A 2020 British Vogue interview with Harry Potter Star Emma Watson has recently gone viral after being shared on TikTok and Twitter, as Watson’s words appear to clash with author JK Rowling’s, sparking a culture war between fans of the two famous women.
In the interview, author and activist Paris Lees (who is trans) asked Watson if Watson would be comfortable sharing a bathroom with her. Watson replies, “oh my god, of course.”
Watson goes on to explain his message to those who might have a problem with Lees using a women’s bathroom: “He’s another human being. I understand being afraid of what you don’t know. But go learn…”
While Watson’s words sound quite mundane, fans found her open-minded demeanor to stand in stark contrast to that of JK Rowling, who has repeatedly expressed discomfort with sharing intimate spaces with trans women. . In an essay defending her beliefs, Rowling wrote:
“When you open the doors to bathrooms and locker rooms to any man who believes or feels like a woman – and, as I said, sex confirmation certificates can now be issued without the need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to all men who wish to enter.
Consequently, Rowling fans seemed exasperated by the sudden popularity of Watson’s interview, with many dismissing Watson as wealthy, authoritative and therefore irrelevant.
Watson’s fans fired back, pleading in his defense and pointing out the irony of criticizing Watson’s class background, while standing in solidarity with one of the world’s wealthiest authors.
The Twitter clash highlights not just an ideological divide, but a growing generational gap. While polls show that support for trans rights is largely based on political ideology, they also show a huge gap between young and old.
Millennials and Gen Z tend to be overwhelmingly supportive of trans people, having grown up in a more inclusive environment, while older generations show much more resistance to trans rights, likely intimidated by the speed of social change.
In particular, the three stars of Harry Potter the films came out firmly in favor of trans rights after the Rowling controversy. Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe have released statements in support of trans people, with both actors directly calling out JK Rowling.
“Transgender women are women,” Radcliffe wrote in an essay for The Trevor Project. “Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and runs counter to all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject than either other [Rowling] or I.”
To date, neither Radcliffe nor Grint has received the same vitriolic rejection from trans-exclusive feminists as Watson.