purchases by using a code that was going to donate as a few other IG accounts told their followers to use my code!
JK Rowling is Anti-Trans: A Primer
GLAAD’s Accountability Project has an ongoing profile for JK Rowling that keeps track of “anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and discriminatory actions.” Vox published a timeline of JK Rowling’s transphobia, which is a good starting place, followed by a very deep dive into how the Wizarding World has failed to improve on expanding and improving its inclusivity over and over again as more facts have come to light or additional text written.
JK Rowling has a massive Twitter following and routinely engages with critics who have nowhere near the power she wields. There were inklings of the transphobic rhetoric to come, but it really came across in a tweet from December 2019, then followed up by another transphobic tweet in June 2020, which was immediately followed by a long essay that doubled-, tripled-, and quadrupled-downed on being anti-trans. Her essay was rife with anti-trans dog whistles (this is an excellent takedown of the essay). She has since published new novels (outside of the Harry Potter world) that continue to espouse her transphobic views (and the newest one, promoted in August of this year, is apparently ablelist, too).
Major stars from the Harry Potter movie franchise, like Daniel Radcliffe, swiftly spoke out and condemned JK Rowling’s anti-trans tweets. When HBO aired a retrospective to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first film’s release, JK Rowling was only featured in archived content but did not appear otherwise in this special.
As Vox noted, TERFs “oppose the self-definition of trans people” at its core, and in their worldview, this results in TERFs treating “trans women as predators, trans men as victims of the patriarchy,” and often erasing or mocking non-binary people.
Jay Hulme, who is a transgender performance poet, speaker, and educator, wrote on trans men: “There is another aspect to the way transphobes treat trans men which is altogether more uncomfortable, and that is what I like to call the “butch lesbian fallacy” … There is an idea, in transphobic circles, that trans men are all confused butch lesbians,” and Hulme expands on this further (well-worth reading the entire post), “They speak of trans men as a “loss”, as if they were sexually entitled to us, and as if they have been wronged by us becoming sexually unavailable to them through self awareness, acceptance, and transition … At the heart of all of this is a desire among transphobes to control trans men. They obsess over our surgeries, our ages, and our presentations. The prospect of a trans man exercising his right to bodily autonomy horrifies them.”
The transgender community needs our collective support as the percentages of transgender individuals who have seriously considered suicide in the past year remains high (48% and higher) and have had a lack of access to mental healthcare (when over 71% of transgender women and men experience symptoms of anxiety) are high. When transgender individuals feel supported and affirmed, they have lower rates of attempting suicide. All statistics are from The Trevor Project’s 2022 survey.