Tuesday, 18 March 2014

If Harry Potter was a girl

Everyone recognizes him- or herself by name. In some cultures, its power is very big, some receiving names with deep religious roots or following family traditions. Others change their names throughout various transformation processes, religious or physical. While in formal contexts we have to use our names and surnames, in more informal environments we can use familiar or humorous terms instead of the real ones. How to choose one? Well, in this matter, imagination is the limit. Many performing artists have nicknames, which most of the times develop into stage names. Also, writers often use pen names for different editorial projects. Why? Because real names may be too long, difficult to pronounce, involuntarily amusing or already linked to another image. To attract attention or retain anonymity, they have the right to choose a name for this status. And that’s totally OK.

But to be convinced to hide your identity and thus your gender because “young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman” is not. J. K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter book series changed her name from Joanne to using two initials as a respond to her publishers’ request. The British novelist accepted this discriminatory marketing strategy although she proved to be one of the best selling fiction authors. And I really don’t believe it was thanks to the PR name trick. But let’s even say it worked. Time passed and she adopted another male pen name, Robert Galbraith, to publish her first crime novel. This “new writer” even had a fake biography, he was the perfect man to write that specific book and still, something went wrong. Until her identity was revealed, the number of sold copies broke the stereotype: just 1,500 books sold. She couldn’t blame the perfect man named Robert Galbraith for this failure, could she?

Hiding gender demands violate Human Rights. The principle of equality is ignored. An author’s identity should represent more than a name in a trade. Both women and men should have the same chance to express themselves. Also, putting your target in a box with a label on it (as “boys will definitely not read a women’s book”) limit their freedom of choice and unconsciously induce them this gender stereotype. Because in the end his or her story will catch the readers, not the author’s gender. Women have to assume their own identity and believe in their right to equality. If they also doubt about it, how can the others accept it?


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