J.K. Rowling and Stephen King Have A Feud. Here’s What It Teaches Us as Writers

J.K. Rowling Stephen King feud
Business photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

A while back, J.K. Rowling made waves (again) for her stance on transgender people. This time, she was responding to a tweet by Stephen King, who expressed his belief that “trans women are women”. The Harry Potter author blocked King on Twitter for the post.

Some balls from Rowling (and balance)

First of all, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the fact that J.K. Rowling is famous and confident enough in her own right to block someone like King. That. Takes. Balls. AND I LOVE IT.

But beyond that, the authors’ Twitter feud reveals that there’s a delicate balance between supporting other writers, taking an authentic stance, and maintaining/growing a following.

A classy response from King

When King responded to Rowling, he told The Daily Beast,

“Here’s the thing: She is welcome to her opinion. That’s the way that the world works. If she thinks that trans women are dangerous, or that trans women are somehow not women, or whatever problem she has with it—the idea that someone ‘masquerading’ as a woman is going to assault a ‘real’ woman in the toilet—if she believes all those things, she has a right to her opinion.

And then someone tweeted at me, ‘Do you think trans women are women?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ And that’s what she got angry about—my opinion,” said King. “It’s like the old saying, ‘I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ So, nobody has ‘canceled’ J.K. Rowling. She’s doing fine. I just felt that her belief was, in my opinion, wrong. We have differing opinions, but that’s life.”

Transparency and cooperation both have merit

Whenever you make a controversial statement you really believe in the way J.K. Rowling did, there’s some risk that you could lose followers. The same is true with your online behavior. Some people might have seen just blocking King as offensive. And by defending trans women, King likely ruffled some feathers, too.

But there’s no arguing that, whatever your stance might be on the transgender issue, Rowling isn’t hiding anything. Her thoughts are very clear, and part of being responsible as an author–or as any other professional–is to show the truth of who you are. She’s doing that. And as a result, there’s an increased chance that the people she maintains as followers are going to be loyal for the long haul and buy whatever she writes. In the same way, King was clear about his own stance.

The difference, in my opinion, is that King comes off as more of a cooperative team player. Rather than authoritatively dismiss the person who has a different view, he acknowledges her, even as he clarifies his own position. That acknowledgment matters because it demonstrates respect for her, both as an artist and a human being. Readers aren’t blind to the way you treat others in your field, and it has sway on their opinion of you and your work.

J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are both right

Part of the beauty of writing is that people can express so many things. And as King points out, you do not have to agree with all of what is on the page. But the bigger takeaway from the Rowling/King feud is that we all have an obligation to defend each other’s right to authenticity. If we lose that authenticity, getting readers behind us is going to be an uphill battle, if not impossible.

So as you try to market yourself, speak your heart. That’s the first half of the writer’s duty. But make sure that others can be heard, too. That’s the second half. After all, writing is a hard enough job without us tearing each other down.