This Is the Sexist Reason Why J.K. Rowling Used a Pen Name

J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author who has made a name for herself as one of the most respected and successful writers in the world, recently admitted in an interview with CNN that the use of her now-iconic pen name wasn't entirely her choice.

In the article, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour asked Rowling why she chose to use her initials as a pen name. Rowling explained, "Oh, because my publisher, who published Harry Potter, they said to me, we think this is a book that will appeal to boys and girls. And I said, oh, great. And they said, so could we use your initials?"

She went on to say, "Because, basically they were trying to disguise my gender."

Of course the facade didn't last long, as Harry Potter grew in popularity and captured plenty of literary attention. Rowling explained that she was "outed as a woman" when the book won an award and she received a ton of publicity. But why did her gender need to be "outed" in the first place? 

As a struggling writer at the time, it appears Rowling didn't have a choice in the matter. She admits, "I quite like J.K. I wouldn't have chosen it…and I wouldn't have chosen it for that reason, either. But I was so grateful to be published, if they told me to call myself Rupert, I probably would have done to be honest with you."

Despite the sexist reason that her pen name is printed on the cover of the books she's written, Rowling has found a bright side to her second identity. "But now, I actually quite like having a pen name, because I feel that's—to an extent, that feels like an identity and then I'm—in private life, I'm Jo Murray. And it feels like quite a nice separation."

Whether she's J.K. Rowling or Jo Murray, this woman is an inspiration both within and beyond the literary world. We can only hope that her success story will lead to future female authors staying true to their identities and writing under their real names. 

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About The Author

Courtney is a Pop Culture Blogger for Her Campus National and contributor to the Her Campus Marist College chapter. She is currently a senior finishing a degree in Communications, an avid feminist and eventual professional journalist.