'Stay in your lane!': Oxfam faces backlash over 'JK Rowling hate figure' in LGBT cartoon

7 June 2023, 06:47

The figure likened to JK Rowling wore a badge saying 'terf', which is short for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’
The figure likened to JK Rowling wore a badge saying 'terf', which is short for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’. Picture: Alamy/Oxfam
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Oxfam has denied a woman who was featured in its cartoon promoting Pride Month was JK Rowling after a backlash.

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Oxfam, the charity organisation, has found itself in hot water after featuring a woman resembling JK Rowling in a cartoon promoting Pride Month.

The charity’s animated #ProtectThePride video was issued to mark Pride Month. It said it could not “ignore the cruel backdrop” against which LGBT people marked the celebration.

The woman, with blood-red eyes and face contorted in hate, was wearing a green dress – similar to one worn by Rowling at a film premiere – and was looking at the Pride flag. As she appeared on screen, a caption said that LGBT people were “preyed on by hate groups online and offline”.

In response, a wave of criticism ensued, with allegations that the character depicted was none other than the famous Harry Potter author, known for her vocal stance on gender identity issues.

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A representative for Rowling said the author would not be commenting.
A representative for Rowling said the author would not be commenting. Picture: Getty

The acronym "TERF," which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist, is a derogatory term used to describe individuals critical of the inclusion of trans and gender-diverse persons within the feminist movement.

Subsequently, Oxfam took down the controversial video, removing both the woman and the TERF reference. The organization issued an apology, expressing regret for any offence caused.

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JK Rowling posted a number of tweets in 2020 which sparked a furious backlash and prompted many to brand her a "TERF".

Oxfam, acknowledging concerns raised about the post, announced its decision to remove it via a tweet.

The charity acknowledged its mistake, admitting that the video failed to effectively convey the detrimental consequences of transphobia.

Consequently, they edited the video, omitting the term TERF, while expressing their apologies for any offence caused.

Oxfam stressed that neither they nor the filmmakers had any intention to depict any specific individual or group with the contentious image.

The charity stated, "We wholeheartedly support every individual's right to uphold their philosophical beliefs, and we firmly believe in respecting an individual's identity, irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or sex characteristics."

Despite their efforts to rectify the situation, Oxfam faced criticism from individuals on both sides of the debate on various social media platforms.

Detractors accused the organization of imposing "trans ideology" on young people, while also capitulating to "anti-trans fanatics."

In response to the backlash, some individuals vowed to boycott Oxfam, with one person tweeting, "I will donate to other charities that don't promote ludicrous gender ideology and publish slurs against women."

Others dismissed Oxfam's statement as insincere and urged the organisation to "stay in your lane."

When approached for comment, a representative for Rowling revealed that the author would not be issuing a statement on the matter.

This online frenzy occurs in the wake of recent events involving trans rights protesters disrupting a talk at the Oxford Union, where feminist campaigner Professor Kathleen Stock advocated for women's single-sex spaces.

In an act of protest, one demonstrator even resorted to gluing their hand to the floor before the "gender critical" academic.

This picture of JK Rowling at the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald premiere in Paris in 2018 appears to be very similar to the cartoon woman depicted
This picture of JK Rowling at the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald premiere in Paris in 2018 appears to be very similar to the cartoon woman depicted. Picture: Getty

The charity has also been accused of hounding out a volunteer who defended Rowling. A former worker, calling herself Maria, said she was accused of transphobia after a colleague asked on an internal message board if Oxfam shops should ban the sale of Rowling’s books.

Maria “had come to the defence of Britain’s most popular living author, asking for evidence of Rowling’s supposed transphobia”, the website UnHerd said. It prompted a “gruelling internal investigation”, with Maria struggling to clear her name, having a nervous breakdown and leaving her job and the country, the website claimed.

She claimed constructive dismissal and belief discrimination and in July last year.

Following the claim, both parties agreed to settle, with Oxfam issuing a public apology for its handling of the process. Maria told UnHerd: “My life has been torn apart. It drove me to a breakdown, I lost my confidence and, worst of all, I began to doubt myself.”

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