not feeling the Hogwarts spirit, who pays for coffee, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I don’t want to work at a Hogwarts event

I work in a public library, and every year we do a Hogwarts-related event. Since the author has revealed herself as a transphobic bigot, I am not comfortable participating this year, not least because I’m genderqueer (pronouns TBD, she/they is fine for now). However, since I’ve been an enthusiastic participant before, I’m anticipating some confusion and questions from my supervisor, manager, coworkers, and other fans of the series who have listened to me happily gush about it before.

This event is after normal working hours but requires staffing to get it to go smoothly, and they’re probably counting on me as a volunteer. (“Volunteer” meaning we get paid for the hours, but it’s not required that everyone be there.) I haven’t responded to the email asking for volunteers yet because I honestly don’t know what to say. This is in addition to anticipating the crowds of small children who will almost definitely not distance properly, but that’s honestly a whole other letter. I guess I’m looking for a script that doesn’t require me to out myself to my workplace, but also isn’t technically a lie. (I’m not swamped with other projects, for example.)

I’d just not respond to the call for volunteers and see what happens. If you’re then approached individually, you should be able to explain your discomfort with the author without outing yourself — lots of cis people are deeply disappointed and disturbed by her statements too. It wouldn’t be outing yourself to simply say, “I’ve enjoyed participating in the past but am not volunteering this year because of the bigoted statements the author has been making about trans people.” But if you don’t want to do that, you could instead just say “I won’t be available on the date of the event this year” (it’s after hours, after all).

2. Job candidates are sending me questions about global politics

I hope you can give me some advice about something I’ve seen recently from candidates/recent graduates who are job hunting.

I have a degree in International Relations, which is in no way related to the work I do now as a hiring manager, but it is still on my LinkedIn profile along with my work history from before I graduated. Recently candidates have reached out to me through LinkedIn, asking about available opportunities and including a paragraph at the bottom asking my opinion on a global political issue. To give an example, this morning I got a message asking me my opinions on the developing issues in Belarus, I’m assuming because they’ve either read my LinkedIn profile or are trying to make conversation. From what I read on their profile, there wasn’t an obvious reason why they chose to bring this up.

I find this strange coming from someone I’ve never spoken to and since it isn’t relevant to what they’re really asking for. Is this something candidates have been told to do to enhance their application? My initial reaction isn’t to completely discount someone just on this, but how should I respond?

That’s incredibly bizarre, and yes, it’s almost certainly stemming from advice to try to make a personal connection with the person they’re contacting or to express interest in some particular detail in their background. But it’s being horribly misapplied! You’re presumably not seeking to discuss global political issues with random strangers, or people who are using it as in for what they really want. This is an awful tactic — they’re asking you to invest your own time in writing out a response to a nuanced issue for no reason other than to advance their own potential candidacy.

As for how to respond, I’d just ignore that piece of the message. Frankly, you’re not obligated to respond to messages you receive on LinkedIn at all, but if you’d otherwise answer them, go ahead and answer and leave the comments about Belarus, etc. unremarked upon. (If that feels rude, I’d argue it’s ruder of them to expect a stranger to invest time engaging on an unrelated topic so they can advance their own job search, and that in some ways you’re being polite by just ignoring it, the way you’d ignore a fart in an interview room.)

3. Who pays for coffee?

I started this year as a PhD student. My advisor and I are not comfortable going to campus, so we recently scheduled a meeting in person but off campus. My advisor offered to make this a lunch meeting. I’ve met with my advisor before during my undergraduate degree over a cup of coffee, etc. and she always pays even though I offer to (etiquette says that the more senior person should pay, right?). I was so caught up with the actual contents of the meeting that when the bill came for lunch I forgot to even offer to pay. Of course, I thanked her for the lunch when I realized that she picked it up. Is this a faux pas and do I need to bring it up again?

Nah, she was probably expecting to pay. Someone who doesn’t want to cover both people will usually say, “It looks like we both owe $X” or so forth. And you’re right that the more senior person usually pays (although there are some exceptions to that, like if you’ve asked someone to meet as part of a favor you’re requesting from them). Ideally you would have offered to pay because that’s polite and you should always be ready to, but you thanked her once you realized and it’s not something you need to bring up again.

4. I keep getting fired but can’t get feedback on why

I am a private tutor (more than seven years now), but I keep getting fired by certain students, with no feedback given by the parents or agency, beyond “not being right for them.” It’s frustrating, as many of my students have progressed amazingly and have enjoyed lessons with me on a weekly or more regular basis for one or two years.

My feedback is always great, but then parents or agencies will inevitably fire me for “not having the right vibe” or “not being the right kind of fit.” How do I face up to these criticisms, and how do I improve?

Ideally you’d seek feedback from your agency, stressing that you have a sincere desire to learn from the experience and improve, and that you’re not looking to debate the decision, just to avoid something similar in the future. A good agency will give you feedback. If they won’t, it’s likely that (a) they’re not a good agency, or (b) the problem is something they’re very uncomfortable talking about (like if you’re coming across as creepy in some way), or (c) something else is going on that’s more about them than you (for example, racism).

It’s also true that with some contract jobs, it’s part of the gig that you’re not going to get any feedback or coaching — part of what clients, and even agencies, are paying for is the ability to say “it’s not working, we’re going to try something else” without having to get into why. I don’t know if this is one of those fields or not, but it could be interesting to talk to others who do similar work about what their experience has been.

5. How do I ask about pay for a job that doesn’t quite exist yet?

I recently applied for a job that’s similar to mine but at a more stable institution (think large university instead of tiny nonprofit). The manager got in touch immediately and was up-front that the job would be more procedural and detail-oriented than originally advertised. A position that would better fit my skills is likely to open up within the next year and we planned to talk then. It was a great conversation, we had a good vibe and agreed we would like to be colleagues, I’m not in a rush to change jobs (or relocate), and I appreciated both her honesty and her accurate, non-judgmental assessment of my strengths. So far, so good.

However, my behavior in the next year depends at least a LITTLE on what this job would pay—and the range is almost impossible to guess. If something else comes along in the meantime, or if I have an opportunity to move to a different city than the one I’d move to for this job, I will deal with that differently depending on how good of a prospect this is. I don’t think those things will happen, but they might! We are past the “thanks, that was great, let’s stay in touch” email stage. Is there a way to politely pop back up and say “and also, how much money do you have”? Is that normal?

It’s not really the time to do that. This is a job that might open up in the next year or might not. You really shouldn’t be changing your behavior in the next year based on a possibility that might never come to fruition — and even if it does open up, you might not be hired for it or it could be configured differently at that point, etc. If I were that hiring manager and I got the sense that you were counting in any way on (a) a job that won’t be open for months, if ever, (b) that you hadn’t even been interviewed for yet, and (c) which there was no certainty you’d be hired for … I’d be alarmed. When I tell candidates, even strong ones, about a position that might open up in the future, it means “if that happens, we’d be glad to consider you as part of our candidate pool, which will almost certainly contain other strong candidates too,” not “if this job opens up, we’d probably hire you for it.”

The only sensible thing here is to proceed however you would if you’d never heard about that potential job. Definitely don’t let it influence things where you do or don’t move!

With all that for context, you shouldn’t contact her again to ask for a salary range. She may not even know one yet, and it’s going to come across a bit strangely considering where things stand.

{ 551 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Rules for commenting on this post:

    1. We aren’t debating transphobia here, and I will not host comments defending JK Rowling’s comments about trans people, or bigotry in general.

    2. Please keep comments focused on advice to the letter-writers. Other comments will be deleted, and repeat offenders will be banned.

  2. EGG122*

    OP #4: A year to two years seems like it is a long time for tutoring children. Is it possible that they just don’t need the tutoring anymore since they have either progressed or the topics in school they are studying don’t require the type of tutoring they are given? I would imagine if there was a serious issue then the agency just wouldn’t book you anymore new students.

    1. Anonariffic*

      Definitely agree that the agency should be doing or saying something if there’s any issue with OP herself.

      Don’t know how long OP4 has been seeing this pattern but if it’s more recent, I’m sure Covid has impacted her clients like it has everybody else- “it’s not a good fit” could mean anything from “we lost our jobs and can’t afford you” to “we hired an on-site teacher for our private homeschooling pod and you’re no longer necessary.”

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          Yes, exactly what I was coming to say. My daughter is horrible at math and I looked into tutoring. I could not afford it, and thus we toughed it out, she and I, but it was hard. If I could have afforded it, I totally would have paid someone. After paying for years, I can only imagine that it might be putting a strain on the parent’s budget, especially if this is happening currently, with COVID-19.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        Hm.. In my experience, firing people is hard. For that reason, employers are typically eager to reach for any excuse that blames circumstances as opposed to saying anything against a candidate personally, even if it’s a lie. That makes me think that if budget or some competing arrangement were a factor, they would have jumped on that immediately. That would allow them to say “not in our control, but of course there is nothing wrong with you“. Apparently they chose not to say that. That makes me think OP is correct in thinking that something else is going on here.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Most people don’t like to admit that their personal finances cannot cover something. It’s a pride issue. “Not the right fit” is generic, nobody’s fault, and could cover thousands of possible explanations.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          Employers are so much not the same as parents hiring a service. I can absolutely see the parents being embarrassed to say that they can no longer afford something important to their children’s education. (Of course it’s rude of them to then imply that it’s something personality-related, but people don’t always make the wisest choices when they’re stressed.)

        3. a clockwork lemon*

          In my experience, most people aren’t comfortable straight-up saying they can no longer afford services that provide customized, one-on-one interactive services. I’d imagine that’s especially the case if the service they can no longer afford is private, personalized instruction support for their children.

        4. whingedrinking*

          There’s also the fact that just because a student and a tutor get along well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the parents think it’s benefitting the child. Sometimes they’re right – the kid likes the tutor personally, but the tutor isn’t helping them progress academically. Other times it’s because the parents don’t understand the tutor’s approach or don’t think the kid is progressing fast enough. (As someone who’s pretty unconventional in her methods, I’ve been on both ends of this, and yes, it is very frustrating when you’re pretty sure the kid needs to learn methods for coping with test anxiety and the parents just want you to drill them on multiplication.)

    2. TexasRose*

      I tutor high school math, through calculus. I have tutored some students for 3+ years (depending on how far back into pre-algebra* I have to start). If the student can’t tell when to add a problem and when to multiply it, sometimes we need three sessions just for them to understand the difference between – as an adjective (a negative 5, for example), and – as a verb (subtract 5).
      I came to realize about year 2 (when we were studying for the SAT) that part of my value was that the parent paying me to tutor signalled to the kid how much value the parent put on studying (or maybe, how much the parent hated trying to tutor the kid themselves).
      *And yes, these kids had passed their Algebra I end-of-course, multiple-choice tests, using a calculator.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Your value may also be that kids will often take advice or tutoring from a third party better than Mom and Dad, especially as they move into the teenage years. :) We have a tutor for one of my kids because they will argue with anything *I* say, but Tutor can say the exact same thing in near identical terms and my kid thinks *they* are the smartest person they’ve ever met. Our tutor is a quality of life expense for me as much as a benefit for the kid who needs more extra help than they can get in a virtual class of 30 kids.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. It’s a lot easier to take advice from people outside the family. As evidence I bring in the fact that my father’s attempts to teach me to drive resulted in huge rows and much stomping off by one or other or both of us. Whereas the driving instructor could teach me a lot more easily. He could give me the same feedback as my father but it went down a lot more easily from someone external and dispassionate.

          It’s very difficult to teach and learn from a member of the family. There are too many personal issues. Also some parents are not good at teaching. My grandmother was an amazing cook but she never taught my mother anything because she couldn’t explain how to do things, she just did them and whenever she tried she just got fed up. Being able to do something and being able to teach it are very different skills.

          1. Simonthegreywarden*

            This is why I have always hated that “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” saying. I’m a professional academic specialist (writing, English, reading, and kind of ‘general catch-all’) tutor. I can write; I enjoy writing in my free time; I have been recognized for my writing. HOWEVER, the skills it takes to help someone learn to scaffold all the way from ‘do I have coherent ideas that relate to each other’ to tightening up final revisions is completely different from being able to write. I have known many people who write, often better than I do, and they absolutely suck at explaining it because they don’t understand some of the psychology that goes into the issues students may have surrounding writing (anxiety about getting help, fear of rejection, personal aversion to subject matter, etc), the personal/historic context of the person trying to write (whether they have had positive, neutral, or negative experiences with writing instructors in the past), or the neurotypical/divergent situation of the student and how that might express. And I don’t need to know someone’s exact diagnoses, nor can I ask for them, but I have done this long enough to recognize that ‘X’s issues present like a processing issue, so I’ll try this strategy that has worked with other presentations of processing issues in the past’.

            1. Mockingjay*

              It could be (this may be hard to acknowledge) that OP 4 isn’t that successful in conveying information to children. I sent my daughter to a math tutor one year. My sweet, smart, lazy child managed to cajole the tutor into doing most of the homework for her (big eyes, “I still don’t understand,” cherubic smile). I was livid when I figured it out. I expected my child to try to squirm out of the work; the tutor should have notified me when she did, or that she wasn’t mastering concepts. I only ever got rosy reports from the tutor. The contract ended with the school year so of course I didn’t renew.

              In autumn, cue a phonecall from the business owner: “why didn’t you renew the tutoring contract? Why didn’t you tell me you weren’t renewing?”
              Me: The contract ended so there was no further obligation.
              Owner: But why????
              Me: Because my daughter didn’t learn anything.

        2. Smithy*

          This can also be a quality of life investment when it comes to job hunting. During one particularly challenging job hunt where I was moving back to the US and living with my parents during my mid-20’s working with a vocational services nonprofit was a life saver. In my case, the program included one or two general courses, but then it was a lot of individual coaching.

          The #1 top lifesaver part of the arrangement was that it made a situation where both I and my parents knew I was getting job seeking advise/support – and therefore that dropped the value placed on all other sources of advice/support.

          Certainly there are plenty of university career counselors that make the AAM Halls of WTF, and I’m sure there are vocational service nonprofits that also aren’t great. But my experience was truly wonderful. It wasn’t about rushing me into taking any job as quickly as possible, but refining my resume, improving my interviewing. The interview coaching I got back then are still tips and approaches I use today.

        3. whingedrinking*

          Absolutely. The psychology of tutoring can get incredibly complex, but a big part of it is that the tutor-student relationship is relatively simple compared to the parent-child one. It tends to make teenagers in particular less defensive because they’re less invested in what the tutor thinks of them.

        4. Chinook*

          Definitely this. Approximately 3/4’s of the students I tutored for had a moment where I would say something to the high school student, the student would agree and there would be a voice from the other room saying something to the effect of “that’s what I have been telling them.” I then point out to the parent, after, that for teens, they often need confirmation from an outsider that what their parents are saying is correct and not parental bias/opinion. I became a secondary resource to confirm parental advice.

        5. Smirkette*

          This also applies to teachers bringing in guest speakers. It’s totally normal, particularly for adolescents, to challenge authority, but I find it fascinating how they will absolutely trust you on some things and completely not on others.

      2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        As an english/humanities person who struggled a ton with math, I LOVE the parts-of-speech description of “-“. It can be an adjective or a verb! That’s so cool! I never thought about it that way!

        1. Littorally*

          Math clicked so much better for me when I started thinking about the construction of equations/problems as grammar of a new language. It really does make the difference if your brain is wired a certain way!

        2. whingedrinking*

          I had an incredible lightbulb moment when my grade 11 math teacher said, “Think of a function like a machine. You put one number in, the machine does stuff to it, and it spits another number out.”
          More analogy-based math instruction, please.

      3. Blackcat*

        Yeah, I tutored a kid for 2 solid years, when he definitely didn’t “need” it the second. I was his science tutor and he moved on from my wheelhouse (physics + chem + earth sciences) to another subject (life sciences class). His mom kept me on to be his “math tutor” (he did fine in math) largely because he liked me a lot weekly sessions with me helped him stay focused on his academics overall. We’d talk about what was coming up that week, what was challenging, if he had any issues communicating with a teacher, etc. More like an academic coach than straight up tutor.

        Mom was a busy single mom with a high paying job. It made sense for her to outsource this work so her time with her son could be focused on his non-academic interests. He didn’t like talking about school with her–which is not atypical for 14-16yo boys.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think that sounds eminently sensible. He may not have needed your maths tutoring but he evidently derived value from your time with him and no doubt you provided him with a good role model and mentor figure. Teenagers can find life quite a challenging and frustrating place so having you on his side almost certainly helped a lot.

      1. RecentAAMfan*

        I would think if they were just done needing the tutoring, they would say something along the lines of “OP has been SO helpful but I think we can manage on our own now” rather than “not a good fit”.
        If I were OP I would try very hard to make sure I wasn’t coming across creepy, or too intense, or some other vague-ish quality. Obviously make sure things like personal hygiene up to snuff.
        But very tricky and frustrating with no more details!

        1. AndersonDarling*

          If the OP is going through an agency, I wonder if the agency is using high pressure sales to keep parents/students. Making up an excuse of “bad fit” may be the only way to end the contract.

        2. Risha*

          I’m wondering if maybe the LW is great at tutoring lower level material but not as good at the more advanced stuff? It could be more “she WAS a great fit for years but isn’t as much anymore.”

    3. Buni*

      I’ve been tutoring for years (as a qualified teacher) and sometimes, the kids just…don’t need you any more. It’s more obvious if you’ve been tutoring them in the run-up to specific exams. Or I suspect sometimes the kid has progressed enough that they *could* get by without me, and the parents will cut the expense asap.

      1. Bluesboy*

        As someone with a limited amount of tutoring experience (and married to someone with a LOT of experience, I would add to this 100% accurate comment that sometimes they DO still need a tutor, but it’s time for a change. Your relationship with them can become a little too relaxed/friendly for the parents to still feel you have the discipline they require for example.

        So even if they stay with the agency and just change tutor, it doesn’t necessarily mean there was a problem with you or your work.

        Also, the students can simply find that the novelty has worn off and start grumbling to their parents. Parents don’t necessarily just tell their kids to knuckle down and keep studying, they try to get the novelty back with someone new.

        So try not to let it get to you if a student changes after a successful year. To an extent, it’s just the nature of the gig!

      2. boo bot*

        I was thinking about this. It seems really normal that a family would want to phase out even a really good tutor after a year or two (or need to for financial reasons). I wonder if there’s just a bureaucratic quirk within the agencies, where maybe “not the right fit” is the catchall termination reason for anyone who isn’t accused of gross misconduct?

        Maybe the OP could reach out to the agencies and find out what their policies on this are?

    4. Jennifer*

      Agreed. I wouldn’t look at it as a “firing” but more as an assignment that came to an end.

      It sucks when you have an assignment for two years and you’re just dropped without any feedback, but it happens with these kinds of jobs.

    5. Kiki*

      It’s frustrating not to get more resolution, but since it sounds like kids are staying with you for a year or two and it doesn’t sound like you’re loosing a strangely large number of your students at once, just a few here and there, I think this could probably be attributed to “life happens.” It might mean they found a tutor who’s a better fit or a program that offers what they need at a lower cost. It could also mean the family just wants to free up their schedule. I assume if there were a major issue, or really any issue that could be addressed, your agency would be telling you more.

    6. Mama Bear*

      A child may move to a different school or program, may get involved in a hobby or sport that takes up time, or the family finances may change. I have given generic answers when the situation is way less about the instructor and more about the home/child and I don’t really want to get into it. If these children drop out at a weird time (like without warning, not at a change of season/year), then that might be more telling, but if it’s more that the kid stops at a reasonable time and the OP keeps being booked, then it’s not about the OP. Especially with the pandemic, people getting laid off or school schedules being weird could impact a family in unexpected ways. If the agency doesn’t require a notification period, then OP might want to suggest that so the OP knows to wind down the lessons. We had to give a flute teacher 2 weeks’ notice, for example. It wasn’t that we didn’t like the teacher, but the student was going to a new school with a different schedule.

    7. Wünsche*

      I tutor online and the parents can leave reviews and a star rating on the site for other parents to look at when selecting a tutor. The can be harsher than any boss i have had in my day job.

      Sometimes they complain about sitting up straight or drinking water during the class. As long as you are still being booked i would not worry about it.

  3. Catherine*

    OP #4, I used to do placements at a tutoring service. In many cases, when a student or parent requested a swap, they would ask me to refrain from passing on their reasons or just flat out lie about schedule changes because the student was worried about hurting the tutor’s feelings. Further, plenty of the reasons people wanted to switch were just not things that I reasonably should pass on.

    – tutor had asthma and the student was irritated by the sound of their breathing
    – student confessed to parent that they had a crush on the tutor; parent determined that they didn’t want to risk the student behaving inappropriately and making their tutor uncomfortable
    – student found out that the tutor was also working with a classmate who bullied them and just wanted to extract themselves from the whole situation
    – student wanted to switch to their best friend’s tutor because of how happy their best friend was

    In cases like these, nothing was the tutor’s fault, but the feedback would have been worse than useless. “She doesn’t like how you breathe” isn’t something you should be expected to answer for.

    1. Firecat*

      In the above situations, would you provide feedback like “not a good fit” and “looking for a different vibe” and “not the right type for them”?

      Those sound very much *about the tutor*

      In your examples I would expect feedback like:
      The family decided to change things up.
      They enjoyed your services but are moving on.
      The family is switching gears.

      Which sounds much less personal.

      1. Catherine*

        I would generally use phrases like “decided to change things up” but most tutors seemed to view that as a polite fiction and try to drill for more, in which case the farthest I’d go was “they said they wanted ‘something different’ but were pretty vague about what.” We did sometimes say someone “wanted a different vibe” as a euphemism for “our personalities don’t mesh well.” (Picked that up from the preteens, unforch!)

        In my old company tutors were mostly fresh out of college with limited or no experience, and they often took any rejection for any reason from students pretty personally. Luckily, we had a lot of families who were prone to “Goldilocksing” their tutors (often children don’t know how to articulate what specifically about a learning dynamic doesn’t work for them until they find their Just Right, so they have to keep looking), so they saw that it happened to everyone. Even our most effective or popular tutors got dumped sometimes.

        If OP #4 is continuing to get placements, my read on the situation would be that their teaching style just doesn’t work for everyone. If something was truly “wrong,” the agency wouldn’t continue to place new students with them.

        1. Laszlo Whitaker*

          “Goldsilocksing” made me laugh. It’s a useful word! I hope you don’t mind if I borrow it.

        2. Zelda*

          All of the above.

          Current tutor here, and it really can be a very personal service. If tutor and student share an outside interest or a sense of humor or otherwise their styles just “click,” it can be enjoyable for all as well as pedagogically useful.

          But the flip side of that is that you are *not* an impersonal utility that works equally well for all clients; you *cannot* be all things to all people. You can put together a pretty decent job out of a combination of students who love you and students who think you’re okay, but there are always going to be students who just work better with someone else.

          It’s a little like dating in that if you make yourself into someone you’re not in an attempt to appeal to everyone all the time, you’ll miss working with the actual individual human being who’s in front of you– that student isn’t “most kids,” they are themselves. And so are you. Don’t sacrifice the actual job– academic progress– in the search for personality “click.” (I’ve seen tutors who acted like their job was to entertain and be beloved; precious little learning happens.) Serve your students’ needs as best you can, and don’t turn yourself into a pretzel worrying about the students who work better with someone else’s style instead.

          1. Elliott*

            I agree. I see tutoring as being a little like therapy in that the same style doesn’t work well for everyone, and that’s not always a problem. I think having tutoring placements end this way occasionally is probably common. That doesn’t mean there might not be helpful feedback that the OP could use to improve, but there might not be, either.

          2. Mae Fuller*

            This was my thought as well – if most students are perfectly happy, there’s probably very limited value in trying to work out what the minority were less happy about. People want different things from tutors, and you will always be too strict/not strict enough, too jokey/too serious etc for some people, without either you or them being wrong.

          3. Chinook*

            Zelda is totally right. You are working with kids and teens. The number one thing to remember with this age group is to not take their reaction to you personally. Sure, verify internally if there is anything you could change but, if you find nothing, shrug and move on.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Those are even more vague and useless, though. “Change things up”? What would that even mean? If they enjoyed my services why are they moving on? “Switching gears”? If I’m going too slowly or pushing too hard, why wouldn’t they tell me that before they got to the point of firing me?

        “Not a good fit” at least implies that either my personality or my teaching style weren’t working out, which is closer to being usable information than anything on this list.

        1. Observer*

          But it really isn’t useful information. Because on the one hand “bad fit” doesn’t tell you anything – which is why some people continue to push for answers. WHAT is wrong with the fit? On the other hand, there is nothing in any of these cases that the tutor can do. “We wanted a change” tells the tutor that there is nothing they can – or should – in most cases, change.

        2. Yorick*

          “Not a good fit” is vague, but it clearly can either be about the student or the tutor. It’s probably what I would use if I didn’t have useful feedback.

          Because honestly, the tutor with asthma and the student who didn’t like the breathing sounds weren’t a good fit for each other. Not the tutor’s fault, but that phrase still explains what happened.

      3. Lucy Montrose*

        Very important point. “Not a good fit” very much DOES sound personal, even if it’s not intended to be. It still carries with it an onus being placed on the tutor to be a better fit, not on the situation being better for everyone.

        If I hear “not a good fit” (or even worse, “not the right vibe”) and I immediately think, “they didn’t like my personality but are too uncomfortable to say why”. It’s just become the universal phrase for jettisoning people from your life who give you a bad spidey-sense.

    2. Ping*

      Could it also be a name switch up? OP, have you used a search engine on your name and is it a case of mistaken identity?
      Technically it should be easy to show that you are you. But I’ve also found that people can misattribute court documents etc. Make sure they aren’t confusing you for someone else.
      Parents will fire tutors for all sorts of odd reasons.

      1. Lucy Montrose*

        I’m a private tutor too, last several years. I wonder if OP #4 works for the same agency as me. I had one client fire me for not being a man (because the parent felt their son would relate better to a male tutor), one fire me for not having a military background (because they themselves were and wanted that relatability again), and at least two for living too far away and having too long a commute (they probably thought they were being kind there).
        I always felt better when I got a reason that had nothing to do with my performance or vibe as a tutor… it sucked being let go, but at least I could deal with it.

        Feeling like I’d had a good rapport with the student and/or family, then getting ghosted and/or the ol’ “not a fit” talk… that was much harder to deal with. Ghosting with no explanation or feedback for improvement says, “you have made me uncomfortable and I want you out of my life for good, and so fast that I don’t care if you never fix this flaw about yourself.”
        Yes, I know that the ghoster does not owe me an explanation, but it feels like deliberately leaving me to a life and career ruined through not being able to correct a fatal personal flaw.

    3. hbc*

      Yeah, unless OP can identify a trend (90% of the people dropping for vague reasons are male students, or dropped during X topic, or were in households where everything was more sanitized than a hospital), I don’t think there’s much point in digging. And even then, it might not be actionable–you might be able to change up how you teach X, but if X is just a common sticking point, then lots of people are going to think “I wonder if someone else could make this easier.”

      Though OP might be able to ask the service if there’s any pattern to the reason behind the requests. I wouldn’t tell an employee that Customer Fergus thought he was too stand-offish, but I might note that it had come up a few times if prompted.

      1. Anon this time*

        I was very curious about OP’s phrasing about “certain students.” I’m taking it to mean “some as opposed to most or all” based on the rest of the letter, but my initial read was “students who share a particular characteristic” and I kept waiting for clarification on who was dropping the OP. If there *are* common characteristics, it’s worth examining whether a hidden bias might be in play-it can be hard to articulate when someone feels discriminated against, but people know it when they experience it.

        I had multiple subject tutors as I recovered from complications of my first pregnancy in high school, and I definitely had tutors who I could tell had already written me off. Teen mom, check. Poor, check. Non-white, check. But I would have been accusing respected teachers from my community of discrimination if I said anything, and I knew it would just further label me as a troublemaker (which I most certainly was not), especially when all I had for evidence was a “vibe.” Unfortunately, even 20 years later I’m not convinced I was wrong. If those tutors had acknowledged what they thought they knew about me and set it aside, my experience would have been so different. (Incidentally, because I love a good epilogue: I went on to graduate on time and get my low income POC teen mom self a master’s degree, great job, and a stable marriage where I raised my children. But the tutors who treated me with respect back then already know all of that.)

        Not saying that’s what’s going on, OP, but worth mentioning because literally everyone has biases. If yours happen to be showing, you might not be a fit for those students, and it’s worth asking if those biases are problematic in other ways.

        1. Paperwhite*

          1) You are amazing and my hero for the day
          2) This is a really good point. I was actually wondering if the bias was going in the other way, if certain demographically similar students kept dropping a tutor who was demographically dissimilar, but/and your experience is a really good reminder.
          3) There are so many things people do and say that are so real yet so difficult to describe to a third party. How do you precisely describe a sneer or a snotty tone of voice? It’s very frustrating.

          1. Lucy Montrose*

             if certain demographically similar students kept dropping a tutor who was demographically dissimilar

            I am so sick of “relatability”. All it’s come to mean is, “shares my socioeconomic background/hobbies/lifestyle/demographic/other factor that can’t be overcome with imagination and empathy”.
            It’s of a piece with the unspoken requirement of being like someone before they will trust or like you. Similarity builds rapport, but there’s nothing that says that similarity has to come from sharing lifestyles or backgrounds. What about values, learning styles, etc.? Things like that are what conversation is supposed to be for, but since we talk to each other so much less than we used to, we go by the shorthand of “grew up the way I do”, and it’s as if we’ve given up on the whole idea of two different people possibly working very well together.

        2. Jennifer*

          Thank you for this — I am a volunteer math tutor with high school students (and I generally request to work with at-risk students) and I try really, really hard to set aside my biases and deal with the student in front of me. But reminders are always helpful!

        3. Alice's Rabbit*

          A very valid point. And biases like this can be against any sort. I was blonde, busty, athletic, and artsy; lots of teachers assumed that meant I was a ditz, despite my excellent grades and test scores. I got a 1580 on my SAT, was on the school’s Jeopardy team, and an officer in 4 different academic clubs. But some people just couldn’t get past their first impression of busty blonde.
          My dad looked (and often acted) like your average jock. Captain of the varsity baseball team, varsity basketball team, and cross country/track star. He also had a 34 composite on the ACT, with a 36 on the math section. He encountered a lot of similar biases, with people assuming he had about as much between his ears as a box of rocks.
          So OP might want to evaluate if these particular students have anything in common. Even something subtle, like they’re just annoying in various ways.

        4. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Ouch. I’m so sorry you had tutors write you off.
          It’s never acceptable to do that in a position where you are involved with children’s education.

          To OP 4- As many others are, I’m also a tutor, and fit is important. If a student doesn’t trust their tutor, they can’t learn from them. And even great tutors aren’t going to be a fit for everyone. It’s really important to be okay with not everyone being a fit.

          Also if you’re really good at your job, unfortunately, with any given client, you can work yourself out of a position because once their understanding increases significantly and they learn study skills, executive functioning skills, and some critical thinking, they won’t need you anymore. That happens at different speeds for different kids, but I don’t think you should be offended if a family decides that you’re not the right fit for their kid anymore.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, I think the proportion is important here, in addition to the timeline. Some percentage of people stopping tutoring after a while seems normal, as does some percentage of people finding you “not a good fit.” Too casual/too formal, stressing the kid out/not making them take it seriously enough, whatever. Fit is a real thing! If most clients are happy with you for a reasonable amount of time, I wouldn’t worry about it.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      The problem though is with no clear feedback, the tutor IS going to take it personally. There’s got to be a middle ground on this stuff.

      1. Threeve*

        I feel like it would be as simple as “it’s truly not a problem with your performance.” They wouldn’t need to go into any other details.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        “Not a good fit” is literally as middle ground as it’s possible to be. There is zero indication that it’s either party’s fault, or that anything could be changed to improve matters. Just a wrong fit.
        There is no reason nor cause to take it personally.

    5. Summersun*

      Both I and my husband were tutors for homebound students for many years, working through a school district. (This included students recovering from accident or illness, students with ongoing mental problems, and students on house arrest.) The coordinator was a good friend and often “unofficially” passed on the reasons for quitting/replacement to us, and they were rarely related to our job skills. Some situations we experienced:

      –the girl being tutored walked around the house in bikini tops and barely-there cheerleading shorts with her butt cheeks hanging out, and her dad flipped out when he saw the tutor was a man. Because her being unable to dress appropriately was my husband’s fault, apparently. (They did not fire me, only my husband, but I refused to work with them after that.)

      –mom answered the door reeking of pot multiple times, told the coordinator I was “too uptight” and they wanted someone “more laid back”. (I said nothing, but apparently my poker face failed me and my disdain was showing.)

      –the family were pet hoarders and heavy smokers, and I could not get through a tutoring session without multiple gagging fits. I asked to work on the enclosed patio, and they begrudgingly allowed it. Then they requested a replacement who could teach “without wasting half the time coughing up a lung”.

      1. Chinook*

        The joys of in-home tutoring! I had one long term student who went through a phase of walking around his house shirtless. I literally instituted a rule that I wouldn’t work with him until he put a shirt on, something I never before thought I would have to say. :)

        1. Zelda*

          Heh. I work with high-schoolers at a center, not in their homes (well, pre-pandemic, anyway). Nevertheless, I have had teachable moments about “Your shoes stay on your feet and your bare feet stay off furniture that does not belong to you.” And “Your hands stay outside your clothing when you are not in the bathroom.”

    6. Kiki*

      Years ago a student I tutored had a huge crush on me. I had talked to his parents and teachers because I could tell something weird was going on– this kid was super smart, why was he failing his tests? And it didn’t seem like test anxiety or something like that.
      It was because he wanted to spend an hour one-on-one with me. He did not need a tutor at all. He actually invited me to his college graduation, which was super sweet and impressive because he had gone on to attend Harvard. I sent a gift but didn’t go because I suspect this was a long plot to make moves on me once again.

    7. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I supervised a youth extracurriculars program and I also got similar requests from parents to change teachers (we were a group program, so it was harder to accommodate these requests.)

      -I don’t want a male teacher, only perverted men want to work with children.
      -My daughter doesn’t like boy teachers, I’m so sorry! I know this is a discriminatory request but she’s four and I can’t reason with her.
      -I only want a Hispanic teacher who is a native Spanish speaker
      -I only want a strong Black male role model for my son
      -How dare X teacher tell my kid what to do, I want a different teacher, this teacher is awful and my kid hates class (often, this meant correcting the child from biting or hitting other children in class)
      -Teacher Tangerina is too serious, too much teaching and not enough games, I want Teacher Fergus he always plays games (Teacher Tangerina is a lead teacher who trains other teachers in the curriculum and is following the lesson plan. Teacher Fergus is on a PIP for not knowing the curriculum and not following the lesson plans and is about to get fired because he plays games all class instead of teaching.)
      -I want a teacher without a particular piercing/tattoo/hairstyle/race/religion/sexual orientation/gender presentation because I’m a picky bigoted Karen.

      Parents are kind of nuts. You really can’t work with kids and not accept that. You’re not going to make all of them happy even if you’re great at your job.

      1. Popcorn Burner*

        I can’t imagine being a teacher or a tutor and dealing with parents.

        I used to run extracurricular service programming for preteens and teens (I.e. VERY low-stakes), and I *still* had parents question things like my order of operations for a mailing campaign.

        1. Chinook*

          When I left teaching, the only thing I didn’t mourn was the working with parents. I have stumbled on to a new career that is teaching older adults how to use computers. It comes with the side benefit that most of them no longer have parents living who can call to complain about how I am treating their poor children. :)

      2. Former HS Teacher*

        I taught a public high school in the buckle of the Bible belt in the early 2000s. One day I was called into a parent conference. The parent demanded the principal remove the student from my class because “she didn’t want her son around any (hate word for a Jewish person).”

        The principal removed the student from my class. He said it “wasn’t worth the argument.”

        I resigned at the end of the year.

        Your list of parent demands/requests do not surprise me at all.

        1. laughingrachel*

          I wish I could say I was shocked

          I am extremely disgusted at both the parent and your former principal.

        2. Zweisatz*

          My mouth was literally hanging open when I read your comment. If the principal knew the parent’s issue, he shouldn’t even have called you into the room and subject you to that. Much less give in.

      3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Ugh, yes… in addition to being a tutor, I do hiring/recruiting for a tutoring company and I went round and round with the people who do sales and liaise with parents about how as someone doing hiring I should not have ANY knowledge that “there aren’t enough female/male/white/insert protected class here tutors” in a certain geographic area. I cannot and do not take that into consideration when hiring, so STOP ASKING! If parents complain to you, fine. But keep it under your hat, and don’t try to influence our hiring practices.

      4. L agallina*

        -I only want a Hispanic teacher who is a native Spanish speaker

        I think it’s reasonable for a language tutor to be a native speaker.

        1. OfOtherWorlds*

          The “native speaker” part is reasonable, but if by “Hispanic” the parent meant “someone who looks Mestizo”, and wouldn’t accept a Dominican or an Latin American of Japanese ancestry, that part is not legitimate.

    8. 9to4ever*

      I have three kids, and over the years we’ve had a variety of tutors–piano, guitar, music, speech therapy, language. It is an extremely personal thing whether your child clicks with another person, and it can make or break whether they actually learn from something you’re spending a small fortune on. I’ve had the hardest time with piano, because that person has to sit right next to your child. I had one male tutor who made my teen daughter feel uncomfortable…she didn’t have a specific thing to point to, but I saw no reason to force her to continue if she felt that way. I have had two piano tutors who were extremely strict, and it was making my kids dread their lessons. That’s three out of maybe a dozen. I did tell the strict ones why we were ending things, but not the male. I said it wasn’t a good fit, and left it at that.

      1. UKDancer*

        Piano teachers are I think some of the most difficult ones to find. My mother has piano lessons as an adult and she said it was really difficult to find someone who could teach her in a way that’s enjoyable to her, doesn’t treat her like a child and explains things in a way that works.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yes! I only had one piano teacher I ever clicked with. I had 3 that I learned from, but never learned well and didn’t advance quickly with them.
          And then I had one who I loathed. We quit her after only a few months. Ugh, horrid woman! I swear, she’d have rapped my knuckles with a ruler if she could have gotten away with it.
          Especially with something as artistic as piano, you need comfort and raport between teacher and student.

    9. Student*

      Honest question:

      Does the tutor placement business have some legal and ethical duty to push back against this? Or is there some actual legal exemption for normal employment law?

      Some of these are obnoxious but not legally questionable – like asking to have the same tutor as a kid’s friend or avoiding a bully’s tutor.

      Asking to get rid of a tutor with asthma or to get rid of a tutor over gender/appearance (student attraction) is… a clear violation of the law, as I understand it, in nearly all professions in the US. Thus, not something the placement company should indulge, because it puts the placement company at risk of lawsuit from the tutors. Unless they’ve secured a creative legal loophole for the industry.

      1. Chinook*

        My experience is that there isn’t any pushback, partially because a personality conflict does interfer with outcomes. I can’t successfully tutor someone who dislikes me. It is better for me to move on to someone whom I can work with successfully.

      2. whingedrinking*

        I once worked in a tutoring centre that flat-out admitted that they did not hire male tutors because so many parents were uncomfortable sending their kid to one, or even to a place that hired them. This was obviously discrimination.
        However, parents are absolutely free to refuse a tutor, the same way they could refuse to go to a particular coffee shop because they didn’t like, I dunno, baristas who are too short. As noted, there could be good reasons for this – the child is afraid of men, or has sensory processing issues and can’t concentrate over the sound of the tutor’s breathing. Or they could be racist or sexist or ablelist or think someone with pink hair can’t be a good teacher, whatever. Upshot is, you can’t force a parent to accept a particular tutor, so at most you could present it as a “take it or leave it” situation.
        The closest parallel I can think of is someone refusing to be served in a restaurant by someone they deem objectionable. I would hope that a manager in that situation would do the right thing by their employees and kick bigots out rather than force a server to deal with them. But I can also appreciate that sometimes you really need to make that sale, the customer will walk if they don’t get their way, and the least-worst option is just to provide an alternative. So. *shrugs helplessly*

      3. Catherine*

        I don’t work in the US, my country has pretty lax laws about discrimination, and my former bosses did not let me cut off bigots, which was a major source of friction between us. (One of the reasons I left was that there were a few times it was a race thing and I was reprimanded for not indulging the client’s request.)

  4. Austin J*

    Fellow public librarian commenting, for #1. HP had an undeniable effect on children’s literature 20 years ago, so I definitely understand the urge for libraries to continue to treat it with the same reverence as they do Dr. Seuss, Curious George, or Fancy Nancy; even more so because it targets the elusive 8-12 year old age group that’s so hard to engage with. But as a branch manager, I won’t be holding any more HP-related events; there are other, better books for 8-12 year olds that we can tie in to our programming. It’s been 20 years, children’s lit is due for another shake-up. We can find that author, we just have to try.
    I agree with Alison and her recommended scripts. And then, after this year’s event, if you have any camaraderie with your children’s/YA colleagues, talk with them one-on-one about sunsetting this event for something more inclusive in the future. You can let them know that there’s growing support in libraries all over to distance themselves from Hogwarts, especially after hearing what JKR’s new book plot is going to be about. My branch certainly will.

    1. Granger Chase*

      Some personal favorites of mine that are for similar age groups and have that same magical adventure feel to them would be Percy Jackson & The Olympians (which has an author that includes good representation of BIPOC and LGBT characters) and The Mysterious Benedict Society, which sadly very few people seem to have heard of.
      LW: While I will always have a place in my heart for the characters and story of HP, JKR has ruined so much of it for me with her atrocious behavior. I would also bow out of volunteering for an HP event now, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making it about concerns for social distancing/safety instead of JKR’s comments if you would feel more comfortable doing so at work.
      And to Austin J: Thank you for making the decision to find other events for your branch to hold! I know it will mean a lot especially to LGBT youth to see that their library is working towards finding more inclusive materials to promote.

    2. Lionheart26*

      Middle school Librarian, and completely agree. There are so many wonderful middle grade authors being published now.
      It’s time to thank Harry for his services to YA and let him move over to make room for Jason Reynolds, and Nnedi Okorafor, who write about contemporary issues and events.

    3. Felis alwayshungryis*

      That’s actually a really valid point. To be honest, I have been able to separate the person from the work and will continue to enjoy JKR’s work (yes, even the new crime one) without subscribing to her views, but maybe Harry Potter’s time has been and gone, and this is a chance to pass the torch.

      I mean, I guess Harry Potter is virtually guaranteed to draw punters (in the same way as Lego or Star Wars events) but I’m beginning to question its relevance (and its author’s) a bit now.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Removed a derailing thread here debating what it says about people who choose to continue to consume entertainment produced by bigoted people. We aren’t debating that here. Please keep comments focused on advice to the letter-writers; other comments will be deleted, and repeat offenders will be banned.

    4. MK*

      Instead of finding “that author”, which quite frankly is unlikely (phenomena like HP do not happen every couple of decades), maybe we should be encouraging children to not idolize authors and read more widely?

    5. Lady Heather*

      Removed because largely a critique of Harry Potter — per the rules at the top, please stick to advice for the LW. Thank you! – Alison

  5. Courtney*

    The Hogwarts thing is quite tricky. I have many trans/NB/GNC friends and cis allies (myself included) who now hate this author and refuse to even speak of HP again. However I know at least one trans person who is saying they have been able to entirely separate the author from her work. It truly isn’t black and white.

    I think Alison’s advice is pretty good, and you could probably say something like ‘I have been having a hard time coming to terms with the author’s recently voiced opinions about marginalised groups. I’m going to sit this event out this year’ OR ignore that entirely and say ‘the pandemic has me rather nervous about being at an event with small children who might not be able to socially distance while so worked up and excited. I’d like to sit this out’. They can’t really argue much with health concerns? Hopefully?

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this. I’m thinking that the OP may be overthinking this. If they don’t respond to the volunteer email and enough other people do, it may never even come up. If someone notices and asks them individually, I would lead with being uncomfortable participating during a pandemic in an event for small children who probably won’t be able to socially distance, especially when they’re excited.

      Lots of people who aren’t trans* or genderqueer are uncomfortable with anything to do with Rowling’s work these days, I think they could use Alison’s script without outing themselves.

      That said, if the event doesn’t get enough volunteers and they’re voluntold to participate because they’ve been so enthusiastic about it before, it gets tougher. Then it’s probably a choice between outing themselves at work or attending, but not being particularly enthusiastic about it.

      1. UKDancer*

        I agree. It’s perfectly fine to not respond, to say you have another commitment and aren’t available or to say that you’re concerned about Covid if you don’t want to go into the details of why Rowling’s work is problematic. I can understand why you may not want to go into the details or expose yourself. I think given the pandemic going on people can well be excused from not wanting to attend events with lots of people. Also it’s out of hours so you can quite justifiably claim other commitments.

        Equally if you do want to give some explanation but not put it in the more personal context, it’s perfectly fine to say that you have concerns about the views she has been expressing and think that running such an event may give rise to a suspicion that the library (which should be inclusive) is not being inclusive. Accordingly you’d rather not be present. I think this is perfectly acceptable to say in general terms.

        I think basically it’s whatever you’re comfortable with but if you don’t want to go into the real reason it’s perfectly ok to choose the socially accepted excuse of being busy. We can’t all fight all of the equality battles all of the time and that’s ok. Some days life is hard enough just living, especially at the moment.

      2. Liane*

        “If the event doesn’t get enough volunteers and they’re voluntold to participate to participate because they’ve been so enthusiastic about it before, it gets tougher.”
        If that’s likely OP, “Sorry, I already have plans that night,” if anyone asks, is the way to go. No one needs to know that the only things you’re sorry about are the author turned out to be a bigot and a beloved series is ruined for you.

        (I am one of those allies who is disgusted with JKR and isn’t likely to visit Hogwarts again.)

        1. Mill Miker*

          Having been so enthusiastic in the past might work in OP’s favour here: “You know I would if could” will ring pretty true. (And that’s not lying: I think it’s fair to say you “can’t” support an event that makes you uncomfortable).

      3. Marthooh*

        Cis-het straight lady here to say I would not want to attend a Hogwarts themed event, on account of JK’s bigotry and fear-mongering. You can say she’s awful without outing yourself! Or blame it on Covid-19 or being busy that day or whatever; trans people are obviously not going to be safe until attitudes like the author’s are considered socially unacceptable.

        1. Off-Topic Aside*

          I’ve certainly done this myself while transitioning between popular terms but ‘het’ = ‘straight’ so you don’t need both.

          I also agree that this is easily done without outing yourself.

      4. Ana Gram*

        I agree. I’m a cis woman and would feel very comfortable using Alison’s script. The controversy over JKR’s views on trans women is pretty well known, so it’s not like you’d be bringing up a fringe view. That said, I’d also just ignore the email first. There’s an argument to be made that someone should bring this issue to the bosses but it doesn’t need to be you if you don’t want it to be.

        1. Laney Boggs*

          For OP and other closeted trans/NB folks, it can come down to how well you pass as cis.

          Someone who presents in a gender conforming way (feminine dress for AFAB folks and vice versa) just wouldn’t be subjected to the same speculation as someone who doesn’t. And even if OP does dress conforming at work, it can still cause some paranoia that people might begin wondering.

          1. c-*

            Yeah, if the OP is not 120% sure that her office is safe for trans people, I’d err on the side of not adressing the transphobia.

            If it must be adressed, then I’d go for the angle of “it’s important for children to learn to respect people who are different, and HP doesn’t model that very well, how about [this other title] instead?”. This example others LGBT people & kids, which signals “socially acceptably woke, nothing to see here” to the majority of coworkers and “no way this person isn’t a clueless cis” to anyone who’s savvier about LGBT+ issues. Unfortunately, if you start talking about the existence of trans kids at work, you run the risk of making anyone who is not already an ally uncomfortable, and of getting labeled as a radical/possibly LGBT by some. Which sucks, but happens more often than we’d like.

            I realise it’s a problematic script (one of the problems of being closeted at work, I’m afraid), but if the LW wants to adress the topic while being extra sure of avoiding suspicion, that should do it.

          2. OP 1 - Ex Hogwarts Alum*

            I’ve only recently started to dress in a more deliberately . . . less feminine way at work, and it’s a weird headspace to be in. Like in my head I pass as nonbinary, but in reality I probably just pass as a Metalhead. (Buttons on my blazer, jeans on days they’re allowed, lots of black.) Which is fine! But it’s also weird because I both want people to know, but not, at the same time.

            1. c-*

              Non-binary afab fistbump of solidarity here, I know exactly how you feel.
              It gets easier with time, as you slowly run out of figs to give and your coworkers start updating your new presentation to “oh, that’s just how they dress, moving on”.

            2. TL -*

              One of my friends came out after a period of slow style changes. She said several times, “well you could probably already tell by the way I dress now that I’m into women…” We the friend group were like, “uh, what? We were not clued in by that at all. We just thought you upgraded your wardrobe because you had more money and felt like it?”
              (except for the hair, her new wardrobe actually isn’t that different from my (straight cis woman) own at the time, just I had long hair, tended more casual, and wear a lot of my brother’s hand-me-downs for athletic casual wear.)

              It was very eye-opening to see how much thought – and I think to some extent anxiety – she put into the wardrobe changes versus how little we noticed. I think the only thing we ever mentioned/thought about was when she went ultra-short with her hair, and even that was, “man, that’s short! I could never do that but it must be sooo nice maintenance-wise and it looks really good on her!”

          3. Eukomos*

            It’s totally sensible for OP to be concerned given how dangerous anti-trans bigots can be, but from an outside perspective refusing to do HP stuff anymore is really just going to make them look left-wing, so I don’t think this is going to be risky. Even with less gendered presentation, especially for someone AFAB that’s not a very strong marker of being NB given current trends. The only reason I’d advise caution around mentioning the TERF thing is if OP’s in a place where being left-wing might expose them to harassment, frankly.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        I am as cis-het as they come and I would not want to support this theme, and I would have no reservations about telling my boss why.

        In the short term, I would simply say I was unavailable to work the day of the event–let them think I have another obligation if it’s less awkward in the moment. But then I’d talk to my bosses about why I thought we should find other themes for future years.

      6. Rusty Shackelford*

        Lots of people who aren’t trans* or genderqueer are uncomfortable with anything to do with Rowling’s work these days, I think they could use Alison’s script without outing themselves.

        Exactly this. Just a cursory sampling of Twitter would reveal that people of all stripes feel the same way. You wouldn’t be outing yourself at all.

        1. MarsJenkar*

          Depends on the local community. It might be more difficult to express such views in places where the overall viewpoint is more hostile toward those of non-binary gender or orientation, since even if you’re not outing yourself, you’re picking a side that is likely to get a hostile response. But even there, the word of caution isn’t about the danger of “outing” yourself, but the danger of expressing an unpopular viewpoint in a place that will react badly to it.

          Thankfully, Alison’s suggestions cover both those possibilities, and I think they’re good ones.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Well, I didn’t say it would necessarily be a popular opinion. Just that it wouldn’t out the OP, given that it’s being expressed on a worldwide forum by cishet people.

        2. c-*

          Um. Maybe y’all are right, but I sense a lot of cishet people are saying this, and maybe y’all haven’t considered…
          – cishet people often have more standing to say things like this due to their cishet privilege. Less chance of being labeled angry, bitter, or exagerating. More chance of being taken seriously.
          – cishet people are unlikely to be clocked as LGBT+ for taking these stances, while if a closeted LGBT+ person takes a stance on this, someone could put all the little queer pieces together and clock/out them.
          – maybe the LW doesn’t want to tackle this issue (it may feel very raw for them, I know it makes me very angry) or would rather spend the capital on other things.
          – in many workplaces it’s not safe to openly position oneself in favour of LGBT+ people, *especially* trans kids. The negative consequences are always more severe for LGBT+ workers (known or suspected) than cishet workers.

          This is why allies speaking out is important. So please keep doing that in your local libraries and on twitter, but let the LW run the risk assessment on her workplace and decide whether it’s worth it to tackle the issue.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            That’s true; thanks for pointing it out. I wonder if it would be safe for the LW (if so inclined) to frame it as “based on media reports, a lot of people are angry about things JKR is saying and maybe we shouldn’t go there,” without revealing their own personal thoughts on it.

            1. 10Isee*

              Or maybe even pass the idea on to a trusted coworker who isn’t in the closet. After all, this is valuable information for the organization to consider, and you don’t have to be trans to be bothered. Maybe OP works with others who are similarly bothered but have less to lose by speaking up.

              1. c-*

                Great ideas! Either should work, at least to put the issue on the Library’s radar with maximum safety for the LW. But if they decide to go that route, I’d choose to either opt out without raising the issue OR to raise the issue and be open to participate. Otherwise, her stance would be made pretty clear: too close timing for their coworkers not to connect the dots.

                Maybe if they go all “sorry, prior inescapable commitment, btw, this info may be relevant” it could work? Or if another coworker points it out, like 10Isee said, while the LW Disapparates discreetly?

              2. Lils*

                This is a great idea. Libraries lean very lefty, even in conservative places. Probably there is someone who could carry the message for the OP. I would very much appreciate this as a library manager, since I might have inadvertently planned an offensive event without intending to; I would want to hear the constructive feedback now so I could change the theme of the event.

        3. Solar*

          Twitter is probably not representative of most parts of the country. My social circle in my very liberal city would all agree with Twitter; the people I grew up around absolutely do not, and they’re not Trumpers/Republicans either.

          If LW is asking this question, then they are probably not from an area where this is common opinion. Otherwise they wouldn’t be having the HP party in the first place!

          1. OP 1 - Ex Hogwarts Alum*


            Our area isn’t as conservative as some, but it’s on the “let’s not rock the boat” side. I mentioned in another thread we didn’t have a Pride display of any kind until 3 years ago, and even the VERY small one we got, we had some complaints. There are reasons I’m not out at work.

          2. TardyTardis*

            Back a decade or so, our rural community was still getting Harry Potter Supports Witchcraft from some people, though they seem to have relaxed some since then.

      7. Dust Bunny*

        And I know legions of other cis-het people who would probably bring this concern to library management themselves, as members of the community.

      8. OP 1 - Ex Hogwarts Alum*

        Hi there!

        I am almost definitely overthinking it. (I tend to do that.) However, in the past when this same event has come up (it is a regular yearly thing, for those wondering) if I didn’t respond right away, my supervisor would come poke me and assume (accurately, in those cases) that I wanted to rearrange my schedule so I could attend. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m expecting it.

        I am little concerned about being ‘voluntold’ to be there anyway. They might rearrange it into a virtual event, because that’s been happening with of our other events, but not all. Plus I’m kind of the unofficial branch photographer, so if it is in person, they’ll probably want me to take pictures.

        However, the ‘plans that night’ script should work in either case.

        1. Yikes!*

          I totally understand where you’re coming from — I was always “the Harry Potter friend”, I hosted Harry Potter events for a local org, people would send me Harry Potter posts, get me Harry Potter gifts etc.

          my relationship to the series already drastically changed about 4 years ago when she showed herself to be a complete f**king racist (remember how she ripped off Indigenous culture and when called out for cultural appropriation, her defense was the definition of cultural appropriation! or how Indigenous magic in North America was seen as less powerful than that of Europeans cause they didn’t have magic!).

          I’ve majorly distanced myself from the series ever since. And it only got worse this summer when she reinforced her bigotry with a bunch of transphobia.

          I totally get why it’s hard – I also had to take time to slowly distance myself from it, people kept sending me things and it wounded me a little every time because HP was wound into my identity and I was processing what it meant to feel like I’d lost this important thing. I think of HP being a little like a religion, because a lot of us who’re “geeks” hold a lot of meaning, reverence, and an almost spirituality around our fandoms (maybe not to the same extent as a religion, but there’s overlap), and I feel like JKRs betrayal has caused a lot of grieving for us.

          I might be way off the mark, but I can’t help but wonder if that is what is going on a little for you. You’re not just explaining a stance, you’re also trying to make space for the pain it’s caused you. A boss could easily be like “can you please help any how, we’ll put you in a position where you’re not actively working with the kids” and maybe you don’t want to get into the pain your feeling and don’t want to justify how hurt you are.

          Any how, hopefully this helps. I hope you’ll feel empowered to defend your stance. You could follow up with “this is something I feel really strongly about and I’ve actually made other plans for that night so I wouldn’t be tempted to cave, I hope you understand”

          1. OP 1 - Ex Hogwarts Alum*

            You are *right on* the mark, actually! It would not be overstating it to say Remus Lupin was instrumental in my figuring out my identity both as bisexual and as genderqueer. So I can’t quite go all the way to, “Eff this whole series, throw my collection in the sea!” Well. Not yet. I don’t know who I’d be without it, but I also don’t need to revisit it ever.

            And yeah, that makes it hard to talk about. I don’t think I could keep my emotions out of it. Maybe I should make plans that day. . .

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I think making plans for that day/night would actually be really good on two fronts.

              First, it gives you the “so sorry, I can’t, I have plans” card to play so you won’t have to go to the program, and second, it gives you a distraction during the time that the program is happening. If you just don’t go and don’t have other plans, it might be too easy to sink into that sadness and grief over the loss of this thing you love. Planning something to do during that time, even if it’s only face-timing a friend or doing some self-care, can help you mitigate that feeling somewhat.

              And I get it. I’m a survivor of adolescent PTSD and Harry helped me understand my own experiences in a way nothing else had to that point. This series felt so integral to my understanding of myself, and giving it up hasn’t been easy. Be gentle with yourself and know a huge chunk of your HP community is in this with you. We may not have JKR’s stories anymore, but we do still have each other.

            2. feministbookworm*

              OP, if you haven’t already read them, I highly recommend Tamora Pierce’s novels. They’re not new (the first ones were written in the 1980s), and the older ones are not always perfect by today’s standards, but they are very good, and the author behind them is a delightful, generous presence on social media, actively committed to improving representation in fantasy.

              1. TardyTardis*

                Same here, though I also would like to promote the Great Library books of Rachel Caine; nonbinary people are shown in very strong roles in her books. INK AND BONE is the first one.

        2. A win for pragmatism*

          You know, in occasions like these, where you really can’t go but really can’t get out of it, either, I’ve occasionally sent my last-minute regrets for feeling sick– no need to mention that it’s over the gross concepts/people I’d have to be exposed to.

      9. Annony*

        I agree that stating they are uncomfortable because of the author’s statements wouldn’t out them. The majority of people I know feel that way and none are trans (to my knowledge). I would also suggest making real plans that night as a backup excuse to be used if needed. Just because you made plans after knowing the date of the event doesn’t mean you don’t have a real conflict.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I don’t think that objecting would have to mean outing yourself, I think there are a lot of Cis Het people who, while not so directly affected on a personal level would still be very unwilling to take part in an event lie this because of JKR’s behaviour.
      I am assuming that it is too late to change the event to a non-HP themed event for this year, but you could perhaps suggest to your managers that moving forward you change it up – perhaps you could suggest a more general fantasy based event with elements from other books and series – if it is the sort of event where kids dress up then they could still chose to dress up as HP characters, but the library could focus on other, less problematic writers and books in a similar genre. Double bonus that you get to introduce kids (and adults!) who enjoyed HP to other writers they might not find for themselves.
      You could make the point to your managers that continuing with the Hogwarts / HP theme risks alienating already marginalized groups, as parents of Trans/NB/LGBTQ kids, those kids themselves, and trans / NB / LGBTQ parents may well feel unwelcome or excluded. You could also point out that the HP universe is not diverse in other ways, either, and that those with disabilities and POC might also feel more welcome if you base the event on more diverse stories, as well as books by less divisive writers.

      1. Helena1*

        This – HP was already the subject of A LOT of criticism for its depiction of POC characters, even before the anti-trans issues. I think a lot of non-UK readers unfortunately put it down to quaint Britishness, but it was honestly appalling. You really don’t need to out yourself as non-binary to say you want nothing more to do with it.

        1. Doc in a Box*

          Agree — “Cho Chang” was possibly the worst depiction of an Asian character since Peter Sellers’ turn in Murder by Death. At least that was *supposed* to be parody.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        And if you’re not comfortable suggesting a move away from HP specifically, you could always position it as “in addition to,” rather than “instead of.” A fantasy-based event could welcome HP characters *and* other, more inclusive works.

      3. OP 1 - Ex Hogwarts Alum*

        Thanks for this!

        I’d love to do a more general fantasy-themed event. We have a few more general events like that throughout the year (most of which have been postponed or cancelled this year–this one might be going virtual, I can’t tell from the email), but this is the one that’s specific to our branch, so I think a lot of my coworkers are attached to it for that reason.

        If I could suggest a more inclusive fantasy series to celebrate (leaning towards Percy Jackson here) that’d be great, but it doesn’t seem to inspire the cosplayers the way HP does. Keep in mind I live in an area where we only started doing anything Pride-related (by which I mean one whole shelf of recommended reads) a whole three years ago, and customers complained about it. Inclusivity isn’t something this particular area excels. I don’t say this as an excuse to not try, but experience leads me to believe our Powers That Be will use it as an excuse not to try.

        Anyway, I’m leaning more towards not getting involved myself than trying to change the event, at least for this year.

        1. Yikes!*

          Just a thought, but it could be fun to weave in a lot of other books here, such as anything by Rick Riordan. You could pitch it as a way to broadly increase YA fantasy literacy amongst kids while still hosting a fun “magical” event

        2. Buu*

          A crisp clear, ” No, thanks” or ” I won’t be taking part this year. ” with no explanation needed is your first line of deference, if they do ask. Can you also book a holiday that day? Then keep quiet about it. Most people if they don’t see you at work, won’t tend to think twice about it.

          Oh and if anyone is looking for a good way to process their HP feelings, then I recommend the Shriekcast. It’s a podcast where two “lapsed fans” re-read the books and discuss and dissect them in detail. They are very funny, and cover what’s been going on with the author and her behavior and her many luxury treehouses. But also clearly mark when those discussions are going on for people who just want the book stuff. It’s been my constant lockdown companion, and an excellent way to process my feelings about the books. Very good source for recommendations for other books too. :)

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      I know this point was raised in the letter about the OP whose number was given to the boss’s son to hang out, but it could still stand here – while the pandemic argument could work for this year, if this library hosts this event again at a later date when it’s less of an issue (looks from the letter like it’s a regular thing), OP could end up in the same position again of not wanting to volunteer but not having that get out clause. What are people’s thoughts on that issue?

      1. Lance*

        For that, I like some of the comments above suggesting something different, that could also be good. Sure, it may not necessarily have the broad familiarity as something like HP, but there’s plenty of time ’til any such next event comes along. There’s always options to find a series and start displaying it more prominently in the library in the interim, get people’s eyes on it; that sort of thing.

      2. another Hero*

        In my library circles, I feel comfortable assuming Rowling’s views are known and largely rejected, whether people hold on to Harry Potter or not, and I think giving the honest reason would be just fine. Obviously the OP’s library may be different, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other people are also planning not to participate and/or uncomfortable with this event. I’d be willing to be direct about the reason, and I think Alison’s script is fine. But if OP isn’t, being vaguely busy is still fine.

      3. c-*

        If it comes up again, I think you could swing a “but think of the children” in this case: I’d assume the person hasn’t heard of or doesn’t understand the controversy, and explain that the author turned out to be a transphobic bigot (or “hold very unkind and vocal views about LGBT people” if you want a softer tone) and that, for the sake of young readers*, it would be better to choose another book or series.

        * If the library/boss is LGBT+ friendly, explain it’s to protect your young trans/gnc patrons and to teach the others that transphobia is not OK. If you’re not sure where they stand, go with the age-old let’s-pat-ourselves-on-the-back “it’s important for children to learn to respect and accept those who are different (because of course all LGBT+ people spring out as fully-glittered adults from the brain of Zeus)”.

        Point being, the LW is allowed to borrow socially accepted scripts if it gets them out of the line of fire. Ideally they would be able to discuss with their superiors why uplifting this author is harmful for trans kids (and, as has been said by other commenters, there are other controversial aspects, esp. wrt race). But they are under no obligation to play the sacrificial lamb themselves, and there are other ways to argue the point.

          1. c-*

            Thank you, that’s very kind! As a closeted-for-work English highschool teacher, I’ve had to bite my tongue on issues like this way too many times. It is a difficult tightrope to walk, supporting your LGBT+ students without giving the pearlclutchers enough reasons to get you fired ;)

    4. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

      There are a lot of us who are struggling with this. [insert personal story about what HP meant to our family as my early 90’s born children literally grew up with HP books on release].

      We’re all CIS/het and we are all struggling. We had an hour conversation on the topic at our family gathering last week.

      Point in my comment is to affirm that I do not believe it is outing yourself to say whatever you want to say, should you choose to say it.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Same early 90s kids, same CIS/het situation, same problems with Rowling. I’d safely be telling my workplace I would feel I was giving a message we were not inclusive. So if our voices help the OP decline without feeling they have to out themselves, great!

        I think the OP can be busy this year and next year and every time the event happens if they feel that is safer.

        1. Theo*

          Hey y’all, just so you know — cis is a shortening of “cisgender”, not an acronym, so no need to capitalize it!

      2. ShanShan*

        The issue, though, is that the conversation would be different if YOU were the one saying it.

        At the end of the day, you’re not trans. If the resulting conversation went badly for you, you could always fall back into the big, warm safety net of not being trans. People might think you were a pain, but you would be at no real risk in that conversation. You couldn’t be outed, because there is nothing to out.

        OP, on the other hand, is a trans person working with children in what is presumably a trans-hostile area. They have a ton to lose if this conversation goes wrong, starting with their job and potentially getting more serious from there.

        So, what I’m saying is that I don’t think either of us is in a great position to judge what kind of moves are and aren’t safe for OP to take. If they think this is too much of a risk to take, they probably know better than we do.

    5. Green great dragon*

      I wouldn’t quote the health concerns unless you do think the library shouldn’t be holding any events like this for any book (couldn’t tell from the letter whether that’s the case). But agree that having a problem with JK isn’t outing you as anything except not transphobic, and also that ‘not available’ is perfectly valid.

      1. Slinky*

        My read was that OP thought the library shouldn’t be holding any events like this for the time being. Excited kids running around + pandemic = yikes! regardless of the book.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          I’m absolutely horrified OP’s library is still holding giant events for children right now. Even if HP wasn’t an issue, they should not be doing that.

          (Note: library where I live is still closed to the public entirely.)

          1. yala*

            Ours is open, but afaik not doing any events in person.

            My buddy is in charge of the Maker’s Space and for the past few months and the foreseeable future, all the projects he’s come up with have been things that he can make a kit of for folks to pick up and make at home.

            I can’t even fathom a KIDS event at a library right now. It’s a terrible idea. It’s a shame folks in the city aren’t writing to the library board, asking why they’re being so irresponsible or requesting that it be postponed or cancelled.

            1. Double A*

              Ours is open but all the toys in the kids section are put away and there’s no children’s programming.

              Which I understand but also makes me sad. I wish they would do some outside, maybe with an advance sign up for limited spots. I feel like it could be manageable to social distance.

      2. OP 1 - Ex Hogwarts Alum*

        Yeah I don’t think the library should be doing any in-person events right now. They might be planning this one as a virtual thing, but I can’t tell from the email. Our location’s response to the pandemic has frankly not been awesome. Either way, I don’t want to participate.

    6. Rose*

      Wanted to echo again that this script wouldn’t out you at all. As a cis woman who has been through abuse/assault I found her comments, in which she speaks for all cis woman survivors, horrific, and they made me deeply, personally angry. I felt like I needed to go apologize to trans women because this person had put words in my mouth.

      All this is not to debate if she’s transphobic etc, just want to make the point clear you can be deeply angry and feel personally about this without outing yourself.

    7. theletter*

      I think, in my shoes, I’d reach out and say that Covid has you wary of all non-essential in-person events.

      And given that it has been 20 years, it might be time to re-imagine the event as ‘general fantasy/magic for kids’. Hiring a magician and streaming a magic show from the library would probably be easier/safer/more cost-effective.

    8. Anon for this*

      Yeah, I work at a public library and aside from the fact that I’m surprised an in person event is being held at all, I know of many cis librarians who are uninterested in continuing to support his author. I totally understand the OP worrying about perception in their position, but I decided to cancel a social media RA post on Harry Potter this year and we as a library are working to celebrate more diverse authors anyway. Not wanting to participate in this would not at all make me think anything about a person’s gender identity to be honest.

      Also, as someone who calls for “volunteers” for these types of events, I doubt they will ask you if you have just been participating in a support role in the past. But if they do, I think Alison’s script of not being available is fine. You don’t need to explain yourself.

    9. Smithy*

      Whether it’s diverting the topic to health concerns or just being busy that day – I hope this thread is showing the OP that there are so many ways at work to get invested on this issue at work, or not get invested. Depending on how someone feels safe or engaged, HP & JK may just never be issues the OP wants to discuss at work while still processing a range of feelings and desires to take action outside of work.

      A few years ago, I essentially had a “break up” between creative content I how I felt about the creator. Ultimately it was a process of letting go of a piece of nostalgia and fondness that no longer felt good to me – and it was sad, angry, emotional, etc. While it had no overlap with my work – if it had, I’m not sure if I would have wanted to bring that part of my personal life into conversations and discussions with my coworkers. At least until I’d had more time to process all of my feelings.

      Hopefully bowing out this year, can open the door in the future for the OP to have that workplace discussion if and when it’s ever desired.

    10. LITJess*

      I’m really glad to see other librarians weighing in on this one. One of my staff members does a HP themed program most October’s, but I’ve been really cooling on the idea of hosting it this year. I worried that it might be my own politics and feelings on JKR clouding the situation. But as a library we’ve been talking a lot this year about inclusiveness, diversity, and representation. So while we’ll continue to house/purchase her books, as we do with many authors who’s views I don’t personally share, I think the days of celebrating her and Hogwarts are at an end in our Children’s department.

      1. OP 1 - Ex Hogwarts Alum*

        OP here, also glad to see so many librarians commenting!

        We’ve also been working more on diversity and inclusivity recently, which is why it surprised me so much to see that this event is still happening. (Possibly, hopefully as a virtual event, but still.) It just made me realize, “Wow, okay, our system does not know The Thing, huh, what do I do about this?”

        I can probably comfortably ignore that one email and just not volunteer my own time, but also, is it my job to let them know why this might be an issue? I guess that’s what I’m struggling with.

        1. c-*

          Not your duty, no. Ideally someone with relative power (a patron, a cis experienced worker) would do it, but if they don’t, it doesn’t automatically fall on your shoulders.

          If you want to and feel safe letting them know, you could use Alison’s patented concerned and collaborative tone and say something like: “Hey, this author has been spouting very hateful views for years, maybe we should reconsider/transition HP out of the event/include a workshop on how to engage with problematic aspects in a work”. But you’d need to assess the possible risks and consequences of adressing this in your specific workplace.
          If it’s safe, I’d say go for it when you feel strong enough to tackle it (and the possibly clueless responses you may get, don’t expect everyone to get it immediately). Maybe focus on the horrible racial representation/stereotyping, since that’s obvious in text (and doesn’t seem to feel as raw for you)?

          1. OP 1 - Ex Hogwarts Alum*

            Thanks for this!

            I’m torn on the “Do I feel safe enough to address this with Branch Manager?” thing. Because I feel like she’d be sympathetic, but I also feel like she wouldn’t be open to changing anything. At best, it would be something like, “You don’t have to participate, but this is still happening because of Reasons.”

            I really appreciate all your comments, by the way, I’m just getting very lost in the threads! (There’s so many…)

            1. c-*

              You’re most welcome, I’m glad to help :)
              If you don’t think your Branch Manager will want to change anything, maybe you can just opt out this year and try to propose something different for next year, during the planning phase? Maybe with a couple other (cis, experienced) coworkers, as others have suggested?
              It’s ok to pick your battles and to put on your own oxygen mask first.

    11. TheSnarkyB*

      I’m noticing a lot of comments in this thread saying that OP can voice their concerns without outing themselves, and it’s been phrased repeatedly as “as a cis het person, I would say this” (with the implication of (“Therefore, you can say it and still be read as a cis person”). This is actually unhelpful logic. I’m a cis person as well, but queer. For us cis people, there are a lot of things we can say and do without people questioning our gender identity. We could voice this concern and seem “neutral” (blegh) specifically because of our cisgender privilege. If someone is genderqueer, they aren’t able to (as safely) spout their views and hope that people don’t connect the dots, especially if there’s anything perceptibly non-normative about their gender expression already.

  6. JSPA*

    OP#4; please read this remembering that you’re a disembodied identity on the internet, and that this list isn’t directed “at you, as you actually are,” but “at anyone who could have written the letter you wrote.” Some of these will be more relevant if it’s, say, language tutoring or history or psych or sociology than if it’s math. Others are universal.

    All the questions are rhetorical / things you might ask yourself; not things for you to answer here!


    While all of the “isms” are certainly a possible answer, it never hurts to go down the basic checklist.

    If the tutoring was in person, consider hygiene, posture, eye contact (too much or too little, depending on culture) and tics. People won’t tell you that your breath is bad, that you spray a little when you talk and that you sit too close, or that your coat is redolent of onions, litterbox or mildew.

    Online or in person: awkward laughter or other audible / visible tic. Any flavor of innuendo or “edge-lord-y” conversation (this could as easily involves politics or religion or issues activism or substance use or any sort of disorder / disordered behavior, not only sex or gender). Oversharing your life information, including leaning in too hard into extended metaphors and parallels. Any pressure to get students to share/overshare their life information. Role play scenarios that could imply an agenda to someone with a suspicious mind, or be awkward for the student. Over-excusing unintentional double-entendres (it only makes it worse). Any joking reference to violence, even if it’s 100% clearly a joke / a mock threat (“lashes with a wet noodle,” e.g.). Time wasted, before, after or during a lesson, if you’re more given to social interaction than the student (or if the student enjoys distracting you). Time not “wasted,” if you don’t see the point of any social interaction, and the student and family consider it essential, as a sign of politeness.

    Do you teach conversational language, or practical math that includes word problems, or any subject in a way that involves setting up “what it would be like to be there” scenarios? Those are where people commonly cause offense. Avoiding dryness in word problems too often has produced would-be entertaining alternatives that are (whether blatantly or by misplaced use of irony) sexist, size-ist, racist, far too informal, culturally offensive, or simply grammatically incorrect. References to memes, podcasts, shows, music, artists–none of that is culturally neutral, and people can judge.

    As far as language, you can and will be penalized for certain regional and cultural accents. This is often based on an “ism”…but it’s not always that simple. If someone layers a strong regional accent on top of a “not my mother tongue” accent, the combination can be doubly-hard for a large proportion of people to decipher. Code-switching isn’t only done by ethnic minorities; plenty of WASPs with highly regional accents also learn to code switch into something vaguely midwestern US (or BBC-approved), for teaching and presentation purposes.

    Basically, parents want the tutor to be not only a tutor, but also a model of idealized comportment, behavior and diction for their child–and of course, a consummate professional who is unfailingly friendly, but never tries to “befriend.”

    Or it could be none of this; you could be due for a raise, and the agencies could all be cheap. Parents could regularly switch tutors, to make sure their child learns from more than one point of view.

    I suppose you could put this unflinching list in front of someone from the agency, upon firing, and say, “could you circle any of these that have ever been brought to your notice about me, or that you think might be relevant.” But if it’s an awkward (or illegal!) issue of race, class, regional accent (etc) they may very well default to, “yeah, your coat, it smells funky” and “too chatty.”

    1. Well...*

      I’m sure these are all very helpful, but also holy moly does it not make me ever want this job. I tutored in the side in grad school, and I love teaching in general, but code switching my California soft valley-girl accent would be suffocating.

      I also would argue my authenticity helped me connect with my students and built rapport. But tutoring full time might mean you need a bigger pool of “matches.”

      1. Anon4This*

        As someone who flattens out my Southern accent at work, lest my East Coast elite coworkers unconsciously knock a few IQ points off their perception of me, this made me laugh a little bit. I refuse to give up “y’all”, but, other than that, I trend into neutral news anchor mode as best I can. I lean into the accent a little more when we visit my in-law’s because they’re in a rural area where people disparage those like my East Coast elite coworkers all the time. And I turn on the Southern manners around my family because, even though I’m 40, it’s “yes, ma’am” not “yes”.

        I code switch all the time without thinking about it; it’s just second nature. The hardest one to accommodate has been that my spouse really hates for me to swear around his momma, and I have a bit of a potty mouth that I don’t have to curb with mine.

        1. InfoSec SemiPro*

          “y’all” is one of English’s few perfect words. We’ve needed a second person plural for clarity. Make your East Coast colleagues pick it up.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Exactly. For whatever reason, English didn’t come with a second person plural, so some resourceful folks came up with one. That’s how language is supposed to work.

          2. Alice's Rabbit*

            I’ve heard both Prince William and Prince Harry use y’all, as well. That’s about as proper as the English language can get!

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Same. I spent most of my life in Texas and while I can go completely neutral on accent when I need to, you will have to pry “y’all” from my cold, dead, hands.

          1. Anon4This*

            Heh. I am originally from Texas, and, when my colleagues complain about not understanding the person they have to call in Dallas (because of the twang), I offer to “translate” for them or take the call so they don’t have to suffer through trying to understand a city slicker. Fly me through Houston or DFW, and I’ll talk like that for a week

            I speak fluent Texan and Virginia/North Carolina/South Carolina (vinegar BBQ 4-evah!) Southern. My Appalachian is not great.

        3. ellex42*

          As someone who lives in what is apparently considered a “Mid-Atlantic” city – as in, not east enough to be East Coast, but not west enough to be Mid-West – I hear plenty of “y’all” all the time, as well as the somewhat more localized “yinz”, both with and without the accents usually associated with either term. Both make me wince, but that’s my personal upbringing and I don’t judge anyone for using either term.

          1. Wehaf*

            People consider Pittsburgh a “Mid-Atlantic” city because Pennsylvania is part of the Mid-Atlantic or Middle Atlantic region (generally agreed to be DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, WV, and Washington D.C.); it isn’t to do with it being “not East Coast enough” or “not Mid-Western enough.”

        4. anon for this*

          Amusingly, going back to my State University/College to teach math as a graduate student made my regional accent bake in harder — it seemed to give great comfort to students from more rural areas of the region, without disadvantaging international students. The only part I felt uncomfortable about was that international grad students would get really poor evaluations from first-semester freshmen who “couldn’t understand” the “strong accents”.

          Also, to the coffee-drinking LW, let your advisor pay.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        I had to stamp out my original accent, because folks kept telling me I sounded ignorant, even when they knew I was correct. Being busty and blonde didn’t help, but aside from dying my hair and major surgery, there wasn’t much I could do about that.
        How I speak, however, is something completely within my control. I took some diction lessons, dropped the accent, and am very careful to avoid regional slang.

    2. Hiya*

      One more – too much chat with the parents or other people in the household. Often time people who work in other people’s homes start getting very comfortable with chatting and socializing when all the people want is them to do their jobs. Especially with covid there is less socializing in general so the chat might have ramped up

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      A vague dismissal also is very often a sign that the parents can’t afford to or no longer want to pay the tutor. Especially in upper-middle class presenting homes. The parents can be very hesitant to say they’re not as wealthy as they appear.

      Also, I always preferred tutoring in a local library or school resource (if they allow it). It adds to professionalism and prevents parents or other family members from hovering.

      1. Lucy Montrose*

        That’s a very good point. It’s not something I relate to very well, being ashamed at not being as wealthy as appearances; but I still understand it. In the future, maybe I should refrain from too many compliments of a client’s house, lest it put addtional status pressure on them?

        I have tutored maybe 300 people in my tutoring career and about 60 of those clients broke off our work relationship before they were done– about 1/5. Of those, about half cut bait for vague or “ghosty” reasons, and about half did for financial reasons. I’ve also had a significant number of students who were pleased with me, but dissatisfied with my agency.

  7. Firecat*

    Cis person here also disgusted with JK.

    It’s disappointing that she is doubling down on her views after criticism, especially since she made a point of using HP to stand up for marginalized communities.

    I struggle with boycotts on entertainment though. Sure it’d be great to boycott JK but you can’t really boycott her without also hitting her publisher, all the HP actors and a lot of other innocent folks who rely on income from past projects. While Stone and Radcliff may be fine a lot of other entertainers, even successful ones, don’t make as much as you think and a sudden drop in income from a past movie before it’s time can have huge ramifications.

    Whereas with something like Chick-fil-A, you could start working at another fast food place and your income would be made whole no matter how many people boycott your old workplace.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, same here. That said, I’m not going to ruin my son’s enjoyment of the HP books and movies. He’s 11 and honestly it’s a battle to get him to read anything. We recently watched the movies with him (bought long before the controversy) and as the books are on our bookshelf already, we’re keeping them. There’s nothing anti-trans or anti-queer in the books, unless you count the fact that every character seems to be cishet (Dumbledore doesn’t count, because his being gay is never mentioned in the books, JKR is notorious for retconning her own stories) or possibly asexual as it seems to me that all of the teachers at Hogwarts are unmarried. To be fair, the main intended audience for the books, preteens, probably couldn’t care less so it’s reasonable not to mention the teachers’ family relationships if there are any. In any case the vast majority of great and less great literature that’s been written probably doesn’t mention homosexuality in any way and that doesn’t necessarily make it anti-LGBTQ+.

      I’m not reading the Robert Galbraith novels or Casual Vacancy again, nor am I going to buy any books JKR publishes in the future. But I’m going to continue enjoying HP, even if it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure.

      But enough about me, I understand that other people feel differently about this and that libraries would do well to find other alternatives. I hope LW1 can get out of participating in the event this year. Like Austin posted above, other libraries have stopped hosting Hogwarts events. Perhaps at least sounding out how others feel about the event might be an option? If there are others who are less than enthusiastic about HP now, it’s just as well to know.

      1. Hapax Legomenon*

        I don’t judge people for continuing to enjoy the books, which have a lot to enjoy within them, but there are problematic elements within them. Others have mentioned the racism(like Cho Change and the Native American cultural appropriation) and there is anti-trans sentiment in the book(like Rita Skeeter being coded as trans).

  8. AnNina*

    LW 3:
    I would add that you should be very casual about offering and if they say it’s fine and offer to pay, let them do that comfortably. So don’t make it a weird over-polite long scene on who is goin to pay. :D

    (Obviously I don’t know if this would be a problem for your context. I feel that whenever I offer to pay, the other person makes it a tedious dance and often wont let me do it. So personally I feel that it’s also rude to decline the offer. But it might be just because I am a youngish woman, or because in my country it’s widely expected that everyone pays for themselves, even in a professional context. (if it’s not strictly a business meeting)

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’d say “You paid last time, let me get it this time,” which acknowledges her actions without making it weird.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Yes, if it’s a regular coffee meeting, why not agree to trade off paying? (I’m assuming it’s just coffee and LW can afford to cover the bill every other time.)

    2. Threeve*

      When it’s obvious that one person is in the role that traditionally pays and will probably insist on doing so, like an advisor paying for a college student, my go to is usually to wait until they make for the bill and go with “oh, you don’t have to” and then “thank you, that’s very kind.”

      (This is what works with my in-laws, who have never once let me and my partner pay for a meal; it took us quite a while to accept that they were never going to let us reciprocate and fighting for the check just got annoying).

    3. Almost PhD*

      I agree that its’ best to be casual about it – don’t make a big scene! Not sure where LW is located, but in the US it’s common within academia for the advisor/faculty/etc will pay for the grad student, especially if it’s at conferences or other work-related events. Many institutions (though not all, obvi) reimburse for these things, so it’s not necessarily a big deal for the person buying.

      Of course, it’s best not to *expect* it, because even a non-grad student may have money woes, but most of the time they will pay. Say thank you, if you’re going out a lot then do offer to pay if you can (and if you can’t pay for both of, suggest to split the bill), and someday you can “pay it forward” someday when you are able.

      I’m just wrapping up my PhD and for much of the time I could rarely treat myself to anything nice, so it was a real bright spot when people did that for me. I’m genuinely excited to be able to do that for students/early-stage professionals in the future!

      1. AnNina*

        Almost PhD: exactly! Whenever it’s possible for me, I LIKE paying the bill and making my friends, relatives, colleagues, dates etc. happy. :)

      2. AwkwardPhD*

        Hi OP3!! Chiming in here to agree with everyone that you do not need to worry about this with your advisor. I finished my PhD 7 years ago, and work with grad students now.

        Professors will genuinely plan to treat if a meeting is organized outside of campus – they factor this in when deciding to meet you off campus at a place where you have to pay to meet.

        Professors who care (and it sounds like yours does!) will feel it is unfair to you if they schedule a meeting where you have to pay to be there with them. They know that because of the power differential, you might feel you can’t say no, and their paying is a way of ensuring that they’re not creating barriers for students above and beyond what it costs to complete a PhD. If a professor is not in a position to treat you, they will take that into account and suggest a public/free place or an online/phone meeting instead. You can certainly be gracious about this and offer to pay gently next time, but there’s no need to feel weird about the money portion and no need to offer to pay.

        Most professors I know not only expect to pay, they delight in being able to pay forward the kindness they were shown (or wish they had been shown) when they were PhD students. As Almost PhD says, the best way to show your gratitude is to remember to extend that kindness back to others when you are in a position to do so.

        That said, in my very awkward PhD moments…. I was known to show up like 30 minutes early for a meeting so that I could pay for my own drink ;) Why, former me, why???

      3. nom de plume*

        OP3, if it makes you feel any better, my advisor had a staunch policy of “never let the grad student pay,” which was a stance I encountered many times at conferences too – senior academics know all too well that PhDs often live on very little.

        Do offer to pay your own share next time, but is your advisor offers to pick up the tab, best to just accept graciously. I promise it’s not a big deal. ;)

      4. lilybeth*

        Agreed. When I was doing my PhD, my advisor always paid for meals/coffee if we met for those. Even if we were meeting in his office, he would make us both a cup of coffee. I haven’t been his advisee for four years now, but when I met up with him at a conference in 2019, he took me and another former advisee at to dinner at a really nice restaurant and still insisted on paying for all of us. Grad students are so much more financially vulnerable that it’s really just the decent thing to do, so I am glad your advisor treats you decently!

  9. Pathfinder Ryder*

    1. JKR has had a long history of bigotry (Cho Chang’s name, only being able to name one Jewish character with no lines, Native American appropriation with the US magic school) so you could also point to those without coming out.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, but to be fair, because those stories are mainly accessible online and in the form of the Grindelwald movies, they’re much less well known than the 7 HP books. They’re also much less child-oriented because while the school is mentioned, the main characters are adults and the events take place in the adult wizarding world.

      The NA appropriation was news to me, but then I don’t know very much about Native American traditions. I bookmarked a few articles to read later.

      1. Helena1*

        Cho Chang and the Patils, the whole “hon-he-hon” je suis le French exoticism stuff, plus all the other problematic depictions of race, were in the original books. And no, I don’t want my (white, English) son growing up thinking that such a weirdly homogeneous and insular attitude is normal.

      2. Ryn*

        The books have an entire race of greedy hook nosed goblin bankers, which is one of the most obvious anti-semitic tropes that exists. Her original books are filled with anti-semitism and bigotry, and the fact that it’s subtle and for children is exactly what makes it so insidious.

      3. Pathfinder Ryder*

        I’m Asian and read the books as a child and already thought something was off with Cho Chang’s name. Only one thing I mentioned is not from the seven HP books.

      4. Kelly*

        I’ve had issues with Rowling’s continued revisionism of Harry Potter canon for a while now. It was one thing when it was her engaging and communicating with fans online, but she’s veered too much into the fanfiction territory with the Cursed Child play and the whole history of magic thing. I’ve also avoided the Fantastic Beasts movies, which seem like a hollow shell of the original series and a blatant cash grab by both Rowling and Warner Brothers.

        She tried writing original fiction that wasn’t HP with the Casual Vacancy and the Coroman Strike books, but they weren’t as successful or well received as the HP books. I didn’t mind the first couple of the Strike books, but the third one showed she really needed a good editor or at least an editor who wasn’t afraid to be critical. I suspect the perceived lack of success that she felt from the more adult orientated fiction led her back to HP again.

        FWIW, the HP books are fairly progressive by the standards of British fantasy novels, especially in comparison to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Both the Narnia books and LoTR and Hobbit are very much of their time and have racist and colonialist portrayals, as well as some notable issues with sexism. Lewis in particular has been criticized for the eventual fate of Susan Pevensie who was excluded from Narnia after hitting puberty and growing into a woman by Rowling, Philip Pullman and Neil Gaiman.

        Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and his recent follow up books might be good alternatives to HP for librarians and parents looking for other well regarded and well written YA fantasy novels. The recent BBC/HBO adaptation is also doing some race blind casting as well.

        1. Helena1*

          But those books were written the best part of a century ago. Being progressive relative to previous generations does not excuse being wildly racist by the standards of your actual contemporaries and audience.

          I’m sure The Bell Curve went a lot less far than 1930s Nazi propaganda, but that does not excuse it.

    2. confused*

      Why is Cho Chang bigoted? It’s a plausible Korean name isn’t it? I’m East Asian and have seen a lot of bigotry, but I don’t see why this is it.

      1. Pathfinder Ryder*

        No, it isn’t a plausible Korean name – both names are family names. It’s also close to that mocking phrase “ching chong”.

      2. Helena1*

        A very common way of racially abusing Chinese and East-Asian people in the UK is to shout “chong chang, chong chang” at them. As an attempt to mimic Cantonese speech. There is no way JKR was not aware of this.

        So for the one Chinese character, she has called her “Chong Chang”, and editor has said “hey wait a minute”, and JKR has shortened it to Cho Chang, in that “plausible deniability but not really” thing she does. It would be like calling your one black character “Negra”, then insisting it had nothing at all to do with the word Negro and was in fact an obscure Ugandan name an how very dare we accuse her of racism.

        You may think that is a reach, but unfortunately we have now had years of watching her do this repeatedly, so she doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt any more.

        1. allathian*

          I’d been wondering what the problem with Cho Chang’s name was, but now I get it. Thanks for the explanation.

    3. Hedwig*

      Absence of Jews isn’t evidence of antisemitism. JKR defended Jews during the onslaught of antisemitism in the run up to the 2019 general election in the UK. Maybe she didn’t see it when she was writing the books but she does now. The first Harry Potter came out in 1997 and I’m sure it would be different if she wrote it today but she can’t change it. The publishers at the time apparently didn’t pick up on Cho Chang’s name being problematic. Reading any book from the 90s is like watching Friends in 2020.

      1. Pathfinder Ryder*

        Asian readers picked up on her name at the time.

        The inability to time travel does not change my advice to the letter writer.

  10. Hapax Legomenon*

    OP1, I feel you on the “the author has ruined the franchise” front. I was all in on the books as a teen, and JKR’s transphobia has so thoroughly soured me on the books that I can’t imagine wanting to read them. My daughter is ten and loves the books to death, and I hate the fact that I can’t share this universe with her anymore. “I can not condone transphobia and participating in this event implicitly condones her statements” is something a cis person could and should say. It’s probably too late to change the theme, but honestly, if I were comfortable speaking up about the event and asking them to back off the Hogwartness in favor of a more general magic universes theme(there are SO MANY good fantasy books out there needing to be read!) I would do that.

    1. Hapax Legomenon*

      Just to clarify about what a cis person could and should say, I meant that I hope standing up against transphobia is not something that “outs” a person as not cis. Everyone should recognize that demonizing trans people is a bad thing.

      1. Lady Heather*

        This reminds me of an experience Dan Savage once recounted. “My thinking was: he could do gay things because he was so straight, and doing gay things only affirmed his straightness But if I did that thing, it would be a gay thing that affirmed I was gay, so I could not do that thing.”
        Or something along those lines.

        OP, I think you can speak up without outing yourself.

  11. Diatryma*

    LW1, the Hogwarts party: if you have the resources, internal and external, you might find some usefulness in an older-kid/teen panel or workshop about what to do when a creator disappoints you, or when you realize a piece of art is problematic but it helped shape your childhood. If the age range your library is targeting includes teens, they may want less slime-making in Potions and more engagement in media and how it affects them. If you don’t have the resources, of course, you are not obligated to lead this, and not obligated to make yourself vulnerable to do so.

    1. Aaron*

      And Dumbledore himself embodies that well, in a sort of meta way. We can learn a lot from someone even if they’re far from perfect.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I would 100% attend this.

      I Love Peter Pan but Yiiiiiiiiiiiikes the Portrayal of Native Americans

      1. BadWolf*

        Indeed, I love the Little House books and learning about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s history, but Pa does a minstrel show in black face (and, of course, the overarching “settling the west” theme). You can’t just skim over that like we used to.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          However, LIW isn’t out there insisting that blackface and manifest destiny are completely awesome and she was victimized by someone who thought otherwise, so it’s easier to use those as teachable “this is what people used to think” moments.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Early on in the pandemic, I started posting videos of myself reading public domain books for kids. Trying to figure out what books to read was so hard, and involved a lot of me going “This one? Oh. Wait. Racism.”

    3. M*

      I think this is a great idea. A way to celebrate the impact that HP had on so many people’s childhoods and relationships, but also recognizing the harmful comments and problematic aspects of the HP universe and JKR. I saw someone else comment here on how they are able to disconnect the art from the artist, and a mediated and respectful conversation of that would be a great way to engage people.

      1. Littorally*

        Agreed. If the OP or the library in general has the resources, a discussion on how to read with awareness for authors’ limitations and how to take value away from a flawed work would be a great way to engage with older kids.

  12. goducks*

    As a parent that recently hired a tutor, personality was equally as important as qualifications. And by personality, I mean gelling with my child. A person can be completely great and professional in every way, but if they don’t click with the student, it is a bad match. There may not be much specific feedback for the agencies to even give, it is entirely possible that the student and the LW are just not compatible for that type of relationship.

    1. Bridget the Elephant*


      The only two pupils I’ve ever ‘fired’ were as a result of personalities not gelling. The first, I couldn’t help. They wouldn’t engage with me at all, and I refused to waste their parent’s money. The second got on too well with me and wanted to treat the sessions just as fun time. They needed a tutor who wasn’t also friends with his parents (we’re still friends). They’re working much better with their new tutor now.

  13. Nia*

    1. It speaks extremely poorly of your library and its decision making staff that they think its still okay to hold HP themed events. At absolute best they’re advertising that they don’t care about discrimination against trans people, at worst they’re advertising they are bigots too. Either way the message is trans people aren’t welcome at your library. If your bosses were reasonable they’ll be willing to hear this and cancel the event.

    1. Random IT person on the internet*

      Or change to a more generic magic & wizzards event?
      I`m not sure if using the HP theme means they pay some royalties or copyright fees – as THAT would directly support the author.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          YES to Diana Wynne Jones! One of my favourite authors growing up, and she has books suitable for all different ages/reading levels.

        2. Emily*

          I absolutely love Diana Wynne Jones, but I have found some racial weirdness in at least one of her books (The Lives of Christopher Chant – there’s some stuff about “noble savages” that didn’t age well). I’m hopeful that if she were writing the same books today, as opposed to in the ’70s/’80s/’90s, she would tread a little more sensitively, but it’s impossible to know for sure! All that to say that I would probably recommend her, but depending on the book would also want to look at certain aspects with a critical eye.

          I would also add Diane Duane, and possibly also Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix if the focus is “fantasy” rather than “wizards” specifically.

          1. Nia*

            I would not theme an event after Tamora Pierce books any more than I would HP. I loved them growing up but she’s a bit too fond of the white savior trope and older men with younger women, including a teacher student relationship.

            1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

              Have you read any of her recent stuff? She’s taken a lot of the criticisms to heart and become, if anything, more aggressively pro-diversity over time, with multiple main characters of color and explicitly queer characters, and she hasn’t done an age gap pairing since Daine/Numair.

              1. Theo*

                And canon trans characters! And a canon trans GOD. I think it’s more important that we see authors evolve than we demand they are perfect from the beginning. If we’re talking diverse characters, she’s always done them; Daine and Numair are both non-white, as are many of the main and side characters from those books onward in the Tortall universe. The Alanna books deserve to have some criticism aimed at them for various reason, but George is like, max four to five years older than Alanna and they were written in the 80s. I also suspect the new Numair books are going to like….. quietly retcon Daine and Numair’s ages even further than she’s already retconned them. She knows she messed up!

                I also highly, highly recommend Diane Duane’s Young Wizards books; she’s an explicitly trans-affirming person and works to take critique to heart. The books are amazing.

                1. Theo*

                  actually, the specific passage just popped into my head; George is max five to six years older, not four to five; but they don’t actually get together until they’re adults. there’s some interactions that have romantic or sexual overtones she wouldn’t write now — but we also HAVE to remember she was writing in that very 80s fantasy style where they took from the medieval belief that it was culturally normal for very young women/girls married much older men. is that great? NOPE. should daine have been older? Y E P But what’s important is the evolution — and it’s what JKR doesn’t have.

                  OP, I agree with all the suggestions of “pitch it as sword & sorcery!!” but as a fellow trans, you don’t have to take this all onto your shoulders just because you’re a directly affected minority. in fact, because you are, that’s a great reason why you shouldn’t. if you have an ally librarian, maybe you could talk to them about taking the duty of Stop Promoting JKR’s Work ASAP.

                2. Nia*

                  Trickster’s Queen came out in 2004. I was 16 and even I knew that book was white savior trash at the time.
                  Look I dont really have a problem with Tamora Pierce herself, she learns, she gets better. But I would never hand her books to a child these days without having a long conversation about them first.

                3. Theo*

                  You’re not wrong, but 2004 was also sixteen years ago! I was also writing some Problematic Things sixteen years ago, and I *am* queer and trans. I would give any child you like the Numair books, which are coming out now, and we can work back from there. It’s good to be able to read books with issues and have a conversation about how the author has evolved and changed, and how they could still evolve and change.

                  The difference here from JKR is that JKR ain’t evolving, she’s actually getting worse. That’s why I’d feel totally fine with handing over Pierce books but not Rowling ones. Requiring perfection is unreasonable; requiring improvement is not.

                4. Nia*

                  Ah there’s where the disconnect is. It never occurred to me you wouldn’t be starting with Alanna. The way I work is that she was the first so I have to start with her. I have to go in order, I can’t bring myself to do anything else.
                  You’re right though she certainly has books that I can recommend without qualms(I haven’t read Numair yet so I can’t speak to it). Those books are just ones it wouldn’t have occurred to me that you could start with.

                5. K.*

                  Her Circle of Magic series is even more diverse if I remember rightly. I haven’t read them in years so there may be problematic things I am forgetting, but they aren’t all white, they aren’t all straight, the characters come from different countries and backgrounds and they are great stories as well.

            2. Emily*

              Fair! I remember liking them when I was younger, but I haven’t read them recently and had forgotten about some of the more questionable elements.

          2. E*

            >(The Lives of Christopher Chant – there’s some stuff about “noble savages” that didn’t age well). I’m hopeful that if she were writing the same books today, as opposed to in the ’70s/’80s/’90s, she would tread a little more sensitively, but it’s impossible to know for sure!

            Interesting! I had always assumed that since it was a prequel to Charmed Life, that she was very deliberately describing the sort of confused impressions of the world that a ten-year-old child in an upper-class house in 1950s England would have heard. In short: that it was supposed to *at the time of publication* to have aged badly.

            1. Emily*

              Oh, interesting! I had never considered that as a possibility. I wonder if it might have also been a little bit of both? (Vague spoilers ahead.) Even if some of the main characters’ language and ideas were intentionally dated, the choice to make the people from the “bad” world be the only black/brown people in the story seems a little unfortunate, in retrospect.

              1. E*

                You’re right, it does say that he has brown skin! I don’t know if the others from that world have the same colour.

                Could definitely be a bit of both, like you said.

        3. yala*

          I’d also be about Diane Duane (So You Want to Be a Wizard) and Bruce Coville (Magic Shop series).

          Probably a good idea to throw in Percy Jackson. And I’m sure there must be some contemporary children’s authors writing good Kids Learn Magic fantasy.

        4. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Or the late Terry Pratchett.
          Wickedly funny, full of literary references to find at a second or third reading, and especially the later books are very anti-racist as well. For example, pretty much every race will have some positive character turning up in the police force – and often in the criminal ranks as well.

      1. Nia*

        I think any generic wizard event would be turned into a defacto HP event by the participants. Better to avoid wizards at all for awhile.

      2. AndersonDarling*

        That was actually my first thought. Just have a “Magic of Reading” event where HP kids can still wear their costumes but you can introduce kids to other books, styles, characters, authors. HP was SO LONG AGO and there are so many other magic/fantasy themed books kids are connecting with, so it’s unfortunate that those non-HP-conforming kids aren’t included in the big event.

      3. Trout 'Waver*

        Even if they rebranded it as a generic event, it would still be obviously a Harry Potter event. The anti-JKR people would still not show up and it would just annoy the Harry Potter fans.

    2. MK*

      I spent a fair amount of time on the internet, and I wasn’t aware of JKR statements till a couple of weeks ago; don’t assume that because something looms large in your experience everyone knows about it.

      Also, separation of the work from its creator is a stance plenty of people, including some of the groups that are attacked by said creator, are taking. It’s a valid choice.

      1. Eleanor*

        You’re right, but people continuing to enjoy the HP books (despite being horrified by JKR’s views) is different from an institution (that should be inclusive to all people) holding an HP-related event. I think that’s just the point the original commenter was making.

        1. MK*

          Fair point. To be frank it feels slightly inappropriate to me that a public institution would hold an event centered on a specific franchise. A more generic fantasy-themed one would be more inclusive, and would do more to encourage children to read lots of different things.

          1. Liane*

            It is very common for libraries to do events related to popular franchises. In my state, the library systems put on many of the smaller (SF/fantasy/comic) cons. I am an officer in the Rebel Legion Star Wars costuming club, & the biggest part of my job (except in 2020) is fielding appearance requests, most of which are from libraries holding Star Wars events like parties, movie nights or cons.

      2. Allonge*

        For your first paragraph: I think that is a fair point, and toghether with the natural inertia around these things (we have done a HP event for the last X years = of course we are doing it now [see also: what pandemic?]), there is a good chance the library management / event organiser would need the “new” issues spelled out to them.

        I don’t think this is necessarily for OP to do! Ideally there would be someone cishet to bring this up. And from the actual questions OP asked, they want to mostly avoid the whole thing, which is completely legit, of course.

        Anyway: OP, if you want to, you could discuss this with a colleague who could be willing to speak up – without outing yourself, if that is your preference. But Alison’s advice is good: there is a really good chance that you will not have to say anything at all.

      3. Nia*

        I wouldn’t expect the average person to know about JKR but a librarian absolutely should be aware. Honestly a librarian should have known for awhile now, JKR has been dogwhistling her terf beliefs for years. Maybe that’s holding librarians to unreasonably high standards, but I thought being well informed was part of the job.

        1. another Hero*

          Yeah this is not new news in book world and while someone might not have heard of it, plenty of the staff in that library are well aware, I’m sure. More conservative leadership might get kind of anti-censorship crusade-y if you suggest the event is inappropriate (tbc, the event *is* inappropriate, and making someone work it is bad, and showcasing different work isn’t censorship, it’s ordinary library activity), but I know plenty of libraries have been steering away from HP programming for a while.

      4. yala*

        “Also, separation of the work from its creator is a stance plenty of people, including some of the groups that are attacked by said creator, are taking. It’s a valid choice.”

        Not when the author is still alive and using their relevance and influence to harm people.

        1. Anonny*

          Yeah, it’s a bit different from, say, Lovecraft, who is very, very dead, and also whose work has been expanded upon and improved by a variety of authors, including those whom he would have hated (Also, Lovecraft can also be considered a genre creator/codifier).

          Rowling is alive, currently spewing bigotry, and whilst her work has a large transformative fandom it hasn’t eclipsed the creator in the same way Cosmic Horror has moved beyond Lovecraft. (On top of that, she didn’t really bring anything new to the Magic School genre – Harry Potter is a phenomenon but not really notable in the history of the genre. Give her a few years to bury herself the way Glinner did and you could probably hold such an event without her work.)

    3. Anon4This*

      I think that this is a bit of a stretch. There are tons and tons of authors (and actors and directors and artists) who were awful people or held awful views and are still celebrated. (Dr. Seuss, for example, supported Japanese internment. Picasso had pretty gross views on women.) Rowling is more current, has chosen to amplify and reiterate her views, and lives in a time where technology spreads such things immediately, but librarians are going to have a tough time with book recommendations and events if every author has to be vetted for moral purity against 21st century standards, lest the library be viewed as holding antipathy towards a group that an author appears to.

      OP can simply decline if she does not want to participate and is under no obligation to explain herself or out herself to do so. Not volunteering for something she is uncomfortable participating in is entirely reasonable. I would have qualms about participating in an HP-themed event right now, too. If enough people decline, it’s going to be a hard event to hold. But I think accusing the event hosts of being bigots (absent other evidence that they are, of course) versus tone deaf and out of touch with entertainment news would be a better starting point.

      1. Nia*

        Dr Suess and Picasso and whoever else you care to mention are all dead. They are no longer profiting off or being given a platform to preach their vile beliefs from their popular works.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Why does it matter? The work of art doesn’t change based on whether the artist is alive or not. Will your views on Harry Potter change after JKR’s death?

          1. Nia*

            No but my opinion of whether or not it is okay to throw a HP themed party will. My concern is giving a platform for JKR to preach from.

            1. YEP*

              JKR already has her platform. So cancelling a HP party is not going to change that. I truly believe people are more upset that they can’t cancel her. There’s tons a literature that’s offensive or the author is problematic, if we cancelled them all we would have nothing.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’d argue the concern is more about celebrating a person who is still today actively issuing bigoted statements, and the message that sends — both to kids the library presumably wants to be inclusive of and to everyone else.

                1. Cornflake*

                  That is exactly the issue. Some people see celebrating her work as the same as celebrating her, while others see the work and the author as separate regardless of if the author is dead or not. The former see the latter as immoral, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s an invalid position to take. After all, as mentioned above, even some trans people make that separation.

                  The response here is interesting to me because I remember reading a debate here on AAM about eating at Chik-fil-a, and a lot of people said that just wasn’t where they were going to pick their battles. And some of those who did pick that battle said they wouldn’t judge someone who didn’t. But with HP, it seems people see this as a battle that *must* be picked, with the implication that anyone or any company who doesn’t abstain from HP is sending a signal in the way that a lunch catered by Chik-fil-a doesn’t.

      2. another Hero*

        I’m assuming you aren’t a librarian? In the field, there are conversations all the time about popular-but-problematic books and authors. There are plenty of librarians who don’t read Dr Seuss in storytime, don’t put Ghost on display, move Little House to the adult section or recommend adult guidance…it’s not about the optics for the library (removing those items from the collection is way more rare) but acknowledging that the library is for everyone, including the people who are not seen as people by those books–and that we have to do more work to make room for, say, trans kids because the canon doesn’t always do that for us.

        (Of course, plenty of librarians are actively opposed to the approach I just laid out. But plenty practice it, too.)

        The issue with a program like this is not about the hosts’ views, it’s about what we’re telling the community about who is welcome.

      3. Joielle*

        I mean, idk if EVERY author needs to be vetted against 21st century standards, but that does seem like a fair standard for those currently alive and publishing new books in this, the 21st century. That’s just… having standards.

    4. Paris Geller*

      I wouldn’t love working a Harry Potter event either, but most likely this event has been planned for months. I can’t fault them for going forward for at least this year (well, I can because of the pandemic, but not because of JKR at the moment). It’s easy to say “cancel the event”, but the library is probably under the purview of certain decision-makers (either the municipality or county that governs it), and if they’re already put any money in it, the decision makers that be probably wouldn’t let even the higher admins cancel, especially since these kind of events tend to draw in numbers and statistics, which are highly important for public libraries to continue functioning, especially in this age of budget cuts.

    5. Alice's Rabbit*

      It doesn’t mean trans people aren’t welcome or anything other than that kids enjoy these books, and they are trying to encourage literacy. Name me one other single franchise with the wide-flung popularity of Harry Potter that appeals to both the pre-teen/teen crowd and their parents.
      Personally, I can’t think of a single one.
      I’m not a big Potter fan, but even I have to admit, that series is a cultural phenomenon, and it’s not going away.

      1. Ominous Adversary*

        It doesn’t mean trans people aren’t welcome

        You might consider listening the LW on the message this sends to trans people.

      2. Anon Trans Person*

        “It doesn’t mean trans people aren’t welcome or anything other than that kids enjoy these books…”

        Giving attention to someone who says I shouldn’t exist is absolutely not welcoming.
        This is a quote from Adam Bates which is going around screencapped.

        “You can say ‘y’all are welcome’, but if wolves and sheep are both welcome then you’re only going to get wolves. The smart sheep will go somewhere else and the naive sheep will be eaten and processed… Refusing to choose is a choice. It’s a choice in favor of the people who prey on others and who refuse to acknowledge the humanity of those they hate.”

        (and as an aside, Star Wars)

  14. Barbara Eyuiche*

    #4 I used to tutor, and have employed tutors. Sometimes it is nothing to do with the tutor really. The parents may no longer be able to afford the classes, but are too embarrassed to say so. The children will need or prefer different teaching methods and styles at different ages. Maybe they just want a different perspective. Sometimes the parents think you are fine, but meet someone they think is better. I took over vacation classes for a friend of mine, and the students’ mother thought I was better and asked me to take over. (I turned it down.) And so on.

    1. UKDancer*

      It’s hard for a child to say why a teacher’s approach doesn’t work. Even as an adult who takes recreational classes it’s taken me a long time to be able to put into words why a particular teacher doesn’t work for me and what my learning style needs. It may be hard to say to a tutor why their approach isn’t working for the child in question.

      One thing I would say is maybe make sure you’re free of body odour, breath smells ok and clothes are clean. Check in with a friend if needed. One time as a child I did change the tutor my parents got in for maths due to the fact they had appalling smelling breath. I couldn’t focus on not sucking at algebra when they were sitting next to me exuding an unpleasant smell. It’s not something people are likely to say to you directly but it’s a reason people might want to try a different teacher.

      1. Julia*

        This. After two years with the same voice teacher, it was time for me to switch things up. I liked my old teacher, but she only ever has one approach to things, and when that doesn’t work for me, we get stuck on the issue forever, and she’ll keep reminding me I’m not good at thing X and Y. As an adult, I should probably tell her that bothers me, but I’m also a teacher and I think it’s her job to figure this stuff out, so I just said I felt down about myself and my progress and wanted to try something new.

        1. UKDancer*

          It’s really difficult to say to a teacher why something bothers you.

          I should also say that it’s really hard telling a teacher you want to stop going to their classes or that you’ve learnt all you can from them especially if it’s a teacher you like.

          I came to a plateau with one of my dance teachers, wanted to try someone else to see what I could learn from them and didn’t know how to say so. So I just stopped going and said something awkward about needing to take a break. Now in hindsight I cringe but I just didn’t know how to say it.

          1. Julia*

            It is awkward, especially since I prepay for a whole month of lessons and had to tell her at the beginning to avoid paying for the next as well, and then keep going to lessons without being able to start anything new.

            As I said, I teach myself (and try to find a different approach if my student doesn’t get what I’m saying..), but if a student outgrows me, it means I’ve done my job well.

  15. Humanities Professor*

    OP#3, I’m just here to add that in academia, it is the norm for advisors and other supervising faculty to pay for lunches or coffees with their PhD students. This is because faculty who are supervising PhD students are usually tenured and being paid decent salaries, and PhD students are usually living on less-than-decent stipends. I honestly cannot think of any of my colleagues who would allow their doctoral students to pick up a check at a restaurant or coffee shop.

    But I do have one caveat: I am in the humanities, and I can only speak to that area in academia. I do know that grad students in the sciences are usually awarded higher stipends than their counterparts in the humanities, so practices may differ in those disciplines. And I have no knowledge whatsoever of practices in professional master’s-level programs, like business.

    1. Eleanor*

      +1 I did my PhD in the sciences, and despite having external funding, my “salary” was still laughably low and my supervisor always paid for the meal/coffee/etc.

      Of course, this was also not a regular thing because we weren’t forced to meet off campus, but I think it still stands. If you feel particularly uncomfortable about it, maybe try finding times to meet where just getting coffee would be appropriate instead of lunch every time? But generally, professors are in a much more financially stable position than grad students and should not expect them to foot the bill.

      1. PhD in Civil(ity)*

        OP3 here!

        “I did my PhD in the sciences, and despite having external funding, my “salary” was still laughably low” <– same.

        I also realized in the letter it sounded like we might only be meeting IRL and at lunches! We've actually been meeting remotely or in an IRL walk around the block all summer I think she was just doing rounds of checking in on all her grad students. Definitely would not want to turn COVID into a weekly lunch situation

    2. Beth*

      I was coming down to say the same thing. I’m a PhD student right now, and would be pretty thrown if my advisor ever expected me to cover lunch or coffee or whatever. Meeting with your advisor is not the same thing as a meeting with a random person (e.g. an informational interview). They’re not doing you a favor by meeting; that’s their job in regards to you, and it would be really weird for them to expect you to ‘gift’ them the cost of a coffee or meal in return for doing it. And everyone in academia knows that grad student funding is scraping the bottom of ‘livable’; a tenured professor, who will have a much higher income, expecting a grad student to cover much of anything is weird.

      Yes, Covid may mean that meeting on campus is off limits, and yes, meeting off campus may come with costs. I’m going to bet that once you settle in and are a bit more familiar with each other, you may find that you end up meeting over zoom more often than not; it might be less necessary to meet in person once you’re less new. But for as long as your advisor does want to keep meeting off-campus in person, I think you can expect that they’ll usually cover costs. At most, you might buy your own coffee sometimes.

      1. Reba*

        Strongly agree! This situation is an exception to my general advice about graduate school, which is that you should try to act more like a junior colleague than a student. Meeting with students is not a favor that the advisor is doing, it is their job. (Ideally, they like doing it, too.)

        When you are a graduate student, you have like, less than no money! And everyone knows that, and this is a way that faculty can show you a little support. OP, even if you don’t develop a particularly close relationship with the advisor, you are going to meet with them many times, so please lay this concern to rest and don’t let it hang over every meeting!

        I took my advisers out for lunch after my defense… that was the only time I paid for their meals/coffees/whatever.

        1. PhD in Civil(ity)*

          OP here! I think I just needed someone to help me put this to rest! I’m very lucky that I’ve gotten to develop a relationship with her over the last couple years (I some small stuff with her in my undergrad) and feel very comfortable with her overall just sometimes etiquette confuses me

          1. Reba*

            Yeah, it’s definitely a unique relationship/situation. And academia is such a weird little world! I’m glad you have someone that you get along with. Good luck with the semester!

    3. Hannah*

      Yep, seconding this! And, also, I’m not sure how it is in other countries/universities, but where I work (academia admin), supervisors have specific budgets for things like this, so they can get reimbursed by the university :)

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      Another voice to add to the general tenor, which, to me, could be paraphrased as “while there is no 100% written in stone rule, it is more than normal for a grad student advisor to pick up the tab for a lunch meeting”. This is somewhat modulated by whether this is in a department where grad students have solid support vs. an impoverished one, the local cost of living and the overall situation of the student (eg. I was an older grad student married to a professional with most of the time a good salary, so I was able to live somewhat above the average grad student standard of living).

      Also, if the lunch meeting is, say, at a place where the student (and maybe the prof) would usually expect to have lunch (eg. campus cafeteria or off-campus student-y café), it’s not as clear-cut and both may proceed how they would feed themselves if there was no meeting. (Occasionally an advisor may be deceived by the student-y appearance of a café and not have the reflex to pay even though sandwiches may be fairly expensive and the student may not have spent the money without the meeting — advisors are not perfect and can miss social cues like anyone, even they shouldn’t miss this one.)

      1. BethDH*

        Also let’s add in whether the prof is tenured (or at least TT) or not. Usually someone who is the primary advisor of a grad student would be, but I’ve been in enough unofficial advising situations as an adjunct that this isn’t always true. And students who are not totally familiar with the norms of academia might not notice/know how different that makes it. As an adjunct I got paid anything from 2500-5000 per class per semester — meaning that teaching a 3 class workload sometimes paid me less than when I was a grad student on the standard humanities stipend.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          In my corner of academia I’m aware of quite a variety of non-tenure-track arrangements. When it comes to supervising PhD students, research faculty come in heavily. In our institution they are full-time, full-benefit, non-tenure-track. (That is, their status is in many ways similar to staff, plus faculty status, ie they can submit grant applications and participate in some, though not all, committees that deal with academic matters.) Their salary ranges are comparable to tenure-track or tenured faculty (ie the base salary for a Research Associate Professor is the same as for an Associate Professor, the latter being tenured and the former not.) So they’re good for paying for lunch.

          Some research faculty may actually work for a government agency or research institution and only hold a nominal or very minor affiliate appointment with an academic department for the specific purpose of being able to advise students. They may not be drawing any part of their salary from the professor title! (Or maybe have a 10% appointment, usually counterbalanced by their agency appointment being reduced to 90%, ie, there is no or only a very minor pecuniary advantage to the academic appointment).

          Then there are full and part-time teaching focussed term professors, clinical professors etc., all of whom are non-tenure-track but get benefits and can apply for grants and engage in leadership activities, and are therefore a cut above adjuncts. But the opay

          As for adjunct, yes, when I was adjunct teaching I was paid about the same as my teaching assistant (who however had to TA a second class so it could be said that my one class paid half as much as a TA-ship… and of course the TA had their tuition waived, which however shouldn’t count as a benefit to them comparable to salary). Neither of us got significant benefits.

          Bottom line: If the advisor is part of the academics with a precarious appointment the advisee should be aware of this as there may be repercussions for the advisee’s status in the department. And lunch may not be expected in this case. On the other hand there is a large variety of non-tenure-track professors who nonetheless are perfectly able to pay for lunch.

    5. Someone Else*

      Yep, another academic question best (correctly) answered elsewhere.
      Your advisor always pays.
      They probably have a budget, and in the sciences almost certainly have a startup that is meant to pay for exactly this kind of thing.

      1. Prof*

        Yeah this was definitely not my experience in academia. I’m a bit envious.

        Heck, when there were a limited amount of free meal spots with a visiting speaker, you’d better believe those higher up/better paid professors all made sure they had one of those slots. Yeah my grad school sucked…

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        Well, the advisor pays, but I’ve never seen anyone having a departmental or institutional budget for paying for lunches or occasional muffins. On the contrary, most places have problems even finding a funding pot for coffee/snacks for invited seminars. So people should expect it to come out of the professor’s pocket, which, in a large majority of cases, is perfectly ok.

      3. Paulina*

        I’m in the sciences and have neither a budget or a startup to pay for treating my students. I’d still definitely do it for a lunch meeting, especially a meeting that I suggested be lunch. I might expect the student to pay for themselves only if they’d suggested the meal themselves, but might offer anyway. As far as I know, faculty treating grad students is common and passed down from academic generation to academic generation.

    6. Gene Parmesan*

      Chiming in here to add that I would 100% expect any PhD adviser to pay for coffee or lunch in these types of meetings. (I completed my PhD in a social science field.)

    7. Beckie*

      Grad student stipends are often higher in science/engineering than in arts/humanities (unless the grad students are unionized), but the faculty salaries are also often higher in science/engineering. So even in science/engineering (my background), a faculty member would never expect a grad student to cover coffee, let alone lunch.

    8. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      I work at a midwest R1 (very high research rating) — although not one of the better known ones. The highest PhD stipends come from our college of medicine (lots of grant funding), but even so, the highest stipends I see are $35K/year. And that’s the absolute top, $27K/year seems to be a pretty typical annual stipend for a first year college of medicine doctoral student. Tenured professors make SO MUCH MORE than their grad students in every single program.
      As to the master’s students, most master’s students don’t get stipends at all. While stipends for master’s students are fairly common in research-based programs, in professional programs, there’s often not much funding to go around. Also, some programs provide stipends for only a 10 hour per week workload, rather than the “full” 20 hour per week workload. So, even for the master’s students who do get a stipend, it may be as little as $5K/year (the year being fall and spring, with no summer support).

  16. Caroline Bowman*

    OP 1, I get completely that there is an unspoken expectation that because you have usually volunteered for events before, that you will again, so the best way to handle it is to say ”I won’t be available for this event, just FYI”. You need not provide a reason, and a lecture on the author’s views is not necessary.

    Many authors, MANY authors, actors, people of all kinds who are well-known and to some extent famous do all sorts of awful, awful things in their personal lives, with their personal views. Either it’s a deal-breaker or it’s not for you personally, and since it is, you can quite happily simply decline to volunteer.

    1. AGD*

      It’s one thing if you have to go out of your way and be an extreme superfan to know what an author thinks of trans people. It’s quite another if they, like Rowling, go out of their way to publish words in the public sphere to push inaccurate, horrible, fearmongering misconceptions about a minority group that already suffers so much violence, abuse, homelessness, etc.

      1. Mookie*

        Her actual work makes her views clear. A mere reader, no super fan, will note which characters she depicts as trans and how hateful and godawful those depictions are.

        1. JSPA*

          There’s a long tradition in plain old sexism of mocking people for being behaviorally or physically nonconforming, or overly – behaviorally compensating for being physically nonconforming.

          Additionally, negative stereotypes draw from a limited pool of physical signifiers, and as we become more aware of how those details demonstrate (and further empower) biases against (perfectly nice) real human beings, that pool narrows.

          The “manish yet giggly” woman and the effete man are negative tropes that have existed in adult and children’s literature for a very long time, and were still in common use when the books were written.

          It’s absolutely possible for even a gender – aware and supportive reader to read the books in that recent historical context. It will do OP no good at all to presume ill – will (or come in like a ton of bricks) because they’re assuming otherwise.

          1. Aquawoman*

            Equating standing up for a marginalized group with presuming ill will and coming in like a ton of bricks is the kind of tone policing that people have used to silence marginalized groups forever. It’s completely possible to assert a belief without assuming ill will OR being heavy handed or lecture-y about it.

            1. JSPA*

              Uh, nesting matters.

              I am responding very specifically to,

              “A mere reader, no super fan, will note which characters she depicts as trans and how hateful and godawful those depictions are.”

              It is absolutely possible for someone to read the books themselves, and not see any of the characters as “coded” trans people who are being mocked via godawful depictions.

              Some people who were not even born when the characters were written seem completely sure that specific characters are intended to “read” as trans, totally ignoring the vast upwelling of trans awareness between those days, and now.

              It’s 100% fine to slag Rowling for the TERF attitudes she expresses and promotes. Or to say that she’s become a symbol of intolerance, and that celebrating her bothers a wide range of people.

              It’s not fine to assert that nobody could read the books without

              a) recognizing trans characters as such and
              b) recognizing that those trans people are being mocked for being trans.

              Plenty of people, apparently including OP themselves, didn’t read the characterizations that way, at the time.

              Writing Rita Skeeter didn’t make Rowling a blatant anti-trans bigot; being a blatant anti-trans bigot made Rowling a blatant anti-trans bigot.

              1. Mookie*

                She mentions an adam’s apple and uses the word “pre-op” and warns a trans woman of the dangers of prison rape. Why are you suggesting these can be misinterpreted?

          2. Paperwhite*

            Is it still an ‘assumption’ when the author flat-out stated these views?

            I think dismissing OP’s objections as “presum[ing] ill-will/com[ing] in like a ton of bricks” is actively unhelpful to the OP, as well as globally unhelpful to marginalized people as Aquawoman pointed out.

          3. Joielle*

            Wow, if the suggested language is “coming in like a ton of bricks” then I’m a truly heinous asshole, because I think it is QUITE mild (which is appropriate, for a work context). It’s not “presuming ill will” to state your own personal level of discomfort with a problematic author.

            1. JSPA*

              Again: nesting matters.

              Uh, nesting matters.

              I am responding very specifically to,

              “A mere reader, no super fan, will note which characters she depicts as trans and how hateful and godawful those depictions are.”

              If that were true, none of us would have been fans.

              On race, she was ham-handed and I was occasionally eye-roll-y, but she was not “hateful” nor “godawful.” She did her level best, which wasn’t great.

              On gender, she too often went with the easy tropes of the genre. She also signaled class by incorporating a higher level of gender conventionality for people of lower economic status, which is…also something worth questioning, but also not an unusual choice.

              But, “it is impossible to read the books without knowing she’s not just passively conventional, but actively biggoted?”

              That’s just not so.

              That’s why so many people were shocked when she started blowing up Twitter with anti-trans comments.

              And it’s rude and dismissive of everyone who ever was a fan, to go in acting otherwise.

          4. Mookie*

            were still in common use when the books were written.

            One of the novels in question, the Silkworm, was published in 2014 and another is this year.

            1. JSPA*

              That is not part of the Harry Potter books. A “casual” reader of Harry Potter ≠ someone who seeks out her pseudonymous works set in a different universe.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Gently pushing back on this. Many readers are surface readers only or reading from a position of privilege (as I was as a white cishet child/teen in the 90s) and would not pick up on those things. This *is not* an attempt to excuse her views and depictions, merely saying that there were and will be readers who are genuinely ignorant of this if all they’re doing is reading the book.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. It’s over 10 years since I read the books and I didn’t pick up on the subtext at the time, also being a white cishet teenager. I couldn’t tell you know without re-reading the books as an adult (which I don’t want to do) which characters were being portrayed as Trans because it didn’t occur to me at the time to notice. The lack of BAME characters in key roles was a lot more noticeable to me though at the time.

            On the other hand her public pronouncements have made her views clear to me now as an adult who is more aware of these things.

            1. Myrin*

              Yeah, I was sixteen when the last book came out and haven’t read any of them since; I liked them well enough at the time and was fascinated by much of the worldbuilding but they weren’t a huge favourite or had any lasting impact on me. And I have no recollection whatsoever of any character being depicted (or even coded) as trans, and I would imagine a lot of people (especially my age or younger) feel that way.

            2. TL -*

              Yeah, I read them as a child and re-listened to them in 2016 as a mid-twenties adult much more aware of LGBTQ+ issues and definitely didn’t pick up on any trans*-coding (the overarching whiteness, yes to varying extents both times, but in a more “oh a lot of books are like this” way.)

        3. E*

          There are trans characters in HP? I used to spend a lot of time in the fanfic world of HP where we discussed queer undertones ALL THE TIME, yet I don’t remember any essaying on a person being trans.

          There’s a minor trans character in one of the Robert Galbraith books that came out a couple of years ago, now that I come to think of it, but that’s all I recall.

          1. c-*

            No, there are no in-text LGBT+ characters in HP. I think Mookie is referring to the portrayal of characters like Rita Skeeter (very fabulous femme aesthethic, commonly but not exclusively associated with drag queens) or Millicent Bullstrode (very butch aesthethic). With the exception of Dumbledore, every queer-coded character in HP I can recall is portrayed as a petty villain.

            Queer-coding as a way to portray a villain is problematic, but was very common in children media in the 90s (lookin’ atcha, Disney) and is still unfortunately common today.

            1. RadManCF*

              So, I always thought that Rita Skeeter was a commentary on British tabloid journalism. At least that’s what I took away from the character as a young teenager.

              1. c-*

                Perfectly valid reading as well. In my opinion the text supports seeing her as a super-feminine (in a tacky, shallow way) absolutely cis woman, but given the author’s transphobic comments, I don’t blame anyone reading her description as stereotypical trans-coding. Readers build meaning out of not only text, but also personal experience and available context, and unfortunately if you’re aware of the author’s comments, that’s likely to colour your reading of the text.

                You know, like in The Witches by Roald Dahl? If you are Jewish or know that he was antisemitic, you’re much more likely to interpret his description of the witches as an antisemitic portrayal (i.e.: wigs over bald heads), while if you don’t have that context it’ll probably go over your head. Yet the text supports both readings.

              2. JSPA*

                Yes; she’s an Anne Coulter-esque character. It’s hard to write a woman who’s aggressively over-the-top in a media career and who’s also aggressively dressed to the nines, without overlapping with drag (because drag’s also almost always an intentionally over-the-top, in-your-face art form). And that, in turn, through conflation, can get read as “trans” (though dang, if you consider yourself a trans supporter, and you conflate drag and being trans, you’re…kinda-maybe-well-actually-certainly-(sorry)-not-helping.)

                1. c-*

                  Yes, I know the difference between trans people and drag performers. Bigots, however, do conflate them (they often don’t know the differences between trans people, gay people, and drag monarchs, either).

                  Problematic representations get written by bigots, though, who often equate trans women with drag queens. It’s obviously wrong, but it shows up in general media and also in this specific case; that’s why I mentioned it.

              1. JSPA*

                Again, that’s been classic garden variety sexism since before Christine Jorgensen, before Wendy Carlos, before trans awareness was any sort of a cultural thing.

                “Mannish,” in that sense, dates to the 14th century. Mocking mannish women, viragos, ball-busters and termagants is a staple of at least 6 centuries of literature. None of those terms are primarily a response to actual, lived trans identities.

                OP is in library science. OP and OP’s boss have this context. Having this context is part of what OP’s job requires. Random people on the web can make half-assed assertions about how language and literature work, and what words “obviously” mean, without it reflecting on their jobs. In contrast, OP is rightly held to a higher level of understanding.

  17. Another Slytherclaw*

    LW 1: My library has been hosting Harry Potter-themed events for several years and they were always very popular.

    However, in planning a virtual event for this past summer, many of those involved -myself included – expressed that they were uncomfortable if not outright angry about JKR’s statements regarding the trans community. Most of us are vocal Allies of the LGBTQ+ community (or possibly LGBTQ+ but not out).

    In our advertising for the event, we included a disclaimer that said something like “The views of the author do not reflect the views and values of [Library name]. ALL are welcome at the library.”

    We strongly believe libraries are for everyone and we want to make sure all of our programming and the language surrounding them reflects this. That being said, it’s hard to say if we’ll ever host another HP-related event again.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think that is a step in the right direction but can read as paying lip-service without addressing the underlying issues. I think if your library chose to do a fantasy / magical story themed event that included HP as well as other books / writers then having that disclaimer would be appropriate (JKR isn’t the only writer with problematic personal views or actions) but I think if you still do a HP themed event then I am not sure that a disclaimer is going to make people who are the targets of bigotry feel safe and welcome.

      I appreciate that you don’t have the final say on whether your library does a HP themed event

      1. Nia*

        Yeah this. By hosting HP events you help keep the brand relevant. And keeping the brand relevant keeps JKR relavent and gives her a bigger platform to spread her vile beliefs. All the disclaimers in the world don’t change that.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      The LW should certainly not be available. It would be nice if the LW was willing and able to articulate why HP has become problematic so her library can consider different programming. Many people who are not trans, NB, gender queer are ready to wash their hands of JKR and no longer support the HP universe so I don’t think taking that stance outs yourself as trans or gender queer. But I understand it is emotional and sad to leave something you love behind so maybe you’re not ready to speak of it at work.

      I’m not sure sure that the idea to switch to an alternate universes party celebrating another franchise is nearly as big a draw. I am not a HP fan. I have never read the book. I saw the first movie, did not enjoy, and never saw another. And yet, I know so dang much about Harry Potter. I know the characters, I vaguely understand the plot arc, what Quidditch is, and know when people are using a Harry Potter house to describe their personality even if I don’t understand what the houses mean. It has infused culture so that kids too you to read the books or watch the movies still understand more about Harry Potter than I do. The only other franchise like that is Star Wars.

      Alternate programming will take some work and if the library has been doing this for years, then it’s just really easy to recycle to popular programming. But also, COVID??? I don’t think there should be any public gatherings like that in October purely for pandemic reason.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I am not a HP fan. I have never read the book. I saw the first movie, did not enjoy, and never saw another. And yet, I know so dang much about Harry Potter. I know the characters, I vaguely understand the plot arc, what Quidditch is, and know when people are using a Harry Potter house to describe their personality even if I don’t understand what the houses mean.

        LOL, exactly the same here.

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          Glad I’m not the only one. Except I didn’t even see the first movie. I’ve just never been into fantasy to begin with.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I only watched it because my young (at the time) daughter wanted to watch it. I’m very into fantasy, but not into HP, for whatever reason.

    3. FuzzFrogs*

      One of the branches of my library system is going into its fourth year hosting a wildly popular “[Branch] School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” that runs throughout the school year. I’m not sure what the exact plan is for moving forward with it. I did, however, hear about an interesting suggestion a patron had, which was to re-name the houses after real-world “magical” historical figures, and to otherwise sort of rename things so that it’s more officially unofficial. It felt like an interesting compromise on continuing to hold a popular event while clearly distancing it from JKR’s brand.

      I don’t think that’s the best or only solution for public libraries, but I do think the question of how best to “break up” with JKR is more complicated, for us.

    4. yala*

      “The views of the author do not reflect the views and values of [Library name]. ALL are welcome at the library.”

      I saw something recently and I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but the overall thing was…if you’re welcoming marginalized people AND bigots…then you’re really only welcoming bigots, because you’re making a space where marginalized people can’t feel safe.

      Essentially, that statement sounds performative for Woke Cis folks to nod approvingly at, but not really something that indicates safety or respect to trans kids.

      1. Another Slytherclaw*

        I’m not saying that this was the right or the best way to phrase it or even the best way to address JKR’s bigotry. I’m just sharing what my library did.

  18. Lisa Large*

    Best to learn not to put anyone on a pedestal, we all have feet of clay. Read everything with a ‘grain of salt’. Years ago, daughter had to do a high school paper on favorite child’s author. She picked Theodor Geisel cause our family loved his books, she was so disillusioned when she read about his real life. We still enjoy The Cat in the Hat and The Grinch, but we taught our grandkids the truth about the author. We chose to not participate in events that celebrate his ‘life’.

    1. Anon234*

      I would completely agree with this.

      All heroes are eventually shown to have flaws with can go against our own morals. I’ve decided to separate the art from the artist and simply point out to my kids where the artists think diverges from my own, or the views or different groups. We’ve enjoyed books by Enid Blyton (racist and deeply sexist… but the sexism is hilarious and my kids do parodies of the books), Dr Seuss ( terrible to his wife) … the list goes on. Even Jane Austen and Charles Dickens have views which are problematic..
      OP- you must do what your conscience tells you. Alisons script is good.

      1. L*

        (What problematic views do Jane Austen have? I haven’t heard of that before. Besides that it is insinuated in one of the novels that the bad guys are rich because of slavery, I don’t remember which one…)

        1. Anon234*

          I think that the whiteness of the novels, undercurrents of slave money (looking at you nice Mr Bingley) and a few other problems have been examined by academics.
          To be honest, if you type in any authors name with ‘problematic’ something offensive you’d rather not know about them. George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, George RR Martin- all have problematic views and/or tropes in literature.

          This is why I’m going for a neutral ‘love the art, side-eye (at most) the artist approach to all works of art, including songs, painting etc. That’s off topic a bit… but what I’d say to the OP is I wouldn’t go to a workshop about Bret Easton Ellis, but I wouldn’t try and stop it either. Willing to be told that’s the wring stance.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Jane Austin lived in 18th and early 19th century England, in smaller towns (not London), and wrote from personal observation, which was just not likely to have included a diverse social group. Maybe it’s easy to forget that from the 21st century where an author might take pains to add a few minority characters, but that’s a bit much to ask of someone for whom it was simply not a reality and who would have had essentially no opportunity to know any. That should be presented as context, yes, but it doesn’t need to be considered “problematic”. I think it would be more problematic if she had attempted to write something she didn’t know well.

          2. Cheese Cheese Cheese CHEESE*

            Austen was actually quite radical for her time, particularly in her views on women’s role and rights. There’s an excellent book called Jane Austen, The Secret Radical which I’d highly recommend for a fresh look at the novels.

            1. bluephone*

              Yeah, if you asked me to pick a problematic literary figure, Jane Austen would definitely not even be in the top….1000 probably. Good lord, people.

          3. Victoria*

            Jane Austen satirized a lot of norms around social class, and some academics think the references to money from slavery (which are incredibly subtle by today’s standards) might themselves be satire about the fact that people get rich through slavery and they are too removed in their country houses to conceive of the horrors. It’s not as heavy-handed as writing on the subject that comes in later eras, but Austen’s subtle satire was finely honed.

        2. UKDancer*

          I think Jane Austen is a product of her era so it’s harder to judge by modern standards (unlike JKR who is writing now). She’s writing from the perspective of an 19th century vicar’s daughter. My understanding is that her sympathies were with the abolitionists. That said it is likely some of the middle and upper class people featured in the books may have made money in the slave trade. Her novels are very white and have no black characters but then that’s not surprising given the life she led and the fact that Chawton was unlikely to be ethnically diverse at the time.

          On the other hand she’s pretty good on explaining why women’s lives were difficult, constrained and how society judges them in a way that’s sadly familiar to a lot of women today.

          I think if you’re reading something like Austen you have to accept she was writing in the 19th century and we’re in the 21st. So her views are bound to be out of synch with ours in some ways. Whether that makes it a problem to read her depends, of course, on the reader.

        3. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Mansfield Park is the one with the most explicit tie to slavery, though I don’t remember “slavery” ever being mentioned. Sir Bertram has an estate in Antigua that he visits during the latter half of the book, and at the time if you had an estate in Antigua you had slaves (though the book may have been set after the abolition of slavery by the British, but as we all know just because it’s abolished doesn’t make everything sunshine and rainbows).

      2. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        I find it oddly reassuring myself that people who are so very flawed can create such beautiful things that enrich our lives. Same with our slaveholding founding fathers and other historical figures who both did awful things and changed the world for the better. If they need not be perfect and yet create good, we need not be perfect either to do likewise.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          No one is perfect. And trying to judge persons in the past by the moral standards of today is not only disingenuous, but sets us up for being judged just as harshly by future generations.

          1. AK*

            Well then it’s also disingenuous to pretend that the people who’s stories were listened to were the only standards in the past. Marginalized communities existed back then too, and very well might have had other opinions had anyone bothered to listen, or had it been safe for them to express themselves. It’s also assuming kids magically have that historical context, which they often don’t. And as for being judged harshly by future generations? Bring it on! May future progress not be held back by my fragile and dead (or even not dead yet) ego.

      3. Alice's Rabbit*

        Yup. Some authors are bad enough that I simply cannot read their work anymore (pedophiles like Marion Zimmer Bradley, whose books are rife with grooming and child rape) because their beliefs are so present in their work, there’s no missing it.
        But the Harry Potter series itself is fairly benign. And it’s a cultural phenomenon that has captured the public like no other book series in our lifetime. Nothing else even comes close (and I say this as someone who is not a huge Potter fan). So nothing else is going to displace it until someone writes something just as engaging and accessible.

      1. Anon234*

        Again, I go neutral on his books because of this

        And for sure I agree that Jane Austen is a product of her time. I guess even watching Friends today shows that in very recent times that we were all accepting of problematic views.
        I see JK Rowling now as something to be pondered upon with regards to defining hate speech, cancellation, free speech, etc. It’s a subject which I alter my opinion on with every other viewpoint I hear. I’d fully agree that the OP should follow her own beliefs in this fraught topic.

        1. Been There*

          JKR has not really been cancelled, though, as she is publishing a new book with a major publishing house.

      2. UKDancer*

        Dahl is an interesting one. I loved his books as a child, the gruesome deaths of Aunt Sponge and Spiker, the Twits and the things they did to each other and his revolting rhymes. My grandmother thought they were completely inappropriate which only made me love them more.

        As an adult on the other hand I think the sort of mind that can conjure things like that probably indicates he wasn’t a very nice person and I can’t read his short stories for adults because they give me the creeps to much. This was all before I learnt about his anti semitic views which were by no means a secret and were repugnant to read.

        Yet his writing to explain the death of his daughter from measles and beg people to vaccinate their children moves me every time I read it.

        So I am unsure.

        1. Anon234*

          I’m hoping I’m not detailing anything here but I think you’ve summed it up there UK Dancer.
          That piece Dahl wrote on measles is just so heartbreaking and important. Some of his other work is deeply problematic. I guess this is why I’ve decided I’ve to separate art from the artist. I speak as someone who is Deaf and my community been the brunt of so many horrible things over the years across all platforms so I’ve a lot of sympathy with other marginalized groups and representation.

          1. Littorally*

            The problem with saying that you’ve just decided to separate them is that this blinds you to the bad stuff that’s slipped in there. Creations are not isolated from their creators.

            It’s better, IMO, to engage thoughtfully. Read Harry Potter! But read it with your eyes open to JKR’s racism, transphobia, and other bigotries.

            1. Anon234*

              No. I’m surprised you have read it that way.
              I said I have separated the art from the artist. I still analyze literature through the lens of the values of the time, the lens of current values and the morals of what may be future offenses.
              You can ask my children how much I bore them with pointing out sexist, racist, ableist parts of literature (thanks to my sociology/English lit degree studied as an adult), but I analyze all art through multiple lenses and make my own jugement accordingly.
              For example, the use of Gary Glitter music in the recent Joker movie was fascinating to me and set my mind churning for days about the rights and wrongs of that decision, especially as I’m also a survivor of childhood abuse. However, I came to the conclusion that that song shouldn’t not have been played.

              I think what I’m saying is I analyze things way too much and the more I do, the less certainty I hold about anything.

              Again, sorry if derailing.

              1. Hedwig*

                Gary Glitter’s music was used in a recent film?! I’m amazed anyone could think that was a good idea. He was sentenced to prison for 16 years. He’s still in prison! I feel they could have picked any other song by any other artist to make their point rather than use music by an actual monster.

                I like your approach Anon234, I wish there was more critical thinking going on.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I grew up reading and really enjoying Dahl, and later of course learned of his terrible anti-Semitic views. I think it’s a good example that people can be messy. He can have redeeming qualities and also horrific ones. My uncle is funny, warm, intelligent, a great writer and a killer Scrabble player who gave a very moving eulogy at my grandmother’s funeral. He’s also racist, homophobic, incredibly anti-Semitic and deeply into bananas conspiracy theories. I don’t talk to him anymore but that doesn’t negate my positive childhood memories of him.

      3. AGD*

        Growing up in a Jewish family, I got a gentle but upfront “just so you know” from my parents before ever reading any of his stuff.

        1. UKDancer*

          That sounds very sensible. My mother gave me something similar about the sexism and religious undertones in CS Lewis which was helpful to me as a child who didn’t see why battle was ugly when women fight (one of his views).

          I don’t think she knew about Dahl’s anti-semitisim at the time because she never gave me any warnings about his work that I can recall. One of the things I think we forget now is how much less easy it was to find information on these things pre-internet.

  19. Rebecca*

    OP#4 – I am a tutor and have been for a while. I have a few students with whom I have a great relationship and longevity, but my bread and butter comes from people who are way more transient.

    Most of the time, it has absolutely nothing to do with me. Many, many times, parents are buying something that ISN’T my teaching skill. They want to outsource homework help but then find someone cheaper or free (like grandma). Kid doesn’t like working hard so says they don’t like me, and parents are paying for convenience, which a whiny kid is not. Parents think that paying a tutor will make all the problems go away – if they get a tutor, their kid will get As or that an hour a week will make their kid fluent in English – and when they don’t, figure it’s because I’m not tutoring right and the next tutor will be the magic convenience button. Parents wanted to be able to say they had a tutor to keep up with the Jones’s, check a box of what ‘good parenting’ must be, or because their school suggested it and they had to try for a while before saying they didn’t want it. Their kid started doing better and they realized they could take it out of their budget. They had a free block of time they figured they could fill with tutoring and now they don’t have that free block of time anymore. I had a family fire me recently because a spot opened up in a sailing class at the same time and sailing is way cooler than reading.

    Exactly zero of that has to do with me, my personality, or my skills. It’s just the way the job works, unfortunately.

  20. ACM*

    For LW4 (who I see is attracting a lot of similar comments!), as someone who frequently tutors myself, I think one useful thing would to be not calling it “fired” – those students/parents aren’t your boss, they’re your clients. I suspect using the word “fired” even in your own head might heighten your feelings around this as it’s a pretty inflammatory* word. Maybe you’re losing students (and if I were you I’d want to get to the bottom of it too, although I agree with many many other posters that there might not be anything particularly illuminating to find), but you’re not being fired by them. And it might help you in general to reframe your work away from a boss-employee relationship (which has a MASSIVE power differential) to a client-service provider one (which has a more complex power balance).

    1. NYWeasel*

      Building on this suggestion, do you set clear objectives and expectations with your clients? I hired a dog trainer, and prepared a clear list of objectives for the training. Much of our first session was spent reviewing the list together, but it allowed us to come to an understanding of what was realistic and achievable, and it gave us clear metrics for when she could say “we’ve met your goals”. Sometimes having a clear set of goals that you can periodically review with your client helps reinforce the progress that’s being made.

    2. Colette*

      I think, too, that it would be good to think back on whether you heard minor complaints from those clients – particularly those you didn’t think were relevant or important. Sometimes people downplay issues because conflict is hard – you may have received warnings you disregarded.

  21. MistOrMister*

    Re OP1, I think Alison’s advice is spot on. It’s possible that by not responding to the email asking for help that it won’t even be brought up. But if it is, I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with saying you aren’t interested due to her recent comments. I am a cis woman and would say the same thing. There has been so much focus on transgender rights and so much more knowledge of how really fluid gender identity can be in the past few years that many people are disgusted by the things JK Rowling is saying and wouldn’t want to be affiliated with a HP event.

  22. No Longer Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    LW#4, i dont think it’s impossible that they are telling you the truth. Learning is so individual, and teaching styles sometimes just don’t match. It might not be anything major you’ve done wrong, just a natural progression.

  23. midnightcat*

    #5 It’s also worth being aware that universities aren’t particularly stable right now (if ever?) unless the US is somehow not affected the way unis in my country are right now.

    1. anon anon anon anon*

      Universities in the US are also not terribly stable right now and hiring may be problematic for quite awhile. OP is better off waiting to see how things shake out — the job might not even exist a year from now.

  24. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1; I sympathise, truly. It’s a real strain when your employer supports something/someone who is morally opposed to your existence.

    Here’s a suggestion: refuse on the grounds of the pandemic if you don’t feel at all safe speaking out about the issue (your safety is paramount). If you want to say something but keep it vague, say the event is problematic. If you want to say nothing and just not volunteer and not answer any questions about why then that is totally a ok as well.

    But, take care of yourself first. Whatever you need to feel safe, whatever you need to feel comfortable or ok.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I forgot to include ‘speak out about the details of transphobia if you feel you want to/can do’.

      Just reiterating your choice is the valid one.

    2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I have to quibble on language, because it’s important to get into the right frame of mind. I don’t think it’s about “refusing” – it’s about “declining.” We don’t really refuse a request for volunteers because it was a request – not an order. And saying you refuse is escalating the issue. If that’s the intent, OK. But otherwise it’s not about refusing – it’s about simply saying no or saying nothing.

      “If you want to say nothing and just not volunteer and not answer any questions about why then that is totally a ok as well.”
      Spot on.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Yes, unless the OP’s library system makes a habit of “volunteering” staff for events (and OP doesn’t seem to think that’s the case here), then just not responding should be fine. If asked, they can always claim to have a prior commitment on that date.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Kinda what I meant looking back on it. I’m…let’s say not great at proper written English (managed to get straight As in school without ever knowing what a noun, adjective or verb IS! Thank you UK) but appreciate the clarification.

        If someone asks why you’re not volunteering this time though, I’m torn between not saying anything, making something up or just let them have it.

    3. Nea*

      Another vote on “refuse on the grounds of pandemic.”

      First, advice to just not reply is spot on.

      But if you’re directly asked for a reply… In your shoes, my concern would be that people would try to rules-lawyer concerns about Rowling, no matter how justified. I’ve seen a lot of that already: “But she’s so popular with kids! Don’t bring kids into adult subjects!” Her views are not acceptable in an inclusive society, but people still try to argue others out of that.

      Whereas “I don’t want to die and I don’t want anyone else to die, it’s a pandemic” gives less grounds for counter arguments. Especially if you cite that wedding that led to 7 deaths, none of which were attendees.

      Argue Rowling later. Argue life and death now.

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        I find the “don’t bring kids into adult subjects” hilarious, because when I was a kid adults were violently against the same books for being “satanic propaganda”. Oh, how people change…

        1. Nea*

          Yes and no. On both occasions it still boils down to “I don’t just dislike it, it is Problematically Socially Incorrect Because Reasons and since I am a Good Person who cannot possibly be on the wrong side of the argument, I need you to agree with me – so if you don’t, I’ll argue until you do.”

          There are folks who take “I don’t like [fill in anything up to and including broccoli]” as a challenge to try to argue you out of it.

          1. Nea*

            To clarify what might read wrong – in the “argue out of” case here meaning “those who argue that Rowling’s current statements should not be taken into account.”

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Now that I’ve had time to think about it, there’s enough Covid denial/this isn’t going to kill people/you’re making a big thing out of nothing out there that I’d say to read the room before using the pandemic as a reason too. Getting stuck into a 2 hour shouting match with someone who believes in ‘herd immunity by spreading virus’ isn’t conducive to low stress either.

        Some people will rules lawyer anything, so I’m heading more toward not saying anything now… :(

  25. Forrest*

    #5, I would slightly disagree with Alison’s advice. This may be different in the US, but in the UK all university/public sector/NHS jobs are graded with a salary range, and if someone is considering a position in a year’s time, we would know immediately whether it’s likely to be a grade 4, 5, 6, 7 or whatever–there are very occasionally places where it might be, “Well, we really NEED a G7 here, but if we can’t get budget for that approved, we could try taking out the management/higher level responsibilities and see if we can get a G6”–but mostly, the job responsibilities will dictate what the salary range will be and that’s visible way out.

    I am not sure it would make sense to get back in touch with them after the conversation is finished, but if there is any other point where you speak to the potential line manager, “By the way, what grade are you expecting this job to be?” would be a totally normal question and one they will almost certainly be able to answer immediately.

    1. My2Cents*

      Hi there. US universities, especially private ones, typically have an internal grading scale that unfortunately isn’t public nor is it shared acrossed other institutions.

    2. Lark*

      Salary grades are common in the US too, but its just way too soon for OP to ask about it. The job doesn’t even actually exist yet. Salary grades are usually determined when the job description is finalized and it sounds like that hasn’t happened.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes there are some jobs that have a salary grade, but that’s not really the issue here. OP shouldn’t be planning her life over the POSSIBILITY of a job opening up in the next year. They should go on as if it was never mentioned, and then if it comes back up, see if it fits within their current life path. Sure, if the other person reaches back out, OP could ask if they have an idea on salary range, but it would come across as odd and off putting if they reached back out themselves to ask.

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      It’s not a volunteer gig. It’s paid work with her employer; they just ask for folks to volunteer to take that particular shift (because it’s out of their regular work hours). Someone does have to work it, and the LW has done so in the past (with enthusiasm).

      1. Librarian*

        Yes, my library system stopped using the word volunteer for this type of thing as it confused staff since we do have actual unpaid volunteers. Also, eventually if no one speaks up, we would start assigning staff to an event so it’s not fully volunteer, we just hope to get people who are enthusiastic first.

    1. Deejay*

      Pratchett’s a good antidote to Rowling in that he shows that she didn’t invent the idea of a school of magic. He often had to push back against accusations of ripping her off even though many of his works predated hers. When people asked if that meant she was ripping him off, he replied that no, some things are just part of the general pool of ideas.

      He also wasn’t afraid to call her out for distancing herself from the genre, responding to her remark that “I didn’t realise I was writing fantasy” with “I’d have thought all the magic would have given her a clue”.

      Ah, Sir Terry, if only you were still with us. I’d love to see you take down Rowling’s views with a bit of cutting irony.

  26. Bookworm*

    #1: I just wanted to say I’m sorry that this is even has to be a thing and agree with some of the advice above: if you have any good ties with your colleagues, it may be a productive conversation to have after (not sure about the others, but I’d bet there are others who also feel similarly uncomfortable).

    Good luck.

  27. LifeBeforeCorona*

    OP1 The best response seems to be turning the event into one that include other authors. If the library isn’t comfortable with dropping HP entirely then their part is reduced from front row star to supporting actor. It is hard explaining adult reasons to kids. You can use the bait and switch tactic, take away HP but offer something just as enticing at the same time. After all, a library is about expanding your reading circle. Mine has a book table that says if you liked this author, you may enjoy this similar one. Also, COVID and gathering small kids together is a legitimate reason to cancel or scale back.

    1. yala*

      I could see something with little stations for different book series. Maybe keep it to fantasy if it’s a Halloween-ish event.

        1. yala*

          I mean, a station only has so much space around it. Having seen our Summer Kickoff programs, there’s always a few things that ALL the kids want to do (the big slide or the petting zoo), but the rest of the stuff gets visited as well.

          Also, I mean, part of the job of the adults putting on events is Engaging The Kids. That means encouraging them to look at other stations.

          Whether or not they know about Mr. Elivs Magic Shop, kids would naturally want to go and check out a booth that looks like a Mystical Shop Of Wonders. Maybe there are candy treats or contests etc about other books they’re not as familiar with–kids will still be drawn in by the *activity* itself. If there isn’t 3 hours worth of Harry Potter themed activity on offer, the kids will still enjoy the other booths as well.

          Children’s librarians are supposed to encourage reading new books, not just celebrate books a kid has already read. They’re generally pretty good at the whole “getting kids engaged with new material” thing.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Except that Harry Potter is by far the most popular children’s book in print currently. It’s going to get the lion’s share of families going to that station.

  28. HigherEdTed*

    #5. University employee here. Don’t bank on this job right now. Many universities are on hiring freezes and when things thaw (for lack of a better word) they will likely prioritize filling existing vacancies rather than creating new roles. If it comes to fruition, great, but it’s far from a guarantee at this point.

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1. Please, don’t upend your life right now betting on future events in higher education. Most places I know are cutting positions, rather than creating them. And unless a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 comes along soon, next year will be worse.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Or Alison says “No job is a guarantee until you have the offer in hand.” Do not make plans based on a maybe, possibly, in a year we might have something. This job does not exist, act accordingly.

    3. Hi there*

      I think another reason not to make plans around this job is that focusing on it might close you off to other possibilities that might be better for you in the end. Can you think instead about what you value in that potential job (the opportunity to do something new, learn a new skill, grow in a particular way, whatever it is) and work on how you can add those to your current work or get ready for them? I am speaking to myself here too but won’t bore you with the details!

  29. NotJennifer*

    LW1, I feel for you. I am cis, but my child is not, which makes it incredibly difficult to navigate how to feel and act about anything to do with the HP franchise now. (I am not yet at the point where I can do what some trans people are doing, and dismissing the author but keeping the fandom. And I have mixed feelings about cis people maintaining allyship while doing that, but that’s another discussion…)

    My kid doesn’t know about JK yet. We have read about half of the series, and are working on other books right now, so it’s been about a year since we did anything Harry Potter related. But it will come back up again, and I need to tell them so they can decide how they want to think about things, and whether they want to continue reading the books and watching the movies. I am dreading that conversation, because they already lack a lot of confidence, and this will feel like a knife in the back. But I bring this up because, *if* you decide you feel comfortable doing so, bringing up JK’s transphobia in the context of how it affects library patrons would be an option. Whether or not they are out, you certainly have kids who use the library and are trans. And some of them are old enough to know what’s going on, either because their parents felt like they needed to tell them, or because they are old enough to be on social media and have read about it themselves.

    I don’t think the burden of having that discussion needs to be on you, and ideally would be taken on by cis co-workers. But if you wanted to take it on, it would be a way for you to object to the event without having to out yourself. I agree with Alison, though, that using a different excuse to bow out of participation makes a lot of sense. Especially this year, when the confirmation of JK’s bigotry is still fresh, and a lot of us are still processing.

    1. ExcelJedi*

      This. trans and genderqueer kids and adults are not going to trust a library that dedicates time to JKR’s work right now, of all times.

    2. c-*

      Regarding your kid, NotJennifer: if they choose to keep reading HP, you can always suggest them writing (or telling) their own HP fanfiction with queer representation, maybe with them as the protagonist? It’s an old and respected tradition in marginalised communities: we take your hateful stories or jokes, we twist them till they fit, and we make them ours. Life and joy are the best rebellion, imho.

      And now I’m daydreaming that the LW’s library throw a Trans Affirming Party For Aspiring Hogwarts Students and tag the author on all the social media posts… maybe for next year? ;)

      In all seriousness, though, I like the idea of including a pannel on what to do when someone you admire disappoints you into the event, if the library ends up holding it. That should help make the library’s stance clear. Someone suggested using Dumbledore as a focus point, to tie it into the series.

  30. cncx*

    RE OP2, I have a BA in IR and i also find it invites people to want to talk politics with me at work and I really really don’t want to talk politics at work in the current political climate. I’m a big fan of pretending I didn’t hear something or changing the topic.

    1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

      My undergrad in History and IR has been seen by many as an invitation to opine about current events because “as a historian you must…!!!”

      No, as a historian I must drink coffee and occasionally wear pants. Not serve as a personal lit review.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      My partner is an economist. “Oh, what do you think about the stock market/current economic policies?” He doesn’t do that kind of economics. People argue with him. It’s no fun and you have my sympathies.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’m a translator. People seem to think that means I’m a walking dictionary. Nope. First give me the context for the word you’re asking about, it probably has at least two meanings and without context I can’t guess which will be right. Or actually, no don’t bother, I’ve had a glass of wine and I’m not in work mode right now thank you very much.

    4. Joielle*

      I used to work for my state’s legislature and people would want to talk about any random law they had recently heard of. And like… I worked almost exclusively on state property tax codes. I do not know much about the most recent Medicare changes, except that I probably read the same Politico article you did.

      I think if people hear what you do and it causes them to think “ooo, she must be smart” there’s like a knee-jerk reaction to prove that they are also smart, by talking about that specific subject. It’s so weird, and it almost never works.

  31. Sooda Nym*

    OP1, if you really are just wanting to not volunteer, without making any suggestions about changing the nature of the event, I agree with Alison that the first step is to not volunteer. If anyone asks you directly, I would just go with “Unfortunately I have a conflict with the event this year. ” Which has the benefit that most people will assume schedule conflict, but it is also true, as you have a conflict of views with the author, and also conflicting needs regarding COVID exposure. If pressed, just continue to say you are sorry, but can’t be available for the event this year (you could add due to a conflict beyond your control). If you just remain vague, people will get the idea that it’s not something you want to talk about.

  32. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

    OP1 writes: “I haven’t responded to the email asking for volunteers yet because I honestly don’t know what to say.”

    There are two responses I can think of. One is to ignore the request, or better yet say “Sorry, I’m not participating” so the sender knows the response was received. Just say no.

    The second is to do that and say why, to open up a conversation about getting showcasing other works/authors. This carries the risk of possibly revealing more about the OP than they want, so is probably not right in this case.

    The first approach is easier and is am important “tool” to have in your life: saying a bland “no” to requests when you don’t want to do something. If you find this hard, practice it in low stakes contexts.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I like the idea of showcasing other authors. Doesn’t necessarily have to out the LW. There are PLENTY of other fantasy authors with great series that the kids should read. Heaven forbid we encourage kids to expand their reading beyond one series anyway — regardless of the abhorrent views of the author in question.

      1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

        If their goal is to draw in kids who might not already be big readers, though, other series aren’t going to get the kind of attention that HP does.

        1. KittyCardigans*

          I agree. There are still SOME options—Percy Jackson, for instance, which is very popular. But nothing at the moment is going to have the same draw that Harry Potter does. Maybe Star Wars, but that’s less bookish overall and has some representation problems of its own.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I agree that it is so hard to replace with something else. With Harry Potter most people know it and understand it, a lot of people have costumes and accessories that go along with it – you can really make it into a big event that everyone gets in a way you can’t with other things. It’s similar to a renaissance festival or Star Trek convention in that way, and there really isn’t another literary equivalent that is as popular. Showcasing other authors is always a good idea, but it won’t be able to replace an event like this.

          Personally, I would not want to debate the whole thing in a work setting. There is a argument for not letting her ruin the entire thing that so many people love that has become apart of popular culture and I would not want to have that kind of gritty shades of grey argument at work. I would just not volunteer or say I had plans that day – but I am conflict adverse and am really terrible at debate, so there is that.

          1. just me*

            This is valid point. Cancel culture had gone too far. I pay no attention to the opinions and politics and social media of authors, business owners, entertainers, etc… AS LONG AS said opinions are NOT in the book, show, or product I’m buying. If I choose not to support them by not volunteering on a project then I just say sorry I can’t help you with this one and leave it at that. Arguing at work won’t change anyone’s mind and just wastes your time.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              So you’re saying you’re okay financially supporting bigots as long as you don’t have to be aware of their bigotry.


              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Ever bought a Roald Dahl book or movie? Congratulations, you support a bigot.
                Ever bought a Dr. Suess book? Congratulations, you support a wife beater.

                1. allathian*

                  Ever bought a Marion Zimmer Bradley book? Congrats, you support a parent who allowed her partner to sexually abuse her kids and kept them locked in the house with the curtains drawn for years. I’ve read some of her stuff but I’ve never been a fan, so throwing the two books that I had in the trash wasn’t hard.

            2. Littorally*

              She is the farthest thing from cancelled. She’s got a boatload of money, more attention and spotlight than she deserves — how is this “cancel culture” going too far?

              No one is entitled to anyone else’s time, attention, or energy unless those people are being paid to give it. If she runs her mouth and people stop engaging with her work as a result, that’s not cancellation, that’s natural consequences.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Call it “Beyond Hogwarts” and introduce the HP fans to new series they will likely enjoy.

      2. Khatul Madame*

        This. Getting kids to read is a big challenge, especially in less advantaged communities. HP series has an excellent track record in this regard with no good alternative. Therefore I would strongly recommend letting it exist and do its work for the good of the society. Or are we going to claim that literacy is worthless if attained by imperfect means?
        I see “canceling” HP as the same action as caused books like “Anne Frank’s Diary” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” to be removed from school curricula and libraries in some places.
        OP, of course, is free to decline to participate in the event and be as frank in explaining why as she is comfortable.

        1. Paperwhite*

          I disagree that there are ‘no good alternatives’ to HP (Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and Nnedi Okorafor’s works come to mind just off the top of my head) and I REALLY disagree that objecting to transphobia is equivalent to banning a book by a Jewish girl and a book against racism respectively.

          1. GothicBee*

            Not to mention, are most kids today really still that obsessed with HP? I know my niece is aware of HP but she’s not obsessed with it. I really think HP as a cultural phenomenon has been dwindling, though I’m sure there are some kids still really into it. I do know that using an established series like HP can get a bigger draw to library events, but I feel like it won’t be long before HP starts feeling dated.

            Count me as another one who thinks there are some good alternatives to HP. Even with Rick Riordan, he has newer series (that are supposed to be even more diverse and with even better representation) than Percy Jackson, plus there are some great middle grade works coming out under his “Rick Riordan presents” label. I’ve also heard good things about Nnedi Okorafor and I know she has both YA works and a just recently published middle grade. Also, a lot of people compare the vibe of the Nevermoor series (the 3rd book is coming out in October) by Jessica Townsend to HP.

          2. TL -*

            The cultural impact of Harry Potter can’t be separated from the books. Riordan is an excellent writer (I haven’t read Okorafor) with great books with a similar feel – but you can’t replace “you know the series, you get the references, you have a cultural connection” with “try this book you may or may not have heard of, reading-reluctant young fellow! you’ll love it!”

            There are tons of great YA books out there, I agree, but getting kids to be actively excited about reading them is really difficult and leaning into the cultural hook of HP – which isn’t likely to be replicated any time soon – can be hugely beneficial in getting them to pick up a book and really enjoy reading for perhaps the first time. It’s a complicated decision.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              I agree that it’s complex, but at the same time I think that much of the cultural demand for HP is not being driven by kids, it’s being driven by nostalgic millenials and adult geeks. If anything I get the very strong impression that Gen Z and below think that the millenial obsession with Harry Potter houses is tragic. I definitely agree that the familiarity and ubiquity of HP is a great draw, but at the same time I don’t know if it actually *is* something that’s getting today’s kids actively excited about reading. But idk, I’m not a librarian.

              1. Alanna*

                I wonder to what extent the demand for Harry Potter is a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the whole thing is such a juggernaut that isn’t really juts about the books anymore. . There have to be other books have been written in the past 20 years that will get kids excited about reading! But none of them come prepackaged with 8 movies, theme parks, Halloween costumes, instant recognition and excitement from parents/teachers, etc. At this point, there literally is no book like Harry Potter. So the whole phenomenon is just culturally reinforced… forever? Or at least until another generation is able to elevate a cultural phenomenon it fell in love with organically? (But probably forever, to some degree; the Beatles and Star Wars didn’t lose their cultural influence the second Harry Potter came on the scene.)

                On the other hand, I think that’s a case for libraries, especially, pushing kids’ horizons rather than falling back on the familiar. That’s partly how Harry Potter became successful in the first place, and if publishers/librarians/Hollywood/etc (yes, I know, vastly different levels of cultural influence between those groups) say, well, we have Harry Potter, why do we need anything else? … that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy too.

            2. Alice's Rabbit*

              Agreed. 100%. It’s not just about it being an enjoyable series for kids to read.
              It’s that everyone has heard of Harry Potter. Everyone recognizes Hogwarts robes and house scarves. Everyone knows Harry, Ron, and Hermione. So it’s easy to get parents interested enough in the event to bring their children, and easy to get kids interested in reading the books for themselves.
              Percy Jackson, while a reasonably enjoyable read, doesn’t have the same cultural recognition that Harry Potter has. So it won’t attract the large crowds, nor entice new readers as easily. It’s more suited as a recommendation for kids who’ve finished Harry Potter and want a new series.

        2. AK*

          Except no one said that “literacy is worthless if attained by imperfect means”, or even suggested removing the HP books. Nice straw man there.

    2. JohannaCabal*

      OP1, don’t discount the fact that the pandemic is still going on. I think if you simply tell people you will not be involved this year, they’ll just automatically assume it’s because of the pandemic.

      Personally, I’m a bit surprised they’re even holding the event this year….

  33. Helvetica*

    LW#3 – I am in a field where work meetings over coffee and/or lunch are very common and an expected part of my job. The rule that usually applies and which I try to follow is that whoever instigated the meeting also pays for both parties, because you presumably also meet multiple times and then you can alternate, so no one “owes” anything to the other person.

    However, if I were to meet with someone more senior than me – my usual meetings are on same level – it would be appropriate for the more senior person to cover it, but this comes with the caveat that I would rarely instigate a meeting with a person more senior than myself. Hence, they would also be the inviting party.

    I think in your case, it is absolutely fine and your advisor will not be upset about having to pay.

  34. Larvaldoctor*

    OP3, as an academic, I actually disagree with Alison’s advice. Please don’t bring it up again. I buy food for my med students and grad students because that is the culture. I do it enough that it actually gets uncomfortable when students make a big deal of gratitude. It is culturally normative, so coming back post hoc to bring it up again will honestly make you look out of touch. Say “thank you” and move on.

    1. Humanities Professor*

      Fully agreed.
      I posted upthread, and I was being careful because I only have direct, experiential knowledge of practices in the humanities, but Alison’s parenthetical advice about bringing it up later is not the thing to do in any academic context.

  35. NorseMermaid*

    At first I read the title as “not feeling the Hogswatch spirit” and I was wondering why anyone would sour on the amazing Terry Pratchett :-)

    1. EPLawyer*

      Which would be a GREAT event. the books are not quiiiiite YA but not so over their heads they wouldn’t enjoy them. Older kids get more out of them of course.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      There is a mini-set for younger audiences in the Discworld series that the library can highlight. “Wee Free Men” is one of the books, I forget the other titles.
      However, this author literally takes no prisoners and his humor can offend the thin-skinned – saying this as someone who adores Pratchett.

      1. NotJennifer*

        Yes, the Wee Free Men sub-series is *amazing*! I tried to start it with my kiddo a couple of years ago, but they weren’t quite ready. I think I might suggest that as our next series, though, when we are done with our current series. (Which will probably last a few more months, because OMG some fantasy authors are prolific!)

        I find that Pratchett’s humor is not mean spirited, and is overall quite progressive. Really, his books should be way up on the list of things we replace Harry Potter themed events with in our libraries and schools. There is so much to love there.

        And, SPOILER ALERT, I mourn Granny Weatherwax more than I mourn Dumbledore. Plus, a sign around my neck reading “I AINTENT DEAD” would be the perfect Halloween costume this year. If there were anywhere to go for Halloween this year. lolsob

      2. Khatul Madame*

        Besides, being dead (RIP) makes him a perfect candidate, as he can’t voice an unpopular opinion anymore, and the only reason to cancel him would be information about his past behavior or opinions. This can happen, of course, but IMO unlikely.

  36. agnes*

    re: keep getting fired
    If you can get feedback through your agency, that’s a good suggestion. If that isn’t an option, then you might ask someone that knows you well and is willing to be honest with you to help you sort through this issue. I have a good friend that helped me understand that some of the ways I was presenting myself at work were offputting to other people. Though it was hard for me to hear, I knew she was my friend and was telling me with kindness so I could do something about it. It really helped and I made some changes that I needed to make.

    I also think that sometimes we do know deep down what the issue is but are scared to tackle it or otherwise have difficulty admitting it to ourselves. Writing your thoughts down can be a good way to bring the unconscious to the conscious level. Just start writing and don’t over think it and you might be surprised at what comes out. Give it a try.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Film yourself in action and watch it later. I did that once and was horrified to see myself fiddling endlessly with whatever I was holding, and scratching my head (which caused a snowstorm of dandruff). Some things can be off-putting and you might not even be aware of what you’re doing.

  37. NewbieMD*

    Hi LR #1! First of all, I completely understand why you would not want to work this event and I agree with the wonderful advice you’ve already gotten. But, if you were a HP fan before the author put her foot in her mouth (and chewed and swallowed it), is there any chance you could separate her from her work and have a great time at the event?
    Despite her hurtful statements, HP world itself is a wonderful place abounding with loyalty, love, courage and perseverance. Plus, it’s just a generally great read and I have some great memories attached to those books.
    But, again, you need to do what feels right to you and if that includes not going, that is totally understandable. I’m sorry we’re in a world where you even need to make a decision about this.

    1. ExcelJedi*

      I don’t love telling people to rethink no longer supporting bigots’ work just because we have/had an emotional connection to them.

      As a genderqueer person myself, I’ve disconnected from HP, and it stings when people tell me how I should try to make peace with my connection to HP and JKR. I can promise you, every one of us have gone through a grieving process where we considered your suggestion at least once, and for many of us, we just can’t. Or can’t right now.

    2. Nia*

      The problem with separating the work from the author is that by keeping her books relavent you keep her relavent. If she’s relavent she still has a massive audience to preach her vileness to.

    3. aebhel*

      I know some trans people who have remained in the Harry Potter fandom and separated it from the author, but that’s not something everyone can or wants to do–and also, a public institution hosting an event is a different kind of thing than people continuing to enjoy the books.

      If the LW doesn’t want to participate, then they shouldn’t have to. I think Allison is right that they probably won’t be outing themself by declining on the basis of JKR’s bigotry, but if LW is in an area that’s conservative enough where that would be a fringe view, they can always just have a schedule conflict (the schedule conflict in question being that they have better things to do with their time).

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I have zero interest ever in HP and I in general I would support a kids’ book event even if the theme didn’t interest me, but I wouldn’t support one with this kind of really harmful baggage.

      What’s an elemental identity of yours? Now picture an author attacking it. Now how would you feel if people pressured you to gloss it over because they were sentimental about the books?

    5. yala*

      “Despite her hurtful statements, HP world itself is a wonderful place abounding with loyalty, love, courage and perseverance”

      I’m reminded of how I felt about Inception after I saw Dark Knight Rises. I loved Inception. Then I saw DKR and it kind of laid bare a lot of Nolan’s hackery, and then I just…couldn’t unsee it, even in a movie I’d previously loved.

      JK’s personal opinions/politics/ethics are all over Harry Potter. It’s not unthinkable that once the mask is off in one specific instance, that folks might follow that thread and see the rest of it. The casual racism, the uncomfortable slavery thing (an attempt was made, but it was very inept), the fight to return to the status quo of what was already a pretty bad system even without Voldemort, etc etc. Shoot, I loved the Weasley Twins most, even though they were kind of awful, but it’s a lot harder for me to wink at their being “lovable bullies” now.

      Lots of us have great memories attached to those books. A good chunk of the best of my college years was wrapped up in them. The fandom built worlds much better than the text itself.

      Folks are gonna do what they do. But “separating the art from the artist” is a thing that’s a lot trickier when the artist is still alive, still profiting, still gaining influence and maintaining relevance, and using that money, influence, and relevance to hurt people.

      If you can, that’s you. But I think the folks who have been hurt by JK’s bigotry aren’t just hurt by her words and actions, but because it has, essentially, taken something they loved from them. If they *could* “separate her from her work” they probably would have.

      1. yala*

        All this to day, OP, it’s absolutely reasonable if you can’t separate JK from HP. I’m sorry you lost something that brought you joy. I hope you still enjoy the memories as much as you can. I hope the librarians in question don’t ask this of you–to try and separate JK from HP, but I think you’ll be fine just telling them you’re uncomfortable, or even just that you Can’t Make It, So Sorry!

  38. Philosophy PhD*

    #3: PhD student here. I would be kind of put out if a professor ever expected me to pay for something. However, this might depend a bit on your institution and whether you’re working with a very underpaid junior faculty member. I know everyone here gets over $100k and many of the more senior professors earn well over $200k.

    Concrete advice: I usually pull out my wallet when the check comes, then the professor says “I’ve got it” and I just say “thank you” and move on. It’s so expected you really shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. If I’ve met with someone previously and they’ve made it clear that they pay during our meetings, then I just say “thank you” when they pull out their card.

  39. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Adding another thread to this: the library does a Hogwarts event *every year.* Like, enough already. By my math that’s been about 20 years of the same thing over and over – maybe it’s time to retool and do something also fun but different. You know who won’t care that it’s a new thing? Kids. They’ll come in (if they are coming in to your local library; mine is very very limited in hours and in-person use right now), they’ll see the new display/event/whatever, and they’ll engage with it. Some might be a little bummed out that it’s not about Hogwarts but they’ll Get Over It. Maybe in doing planning for next year (always hopeful next year will come around), the OP and fellow librarians can suggest a change.

    For this year, you’re just not available to participate in the event. That’s all.

    1. aebhel*

      This. My library has done Harry Potter events in the past, but that’s not the only cool book concept out there.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Bingo. What about Newbery Winners? Or books about time travel? Or . . . I’m a late-1970s vintage kid and I feel like there were a ton of great books for kids this age when I was in elementary/middle school, many of which could suggest bigger themes.

    3. nona*

      I feel like the HP-hype is more based in nostalgia than organic excitement from kids. It’s parents introducing the book to the kids, rather than the (marketing-driven) excitement of a new book coming out. There are soooooooo many other options out there (old and new) that it’s absolutely time to move off of HP as the driver, lest kids think that’s the only thing out there and spend all their time obsessing over HP, when there’s lots of stories out there waiting to be told.

      1. GothicBee*

        Agreed!! There are so many new and diverse middle grade and YA books being published. I think it’s at the point where if the OP wanted to they could maybe suggest trying a different theme next year or something to avoid clinging to HP for nostalgia’s sake.

      2. Alanna*

        I think a lot of kids today encounter Harry Potter in non-book form before they read the books, too — movies, theme parks, merch. Which I think is another reason for libraries and teachers, especially, to move on. Part of what made the books so special, and how they got their rep for getting kids into reading, was that when they originally became a phenomenon, they were… just books! You had all these tweens and young teens voluntarily reading long chapter books on their own, staying up too late to find out what happened next, building a whole magical world in their heads out of words on paper, mispronouncing “Hermione” in all kinds of different ways, because you’d never heard anyone say it out loud before.

        Now it’s more like giving a kid a novelization of a Star Wars movie — one with a lot more literary value, sure, but ultimately “here’s a thing you’re familiar with in a new form.” And they like it, because people like familiar stuff! But it actually deprives kids of what was initially so magical in other stories, and which I’m sure can be found in other books.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        Agreed. And conversely, not all kids are going to like or enjoy Harry Potter! Like when people upthread are saying what’s the point in having an event with non-HP content because all the kids will just go straight to the HP stuff – what about the kids who don’t like it? As everyone keeps saying, they’re probably familiar with HP already at least via cultural osmosis – what about the kids who know about it and think it’s lame, or some old thing their embarrassing parents keep going on about, or aren’t interested in reading about a bunch of white kids at a fancy boarding school even if it does have wizards in it? And then they turn up to a library event and all anyone can offer them is more HP? There has to be variety, you can’t just assume that because everyone knows about it everyone *likes* it. OP is a librarian, not a publicist for Warner Brothers.

  40. Office Plant*

    For OP #5- Alison is spot on here. I’m in a similar boat- I was just laid off from my old company in the travel/hospitality industry as they’ve been severely impacted by Covid. Now my old managers do hope that they’ll be able to reopen at least some of the positions at some point in the future and rehire some of the laid-off folks- but it’s just a hope. Myself and my other coworkers who have been laid off are planning as though we will not return to the old company. We have to- the old jobs are not likely to return for 18+ months and we have bills to pay in the meantime.

    What I am planning to do is stay in touch with those who are still with the company, and I also let my old managers know I was open to returning if the jobs do. The company job site also lets me set up e-mail alerts if jobs fitting certain parameters post. But I won’t be reaching out to the hiring managers asking when they think jobs will reopen or anything like that. They know how to reach me if they want me back.

    Even if my exact old job reopened, the hiring managers could decide to promote from within, or hire on some other laid-off employee because they have more experience, or any number of other people. There are no guarantees.

    I’m currently job-hunting, but when I find that next job, I’m also planning to stay long-term. I’m not going to turn down projects that are 18+ months long, even if I think Old Company will call me back. I’m doing as Alison is suggesting to you- pretend that the job prospects don’t exist, because they don’t.

  41. Natalie*

    LW#4, I don’t know how practical this is, but is there any way you could find out if this is happening to you *more* than the average tutor? From other comments, it sounds like changing tutors for innocuous personal reasons (bad fit, essentially) is pretty routine, and in that case you really aren’t going to get any useful information from the actual detailed reasons. But if you knew that you were getting dropped about as often as your colleagues, perhaps that would let you accept this as just a normal part of being a tutor?

    One of your agencies might have data on this, or if you are friends with other tutors you could ask them how often a student has switched off of them.

  42. Oryx*

    #1 , I agree with others that speaking out against this won’t necessarily out yourself. I’m cis and am very vocal against JKR, despite having loved the series for a very, very long time. It’s also possible you aren’t the only one of your colleagues feeling this way.

    Libraries in particular are struggling with finding that balance right now. I work in a library-adjacent field and a library friend of mine who does collection development said she hated having to preorder the new Strike book. But there is demand for it from her patrons. They want that book and the role of the library is there to provide it.

    I’d also consider if you feel comfortable suggesting a more open general magic, wizards event. Depending on how educated your community is on JKR’s statements, a Hogwarts-specific event could be opening the door to a lot of negative feedback.

    1. Princess Scrivener*

      I came here to say this as well. Truly, a giggle on the Friday morning of a fairly sucky week is exactly what I needed. Still giggle-snorting, actually.

  43. Beth*

    LW #1: as Alison said, there are a LOT of unhappy and angry people who are pushing back against JKR (including myself). If you can find it in yourself to state clearly that your attitude has changed in response to her bigotry, you will be adding your voice to a growing crowd.

    Your voice is valuable, and your distress is real and justified. You don’t need to give any personal reason for your pushback. You can object to bigotry without ever needing to defend your opinion (and anyone who asks you to defend it has already crossed the line).

  44. kwagner*

    OP1 I’m going through an extremely similar thing at my work (to the point where halfway through your letter I was surprised you mentioned the event as I thought you were my coworker lol) and I’m just offering my support and agreement. My “there’s other children’s literature!” stance has now added “there’s far less transphobic children’s literature!”

  45. Blackcat*

    To disagree with Alison on #3:
    Unless you have a high earning partner and your PI knows it, just let them pay.
    Don’t offer.
    Your advisor knows what you make.
    Your advisor knows that their salary is AT LEAST 3x what yours is. Possibly up to 5 or 6x what yours is.
    The income gap between faculty and graduate students is so vast, faculty expect to do this. They often get uncomfortable with students offering.
    Suggest cheap places instead of offering to pay–that will probably go over better if you have any guilt.

    I eventually won the argument about splitting bills with my advisor since I knew his finances were actually less secure than mine. His wife is a full time caretaker to their disabled child, and after my husband left academia, my husband got a tech job that definitely paid more than my advisor made. Probably by a lot. Unless you are in a similar position, be like Elsa and let it go.

    I am now on the other side of this, and I 100% do not let undergrads in the lab or graduate students pay for anything. I have explicitly told them not to worry about it, that I know what they make and I make a lot more than that. Sure, I have more expenses (tiny humans are $$$$), but that doesn’t outweigh the income differences. But I do generally only suggest lunches/coffee shops/etc that I know I can afford to buy for graduate students. And if it’s a legit official thing, particularly if we have a lab visitor and I’m taking them and my grad student out to lunch, *I have funds for this!* Like, I’m not paying either! I’m gonna get reimbursed. Some fancy schools with large budgets actually give faculty some fund they can use to feed their graduate students. So really, truly, do not worry about this.

    (After an honest conversation with my advisor in grad school, I actually started putting restaurant checks for visitors on my credit card instead of his. He’d often forget to get reimbursed in a timely fashion if left to his own devices, so I handled paperwork for him. It was easier for me to pay, file the paperwork on my own, and get reimbursed than it was for me to handle all the same yet need to track him down to sign a piece of paper. It also was not a thing for me to float a $200 bill for dinner for 5 for the two weeks or so it took to get reimbursed, but it might have been for my advisor.)

  46. Jennifer*

    #1 I think you can decline based on the social distancing issue alone. It’s pretty irresponsible to hold this event as though things are back to normal. It’s impossible to get kids to social distance, or cover their mouths properly, or wash their hands, etc. It’s just a terrible idea. You don’t have to get into the other stuff if you don’t want to, but if you did, I don’t think you’d be “outing” yourself necessarily because many people disagree with this author.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I agree it’s a terrible idea, but if the library is hosting it presumably it is allowed under the local pandemic restrictions and people in charge think it’s safe enough. This is another argument the LW might not want to get in the middle of.

      1. Jennifer*

        That may be true, but people still have the right to decide how much risk they want to take on personally, regardless of the type of event or local restrictions. I’d decline regardless of who the author was.

    2. Paris Geller*

      Yeah, that was one of the issues that stood out to me! My library hasn’t held in-person events since March. It’s possible that they’re in a place where the virus is under control, but even then I see very few libraries hosting these kind of events. I’ve seen some in rural areas with low numbers go back to things like storytimes, book club, etc., but this kind of event that’s meant to draw a large crowd seems unwise.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If the virus is in control at that location, it’s likely *because* they’ve canceled things like this event.

    3. josie*

      Yes, I cannot think of anything more insanely irresponsible than a gathering during a pandemic. Even if it IS allowed doesn’t mean they should do it. Nobody is going to die if the Harry Potter thing is canceled this year. Good Lord, I would love to know what state their in…

  47. Smithy*

    OP #5: This probably has a similar correlation to the corporate world, but if the job in question is connected to a nonprofit – even if it’s as large as a US university or hospital – there’s just not really going to be any insight on the salary. If the role is grant funded, even for grants that someone is “very sure” will come in…..things can hiccup or further delay money.

    Realistically, should you find yourself in a serious job interview situation, you can certainly circle back. I would then say that you’re interviewing for another opportunity but still deeply interested in the position you discussed and ask if there’s any update.

  48. Bridget the Elephant*

    LW 4: I’m a private tutor too and while I’ve not had this issue myself I’ve seen it crop up with colleagues. Sometimes the student has ‘outgrown’ the tutor – there was a connection when they were younger, but as they get older, the fit isn’t the same. I’ve also know it happen where parents can’t afford the lessons anymore, and ‘fit’ is used as the reason for leaving to avoid any embarrassment over finances. Sometimes other extracurricular activities take over and the parents give ‘fit’ as the reason for the other activities taking priority if they’re expecting pushback from the tutor.

  49. yala*

    LW1 …oh, that’s an uncomfortable spot to be in, and I’m sorry!

    I think you wouldn’t have to out yourself as being genderqueer to say that you’re just not comfortable participating in Harry Potter-themed events because of the author’s bigotry. You don’t have to be trans to not be okay with transphobia!

    I don’t know your particular library’s culture, but I’d be surprised if the librarians putting on the event aren’t aware of the conflict around JK and her creations now. Considering covid, it really is a shame that they didn’t use this year as an opportunity to stop doing it, or to taper it off. I understand not wanting to just end a Really Fun Event (because I imagine it is!), especially for Halloween (which is the best) and especially this year (since actual Halloween isn’t likely to happen). But they really should reconsider.

    I’m sure the actual event is more or less planned out by now, but if you think you have the standing, maybe you could suggest going forward that it be less a Harry Potter event and maybe more just generic Fun Wizards and Magic type event? There are plenty of other YA and children’s books with Kids Learning Magic to draw from, and an event that’s less single-franchise focused could be a good opportunity to encourage kids to read some of those (Percy Jackson, So You Want To Be A Wizard, Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop…I’m sure there are plenty of others).

    Would you feel more comfortable with the event if it were more Store Brand Boy Wizard than official Harry Potter?

    At any rate, whether or not you take a chance at changing the event itself, you should be perfectly fine just saying, “Oh, I can’t this year.” If anyone asks why, you can give them as much or as little info as you want, but you shouldn’t have to explain that you’re not cis to say you don’t want to do it.

  50. Transparent*

    OP #1

    I’d consider talking to someone you trust at the library who is in a decision-making role.

    Scary? Yes. Totally optional, though. Several people have chimed in with good ways to defer without saying anything else.

    There’s a decent chance that this event is continuing because they did it last year and the year before that, and the people who continue to schedule this aren’t aware of the recent revelations around JK.

    I get that you don’t want to invest your time in promoting the event. Makes sense. Promoting the event helps keep the bigot relevant. To some degree, so does staying silent. Other people will fill in for you.

    I’m speaking as a cishet, white male. I have all the birthright privileges available. So on one hand, this is easy for me to say. My oldest son is trans. He swaps around at will between flying under the radar and speaking out. It’s his decision as to what he wants to do and when, and I follow his lead.

    You might be able to amplify your own voice by finding an ally at the library who is willing to speak out. I have done that at my work place for other coworkers who were in various stages of coming out. (Granted, it might have been safer for them to approach me because they saw me at various Pride events with my son.)

  51. Dr. AK*

    LW3: I’m a professor, and I would never expect a grad student to pay. There is SUCH a salary difference there, and also, I can often pay with university funds. I take my students to coffee/lunch frequently (before covid) and never expected anyone to pay. I highly doubt your prof means for you to pay your share.

  52. Percysowner*

    LW1. I agree that just opting out is fine. Don’t respond to the email and see what happens. If you get pushed and don’t feel that you can bring up the issues about JKR, you can say that after X years of doing HP night, you are Harry Pottered out and just can’t bring the enthusiasm to the event that is required. You want to do a GOOD job promoting any book event and don’t want the kids to pick up that you don’t for this. Then you can suggest other authors, events that might pull in the same crowd and expand their reading universe.

  53. Dagny*

    LW4: A lot of things could be going on here.

    You are great at the lower-level things (e.g., algebra), but struggle with a certain subject (e.g., precalculus). Therefore, it’s a good fit when you’re teaching geometry and algebra, but a bad fit at higher levels.

    The kids have naturally progressed to the point where they don’t need any help and the agency is just terrible at terminating those relationships. Ideally, the kids would progress to the point where they no longer need your assistance: they would know all the right ways to approach problems, teach themselves, and understand the fundamentals enough to pick up on higher-level subjects. The agency, however, wants those sweet tuition checks to keep rolling in and is grumpy when you work yourself out of a job.

    It’s getting too expensive for the parents.

    What you can do about this: check your contract and consider hiring yourself out as a tutor.

  54. Gnizmo*

    Op#1 – I will offer you the same bit of wisdom I have to so many people I have watched go through the gender exploration, and coming out phase. People are deeply stupid. I don’t say this to be mean, or nasty. I say it because it is the easiest way to explain how little everyone is paying attention to the little details you are focused on. People fill in details quickly, and with the easiest to reach for explanation. For the majority of people (at least in the US) this means almost never reaching for the trans explanation until literally everything else is exhausted.

    As an example I can use myself. I am non-binary, but don’t really care how people interact with me most of the time. I can usually subtly push back when needed, and when asked I am entirely open about it. I have been working with my current supervisor for 3 years starting with the last year of my master’s where my identity was, at best, an open secret as I often had reason to disclose. I believe he is just now beginning to suspect I might not be cis after sitting with me discussing the details of my proposed dissertation research (trans experiences with therapy is the short version). This is a respected, good, and competent therapist who sees trans youth on the regular!

    I can give you thousands of other examples from people I have known as well. It is glaringly obvious to me when I see the little things, because I know what to look for. Others completely miss it because they never question certain behaviors. They just chalk it up to “that’s what they like/want” and move on. The ones who do know will also know not to say anything as well. It is something for you to work out on your timeline while others wait for the right moment to be supportive. That is the set rule of the community I have run with at least.

    I know it is extremely stressful and hard, and I don’t mean to diminish that in any way. I just hope that you can take a breath and realize you have a lot of freedom to explore in the open without raising suspicion. I hope it all goes super awesome for you, because sometimes it really does.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      People are deeply stupid.

      This and vox populi will explain so many phenomena, not merely this subject.

  55. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I don’t see anyone bashing a person, I see people bashing a hateful and toxic viewpoint that does real harm to actual human beings.

    1. Le Sigh*

      And frankly, a hateful view Rowling won’t seem to drop. She’s done this repeatedly, it went away, people went on with things — and then she felt the need to yet again for the 3rd? 4th? 27th? time bring it up. And now apparently write a thinly veiled book about it.

      So yeah, if she’s not gonna stop using her very large, very public platform to vociferously advocate for hateful, false and bigoted views, people might keep bashing those hateful, toxic views, which cause real harm to real people.

      Also this a private blog run by Alison and she doesn’t owe any of us anything. There are multiple platforms you can fight about Rowling’s views if one chooses.

  56. Phil*

    To the librarians: Why have the Heinlein juveniles fallen out of favor? They’re great stories, aside from the fact that they were written in the 50s and feel slightly archaic.

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I’m not a librarian, but from discussions of this in fandom: one reason is that they’re old enough to feel out of date, but not old enough for the distance to be interesting again. There are a lot of people who read Heinlein in their teens, and don’t really think about the amount of time involved. Those books are between sixty and seventy years old: giving those to a teenager today is like someone handing teenage me books from before World War I.

      Young readers today take for granted computers and communications technology that are way beyond what’s being presented as futuristic then. They’d also need at least some of the then-contemporary bits explained: The hero of Have Spacesuit, Will Travel lives in a small town and has an after-school job at a drugstore with a soda fountain.

    2. yala*

      Um. Hm. Heinlein. Like, as in Starship Troopers? He’s still got some yikes. I would never discourage someone from reading him, but I’m not sure it’s a Good Alternative (and if that’s not what it was intended for, I’m not sure of its purpose in this thread).

      I’d say for the same reason I don’t see as many kids reading Bruce Coville or Patricia C. Wrede–kids like new things.
      And specifically right now, there ARE a lot of books coming out for kids. In the 70s-early 90s, there were fantasy books for kids, but nowhere near the way there are now. There’s lots of new stuff, and it gets popular, and kids want to read what their friends are talking about etc.

      Heinlein’s kind of a hard sell, considering they can find scifi books written more recently that *feel* more relevant and approachable to them.

      1. Phil*

        The juveniles are good stories. And taken as a whole they tell a tale of man’s expansion to the stars. Good stuff for a kid in the 50s and not so bad now.

    3. c-*

      Another reason may be accessibility: for example, when I was a kid (8-10) I read many of Blyton’s books and a few of Dickens’ (Oliver Twist, David Copperfield) because they were lying around in my grandparent’s library and I was curious. Those books were old and foreign to me, but I’ve always read anything that fell into my hands: librarians don’t need to encourage people like me to read. The kids who are book-shy, though? They might hesitate to pick up Heinlein precisely because it feels unfamiliar, or old, unless they see their peers reading and enjoying it and decide to give it a try. Or because they’d have to look for Heinlein’s novels in their library, whereas reddit and TikTok are right there in their pocket. That’s why trends hold such an important place with 10-16 year olds (well, that and capitalism), it’s not so much the value of the novel but getting the kid in question to actually want to open the book of their own volition. At those ages, seeing their peers doing it holds rather more weight than with little kids or adults.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. As a child I read everything I could get my hands on vociferously including the old books on my grandfather’s bookshelf. My parents never censored my reading or gave me content warnings although I did ask them about some concepts I was unfamiliar with (such as what monasteries were when I was reading Rosemary Sutcliffe and why piracy was wrong when reading Treasure Island) and we had a lot of resulting discussions which were formative.

        I never had a clue what was fashionable to read or much about the authors, I just read everything. I think things like reddit and Tiktok mean children now are much more aware of what is fashionable and what their friends are reading. People also know a lot more about who the authors are. As a child I had no idea about the authors or their lives because it was a lot harder to find that sort of thing out.

    4. Dahlia*

      Because some of us wanna read books by BIPOC and queer people?

      There are so many wonderful childrens’ books published recently. People who work with children need to stop being resistent to reading new books.

  57. Ramona Q*

    AAM, with respect, your answers about academia are consistently misleading or wrong, as some people have already been pointing out. I’m not sure why someone whose expertise is in non-profit hiring would ever think herself qualified to answer questions about an industry she’s not part of and has no apparent connection to, whose norms WILDLY differ from the ones she knows.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Which is the part that wildly differs — that she shouldn’t even offer to pay to be polite (while assuming advisor will still end up covering it)? If that’s the consensus from others in academia, I’ll gladly update the answer but it’s a pretty universal norm in the U.S. that the more senior person pays.

      1. Blackcat*

        Lots of us from academia are saying that she shouldn’t even offer. It’s different than a standard office because the pay difference is much larger (like greater than a factor of 3). And, for all the LW knows, the professor has a budget for this and is actually reimbursed. The power dynamic is also different and much more rigid. Your advice would apply for say, a graduate student going to lunch with a post-doc. But grad student and advisor, the advisor always pays. If the advisor can’t afford it, they should not offer to meet for coffee/meals.

        A “thank you” and possibly suggesting budget-friendly places is really all that’s necessary. No offer to pay.

        1. Blackcat*

          But also, lots of advice Alison offers is applicable to academia! Lots! The thing to be careful of in particular is the advisor-grad student relationship, which is really, really different from other professional relationships.

        2. Tuesday*

          I think this might vary a lot according to discipline. When I was a Ph.D. student in the social sciences, the power dynamic felt less rigid and more collegial than in most workplaces. At any rate, Alison’s advice would be spot on for that environment.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            In any case, I’ve removed my parenthetical from the answer, which for posterity’s sake said this: “(To be totally honest, there is a 60% chance that I personally would bring it up again and be like, “I zoned out on paying when the bill came the other day and then felt so rude, thank you again” but that’s because I over-think this kind of thing and it’s not necessary.)”

        3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          Not commenting on academia, but there are many offices in many fields in which the pay differentials are 3 to 1 or more.

        4. Forrest*

          If the advisor has a budget for this, can’t they just SAY so? If the unspoken norms of American academia are so rigid that a student can offend by simply offering to pay and the adviser whose job is literally to advise them can’t say, “hey, it’s really ok, please don’t offer again, this is a cultural norm”, then the problem is way bigger than Alison giving advice.

          (Disclaimer: did my PhD in the U.K., my (American) supervisor sometimes bought coffee but never bought lunch.)

          1. anon anon anon anon*

            Higher-ed person in the US here, and I agree with this. I think it is the advisor’s role to say “hey, no, I’ve got this” and to do a little educating on this. The expectation that graduate students should already know this — and/or dinging them for not already knowing — is kind of classist. Unless someone is from an explicitly academic family or has had significant mentoring prior to starting grad school, there’s no reason for a grad student to just already know this.

            My dad was not just of the first generation in his family to go to college, he was also the first to get a PhD, and he told me recently that he had wished that his dad could have helped him more with navigating his career path — he ran afoul of some truly terrible politics early in his career. And even in my case, while I did have a father who was a professor who taught graduate students (not all professors teach grad students!), things were pretty different in his area (business school) from mine (humanities PhD).

            (I have definitely experienced confusion on my end, though, for whether or not I’m supposed to treat a graduate student to a meal at, say, a conference given that I have a PhD but am not a professor, and people in my role get paid quite a bit less than regular faculty.)

            1. Blackcat*

              This certainly varies program to program, but in mine (US STEM degree), grad students educated other grad students on this.
              I don’t think post-docs or adjuncts should be expected to pay for grad students. That’s a different dynamic. I did in my post-doc, but that was largely because I invited them as a get to know you thing, and my spouse brings in enough $$$, my household income is pretty high.

              At most conferences I attended as a graduate student, I had travel funding and got reimbursed for meals. Everyone always got separate checks, regardless of rank, for this reason.. I did appreciate though when a bunch of us grad students were all at a bar after a day of conferencing, and a few senior faculty bought covered one round of drinks for the entire table. Booze doesn’t get reimbursed, generally.

        5. Stuff*

          This is not universally the case. I am a grad student in the United States, and if I meet an advisor or professor over coffee or a meal, I pay for my own order, and the advisor theirs. It would never even cross my mind that my advisor would pay for my meal.

      2. OtherSide*

        While I think that Ramona was unnecessarily harsh, I do have to echo the other posters. It is out of touch for a grad student to keep offering to pay. The department should be covering the food/drinks for these meetings for both parties, if not for the student. Continuing to offer is showing that you are not listening.

        I feel as if it would have been more consistent to your regular advice to have the poster ASK his advisor what the norms are, rather than persist in a behavior that might come off as either juvenile or a power move.

        1. Tuesday*

          I think there’s a good chance that the advisor is not going to bother to get reimbursed for lunch (just like an employee’s manager might not always request reimbursement). In that case, I think it could be awkward to ask the advisor about norms about paying. If the department is paying, the advisor will likely say so when the student offers to pay and that will be that. I’m not really seeing where academia is so different in this case (or at least not the departments I’ve been in).

          1. Someone Else*

            The right person to ask would be a department administrative assistant, who is aware of the norms and responsible for such processing. S/he would know if this particular PI often submits for reimbursement, or if others do and what the rules are for such.

      3. BBA*

        Offering to pay may help the graduate student feel less anxious about navigating the situation, but they shouldn’t feel like they have to, for the reasons Blackcat described. The idea of a tenured or tenure-track faculty member ever letting a graduate student pay for even an inexpensive lunch – even just a lunch of say, cheap rolls – makes me break out in hives.

        If any graduate students feel guilty or anxious about letting the faculty member pay, they certainly can return the favor… if and when they run into the faculty member at a conference or something later in their career, after they have finished their degree and are now tenure-track faculty members themselves.

        Or better yet, they can just remind themselves that someday, if they become tenure-track faculty members, they can pay it forward with their own graduate students.

      4. Middle School Teacher*

        I mean, every time you answer an academic question, a bunch of academics pop up and say “well, actually…” and correct you. I’m surprised you ask lawyers for legal advice but don’t extend the same professionalism to us. (And while I teach middle school, which is its own beast, and I would add a lot of your advice is wrong there too, I’m also a sessional in my uni’s faculty of Ed. I see multiple aspects of academia to which your experience is just not applicable.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, much of the time it’s people disagreeing with the advice, and then others disagreeing with them, because different parts of academia work differently than others (it’s happened even in this thread). I did used to include a constant disclaimer about academia having its own rules, and it sounds like I need to be more vigilant about that or be more selective about the questions I answer from academic settings at all.

          1. the Viking Diva*

            I’m an academic and a scholar who studies academic organizations. I find that a lot of the “academia is not like that” answers are much less generalizable than the writer thinks. There are multiple cultures within academe, as within any workplace, but academic institutions are often very highly decentralized. That means hiring and other workplaces practices can be quite idiosyncratic from unit to unit, as well as working differently for staff, faculty, and administrators. Workplace cultures may differ a lot from institution to institution– by geography, history and mission, public vs private, research or teaching orientation, etc. – and within an institution, among teaching-focused units, research centers, administrative offices, student-facing offices, etc.

    2. un-pleased*

      As a former academic gone corporate, I want to say that another nuance of academia is that while grad students can be considered junior colleagues, especially PhD students who are ABD, they can also be considered apprentice-like & students in ways that are not the case outside academia. Not being aware of that nuance matters for giving advice generally, not just in this specific case. It’s really not the same as being lower in rank in the corporate world, and the dynamics of the various kinds of positions one can hold (e.g., adjunct, full-time NTT, TT, etc.) also matter a lot for giving useful advice.

  58. wittyrepartee*

    Ok LW4, you’re going to need to sit down and employ some analytical skills and the help of friends here. Here’s some questions to ask:
    1) Are there any similarities between the students you’re hearing this from? Are they, for instance, all female? All young? All teenage?
    2) Ask your friends if there’s anything about your approach to socializing normally that might be off-putting to others. So like… do you crack jokes that might make others uncomfortable? Do you lean into the personal space of others? Do you have trouble picking up on social cues?
    3) Are there any aspects of your presentation that differs from office work norms that you thought was ok, but that maybe isn’t? For instance- maybe you dress a bit more casually because you’re tutoring teens, or maybe you are more casual with language that could be considered offensive like “d*mn”. Do you reschedule tutoring or arrive late and take the parents at their word when they say that it’s “fine”? There are things that your tutees might not mind, but that their parents will- or vice versa.

  59. Observer*

    #4 – You’ve gotten some good advice. I’d alike to add something that may or may not be relevant. If it is, I’m pretty sure that you’re first instinct is going to be to say that it CAN’T be – which winds up being part of the problem. I’m going to illustrate with an actual anecdote about someone I knew.

    You may be getting good feedback while doing genuinely problematic stuff. And along with the positive feedback,you may also be getting not so great feedback that may even be actionable and either just missing it or dismissing it so quickly and completely that it might as well not be happening.

    This person was a good teacher, and got good feedback, especially from the kids. But parents really did not them and neither did the school administrators. They lost job after job, and eventually left teaching (although they did manage to keep on a very small slice of tutoring, mostly on a volunteer basis.) The parents and administrators were right, and so were the friends who tried to tell them that they were seriously overstepping their authority. Thank G-d they never seriously endangered a child, but too often they decided that THEY knew better that the parents about the needs of a child and acted on that assumption without appropriate permission.

    They simply could not get their heads around the fact that THIS absolutely WAS THE reason they kept getting fired. To them that was an excuse and either they were not being told what they need to change or it was an excuse by the administration to hide their inadequacies.

    Now, you’re not claiming that the agencies are making up stories to hide their incompetence, so even if something like this person is playing out here, it’s not as bad and you have a better shot at fixing it.

    Now, obviously, given how individual tutoring paid for by parents goes, it’s quite possible that what I am saying is not the issue here. But it can’t hurt to really give a good hard look at that.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      Your advice to consider if maybe she has been receiving negative feedback and dismissing it out of hand is good, but for your anecdote I’m as confused about why they kept getting fired as they were. Did you accidentally delete a paragraph somewhere?

      1. Observer*

        Because in each job, they over-stepped their authority and dismissed the people who were telling them that they needed to cut it out. Sometimes it was a single big thing, and sometimes it was the “drip drip” of repeatedly telling the parents that their opinion out weighs the opinion of the parents.

  60. MegMac*

    OP#4 – I own a tutoring agency. If you are working for an agency that knows you and your work (as opposed to a place that just refers tutors without much vetting), there are generally two reasons you would continue to get students even though you frequently “get fired” without feedback:
    1) The agency truly believes you are a good tutor, and it really is a matter of fit. This is common. Girls often want female tutors, but will settle for a male until a female can be assigned; students want someone fun, or parents want someone serious…All the reasons commenters above have stated. If I think you’re good, I’ll keep giving you to students anyway.
    2) You tutor something that is difficult to find tutors for – Calculus, AP Chemistry/Physics, etc. If that’s the case, it’s entirely possible that the agency would prefer to stop referring you entirely but can’t lose one of their few experts, so they reluctantly keep giving you students.

    Other than that, if someone’s performance is truly an issue, I simply stop assigning them students. I don’t generally give lengthy explanations as to why because it’s not worth it on my end. “People find you creepy,” “You’re not as knowledgeable as you implied,” “You may be smart but you’re bad at explaining,” are all statements that don’t seem to serve a purpose but to insult you and create a weird fight situation that no one can win. If it’s something I can give you gentle direction in — “please try to come prepared to clients so you don’t spend ten minutes looking for paper” — I’ll do that, but if the complaints seem to be about your person, I can’t fix that (nor reasonably ask someone to alter their personality). It’s rough, but tutoring is so heavily dependent on intangibles like rapport, trust, and relatability that it either works or it doesn’t.

    If you’re working for multiple agencies, and keep getting let go from the agency entirely, I’d look into all the fixes suggested by others, as well as making sure that you explain concepts well (not just know them) and that you do it without being condescending or pedantic. This is my number one complaint about tutors that I like, but have to stop using: “They made me feel stupid.”

  61. Laney Boggs*

    OP #1, can you lean into the COVID caution too? I’d be honest about kids being adorable Petri dishes and not being comfortable assisting the event even with precaution.

    1. Tired of Covid*

      This is my recommendation. Why are they even doing this? Schoolchildren have enough risk just going to school. Event should be cancelled this year.

  62. Granger*

    OP1 & fellow Potterheads:
    I, too, and deeply heartbroken about JKR’s position / statements / new book about the trans community. I’ve found it utterly baffling given how her amazing HP series are literally built on a foundation and themes of love and inclusion (part of the reason I have been such an ardent fan). When the first round of the JKR problem happened publicly in June I was adrift and at a loss as to reconcile my obsession and love of the series and the author’s troubling position (particularly because it so starkly contradicts with what was believed about her)!

    In my grief I came across this statement by Daniel Radcliffe and I found it immensely helpful in separating the magic of HP and JKR’s abhorrent position on trans rights:

  63. So Tired of Covid, But Hanging in There*

    #1: Unless the event is outdoors, being in the middle of a pandemic is all the reason you need to decline to participate. Why are they even holding a non-essential event inside? Schoolchildren are already being exposed to uncontrolled Covid risk by being made to attend brick and mortar school. Groups of people indoors for more than minimal amounts of time is one of the highest risk transmission scenarios. Just say no.

  64. Test*

    My comment regarding #1 just got eaten. If specifically asked, I would decline due to the pandemic and having a policy of not attending any nonessential indoor events.

  65. some dude*

    I just want to say that I appreciate the librarians saying maybe we need a new middle grade fantasy series instead of trying to salvage JRR’s rep or separate her political stance from her work. I love the harry potter universe, but there is a ton of great stuff out there, much of which is more relevant than the work JRR did twenty years ago. It’s not a novel, but my 7 year old has loved the lumberjanes, which is a much more inclusive universe than the potterverse.

    Really, though, I just wish people would stay off twitter, especially if they use it for ignorant hot takes.

  66. Dr J*

    OP #3 – Do not feel bad! If your advisor is a normal person (which it sounds like they are) they *should* pick up the check. This is the norm in academia when advisors invite their grad students to meet over food/coffee. The norms of supervisor/supervisee relationships apply here, but professors should additionally acknowledge the financially tenuous position of many grad students and never expect that you pay for a meal where you are having a working meeting. (Sometimes they will even be able to pay with a departmental card, so it is not necessarily the case they are paying out of pocket.) A follow-up email or in-person thank you for lunch is always appreciated, of course, but this is not something to stress over!

  67. Phony Genius*

    On #1, many people here are recommending using the virus as the reason for not participating. That answer is good for this year, but according to the writer this is an annual event. Rather than have this surface again next year, either ignore the request, as Alison says, or give the more general response about the author’s comments without outing yourself.

  68. Eukomos*

    I’m so surprised at how man people didn’t know Rowling was a TERF before the latest blowup! It’s been public knowledge previously, she just wasn’t so loud about it. Maybe people didn’t used to care enough to turn it into a visible public fight so everyone could find out?

    1. Forrest*

      Might be different in the US, but in the UK she’s brought a whole load more attention and light to transphobia. My dad hadn’t noticed the Suzanne Moore/Sarah Ditum/Helen Lewis axis of terfdom because he doesn’t tend to read women’s columns, but JK Rowling hit the parts of the paper he does read and he asked me about it. So it’s not just that she’s a reef personally, it’s that her profile is making transphobia (and, obviously, closely related homophobia) way more high profile and mainstream. :(((

      1. Eukomos*

        Wow, I didn’t know that! I figured that it would make people assume Rowling was a nutjob rather than that TERFs were reasonable. But the social gravity there probably has to work both ways, doesn’t it? Those people always come off like such frothing lunatics, I don’t see how even people who are vulnerable to their “logic” can take them seriously. Makes it all the more important to push back against HP’s cultural dominance, I suppose, but OP’s got enough on their plate without having to be the anti-HP crusader.

        This would be a great time to have an ally, frankly, in multiple senses of the word. OP, do you know if any of your coworkers are uncomfortable or pushing back against this event? It’d probably make it easier for you to say no if someone else is already objecting, since you could be like “I agree with Bob’s argument that we shouldn’t do the HP thing anymore, so I’m not going to volunteer.”

  69. Student*

    OP #1: I’ve gone through this for a different topic, but same base problem.

    I occasionally (~1 per year) get invited to volunteer at activities for an organization that specifically excludes my minority religion from its membership. Part of their mission is explicitly to teach young children that people in my religion are immoral/bad leaders/not to be emulated, etc.

    So, more than a little ironic and personally frustrating that its members reach out to ask me to teach their kids about the cool stuff I’m doing and to hold me up as a role model. The people reaching out are my friends – they generally aren’t aware that I’m in the verboten religion. Sometimes they aren’t aware of the anti-my-religion issue within their org – it’s noise that they “tune out” because they’ve heard it in the background but never hear somebody speak against it; they focus on the parts of the org that they personally like. Or, they are aware of the religious conflict, but never thought it through to the point of realizing the implications of their request on me.

    I want to remain on friendly terms with the friends. Often to the point of voluntarily concealing my religion from them or not confronting them over their org’s. But not to the point of helping this org that teaches little kids that my religion makes me some kind of monster.

    I don’t confront the friends. I just give a polite, prompt, and unspecific decline. Often with an immediate redirect to the next topic. Example “No, I can’t volunteer at X event. I have a conflict. Hope you have fun! Is the weather going to be good that day for it?” I do have a conflict, so this is technically true; it’s just not obvious that it’s a conflict with the organization instead of the date/time/event circumstances. If you’re avoiding the conflict, I think you’ll find this is good enough.

    For acquaintances or strangers, I’m a little more inclined to point out the underlying issue. I try not to make it hostile, because I find that causes people to dig in defensively. “I’m sorry, I can’t volunteer for X organization’s events. They oppose my religion, so obviously I can’t provide them with direct support. I hope you enjoy your event, though.” I think you could use a variation on this to explain that there’s a values disconnect between you and the author in question, if you want to send the values message without actually outing yourself.

  70. employment lawyah*

    1. I don’t want to work at a Hogwarts event
    Just don’t volunteer. White lie about being busy if you have to; this is a good time for that.

    I would not talk about the underlying reason, but that’s just me. I tend to think that it’s best not to talk politics in the workplace as a rule, and the more divisive a subject is the more that applies. And if you view objections, comments, or differing opinions as a real problem which will add to your unhappiness about Rowling, then I would *definitely* avoid it. Outside a really one-sided power dynamic it is virtually impossible to deliver a message to people without getting “their message” back. Whatever your opinions on Rowling (or other subjects,) few people are willing to be told an opinion like that without responding to it–and as you know, there are a lot of people who disagree with you.

    Of course, if you’d be interested in having those discussions, go for it! You may make some people like/dislike you more but such is the way of all strongly-held opinions; they always carry some risk/benefit. Don’t forget that even if you’re tolerant, they may not be–and if you hate their views you may find you have to work with them nonetheless.

    2. Job candidates are sending me questions about global politics
    Well, you could always add a “if you’re a job candidate please don’t ask me questions about global politics” line to your bio and filter based on who reads it.

    Otherwise, ignore it.
    3. Who pays for coffee?
    The asker, if you’re reasonably equal.
    The senior / richer person, if you’re severely unequal or if the asker is in a special category (high school student, “help a homeless individual find gainful employment,” etc. It’s only coffee and it’s often an issue of pride to pay. That said, if someone blinks, pay yourself: Again, it’s only coffee.

    Always offer to pay anyway, though.

    4. I keep getting fired but can’t get feedback on why
    That’s just part of the gig. Maybe they’re out of money, or found someone cheaper, or figure they’re done, or moved online, or stopped caring, or….. People are very unwilling to be up front, and they keep hiring you, so you may never really know.

    1. yala*

      I think it’s a bad idea to Talk Politics in the workplace (something past me should’ve known, when I was oddly both more zealous, but less extreme than I am now), however…

      The workplace in question is a library, and the politics in question relate to an event the library is choosing to put on. It really might be relevant for OP to Talk Politics this once–if they FEEL like it’s a safe enough environment to do so. They don’t need to go on a rant or anything, but it might be worth tentatively raising the point that such an event might make marginalized folks feel unwelcome in the library.

      That’s slightly to the side of OP’s overall dilemma of “how do I tell them I’m not participating.” They can do that fairly easily, but if they want to go a step further and raise the issue itself (without saying “We SHOULDN’T do this” or “HP is TERRIBLE” or anything harsh like that), that might not be a terrible idea. But only OP knows their office culture.

  71. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

    OP#1 – I can totally relate to your dilemma. I run a small FB book discussion group and we were gearing up to do a 10 month read along of all the HP books including several of the peripheral ones. There was going to be sorting into your house, admins who were ‘house heads’, HP related prizes and games etc. Then JKR opened her little TERF mouth and just. couldn’t. shut. it. All the magic and joy that I got from the series went away. After a few weeks of internal debate on the subject, I decided to announce to the other 4 admins of the read along that I couldn’t participate. I simply could not recommend her books any longer due to her increasingly horrible views so I was stepping out. The read along could continue but without me and I wouldn’t direct or support it in any way. One of the other admins immediately jumped in and said that they too were not feeling like this was something they could they could do either. The other 3 were non committal about the overall issue but felt that the optics were at the very least very bad so we canned it. It’s very disappointing to have to do that because as so many have pointed out, the HP series engaged a huge number of readers of a particular age group that are difficult to engage. I don’t dig into the particulars of every author or artist etc that I watch or read or enjoy in some ways, but sometimes, some views are so public and their behavior is so egregious that I feel it necessary. I no longer recommend John Grisham novels because his very public statement about not everyone who views child pornography is a pedophile. Uh, yeah, dude, they ARE. There’s no other spin on that. These two have views that are absolutely NOT in keeping with anything I believe in AND they promote or directly cause harm to others. That’s an absolute no fly zone for me. You want to be a horrible human being? Go right ahead but you will lose my financial support and my recommendation of your work.

  72. K.*

    To Number 4.
    As a mother who searched through several agencies and tried many different people for my sons therapists I can tell you that the reasons may not be quantifiable in the sense of getting real feedback.
    You are working with the kids, but we as parents are observing the interactions and how things are afterwards, and we know our kids.
    I don’t keep anyone on that my son doesn’t have a good rapport with, because I know he will only give mediocre effort and attention for them, if any at all. If that is happening, it’s not feedback that will help you, because it isn’t about you.
    I have changed providers due to costs, again, that sort of feedback might be helpful for your employers, assuming they set the rates, but it’s not anything you can change.
    It might be scheduling conflicts, it might be an improvement in their work to the point that they don’t feel they need to keep a tutor.
    Just thought I would put those options out there as it may honestly not be about you at all, so you wont get feedback.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      But even saying “It’s not about you, and not something you can control or adjust” is still valuable feedback, because the person then doesn’t waste their effort trying to change to avoid losing a position. But of course, just like many employers, the attitude is “screw the job seeker, they exist to satisfy us, and if their needs get met by coincidence, or if they don’t, so what?”

  73. Reader from Europe*

    So, you actually deleted my comment and the other comments regarding JKR because you don’t like that other people have different opinions than you? That is a low. Still waiting for the actual examples of JKR’s transphobia, but as it looks like, askamanager can only repeat the phrases thrown around by misogynists who are piling up on a woman defending women. So sad, you lost a lot of followers today. Bye.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, I did indeed remove comments that violated the rules posted at the top of this comment section. As the rules warned I would. Once again, I’m not going to host that crap here and if you’re looking for a site that will, you should indeed look elsewhere.

      1. c-*

        Alison, I wanted to thank you for your superb moderation and for hosting the discussion on this topic while keeping it free from transphobic comments.

        As a queer person, it means a lot to be able to discuss topics like this one without worrying about harassing comments (it’s very difficult to get good workplace advice about queer topics), but that means you are the one who is dealing with all that crap.

        So thank you for shielding all of us and for giving us a civil, informative space to discuss this. It’s brave work and brave allyship, and I’m very grateful for all you do.

        Also, the nerve of that person, my God. I admire your restraint and firmness in answering them.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        Alison, some of us get it. Whether you’re right or wrong about JKR’s transphobia isn’t remotely the point. The point is that the letter writer wants help with a specific problem because of THEIR stance on it. Debating it takes away from THEIR problem of how to deal with it.

        You (generic) can have the opinion all day long that JKR isn’t transphobic (wrongfully, in my opinion), but the letter writer does, and is disgusted by it, and therefore doesn’t want to take part in this, and they are looking for a way to professionally disengage. THAT is what the comments should be about, how to help the LW professionally disengage, not to convince the LW or anyone else that they’re wrong about JKR.

        Based on that, you HAD to impose the rule that you imposed. It can’t work any other way.

  74. Learnedthehardway*

    OP1 – if simply being unavailable due to Covid-19 concerns is not a viable option (eg. If the event becomes virtual), I’d just say you are unavailable that day. From experience, dental surgery makes a good excuse for getting out of things: it’s obvious that you can’t be at an event due to pain / painkillers, and yet is not so serious that anyone becomes concerned about your actual health. A root canal could have you back at work the next day, and nobody is going to look that far inside your mouth to check on your story.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      And OP1, if you’re female, and those that might ask uncomfortable questions are male, there’s always the old standby of ‘female problems’. I guarantee you most men won’t ask anything further.

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