In recent years, Rowling has drawn sharp criticism for her comments, specifically about trans women, which many have labeled transphobic. Rowling summed up her position in a lengthy statement in June 2020, denying claims she was a trans-exclusionary feminist and acknowledging that trans women are a vulnerable, marginalized community. Yet she also did plenty of handwriting about “the new trans activism,” suggesting some measures — like letting trans women use women’s bathrooms — makes “natal girls and women less safe.”
In the past two years, her beliefs have hardly wavered: Just this past March, she expressed her displeasure with a Gender Recognition Reform Bill in Scotland that would make it easier for people to legally change their gender. Rowling’s comments have drawn plenty of backlash from Harry Potter fans and even the film’s stars, such as Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. She has also claimed that she’s received numerous death threats, which is what Fiennes fixated on in his comments to The New York Times in a recent interview.
“J.K. Rowling has written these great books about empowerment, about young children finding themselves as human beings,” he said when asked about the uproar around Rowling. “It’s about how you become a better, stronger, more morally centered human being. The verbal abuse directed at her is disgusting, it’s appalling.”
Fiennes went on to acknowledge he could “understand a viewpoint that might be angry about what [Rowling] says about women” but insisted the author was not “some obscene, über-right-wing fascist.” Some, however, would probably argue that her comments — like, those about bathrooms or those denying that trans women are women — echo some of the favored talking points on the far right.
Fiennes concluded, “It’s just a woman saying, ‘I’m a woman and I feel I’m a woman and I want to be able to say that I’m a woman.’ And I understand where she’s coming from. Even though I’m not a woman.”