My Thoughts on the Owlcrate Situation

Content Warnings for this post: HP, JKR, Transphobia, and other problematic HP content

My relationship with Owlcrate has had its ups and downs. It’s the first book box I ever tried back in August 2018. It’s the box that brought me back into the bookish community. It’s the box that’s given me some of my favorite books and bookish items. It’s also a box that disappointed me quite often back in 2020, which led to this post last August, where I explained that I was taking a break from Owlcrate due to a decline in the item quality. I recently ended the break and decided to get the August Owlcrate box since it contains a really awesome book and a theme that appealed to me.

You might be wondering why I’m making a post about Owlcrate right now, or what the situation mentioned in the title even is. I’ll go into much more detail later, but to give a very broad overview: Owlcrate is finishing the Harry Potter Cara Kozik mug collection, and people are not happy.

I want to preface this post by saying that I’m not trans and cannot speak for the transgender community in any way. Please listen to the opinions and voices of trans people, who are most affected by JKR’s harmful rhetoric. However, I do want to share my thoughts as a longtime fan and subscriber so that you all know where I stand on this issue, even if there is some upcoming Owlcrate content on my blog.

Let’s (unfortunately) get into this complicated issue.

The Issue

As well all know, last June J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, made a series of controversial tweets that firmly established her as a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist.) Here’s a full article from Glamour that goes into detail about the massive controversy. Her transphobic comments were clearly not received well at all, and led to many actors, authors, industry professionals, and bookish companies disavowing her. Many fans also disavowed her, with many removing all mentions of Hogwarts houses from their bios and refraining from posting Harry Potter content on their platforms in order to not give JKR any support or publicity, and also to not hurt the trans community by forcing them to see Harry Potter content on their social media feeds. Others chose to separate the “art” from the “artist,”

Owlcrate, a major book subscription box that was founded in 2015, was inspired partially by the Harry Potter fandom, which the CEO and main curator, Korrina, is a big fan fan of. Last June, they made this post (also embedded below) to state that they don’t condone JKR’s views and would no longer include licensed Harry Potter merch (Licensed items directly monetarily support JKR, while unlicensed items only support the artist/vendor,) but would still be including a Cara Kozik HP mug in the July 2020 box, which is part of a series they’ve been including for a while. (Boxes are normally completely planned out months ahead, with items being ordered and produced well in advance, so it makes sense that they couldn’t remove it last minute, even after this controversy.) At the time they stated that they were “wrestling with how to move forward.”

Before I get into Owlcrate’s most recent posts at the time of writing, I should note that there have been many people who were desperately waiting on news on if/when the rest of the Cara Kozik mugs would be finished. I frequent many bookish groups on Facebook, and I’ve seen many people state that they wee only keeping their subscription in order to get the mugs if/when they became available. Many people have asked Owlcrate in messages or comments about the future of the collectable series, which I can understand. Prior to JKR’s statements, fans were promised a complete set of mugs, and some people paid high prices to resellers in order to get the ones that they had missed. Owlcrate kept promising to make an update about the mugs, and yesterday, they finally did.

Owlcrate made this post (Embedding the Facebook post below, as it was too long for the IG caption) as a preface to the official sale announcement for the mugs. In this post, Korinna announces that the details for the mug set will be announced the next day. She goes into the history of the mugs, which started in 2017, and then states that after much consideration, the fandom is too special to her to let go. She then goes into an explanation of why the fandom is so special to her and that she feels that “positive, accepting and diverse community” has grown beyond the author. She acknowledges that some people will want to cut ties and unfollow Owlcrate due to the announcement and encourages everyone to do what’s right for them. Toward the end, she states that, “I am choosing to love and support the transgender community, without ridding my life/business of Harry Potter.”

The comments on all platforms were full of various opinions. Many felt that OC was putting nostalgia, fiction, and profit above real trans lives. Others praised the thoughtful nature of the post and were glad to see the mug collection finally be finished. Some stated that they were unsubscribing and unfollowing and selling off their HP mugs. Some said that they’d wait and see what OC did next to determine their stance. All-in-all, there was a lot of discourse in the comments and in various IG stories.

Today, Owlcrate released the sales details and designs for the mugs in a post (embedded below.) They’ll be selling all 7 as preorders until the end of this month. 20% of the profits will be donated to either The Trevor Project, World Literacy Foundation, or 826 National, depending on what the buyer chooses. Of the 3, only The Trevor Project directly supports LGBTQ+ youth, while the other two are more about literacy and writing. They once again express their love for the trans community and state that they support and respect everyone’s approach to the fandom.

As expected again, the comments are full of dissenting opinions, with some stating that Owlcrate didn’t listen to the comments from yesterday’s posts, while some are just glad to finish their collections. There’s no word yet on if Owlcrate will continue to include Harry Potter items in their monthly boxes, which some people are curious about due to the “without ridding my life/business of Harry Potter,” part of Korinna’s statement.

That’s all of the current news about this issue that I currently have. I’ll continue to update this section if anything new comes up.

Update 8/17:

Owlcrate just posted this statement on social media. (Embedded below.) In the post, Korinna apologizes for the harm she cause with her decision, and thanks the community for helping her understand. She states that Owlcrate and Owlcrate Jr will never be included in the boxes or shop again. They’re stopping the mug sales immediately, and while they’ll fulfill all existing orders, they won’t take anymore. All of the profits from the mugs will go to charity, with the pre-established 20% going to the charities mentioned before, and 80% gong to The Transgender Law Center. They’ve also made a donation of $10,000 to The National Center for Transgender Equality. The posts ends with an apology to the people associated with OC who were blindsided by the statement, and a promise to do better.

The comments were generally supportive and appreciative of the statement, although some called out the company for quickly backpedaling on their decision due to losing followers/subscribers, and others were upset about the mug sale being cancelled before payday.

This is likely going to be the conclusion of this issue, but as always, I’ll keep you updated.

My Thoughts

Personally, I don’t have too much of an attachment to the Harry Potter series. I read all of the books when I was in 8th grade just before the final movie came out. I have fond memories of running through my middle school halls to check out the next book from the library and watching the first 7 movies at home, and the final one in theaters, but aside from that, I don’t have too much nostalgia. I’ve never reread or rewatched the books or movies, and I’ve actually never owned any of the books! That being said, when JKR made her statements last year, I instantly disavowed her myself and even removed my Harry Potter bookmarks from my shop soon after and never posted about them again, since I didn’t want to hurt any of my trans followers with my content. When I got my July 2020 Cara Cozik HP mug in the mail, I immediately sold it and didn’t even take photos for my bookstagram. I personally will never support JKR again and will not buy or make any HP merch.

As for Owlcrate, my big issue comes with Korinna’s big statement yesterday. While yes, I get the nostalgia and that fact that the community is trying to rise above JKR’s toxic and hurtful influence, but it really is so difficult to separate the art from the artist while they’re still alive and still spouting their dangerous rhetoric. Even if you disavow JKR’s harmful beliefs and express your support for the trans community, showcasing the mugs or any HP on you platform is a form of support/endorsement/advertisement or just a simple reminder that could trigger or hurt a trans person online. (For example, I discovered From Blood and Ash on Instagram via people posting photos of the book and merch and via word of mouth, not via any direct advertisement.) Our posts and endorsements online have power and for one of the biggest bookish companies to wax poetic about Harry Potter nostalgia despite being aware of how controversial and harmful it is seems so irresponsible.

(I’d like to state that I have no problem with people privately liking the series or talking about it to their friends. That’s all fine, but my issue is when someone with a very large public platform of nearly 250k people makes it seem like it might be okay to post about HP all the time again.)

Now, I do wonder if they had some sort of contract to finish the mug collection with Cara. If that’s the case, then I wish they would have stated that instead of Korinna’s long explanation of what the series means to her. Or even if it wasn’t a contract, but they just wanted to finish the promised collection that they started 4 years ago, then just say that. A simple “Hey, we’re finally going to finish the mug collection that we promised you all back in 2017. We know that it’s controversial, but we have a contract (or whatever) and we’re going to stick to our word. X% will go to a trans/lgbtq+ charity, and once we’re done with the set, we’ll never post about Harry Potter again or include fandom items in boxes. The mugs will be in the shop, separate from the subscription, so that you don’t have to come into contact with them if you don’t want to.” Something like that would’ve satisfied the remaining fans and the non-fans. However, Korinna’s statement simply wasn’t it, and definitely contributed to why so many people are angry at OC right now and will be boycotting them for some time.

As for me and my future with Owlcrate, I’d like to see how they act moving forward. If the Harry Potter content is just a one time deal with these last few mugs and nothing more, then that’ll be great. Still a bit problematic, but much more understandable. However, if we start seeing regular Harry Potter content in boxes again, there’s going to be much bigger problem, because forcing a triggering item into the home of someone who doesn’t want it is disgusting. Putting a fictional fandom above real trans lives is disgusting.

I already bought the August Owlcrate (which features a trans author and trans/enby characters in the book) and I’m still planning to unbox that on here and on my IG, because her book was chosen for the box log before this controversy, and I still want to make sure that she gets all of the love and social media hype as she deserves. I also already have a few “To Buy or Not to Buy” posts for some of Owlcrate’s special editions drafted up and scheduled, so those will be coming as well. As for future Owlcrate content, I’ll have to see how they respond to this situation, and I’ll also be sure to listen to trans voices in the community and in my personal circle in deciding how to proceed.

Update 8/13: I think that the Owlcrate team realizes that they’ve messed up. They haven’t posted since the mug sale announcement post. While they could just be waiting for the dust around this controversy to settle before returning to their normal content, I have a feeling that they’re planning out how to properly and respectfully respond to this. (It would not look good if they went straight back to posting cute unboxings and bookish content and then issued some sort of new statement later.) I’m hoping that they’ll acknowledge their wrongs, clarify that they’ll only be doing the mugs and won’t be including HP content in their future boxes, and maybe donate a substantial amount to trans charities. They’re losing followers and subscribers regardless, but clarifying/apologizing might at least help to retain some sort of favor in the bookish community. That said, I’m not really missing out on much if they don’t. Fairyloot is now cheaper for me than Owlcrate, and I’ve been enjoying their editions and items much more than Owlcrate. Plus Illumicrate, as pricey as it can be, also has been amazing me with their boxes lately. I started with Owlcrate in August 2018, and I’m not afraid if August 2021 turns out to be my last.

Update 8/17: As you can see above, OC has formally issued an apology for this controversy. As I’m not trans and was not hurt by this decision, it isn’t my apology to accept. However, I do appreciate that they listened to their customers opinions and made a follow up statement. This by no means erases the harm and outrage they’ve caused, and I know that many will continue to boycott Owlcrate, but it’s a start.

Thanks for reading this post! I’m really cuious to hear what people think about all of this, so leave a comment below! I’ll also make a poll as well.

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