Oxfam caves to pressure and deletes Pride video containing the supposed likeness of JK Rowling

Screenshot from the Oxfam video, featuring Rowling's supposed likeness
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Oxfam has come under fire on Twitter for a short animation it posted as part of its #ProtectThePride campaign. Critics claimed that a red-eyed, snarling figure wearing a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) badge resembled author J.K. Rowling. In recent years, Rowling has become increasingly known for her anti-trans opinions.

Oxfam’s video

Oxfam quickly took down the video and issued a statement of apology. However, the charity denied that the likeness was intentional.

As Pink News reported:

Created by Falana Films, a Bangalore-based, women-led studio, the minute-long cartoon looked at the various ways queer people are denied basic human rights, as well as the means by which people can protect and champion safety for LGBTQ+ communities.

The video became the source of criticism for showing a character wearing a TERF badge alongside two other characters, meant to represent the hate groups that attack LGBTQ+ communities online and offline.

Cue the inevitable pile-on from the various transphobic corners of Twitter. We’ll leave aside for a moment the irony of seeing a demonic redhead cartoon character growling at an LGBT group and immediately assuming that it must be Rowling.

Sure enough, Oxfam quickly caved to the pressure. It first posted that it had taken the video down:

Read on...

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Then, the charity also shared an edited version of the video. It removed references to TERFs as a hate group, along with the supposed likeness of Rowling. This came with a lengthy apology:

Oxfam’s statement accompanying the new video read:

Oxfam believes that all people should be able to make decisions which affect their lives, enjoy their rights and live a life free of discrimination and violence, including people from LGBTQIA+ communities.

In efforts to make an important point about the real harm caused by transphobia, we made a mistake.

We have therefore edited the video to remove the term TERF and we are sorry for the offence it caused. There was no intention by Oxfam or the film-makers for this slide to have portrayed any particular person or people.

We fully support both an individual’s rights to hold their philosophical beliefs and a person’s right to have their identity respected, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.

Rowling and the TERFs

The thing is, though, it’s somewhat difficult to ascertain the transphobic crowd’s motivation in objecting to the video. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the figure in the video was Rowling.

There are problems with the ‘TERF’ label, to be sure. There’s very little that’s radical about the idea of excluding trans people. Many mainstream politicians share it – Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, and Kemi Badenoch amongst them – along with some distinctly anti-feminist figures and a whole bunch of literal Nazis.

That aside, ‘TERF’ is a label that Rowling has very much associated herself with. For example, she posted a lengthy diatribe on her website. When she shared the same post on Twitter she did so by calling it ‘TERF wars‘. Likewise, she posted a tweet wishing people a “Merry Terfmas”.

If the objection is that Rowling isn’t opposed to trans people and their rights, that doesn’t hold much water either. Her lengthy diatribe mentioned above included “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism”. She famously likened the trans rights movement to the death eaters, the villains from her own book, calling it a “powerful, insidious, misogynistic movement”. And, she flat-out ignored trans men’s existence in her rant on the use of the phrase “people who menstruate”.

Of course, Rowling did insist that she isn’t transphobic, and would “march with [trans people] if [they] were discriminated against on the basis of being trans”. However, during a time of rising transphobic hate crime, such support hasn’t been forthcoming.


Now, despite taking down the video, the hashtag ‘Oxfam hates women’ has gained a flood of transphobic support on Twitter. Except, it isn’t women that Oxfam depicted in a negative light, is it? It’s transphobes, who are not synonymous with women. In fact, on average, women are far more likely to be trans inclusive than men.

Oxfam’s capitulation is as predictable as it is disappointing. We are already seeing brands quietly walking back their support for queer causes as transphobic and homophobic hatred mounts.

Charities, brands, and all public-facing organisations must learn one thing very rapidly. Support for LGBTQ+ people no longer comes for free. The slings and arrows aimed at trans people will also be levelled at their allies – now, we will see who stands firm, and who quietly walks away.

Featured image via screenshot Twitter/OxfamInternational

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  • Show Comments
    1. Conversely, LGBT+ people and transgender people in particular must learn one thing very rapidly: charities, corporations and NGOs can never be our allies. Oxfam, for example, is limited by its reliance on the donor class (privileged, wealthy, politically conservative) and the charity laws (prohibiting political campaigning). We must band together and look for solidarity in the working class, not in the media nor in organisations that have no stake in our future.

    2. Oxfam has a terrible record of not protecting women, especially in the third world where predatory male employees abused local female workers and those it was supposed to be helping.
      The cartoon almost certainly depicts JKR as well as a black person and a yellow person. How more racist can they get? Allegedly those living in Africa and Asia are less tolerant of LGBT .
      So not only did they insult women they also managed to be racist at the same time.
      Saying the cartoon was produced by a women’s cooperative shows how Oxfam delegates deciwion making and then doesn’t take responsibility for it’s own actions.

    3. It is disturbing, but perhaps unsurprising, to read the hate-riddled comments below pretty much any article on Canary, Open Democracy and any other left-of-centre news site that reports transgender people in any positive light. Clearly, the well-funded propaganda from fascist and misogynistic organisations, much based in the USA, has succeeded in one of its aims: deluding and dividing feminists into the mistake of thinking that transgender people (who are a tiny and highly vulnerable section of any society) present a threat to women’s rights and safety. The evidence for this alleged threat, as has been shown almost ad nauseam, does not exist. Once trans people have been pushed back into the closet, these organisations will turn to other rights won by working-class people: reproductive justice, LGB freedoms, equal pay, equal marriage…

      It seems that some people who call themselves feminists hate transgender people so much that they are happy to openly work with fascists to eliminate trans people from society. Their anti-socialist, misogynistic, ultra-capitalist allies are all on the Right and the far Right, including the Tories here in the UK as well as, plainly, the likes of Tucker Carlson, Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump in the USA. That’s the anti-transgender community.

      1. For those wondering what Airlane 1979 is talking about, they’re referring to a comment I made a few days ago. This comment has been removed, with no explanation, public or private, as to why. All my other comments have been also removed “pending moderation”.

        For a supposed “left wing” journal that values radical opinions, the Canary proves itself to be just like Starmer’s Labour in removing and silencing the voices of women who disagree with their Men’s Rights Agenda. This shouldn’t surprise me – I’d expected it the first time I posted something that I knew went against their “Party Line”. But it took them about a week and so I persuaded myself, for that week, that they were open to criticism, that the “Party Line” wasn’t sacrosanct.

        But I was wrong. It seems you must support the Party Line on any subject that matters, or find yourself silenced. Just like Starmer’s Labour. This, in a microcosm, is an illustration of the malaise affecting the so-called “left” in this country: It’s intolerant to the point of fascism. Go to a Let Women Speak event, where a small group of brave women voice their dissent to the Party Line and are surrounded by a hate-filled mob of masked up thugs who use intimidation, threats and violence to silence the voices of women who dare to say “No” to them. Like violent abusive men have always done. Like fascists have always done.

        I don’t intend to continue writing any more comments – what’s the point if, as soon as I touch on anything important, it’ll be censored? Nor do I intend to keep reading the Canary. And, as the Canary constantly sends me begging e-mails, pointing out how strapped for cash they are, they might consider that perhaps the reason they have problems attracting support is because of their intolerance to anyone who veers from the Party Line. If I wanted censorship, I’d still be a member of Labour. And you can bet I’m not the only one who’s made that decision.

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