J.K. Rowling talks public image – and rugby! – in BBC “Woman’s Hour” preview

We posted earlier this month about J.K. Rowling’s takeover of the BBC Radio 4 program Woman’s Hour, which will air tomorrow, and leading up to the program’s broadcast pieces of her interviews have been released to the media!

The Telegraph is reporting a portion of her segment where Jo discusses the pressure the media put on her to change her appearance after Harry Potter became a worldwide success, as many news outlets reported on her unkempt appearance whenever she made a public appearance.

I would be a liar if I said I don’t care [about the criticism]; yes, I care. I found it very difficult, when I first became well known, to read criticism about how I look, how messy my hair was, and how generally unkempt I look. The nastiest thing ever written was written by a man, and I do remember that. I wasn’t looking for it either; it was just simply in the newspaper I was reading.

Rowling also offers her opinion about how to respond to criticisms such as these:

You can go one of two ways.

You can be the person I probably admire more and say, ‘well, I don’t care, and I’ll continue not to bother to brush my hair.’

Or you can be a weak-willed person like me and think, ‘oh, I’d better get my act together. And maybe my mother was right, and I do need to put my hair back and tidy myself up a bit.’

So I did tidy myself up a bit. But I do often resent the amount of time that it takes to pull yourself together to go on TV, I really do.

And on the different standards faced by females in the public eye vs. their male counterparts:

It must be so nice to be a man and just think, ‘which of my three suits will I wear today?’ and nobody would say a thing.

With us it’s our weight, our clothes, how we’re ageing, our hair – exactly. If all you [men] have got to worry about is your hairline, I’m afraid … If I sound bitter, then that accurately reflects how I feel about the subject.

In a segment of Woman’s Hour made available to The Daily Mail, Rowling’s conversation takes a different turn, and she discusses her gradual indoctrination into the cult of Scottish Rugby, despite growing up in a household that was wild about soccer.

I grew up in a house where my father and male relatives were all [soccer] supporters, and I was used to watching [soccer] on TV. It’s not until I married a Scot that I was taken – not entirely willingly – to the rugby. And then I accidentally ended up enjoying the rugby. So there is hope for you. You can definitely convert!

But even when speaking on this topic, Rowling still makes important points about how typical day-to-day life experiences are different for women than they are for men, citing the dangerous atmosphere of soccer matches for women.

I was very taken aback by the difference in a rugby crowd and a [soccer] crowd. As a woman, being at the rugby is quite a welcoming place. Whereas I can remember going to [soccer] matches in London and feeling quite intimidated. So that was obviously a welcome change.

What is happening on the [rugby] pitch is horrible and violent and dreadful, but meanwhile you are sitting with a lot of people who will happily buy you half a pint and a pie and chat away to you even if they are supporting the opposition – and I found that rather enjoyable.

Rowling rounds off her thoughts on the game by acknowledging her respect for rugby players’ toughness and comments on whether or not she would ever play herself.

[Rugby players] don’t dive. I think that is rather a nice difference between rugby and [soccer]. You do start to respect them for literally soldiering on when they are in terrible pain. It’s quite the reverse of [soccer].

Rugby in Scotland was a farmer’s game, a farm lad’s game more than a public school boy’s game, I would say.

I have never played [rugby] myself, and I cannot see myself playing rugby ever.

But I do really take my hat off to the women who do. And I am kind of fascinated by why women play. I had a friend at university who played, and she played very very well. She loved the physicality of it.

I am very interested in people who genuinely feel satisfied by putting themselves through 80 minutes of utter hell.

Jo is sure to discuss much more on the full episode of the show, which airs tomorrow morning on BBC 4. Keep an eye on MuggleNet for the latest coverage!

Jessica J.

I've been making magic at MuggleNet since 2012, when I first joined the staff as a News intern. I've never wavered from the declaration in my childhood journal, circa October 2000: "I LOVE Harry Potter! If I clean my room, my mom says she'll make me a dinner a wizard would love!" Proud Gryffindor; don't hate.