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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Lisa McLoughlin

Dawn French says cancel culture has 'forced people into a corner' after JK Rowling exchange

Dawn French has said that cancel culture has “forced people into a corner”, making them opt for silence out of fear rather than expressing their true beliefs.

The Vicar of Dibley star’s remarks come as she expressed her frustration at being advised to “catch up” on the transgender controversy surrounding JK Rowling following a recent podcast appearance where the host scolded French for asking why people were so upset by the author’s statements.

“I went, ‘Oh, OK, because I know JK a bit,” French shared on Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast. “And she said, ‘Yeah, because she used this terminology and we’re not doing that, it’s unacceptable’.

“I said, ‘Oh, oh, I don’t even know that term. What is that?’ And she went, ‘You need to catch up, Dawn.’”

On using the term, ‘I don’t know’, she said: “It’s very powerful to say that, especially when you don’t know.

“That’s better than pretending you do know. It’s certainly better than forming an opinion about something you don’t know.

French’s comments come after JK Rowling said Harry Potter stars ‘can save their apologies’ for speaking out against her views

“And I’m just saying, please, especially you younger folk, please inform me and explain this to me so that I can understand it and not make this mistake again. But don’t tell me to catch up.”

The comedian, who appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, remarked that Rowling has faced significant consequences for expressing her controversial opinions on the issue of transgender identity and rights.

The 66-year-old then emphasised the importance of robust debate but noted that intolerance toward differing viewpoints had “wiped out any margin for error”.

She continued: “We’re all talking about inclusivity and favouring difference and all the rest of it. And that’s all great, I love the idea of that, but that’s not how we’re living.

“We’re living the opposite of that – we’re massively intolerant, quick to blame, litigation, trolling and all of this dreadful stuff, which has got nothing to do with understanding how other human beings operate.

“We are people who know we make mistakes, we know we have shortcomings, we know we have all this stuff, but because we are expected to present ourselves as perfect and only celebrate all the perfect things, it just wiped out any margin for error.”

Adding: “I am a massive advocate of robust debate that might change your mind – that’s the best thing in the world.

“But it’s impossible if what we’ve got to do is hunker back into our positions, defend them by spitting and being furious and then blaming and cancelling.

“I genuinely think we’re being forced into corners where I can smell my own cowardice. I don’t like that – I’ve never been cowardly, I hope – but I’m starting to be that, because I’m being circumspect about what I will support or not, in case it causes trouble.

“As women, especially, that’s the last thing we should do is shut up.”

The comedian's comments on the topic comes shortly after Rowling stated that Harry Potter actors Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson “can save their apologies” for speaking out against her views.

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