Fact Check

Did Judy Blume Say She Supports J.K. Rowling's Ideas on Gender '100%'?

Blume, an author of young adult fiction, said her statement to a reporter for The Sunday Times was taken out of context.

Published April 17, 2023

 (Karjean Levine/Getty Images )
Image courtesy of Karjean Levine/Getty Images
Claim:
In an interview published in April 2023, author Judy Blume said she was "behind J.K. Rowling 100%" in terms of her "defense of women’s sex-based rights."
Context

It is true that, in an interview with the British newspaper The Sunday Times that published in April 2023, Blume said of J.K. Rowling, "I am behind her 100 per cent as I watch from afar." To contextualize the statement, the Sunday Times writer said Blume was "referring to the abuse Rowling has received for speaking in defense of women's sex-based rights." After the interview's publication, Blume said her comment about Rowling was taken out of context, and that she was attempting to express empathy for someone who was experiencing online harassment.

In mid-April 2023, several social media posts alleged that author Judy Blume said she was "behind J.K. Rowling 100%" in terms of the latter's "defense of women's sex-based rights."

Retweeting a post making the claim about Blume and the Harry Potter author, author Christina Dalcher wrote, "So lovely to see another fabulously famous writer daring to say #IStandWithJKRowling. Hearts galore to @judyblume, whose books were perpetually tucked under our arms. (I think I might just reread one of them now)."

(@CV_Dalchjer/Twitter)

Another user tweeted, "Hell yes Judy Blume is on team terf!" According to Dictionary.com, the term "TERF" is an acronym for "Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist" and the online dictionary defines it as "an advocate of radical feminism who believes that a trans woman's gender identity is not legitimate and who is hostile to the inclusion of trans people and gender-diverse people in the feminist movement."

The claim regarding Blume's comment contained some truth, though it deserved necessary context. It is true that, in an interview with the British newspaper The Sunday Times published on April 16, 2023, Blume said, "I am behind her 100 per cent [sic] as I watch from afar," in reference to J.K. Rowling.

However, that's where the direct quote ended. To apparently contextualize it, The Sunday Times writer, Hadley Freeman, added a line, reading: "Blume is referring to the abuse Rowling has received for speaking up in defence of women's sex-based rights [...]."

Here's the in-question section of The Sunday Times piece:

I tell Blume how strangely thrilling it is to see a movie about children where none of them are in possession of magical powers. 'Yes, children are so used to superheroes now, aren't they?' she says. Even in JK Rowling's Harry Potter books the kids are magic, and I love those, I say. 

'And I love her,' Blume immediately interjects. 'I am behind her 100 per cent as I watch from afar.' 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.

Has she reached out to Rowling? 'No, no. I met her very early on in her Harry Potter career, and she said to me, 'Oh, my sister and I used to read all your books,' and she talked about Deenie. I think once or twice we sent each other little notes. But I haven't been in touch with her during this tough time. Probably I should.'

After the interview published, Blume said her comment about Rowling was taken out of context, and that she was attempting to express empathy for someone who was experiencing online harassment. In an April 16 tweet, Blume wrote:

I wholly support the trans community. 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 bullshit.

(via Judy Blume (@judyblume)/Twitter)

In a subsequent tweet, Blume quoted from her own interview to Variety magazine, further clarifying her views and support for the trans community. "No child is going to become transgender or gay or lesbian because they read a book."

We reached out to Blume for more information about her interview with The Sunday Times, and what she felt was erroneously framed. She had not responded to our questions as of this writing.

We also reached out to The Sunday Times writer, Freeman, for her response to Blume's assertion that the newspaper published her remarks out of context. While she addressed the controversy with a tweet, she requested that we present follow-up questions to the newspaper's editors instead, so we emailed two addresses for the newsroom, asking to connect with an editor. We will update this report when, or if, we receive a response.

Rowling, the Harry Potter author, has faced backlash— including from her fans, members of LGBTQ community, and actors who appeared in films based on her books  for her public statements about gender identity. In 2020, for instance, the groups criticized Rowling for tweeting, "'People who menstruate.' I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?" Four days later, she attempted to clarify her remarks in an essay on her author's page, in which she said, "Trans people need and deserve protection," but also, "I'm deeply concerned about the consequences of the current trans activism."

Snopes has fact-checked other rumors with Rowling at the center; for examples, claims about the "Hogwarts Legacy" video game, a fake tweet about abortion, and her attitudes toward transgender women.

Sources

Gonzalez, Sandra. "J.K. Rowling Explains Her Gender Identity Views in Essay amid Backlash." CNN, 10 June 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/10/entertainment/jk-rowling/index.html.

"J.K. Rowling Faces Backlash Again over 'anti-Trans' Tweets." Reuters, 7 June 2020. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/article/britain-lgbt-transgender-idINL8N2DK05U.

"J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues." J.K. Rowling, https://www.jkrowling.com/opinions/j-k-rowling-writes-about-her-reasons-for-speaking-out-on-sex-and-gender-issues/. Accessed 17 Apr. 2023.

Judy Blume: 'I'm behind JK Rowling 100 per Cent.' 17 Apr. 2023, https://web.archive.org/web/20230417033631/https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/judy-blume-im-behind-jk-rowling-100-per-cent-f8nqn7stx?shareToken=d01453f3bca7030fe0688cdfc85b214a.

Damakant Jayshi is a former writer for Snopes.