Judy Blume, bestselling children’s author of books such as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., recently committed a grave error in a Sunday Times interview.
In the article, columnist Hadley Freeman praised Blume for featuring in her work normal children and their normal problems — rather than the magical or super-powered children who now populate so much young adult fiction. After Freeman mentioned that even J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter books feature magic, Blume interjected, “And I love her.”
“I am behind her 100% as I watch from afar,” Blume added.
Freeman wrote that “Blume is referring to the abuse Rowling has received for speaking up in defence of women’s sex-based rights, and given that Blume has faced repeated attacks since the 1980s, for her books’ descriptions of adolescent sexuality and puberty, she knows what it’s like to be pilloried as an author.”
Blume noted she met Rowling years ago and that they have corresponded a couple of times since then. “But I haven’t been in touch with her during this tough time,” she said. “Probably I should.”
Later, she added that “it can also be said that [Rowling is] a victim of Twitter, because people believe what they read on Twitter, whatever you actually said.”
Blume is no conservative. Her books have been repeatedly criticized by those on the Right for their handling of sexual and religious content, and she even mentioned in the interview that she has had two abortions. But Blume is a liberal of the old guard. At 85 years old, she probably had no idea of the firestorm that her seemingly innocuous comments would cause.
After swift backlash — partially thanks to the article’s headline, “Judy Blume: ‘I’m behind JK Rowling 100 per cent’” — Blume took to Twitter to do damage control. After all, Amazon is releasing an “adoring documentary” about her this month, and several of her books are currently being turned into movies and TV shows. Her publicists probably had this statement drafted for her as soon as they read the article.
“I wholly support the trans community,” Blume said. “My point, which was taken out of context, is that I can empathize with a writer — or person — who has been harassed online. I stand with the trans community and vehemently disagree with anyone who does not fully support equality and acceptance for LGBTQIA+ people. Anything to the contrary is total bulls***.”
So the very same day the interview was published, Blume flip-flopped on her support for a fellow writer, going from saying, “I am behind her 100%,” to calling her views “bulls***.”
Fellow writers joined the fray to praise Blume for her definitely-not-coerced follow-up statement. Romance writer Tessa Dare wrote, “I hope people around [Blume] continue to fill her in, so that she knows [Rowling] is in no way a victim.”
Is Rowling, who has received death threats for suggesting such ideas as there’s a two-syllable word for “people who menstruate,” really not a victim? What about the countless people who hold her views but not her power and influence, those who aren’t too big to cancel?
In a column from earlier this month, the Sunday Times’s Freeman reported that a friend was canceled for liking one of her tweets. The friend, a writer, was disinvited from an event that a transgender person was also attending after the discovery that she had liked one of Freeman’s tweets.
According to Freeman, the transgender woman’s management team “said they had gone through [the writer’s] social media and seen she had favourited a tweet of mine — which wasn’t about the trans woman, or trans people at all; it was about women’s sex-based rights. Nonetheless, they said, given the recent killing of the trans teenager Brianna Ghey, the trans woman didn’t feel ‘safe’ with [the writer] in the show, so she would have to leave.”
The fact that this transgender person’s team is apparently scouring social media feeds, looking for slight signs of wrongthink among anyone that person might meet, is terribly concerning. This episode just illustrates how important Rowling and those like her are.
The fact that Rowling is brave enough to share her views — which, less than a decade ago, would’ve been considered totally uncontroversial — is incredibly powerful as the transgender activist mob continues to silence dissenters. Rowling could have quietly coasted on her money and fame; instead, she says aloud the commonsense views that get other people canceled.
Rowling paves the way for defenders of free speech, and Blume would have seemed an apt defender as well. She has faced criticism and censorship throughout her career. But she finally faced a battle she thought was not worth the fight. She has been cowed by an illiberal mob that she might have criticized if it weren’t in a position to deprive her of her reputation and money.