BooksSex & Gender

What are the Potter-ternatives?

Or is the Sorting Hat a TERF?

Over at the Mothership Rebecca has a great video outlining the current controversy surrounding the world richest TERF children’s author, JK Rowling.

This all started because of a woman named Maya Forstater, a “tax expert” who worked for a London-based thinktank called the Centre for Global Development (CGD). Forstater is a TERF — excuse me, a bigoted fuckface — you know what, I’m going to just stick with TERF, I’m sorry but it’s easier to say — who tweeted publicly her brilliant ideas like that “male people are not women,” which led CGD to not renew her contract for 2020 because she was openly discriminatory toward transwomen.

She took her case to court, hoping that it would set a precedent that would allow her specific “belief system” (that transwomen are actually men) to be considered protected speech instead of discrimination. She just lost that case, leading other bigoted fuckfaces like Rowling to offer their support for her.

Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism has been on the rise in the UK, finding fertile ground in a culture with deep seated transphobia baked in. From Vox…

According to Heron Greenesmith, who studies the modern gender-critical movement as a senior research associate at the social-justice think tank Political Research Associates, gender-critical feminism in the UK grew out of a toxic mix of historical imperialism and the influence of the broader skeptical movement in the early aughts — which was hyperfocused on debunking “junk science” and any idea that considered sociological and historical influence and not just biology. Those who rose to prominence in the movement did so through a lot of “non-tolerant calling-out and attacking people,” Greenesmith said, much like gender-critical feminism. “Anti-trans feminists think they have science on their side. It is bananas how ascientific their rhetoric is, and yet literally they say, ‘Biology isn’t bigotry.’ In fact, biology has been used as bigotry as long as biology has been a thing.”

This confluence of bigotry and bad science has led a lot of otherwise laudable folks into the arms of a TERF movement happy to have their shitty ideas amplified by famous people. Shitty people looking for attention also flock to causes like TERFdom, Ricky Gervais being one of the most egregious recent examples. The parallels to celebrities in the anti-vaccination movement should be obvious. 

The skeptical and atheist movements have been especially vulnerable as TERF’s have learned that they can flatter some of us by appealing to our natural skepticism with a Gish Gallop of bad biology, as well as amplifying our unfortunate disdain for “soft” sciences like sociology and gender studies.

Now it’s always upsetting to discover that the people we admire have feet of clay. JK Rowling’s stories have brought happiness to millions of people, myself included. My NBteen, the Schmoo has been a Potterhead since they were old enough to be read chapter books and they are pretty pissed. But they aren’t ripping up their Potter related stuff (their fan art is featured here.)

Just like it’s ok to enjoy “problematic media,” it’s ok to enjoy media from “problematic people.” The rules are pretty much the same as well. Acknowledge the issue and avoid the temptation to make excuses for your problematic fave. Defer to the people most effected, in this case Trans people. And don’t center yourself in the discussions surrounding the problem unless you are effected. When trans folks are talking about this scandal it can be really off-putting when us cis folks immediately respond with our English 101 take on “death of the author,” or centering our own disappointment. To quote Marissa McCool, author and host of The Cis are Getting Out of Hand podcast…

I think I’m more hurt when people have to declare how they need to separate the art from the artist literally the second she says something that hurts us. Like they’re so eager to cling to it that it becomes hurtful that a fantasy story is so important that they have to make sure we know they don’t want to lose it despite how hurt we may be.

I get that it means a lot to a lot of people, but reminding us how much you like someone who threw their public support behind a blatant bigot, or at least what that person created, just is uncomfortable.

Image Credit Abby Doench,
Good against Dementors and MAGA-heads!

Where does that leave us as parents with little wizard or witch (or neither,) readers? Yes you can still pack them onto the Hogwarts Express if that’s where their heart takes them. But if you are looking to spend your Galleons on some authors who aren’t assholes, a quick survey of the other Grounded Parents has revealed a list of great speculative fiction books for the kiddo crowd. Librarians will be quick to offer up some well known and worthy alternatives, Rick Riordan’s empire of mythological adventures that began with The Lightning Thief could occupy a kid for years. So we’ll be focusing on some lesser known fare (Goodreads links to the first in the series, plus a link to a list I will keep expanding )

The list is long and will keep growing! We’ll revisit the subject in the future. Add your own or your kids favorites in the comments!!!

Louis Doench

Lou Doench is a 52 year old father of three. Twelve years ago he married the coolest woman in the world and gave up the lucrative career of being a photography student to become a stay at home husband and Dad, or SAHD. An atheist geek, or a geeky atheist if you prefer, Lou likes reading, photography, video gaming, disc golf, baseball and Dr. Who. He has been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1976. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an excellent home cook, not that his children would know because they only eat Mac & Cheese. Follow Lou on Twitter @blotzphoto or check out his photography at

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One Comment

  1. Lou Doench,

    These sound like some pretty good suggestions.  Personally I had a slight issue with JK Rowlings’ work even before I knew about her transphobia.  There was a scene in the first Harry Potter novel, that I thought was a bit too mature and graphically violent for children and If I had any, I  probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable with my children reading it for that reason.

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