So, I’ve been reading this really interesting book (if you haven’t bought a copy, buy a copy) that raises some difficult issues surrounding the Harry Potter series. This is a quote I’ve been thinking about on and off. It’s themes we’ve discussed here before, so I wanted to throw it at you and hear your thoughts:
Why is Harry not Harriet? Why is it called the “Wizarding World” instead of the “Witching World?” After all, if you’re going to use the controversial term “witchcraft” with historical references to past witch hunts and everything, why not stick with a matriarchal motif? Why is the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the Minister of Magic, and every other key authority figure in the series male? Are the Harry Potter books sexist?
As J. K. Rowling is a woman writing in a context of the deconstruction of metanarratives, certainly there must be some deliberate commentary on gender in the series. Indeed there is, but it’s a bit more subtle…[W]hile certain stereotypes are reinforced and certain traditional hierarchies observed, there is an underlying feminism to the series that is set in the context of a male-dominated society, making it an effective commentary on our own….While Rowling does not present us with an ideal world (she never does), she lays the groundwork for change. To answer the pressing question above: No, the Harry Potter series is not sexist, even if the Wizarding World is. (259)
So, how would you engage with the opening questions? Does the answer given satisfy you or dissatisfy you? Should Rowling have presented “an ideal world,” at least as far as gender roles are concerned? If we constantly present flawed, patriarchal societies in literature do we nurture despair for improvement in our own, as feminist fantasists such as Lisa Tuttle and Vonda McIntyre have argued? Should fiction present where we are, or what we aspire to?
Consider and discuss. No PRUBON needed for this thread, just read the quote (and then buy the book).
[NOTE: Remember, feminist issues can degenerate into inflammatory squabbles on other websites, so let’s be sure to keep the discussion on the level we’re accustomed to at the Hog’s Head.]