Vladimir Putin says the West is trying to “cancel” Russia and its history just as it did to JK Rowling for her views on gender identity, provoking an angry response from the Harry Potter author.
In a carefully choreographed speech to Russian artists on Friday, Putin attempted to liken the West’s ostracization of his country to the disavowal of Rowling in some circles after she shared her views on sexual identity and trans people.
Comparing the ideological “culture wars” to Russia’s actual invasion of Ukraine, Putin said: “They canceled Joanne Rowling recently, the children’s author. Her books are published all over the world. Just because she did not satisfy the demands of gender rights.”
His words sparked a quick riposte from Rowling, who said: “Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics.”
Russia is in the grip of Western sanctions, but many global organizations have implemented their own policies, further stymying the country on the world stage.
St Petersburg will no longer hold this year’s Champions League final, and the Russian Grand Prix, in Sochi, has been canceled.
The Royal Opera House has pulled a planned residency by Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, the Munich Philharmonic has parted ways with its chief conductor, Valery Gergiev, over his ties to Putin and Russia has been thrown out of Eurovision.
“They are trying to cancel our country. I am talking about the progressive discrimination of everything to do with Russia – this trend that is unfolding in a number of Western states,” Putin said.
On Thursday the Russian embassy in France tweeted – and then deleted – a cartoon showing a corpse labeled with the word “Europe” being injected with a syringe labeled “cancel culture”.
The 69-year-old, who often paints himself as a picture of virile masculinity, said last year that Russia should adhere to its own “spiritual values and historical traditions”, while mocking the West for its “sociocultural disturbances”.
Going further, he said the notion that children are “taught that a boy can become a girl and vice versa” is monstrous and “on the verge of a crime against humanity”.He has likened the new wave of trans activism to a “new strain of a pandemic”.
“If someone thinks that women and men are the same things, then be my guest,” he said.
“But there is common sense. I stick to the traditional approach that a woman is a woman, a man is a man, a mum is a mum, and a dad is a dad.”
Transgender Russians have also been allowed to change their legal gender on identity documents since 1997, although there are many obstacles to the process and invasive surgical requirements remain in place, according to the Council for Global Equality. In 2013, the Russian Duma passed legal amendments prohibiting “propaganda” of non-traditional sexual relationships among minors.
Same-sex marriage “will not happen” as long as he’s in the Kremlin, Putin said in 2020. With eyes drawn to her Twitter feed, Rowling detailed the work her Lumos charity is doing in Ukraine.The author, who also writes under the pen name Robert Galbraith, said she was personally matching all donations to the Lumos emergency appeal up to £1 million.
Rowling first sparked debate on gender identity when she retweeted an opinion piece discussing “people who menstruate”.
The 56-year-old tweeted: “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure they’re used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Wood?”
Despite a backlash from trans advocates, Rowling doubled down, saying: “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. The author went on to write an essay explaining how she was partly motivated to speak about transgender issues because of her experience of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
However, she has continued to face criticism for her beliefs, with Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint all weighing into the debate, saying that they support the trans community.