Hermione as a Third Wave Feminist

Now that we’ve all had a week to cool down after the heated conversation about Ginny, I say we forge ahead in the gender discussion and talk about my favorite character, Hermione Granger.

At Prophecy (and later at LeakyCon) I did a presentation  in which I contend that Hermione subverts many common expectations of femininity. What are these expectations? Let’s take a look at some of her classmates: Lavender and Parvati constantly giggle, gossip, and gussy themselves up. They dedicate their time to the “woolly” and “imprecise branch of magic,” Divination. Lavender is nothing if not melodramatic in her relationship with Ron. Parvati curls her eyelashes around her wand to impress the new “dreamy” Divination teacher Firenze. In many ways these two girls represent some of the most pervasive stereotypes of teenage girls: superficial and focused more on boys than their studies.

One of the most apt ways to describe Hermione, on the other hand, is logical and studious. She prefers Arithmancy and Ancient Rune; she almost always raises her hand in class and never apologizes for knowing the answer. She’s also able to express her emotions openly, if not always productively when it comes to Ron. Hermione is not a perfect character, nor does she attempt to be (outside of class anyway). And she’s not a stereotype; she is complex and refuses to be pigeon-holed by fellow characters and readers.

So where does the feminist part come into play? And what the heck does “third wave” mean?A quick feminist history aside should answer the latter question. Feminism, in all its glory, can be broken down historically into waves. The first wave generally covers the late 19th and early 20th century and dealt with de jure sexism. The first wave is most well known for suffrage efforts and getting the 19th Amendment passed. The second wave occurred during the 1960s and 1970s and addressed mainly de facto sexism and cultural perceptions of the role of women. Paid maternity leave, fair hiring practices, affordable childcare, equal pay (in theory), Title IX, access to family planning, illegalization of marital rape,  “no fault” divorce laws, and many other social improvements of the time are thanks to second wavers. However, this wave focused mostly on the position of middle-class, straight, white women. In the 1990s many feminists argued for a new inclusive movement and questioned the essentialist definitions of femininity (The movement also arose as a response to the backlash against feminism that arose in the 1980s– but that’s secondary to this discussion).  Feminists, especially women of color, wanted to negotiate a space within mainstream feminist thought for racial issues. The third wave looks at places where gender, race, class, and sexuality intersect. Also within this wave is a consideration of the space for girls (pre-teen and adolescent) in our society as well as how popular culture influences girls and the world at large through portrayals of women, people of color, and gays. It’s practically a post-modern, deconstructionist melange.

One of the most important spaces in which Hermione exhibits her third-wave feminist mentality is in Goblet of Fire. Ah, the plight of the house-elves. When the trio sees Winky in the forest after the World Cup, seemingly struggling to get away, Hermione identifies the house-elf’s situation: “It’s slavery, that’s what it is!” And when Ron regurgitates the centuries-old justification for enslavement, Hermione replies, “It’s people like you Ron, who prop up unjust systems…” Exactly. An unjust system. Oppression and privilege (because the two are inextricably linked) are not random occurrences in the world, they are encoded into every level of society. Hermione, who has Otherness on top of Otherness heaped on her, being Muggle-born, a girl, and an intelligent girl at that, can identify (with) the oppression the house-elves suffer simply because of their race and because wizards benefit from that oppression. But she doesn’t stop there; she founds a grassroots campaign (S.P.E.W.) to change the system, even when nearly everyone discourages her from doing so.

Another moment in which we see Hermione’s third-waver status also occurs in Goblet: the Yule Ball. To say that much has been made of this one scene is an understatement. When Elizabeth Heilman analyzed the moment of Hermione’s “transformation” she wrote: “The message to girls is: get a makeover. You are not okay.” Really? Really? Every time I read that line I have to do a double take. Because I’m pretty sure that “makeover” was temporary and too much trouble for Hermione to bother with the next day. I find this section of the novel to be a parody of most teenage, Cinderella transformations we often see in texts (did anyone ever watch She’s All That?). The cultural expectation implicit here is that a girl can either be pretty or smart, never both. But Hermione plays with her image and slips in and out of modes of presentation easily while the rest of Hogwarts figures out what to do with her.

The final example I want to present (and there are many more, please post them in comments!) is one of my favorite moments in Deathly Hallows. In a room at Shell Cottage with Harry, Ron, and Griphook, Hermione declares, “I’m a Mudblood!… Mudblood and proud of it!” Throughout DH, and the whole series since Chamber, racism has affected her life. When the last book opens with the murder of a “Muggle lover” you know there won’t be any mercy. Whereas Harry is targeted because of who he is, Hermione is targeted because of what she is; she becomes the poster-girl for all Mudbloods. When the trio reaches Malfoy Manor, Hermione is tortured by the most zealous racist among the Death Eaters. She loses not only her name (she’s only called “Granger” or “Mudblood”) but also her humanity. Recovering from this experience, she reclaims the term that has previously oppressed her and gives it new meaning. It is no longer derogatory, no longer has power over her, but instead is a marker of pride, like the scarlet knife wound on her neck.

I could go on and on about Hermione (50 pages long, in fact), but I’ll stop here and leave it to you, dear readers. What other examples of Hermione’s feminism do you see in the novels? Favorite character moments? Also, please feel free to ask questions about third wave feminism; it’s not the most easily explainable concept, at least if you want to do so succinctly. Just remember to keep it civil and friendly: your fellow pub patrons have feelings just as acute as yours. Because gender issues lead us to question many foundations of our society and ways of life, it’s often difficult to keep a level head and withhold sarcasm or vitriol. I don’t want to limit anyone’s voice or silence an opinion, but if someone can’t play nice I’ll consider deleting any hostile comments.

110 thoughts on “Hermione as a Third Wave Feminist

  1. Thanks so much for a *great* post Gwen. I’m really looking forward to this discussion. When I got the email in my box I had a geeky moment of joy! I’m sure I’m not the only one who views Hermione as a personal role model.
    One thing that I’m grateful for in the books is that not only is Hermione brilliant and courageous, and unafraid to take unpopular positions, but she is on the whole respected by other characters for these traits. We still live in a world in which people often feel threatened by a woman speaking difficult truths, Rowling has created a world in which that doesn’t seem to be an issue. Harry always respects Hermione, and she serves as his conscience and voice of reason even when she’s not present.
    Another thing I love about Hermione is that even in romantic relationships, she doesn’t compromise her morals. She never has any problem telling Ron when she feels his attitudes or behavior are wrong. She refuses to abandon the mission when he storms out, gives him a piece of her mind upon his return, and never stops challenging his assumptions about goblins, elves, and other opressed groups. Women are still socialized to “get along” and wanting our r0mantic partners’ approval can compound that further, but not Hermione!

  2. Interesting to note too, that Hermione’s two best friends are both boys. Many of the other girls seem to run around (as Harry notices when trying to ask out Cho) in groups. We also see Hermione enter the boys’ dormitory, joined by the boys in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, and sharing a tent with Ron and Harry in DH. I know little about feminism, so I don’t know if all of this means anything, other than the fact that Hermione crosses traditional barriers.

  3. Well, as Hermione is one of my favorite characters(she’s right behind Harry in my order of fave characters in the HP saga), how can I ignore this post? Good intro, Gwen. I pretty much agree with what diva_alix and miles365 have written, as well. I would just add that I think one of the crucial things we view about Hermione’s character is seen in the first book, when she is able to modify her behavior after the “troll incident” and becomes reconciled to not being such a stickler for the rules, and as Harry noted, ” was nicer for it.” It doesn’t mean that rules are no longer important, but that she, like Harry and Ron, recognizes that some rules just are made to be broken. I think that’s what the early feminists faced–rules that no longer applied to them, and needed to be updated to reflect change. Although her social skills were lacking in trying to deal with the house-elf problem, she at least recognized that there WAS a problem, which pretty much escaped Harry and Ron and even many of the adults in the wizarding world. In short, probably because of her own experience of having been branded as “other” or “mudblood,” an undesirable person, she related to others who also were marginalized, such as the house-elves and later, the goblins.

  4. It is difficult for me to pull much feminist thought out of Hermione’s character, or anything else in the story, simply because I have not developed those instincts in myself. I have studied feminism very little and have mixed feelings about it, for some of what I consider natural and just–e.g., being able to hold down a good job and have a decent education, being respected as a fully human person–owes much to feminism, yet it is difficult for me to consider certain aspects of the second and third waves especially as “social improvements”.

    It seems to me that comparing race, class, gender, and sexuality is, as they say, “apples and oranges”, but I’m not sure Rowling would agree with me, and certainly Hermione’s reckoning of house-elf slavery and of Muggle-born hunting are racial issues. She begins wrongly, as something of a self-righteous revolutionary, but her point is still good and she matures. By shaping Harry’s understanding she makes the whole world of difference in Kreacher’s life.

    Of all the characters in all the books, I would say I sympathize most with Hermione. We might tangle over politics, but would share a strong–if not exactly like–sense of justice.

  5. Not sure that H is as much a feminist, third wave or otherwise, as someone who lives many of the feminist ideals, ie. she is strong, competent and independent (not dependent on males for her identity). The reason why I don’t think she is a feminist is that we never hear her articulate thoughts about the status of women in general or her status as a female specifically. She does not appear to feel that she is in any way disenfranchised or discriminated against because she’s female; nor does she seem to be an activist in the cause of women. She is just naturally liberated, but without the awareness that there is something to be liberated from.

    She is more aware of her disadvantaged status as a child of Muggles, and does articulate her feelings about that. And she is definitely an activist when it comes to the rights of elves.

  6. Something I admire greatly about Hermione is that she’s an original thinker and a moral one as well. I’m not sure she could be considered a feminist as her gender isn’t really an issue. She does reflect the activist in her courage, individuality, and blurring or erasing of traditional boundaries, also in her tendency toward rigidity and smugness. But what do you say about her doing things (like homework) for Harry and Ron) they should be doing for themselves? And she did want to be prettier; she had her large front teeth magically reduced.

    I loved Hermione’s transformation over the series to what I jokingly call ” a real live girl” as she became more flexible and comfortable with chaos, even to breaking rules she previously cherished and using spells she’d earlier denounced. And I had profound admiration for her withstanding dreadful torture, in contrast to the men we know of. Harry underwent torture, but as a weapon or for LV’s pleasure. Hermione, suffering prolonged torture for information never gave in.

    Hermione is a tremendous role model for girls (although I think Luna is too).

  7. Red Rocker and Arabella Figg, I liked both of your comments. I agree that Hermione is primarily a liberated person, rather than a liberated woman.

    Her gender does come up once at least, though: when Harry asserts his confidence that the Half-Blood Prince is “a bloke”, Hermione flares up with “The truth is that you don’t think a girl would have been clever enough!” (HBP, 538.) It’s an irrational worry, too, considering who she’s talking to. Harry finds her assumption that he would be prejudiced against women, when he’s had her brilliant example before him for years, a bit insulting.

  8. I think Hermione is definitely a product of her time, but along with Dumbledore she’s often a window for the author to get their point of view across(in addition of exposition of course.) I think it’s pretty safe to say she is one even if she’s not screaming about it in every other scene.

    I like what I’ve read so far but here are a couple of completely random thoughts that I’ll throw in for the sake of discussion, since I think there’s a fairly good chance that most people here like Hermione quite a bit(I am one of them.)

    1. I had a loooong freakin discussion right after DH came out with somebody that felt like Hermione was shortchanged in the series but particularly in the last book because she didn’t have the angsty demons that someone like say Ron or Neville had to beat down throughout the books, and they thought that she was “too good” at times. One of the things I brought up to counter this was similar to Gwen’s point about how she does grow throughout the series: how she learns that some things are definitely are more important than following rules, when she disagrees with Percy for the first time in GoF, and then transfers her striving for the approval of authority as a kid to the striving for justice in all it’s incredibly complicated and confusing glory as an adolescent. Anyways it always seemed very realistic to me.
    A while later though, I did come to realize the person I was arguing with made me notice that all the characters who’s personal drama we delve into-DD, Snape, Ron, Neville, Harry, Voldemort-are male which to be absolutely clear IS NOT A BAD THING because I think the books delve into some really interesting boy/masculinity issues we can discuss at another time. The girls overall tend to come more put together, the only exceptions I can think of are Ginny with her history with Riddle’s diary and Molly with the boggart. I am bringing this up also because I meant to post it in the Ginny thread before it got cut off.

    2. Also on a forum some years back someone tried to make the argument that the SPEW thing and how it was portrayed was an analogy to women’s rights. In the sense that a couple hundred years ago if you told people they were oppressed most women would have thought you were nuts and would have been very resistant(as are some people now.) They also said that there was a Euro women’s rights org back in the day that had a similar sounding-acronym, I have no idea if that’s true, I’ll try and find the post. …and I have no idea if this has already been brought up a million times so apologies if it has. I thought it was an interesting idea even if I have no idea if it’s even, but I’m curious about other’s thoughts on that.

  9. Gender explicitly comes up in DH too when she gets touchy that she’s expected to do the cooking on the camping trip, but I don’t know if that counts since they were fighting over everything at that point.

  10. Thanks, Library Lily, for the reference to JKR speaking explicitly about Hermione and her own “feminist conscience”. I looked up the pertinent exchange:

    O: You’re saying it’s difficult to write outside your gender, but you’ve chosen to create Harry Potter. Is that hard?

    JKR: If I say no now, that’s going to sound really arrogant. But I had been writing the first book for six months before I stopped and thought, ‘Why’s he a boy?’ And the answer is, He’s a boy because that’s the way he came. If I had stopped at that point and changed him to Harriet, it would have felt very contrived. My feminist conscience is saved by Hermione, who’s the brightest character. I love Hermione as a character. She’s kind of a caricature of me when I was younger. I was obsessed with achieving academically, but underneath that I was insecure.

    O: We love Hermione, too! We identify!

    JKR: I think we have a very strong female character in her.

    It’s a very interesting passage. How I interpret it is that JKR feels as if she’s let down her own feminist expectations by making her protagonist male rather than female. And she feels she’s made up for her this lapse by creating a strong female character.

    Going back to SPEW, Travis has raised the point that SPEW is JKR’s gentle way of poking fun at radical activists of all sorts. I don’t think he was thinking of feminists specifically but the cause of social justice in general. There was also the argument that house elves were in fact a metaphor (analogy?) for women raised in the Elfin Mystique (I can’t remember the name of the author). I remember we’ve had all sorts of discussion about these topics at this site. If we accept that argument, then Hermione could be construed as a feminist, albeit metaphorically. Travis also has a chapter in HPI about gender in HP, with a section titled Hermione, Feminist. He is best person to interpret his own work, but my re-reading of the section suggests that his primary focus is on Hermione as a strong, female character, rather than Hermione as a social activist in the cause of feminism, which is how I understand the word “feminist”.

  11. Kathryn McDaniels wrote “The Elfin Mystique,” and that fascinating article can be found in Past Watchful Dragons (edited by Amy H. Sturgis). Yes, her thesis is basically that the house-elves are an allegorical stand-in for women during second-wave feminism. That adds an interesting dynamic to Hermione as third-waver.

    Gwen’s notes about the Third Wave’s concern with intersectionality of oppression is what makes, in my view, Hermione-as-third-waver a reasonable, or even the best, reading. Rowling, as has been noted, rarely addresses the subject of gender head-on. Racism is clearly her key “social justice” issue, but since racism, sexism, classism are often interrelated and not their own isolated issues, the thematic overlap allows for the elfin mystique and Hermione-as-Third-Wave-Feminist readings to make sense.

    Sarah Zettel’s essay on Hermione as feminist is also an interesting one to read, and I’ll have to pull that one back out of the library sometime soon to revisit it.

  12. Darn it, Travis, how is that you end up commenting before me and saying almost exactly what I intended to, but better? *Sigh* Gwen’s notes about the Third Wave’s concern with intersectionality of oppression is what makes, in my view, Hermione-as-third-waver a reasonable, or even the best, reading. I’m SO putting this on my facebook page!

    Feminism can be so many different things that it’s often spoken of/written in the plural. For some it’s an academic pursuit while for others it’s all about outspoken activism. Others are radical and some are more complacent. Some even think “I’m not a feminist, but…” because they don’t want to take the name of feminist even if they believe in the ideal. When I joke with my students about the general definition of feminism I say, “It’s the radical belief that women are people.” (<—hyperbole)

    Like many third wavers (and people born in and after the 1970s), Hermione has grown up with feminism as a fact of life. Perhaps gender issues aren't explicitly at the forefront of her thinking/activism because she sees the work of previous feminists in her life. But again, third wavers concentrate on more than just gender: race, class, and sexuality are also major issues. Blood status (race) is the more prescient issue in her magical life, but she's still a girl. Because we don't get a close look at the lives of boys who are Mudbloods, Hermione's experience is taken as the status quo* without consideration of how boys experience this racism (an interesting reversal!).

    Oppression targets many different groups and intersections of those groups, and, IMO, third wave feminists look beyond the singular position of straight white women to better address the oppression of others.

    *"The status is not quo”

  13. Travis has raised the point that SPEW is JKR’s gentle way of poking fun at radical activists of all sorts.
    Well that’s kind of obvious since she’s said so, I bring it up because SPEW is just one of those things that I kind of wonder why it was there at all because it’s not really all that good for the lulz and portraying people that are happy being treated pretty crappily is just kind of extremely odd. I think the person did have a point though in that the whole elf thing might have been a better analogy for gender relations than race relations as we know them and recent examples of slavery. Comparing it to animal-rights activism really doesn’t seem like the right analogy either.

    Thanks Travis, I KNEW someone had written about it, that was going to drive me nuts.

    Also, I think it’s hard to talk about being feminist or not in terms of explicit examples when Jo decided to create a world where gender and (muggle) race are supposed to be non-issues relative to the real world. I get that we are operating on the expanded definition of ‘a feminist is someone against inequality of any kind’-I don’t always agree with or follow academic feminism but I’m familiar with that concept-which some people might not agree with, but it is largely how they define themselves nowadays and I get that.
    But now that I am thinking about it(not to hijack this thread,) I think there is more evidence in the books for an argument that Ginny(book 5/6) is a feminist character in the traditional sense.

  14. Gwen, I find this reading fascinating for a couple of reasons. But for now, I’ll raise a question I have.

    Hogwarts holds some racial and ethnic diversity within its walls, especially among its female characters. So, if Third Wave feminism concerns itself with that intersection of “gender, race, class, and sexuality,” what are we to make of the fact that some of the novels’ most stereotypical presentations of women involve these minority characters? Your wonderful essay in HHC examines Cho as a vehicle through which Harry and Cedric negotiate their status. As this post indicates, Parvati is often shown through the same lens as Lavender Brown — the latter of whom embodies everything in some high school girls that drives my wife crazy as an English teacher.

    I understand using other magical beings as metaphoric stand-ins serves the purpose of addressing issues in ways an audience can find more accessible/acceptable. So, Hermione’s initial actions with SPEW demonstrate that concern. But as far as I recall, we never see her really address these issues within her classmates.

    Do such surface level stereotypes resonate well with your reading? Or, am I maybe barking up the wrong tree, here? As I’ve said before, feminist theories haven’t found their way into the center of my scholarly interests (although there’s plenty of room for it!).

  15. Gwen in the traditional sense, I meant more an older definition of feminism that’s more primarily centred around gender issues, I didn’t want to elaborate too much to turn the Hermione thread into a Ginny thread unless someone asked.

    Overall, I think the examples people brought up in the other thread about Ginny sneaking out at night to practice flying, how Ginny at times rejects the boxes she’s put into, how she’s aggressive at times against the protectiveness/criticism of her brothers about her dating habits are apt. But she has more to be against in this sense because Hermione is on her own and doesn’t have relatives to tell her what to do.

    Also, I think Ginny breaks a still pretty commonly used but declining “pretty/popular girl + not asexual = ditz/slut” stereotype, whereas Hermione’s “brainy girl takes off her glasses/fixes her hair and people realize she is attractive” is a more well-trodden trope in books/movies(though I don’t really mind this or the fact that she has her teeth fixed. Most people become less awkward as they age I don’t see why she wouldn’t either.)
    Book 7 is something else entirely IMO, as I said before.

  16. Dave, great questions! To answer the first, in part, I have to reference Mikhail Lyubansky, who did a presentation at Terminus last year on race and representation. Since the books are ostensibly about magic vs. Muggle race, rather than nationality/skin color race, we don’t have a discussion of the latter as such. Rowling seems to create a racial utopia: no one is discriminated against because of skin color. What actually happens, according to Mikhail, is an ideology of color-blindness; race seems to be assigned somewhat arbitrarily. On the one hand Parvati isn’t a stereotype of her race, so JKR’s choice seems innocuous, but on the other hand Cho acts more in line with a stereotype of her race (smart, passive, quiet Asian girl who’s exoticized by white Brit males).

    You ask, “what are we to make of this?” Well, it’s problematic on many levels. For one thing, the female stereotypes act as foils to Hermione and show how great she is; however, that means we must sacrifice some girls for the promotion of one. For another, having a world of color-blindness sounds really nice when you’re white, but most rhetoric regarding color-blindness means erasing one’s ethnicity and making everyone white. There are many people out there who discuss the racial issues of the non-white characters in more detail and better than I can here. As far as third wave feminism goes, I would apply it mostly to issues of inclusion and development of these characters. We know nothing of their interior lives, what they think about, how they deal with going to school and living in a predominantly white society.

    One moment that always stood out in the books for me was during Quidditch practice. Pansy is watching the Gryffindors and makes fun of Angelina’s braids, saying something along the lines of “who wants to look like they have snakes coming out of their head?” Wow. Now there’s an example of racism. Yet we don’t see much of a reaction from Angelina then or at any time. I think she ignores the comment and keeps playing, but what was she thinking at the time? Was this comment one of many?

    I feel like I’ve gone off track and rambled a bit, but I hope I’ve addressed your question Dave.

  17. Gwen, I think your post is very interesting and I have never bought the arguments put forward by the people who don’t like the Hermione character, but I never could construct arguments coherent enough to respond. I really like the fact she enjoys the magical equivalent of complex math, arithmancy. As someone who was educated in an applied science field (animal science/physiology) that has seen the gender ratio flip from 75%:25% from male in favor of female students, I think it’s great that young girls reading the books have a role model that could potentially inspire them into nontraditional fields of study.

  18. Sorry for the double post everyone; I just don’t want to write a 5 page comment!

    Nadia, great points about Ginny and Hermione dealing with many of the gender binaries that exist in society: virgin/whore and pretty/smart divisions girls are forced to choose between (if they get a choice at all).

    I don’t want to mislead anyone reading into thinking that the third wave is only about race, class, sexuality issues through a lense of gender. While all that’s true, there’s still a lot to be done regarding specifically women’s issues. I think what the third wave wants to ensure is that WOC and queer women aren’t ignored when these issues are addressed, as many were in the ’60s and ’70s.

    Saying that, I think you’re right that Ginny could be considered a second wave feminist in some ways. As far as her sexuality goes, because I see her as more “modern” than the ’70s definition might encompass, and because third wavers are considered more sex positive, Ginny could also be a third waver. (Sometimes I think of her as a Riot grrrl). I love when she argues against Ron’s “protective older brother” spiel.

  19. Gwen, you mention Pansy’s ridiculous comment about Angelina’s hair. I find it ironic that a Slytherin, the namesake of whose house had snake-speech come out of his mouth, made that remark. :)

    You speak of sacrificing other female characters to set off Hermione. I may well not be understanding this, as it sounds to me like the feminist assumption is that a feminist author should make all of her positive female characters strong and independent. Do correct me if I’m wrong here! My guess is that I’m oversimplifying something.

    I read Parvati and Lavender as though Rowling was being realistic, since some girls are just like that, especially at that age. Stories in which the majority of female characters are all of the fearless and calculating sort feel contrived to me, and the normalcy of the Wizarding girls–including Hermione and Ginny and Mrs. Weasley–feels to me rather refreshing. They’re human, feminine, occasionally girlish and yet strong and intelligent. I love that.

    [Spoken by someone who, as you say, having been born in the late 70s, "has grown up with feminism as a fact of life".]

    As for race, I would hazard the guess that Rowling went “color-blind” (as we think of it) on purpose in order to make her point using her allegories of pureblood/Muggle-born/centaur/goblin/etc. That would have allowed her to present a complicated issue and the thought surrounding it without getting into our usual racial rhetoric and possibly unwittingly giving offense or winding up with a “dated” story. But it would certainly be interesting to read treatments of the racial issues of Dean, Cho, Parvati & Padma, etc.

  20. Library Lily, oversimplification is one of the tendencies in these short, online conversations. No worries. Imagine if we talked about this stuff over Twitter!

    I’ve never been one to say what an author should or shouldn’t do, especially since the work is already published and we can’t much change anything now! I try to look at what’s been written and see how the text may affect/is affected by our culture. It is my dearest wish as a feminist to see all girls and women be strong and independent; unfortunately that’s not the world we live in. If all the girls Hermione went to school with were forceful characters I don’t think that’d be realistic (and like you say, the “human” part, the realistic development, of some characters is why we love them so).

    When I say that some may be sacrificed in order to act as foils, I mean that it’s lamentable that it appears as though there’s a quota for strong girl characters. Lavender and Parvati fulfill their roles in the series (not just as foils), but in many ways they’re static whereas Hermione is dynamic. They are realistic high school girls, but what does it say about contemporary high school girls (and the culture that helps create them) that they’re like this? Unless I’m one of only a few people annoyed by these two.

    Granted, Lavender in the movie was to die for– one of my favorite adapted characters of all the movies.

  21. Thank you, Gwen, for your kind and helpful explanation. It helps to have more of your perspective. And no, I cannot imagine trying to deal with such topics in bites of 140 characters or less!

    I can see how Lavender and Parvati come across as static. In my mind, they develop, however, though JKR left most of it to imagination. They were both in the Room of Requirement when Neville brings the main trio into Hogwarts, there with all the old D.A. members who had defied and escaped the Carrows. To me, that says–admittedly without saying much–that they acquired a more balanced worldview and found better things to do than chase boys.

    “Unless I’m one of only a few people annoyed by these two.”

    I cannot imagine that anyone is not annoyed by them in HBP. I’m sure Rowling rolled her eyes as she wrote. :)

  22. Great summary of a thought provoking and interesting paper and subject matter. I particularly like this for a rather bizarre reason. But having read a lot of character analysis in HP lately, I was relieved that Gwen could talk of Hermione’s strengths, role as a feminist and what makes her unique without the need to malign other characters. Too many times in this sort of discussions, Hermione as an example, the presenter feels the need to heighten her strength by comparing and belittling both Harry and Ron.

    Thank you Gwen for allowing me to like Hermione and still have okay feelings for the rest of the trio. She doesn’t need a compare and contrast to be strong, smart, heroic and an example of feminism for the modern girl in her own right!

  23. Tamela, I liked your last paragraph, I think it does happen often in discussions that one character is held up as superior to others (I think particularly of the tendency for people to admire and exonerate Snape and lay a lot of blame on Harry & co. Why can’t Snape be a fascinating and complex character without us condemning Harry for his weaknesses and ignorance? but that’s a topic for another thread).
    I’ve been enjoying the discussion (though for some reason the following feature wasn’t working, so I’ve had to play catch up). The issue of whether or not Hermione is a feminist, as she never talks at length about women’s issues is interesting. I would only say that as Rowling clearly talks about race, but uses the mudblood, pureblood, magical races set up to explore and comment on it, the same can be said for feminism and Hermione. I think that Hermione is undoubtedly a feminist as she clearly believes that women are equally as worthy, intelligent, and capable as men, and that indeed all “people” are, and should be treated, equally. At least that’s generally what my definition of feminism is and part of the reason why I feel like banging my head against the wall when I hear women distancing themselves from feminism (not directed at anyone here). I love the “feminism is the radical notion…” quote Gwen. The bf gave me a t-shirt with that quote on it our first Christmas.
    In terms of Parvati and Lavender, I agree with Library Lily that they most certainly behave like twits for most of the series, and are nowhere near as developed and fleshed out as Hermione, but , the do join the D.A. and resist the Carrows and fight Voldemort in their final year, so they clearly can and do grow up and rise to the occasion. I think they’re also not well developed for the reason that they don’t play a huge role in the daily lives of our main characters, but at least Rowling did give us plenty of positive portrayals of women of all ages in addition to Hermione: Luna, Ginny, Angelina, Katie Bell and Alicia Spinnet, Professors McGonagall and Sprout, Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, Emmeline Vance, etc etc. I even have a fondness for Fleur, annoying as she sometimes one, she’s another character that did rise to the occasion and show herself to have true goodness and courage.

  24. 1. I agree that there’s a wide variety of depictions of both female and male characters in a range of sillyness(I mean there’s also Fudge, Lockheart, Bagman, McLaggen etc.) Though with that said that sillyness isn’t really a male stereotype is why we are talking about the girls, but I have to add that Lavender and Parvati (and Cho also) are seen in the very limited amounts that they overlap with Harry’s life, and that also colours how we see them. Luna Lovegood is seen as flakey by the vast majority of the people she interacts with but we see her as something more because we’ve spent time with her, and if I remember correctly she liked Trelawney’s divination classes too. Imagine if large amounts of people were to assess your character solely based on the information that you enjoy america’s next top model or something.

    2. The POC thing is something else that I don’t really feel qualified to talk about-I actually wrote a long thing and realized I’m not totally sure what my opinion is. I’m glad the incident with Angelina’s braids was brought up I was wondering if somebody would.

    3. Oh and I didn’t mean to necessarily place Hermione and Ginny into different waves or philosophical outlooks because I tend to associate said waves with particular historical moments, and I think both girls are a product of their own time but living with different circumstances. We just see more aspects of Hermione because she is a slightly more fleshed out character than Ginny is, and it’s also more necessary for her to be more directly tied to the main themes of the series, sorries for the lack of clarity.

  25. Library Lily, diva_alix, and Nadia, you all make great points about Lavender and Parvati joining the D.A. and fighting the Carrows: these actions show a lot of personal strength and bravery on their part(s). As far as the bravery goes, you’d expect that from them being Gryffindors (of course Cho, Luna, Hannah, etc. are not). But what about Pansy? Now there’s a static character if I ever read one. Since we see so little of the girls in that house, I have to wonder about Slytherin gender expression. *starts to plot a future post…*

  26. Lavender also helped corral the Blast Ended Skrewts in GOF.

    I wouldn’t make too much of gender expression or anything for that matter regarding Slytherins. None of them, male or female, get a very good shake from Rowling. Pansy, after all, is the amalgamation of all the girls who were mean to Rowling. So, I doubt she’d have much sympathetic to write about Pansy. :)

  27. As I’ve read through the comments here, I’ve gotten a better grasp of your post, Gwen. And I agree with you about Hermione. I’m late on this, but I needed time to be at the computer (rather than iPod).

    First, Hermione has a mother who grew up during second wave feminism. Mum is a working professional, a dentist (previously not a common field for women). Having grown up in a home with working parents as the norm, Hermione would take for granted her opportunities, as girls do now. Perhaps Mum shared with Hermione some of her own early struggles to make it in a male-dominated field. Such a combination of acceptance and inspiration, in addition to her own struggle as a despised “mudblood” would be a springboard to Hermione’s openness and activism in the wizarding world as she encounters injustice toward others. (Plus, she’s just got a huge heart.)

    However, I would like to examine Molly and Bellatrix as feminist polar opposites. I do this as a woman who was young during the ‘60s and ‘70s, raised to be June Cleaver, entering the freeing, yet intimidating, adult Gloria Steinem/Ms. world (I still have this “neither betwixt nor between feeling,” as do many women of my generational niche).

    To me, Bellatrix is a caricature of the rigidity that overtook second wave feminism, with narrow, prescribed views of what women should be, despising those who don’t “measure up” to the creed. Sneering at homemaking mothers (Molly), childless herself, Bellatrix casually considers children expendable–the death of her sister’s child is “an honor.” She is the dominant figure of her marriage. Like women who abandoned their families to “find themselves,” Bellatrix wanders after (irony alert!) another man who satisfies her lust for power. And power was what it was came to be all about.

    Molly represents both Second Wave and Third Wave feminism; next to Hermione, she is the most wholly feminist person in the series (as she straddles both waves), because feminism, originally, was about choice, not determination of only one value choice. Molly was a member of the Order, though we don’t know her role. And she was in the Order, despite having young children. Once Voldemort was defeated in VVI, she chose to be a homemaking mother and was perfectly content. We see no prejudice in her, although she probably has some learned prejudices (but, as in second wave feminism, is not concerned with them). She marries a pureblood wizard who chooses a Muggle-related job that keeps him in the basement literally and financially. She embraces a half-blood (Harry) and a Muggle-born (Hermione) as her own children, and Hagrid is her guest at Bill’s wedding. She raises intelligent children (alas, Percy!) who grow up to be worthy adults. Versus Bellatrix who has little but her own precious self to lose, Molly has a lot to lose (as demonstrated by the boggart battle in OotP). Although she doesn’t want her children in a war, during the Battle of Hogwarts, this former Order warrior defeats the powerful Bellatrix in fierce battle—as a mother. In this she shows what a powerful witch she really is behind that apron. You can bet her children will now be in proper awe of her as she goes peacefully back to being a homemaker. Mom has the right stuff.

    I know that this is a rather stark contrast and I’m not trying to set up the tired homemaker/working woman wars. But I feel Molly exemplifies the best of second wave and third wave feminism, because she is open to women’s choice, is unashamed of her choice, and her choices most benefit society. She can switch hats without losing identity. She’s completely comfortable in her own skin.

    I don’t know what you’ll make of this, Gwen. I haven’t studied feminism, so I’m not an academic authority. I’ve simply lived through second and third wave feminism’s stages, observing the evolution over time.

  28. Arabella, one minor point — Molly wasn’t in the Order during the first war, according to this exchange with Remus after he’s dealt with the boggart:

    “Molly, that’s enough,” said Lupin firmly. “This isn’t like last time. The Order is better prepared, we’ve got a head start, we know what Voldemort’s up to?—”

    Mrs. Weasley gave a little squeak of fright at the sound of the name.

    “Oh, Molly, come on, it’s about time you got used to hearing it—look, I can’t promise no one’s going to get hurt, nobody can promise that, but we’re much better off than we were last time, you weren’t in the Order then, you don’t understand, last time we were outnumbered twenty to one by the Death Eaters and they were picking us off one by one…”

    Harry thought of the photograph again, of his parents’ beaming faces. He knew Moody was still watching him.

  29. Arabella, I really like what you said about Molly and her choice to be and live as she wants. Many dismiss her (and housewives who aren’t fictional) as giving in to the status quo when in fact, for many it is really what they WANT.

    I do have just a few issues with your assessment with Molly and I’ll try to keep them to the relevance of the discussion of third-wave feminism, that being the theory that she lacked prejudice. First, in Gwen’s essay she mentions Ron’s attitude towards house-elves. This is a learned attitude. He has this view because he was raised with it–as witches and wizards seem to have little interaction with society before school–it is assumed that he learned this at home. I think she does have some prejudices, just not based on class, obviously.

    Though one could content, herself coming from a well established old family–the Prewitts–that she might have had to overcome that prejudice. It’s true, she did marry a Pureblood wizard who has a Muggle related job, but she did this before he had chosen his career and there is a few instances when one is given the impression that she might actually resent his Muggle fascinations, whether that is because of Muggle prejudice or not, is of course, open to debate.

    I definitely see, though, her ability to change her perceptions and preconceived notions rather quickly, and for that, I can see a bit of what you mean about her feminism. This can be seen most strongly (or perhaps it is just the first example I thought of) with her attitude to Fleur, a girl (half-Veela) who was clearly not good enough for her son, who wasn’t the woman (Tonks) she had pictured for her son. But in that one act of defiance where she proclaims that she will love Bill no matter what befalls them that Molly, almost instantly, changes her opinion.

    I like to think that over the years she becomes more open to all peoples whether their race, gender, sexual preference and class, I’m just not convinced that she’s there yet.

  30. I wouldn’t make too much of gender expression or anything for that matter regarding Slytherins. Oh, but revgeorge, one can apply analysis of gender expression to anyone! We all have/enact gender. And if the Slytherins are all things JKR dislikes, then one could read negative attributes of their personalities as connected to their gender. For instance, Pansy as “mean girl” (a la the movie of the same name) can be seen as a critique of such.

    Tam addressed some of what I wanted to respond to about Molly’s prejudices from Arabella Fig‘s comment. Molly and Bella are set up as extreme foils throughout the series, mainly as mother/non-mother figures. I frankly wasn’t surprised when Molly AK’d Bella in the end, rather than Neville. If JKR were critiquing anything via Bella, I’d say it was more women not having children than specifically radical feminism. Mothers hold a highly esteemed place in the series and in Harry’s opinion. Bella not being maternal and not procreating seems to be her biggest sin.

    And if she chose not to have children (though what if she couldn’t conceive or carry her pregnancy to term? What if her husband didn’t want to? What if she had planned to but then was sent to Azkaban?), is that not just as much a choice as Molly’s to have many kids and be a homemaker? In some ways the criticism of Bella for not bearing children is criticism of feminists who make “wrong” choices.

    I’ve always wondered how much of a choice it was for Molly to stay home and raise the kids. Perhaps the Prewitts, like some of the pureblood families we’ve seen, expect the women not to work. Sure, the option is there, legally, but family pressure is a strong influence. And it always struck me as odd that, with the Weasley finances always so precarious, Molly wouldn’t hold down a part-time job, at least during the school year. Heck, I could even see her owning a little cottage industry, doing owl-order chocolates or something. I do not think that Molly is unhappy with where her life is now, and knowing her character I expect that given the choice she’d make the same decisions.

    Side note (but also, getting back on thread topic!): how do you think Molly and Hermione relate once the latter joins the family? Is Hermione good enough in Molly’s eyes for ickle Ronnikins? Do you think Molly would pressure Hermione to be a stay-at-home Mum?

    And Arabella, I like how you bring in Mrs. Granger’s experiences and what she may have taught Hermione! Excellent.

  31. You all evidently missed my sentence in the Molly Weasley section: “We see no prejudice in her, although she probably has some learned prejudices (but, as in second wave feminism, is not concerned with them).” Certainly Ron and the other kids learned their racial prejudices from either Molly, Arthur, or both, and the culture. Still, though Ron is wary with negative attitudes, he shows no *hatred* for giants, or ultimate rejection of Hagrid, etc. (and he works through this issue), so I don’t think hard prejudicial hatred is part of the Weasley household. Even so, second-wave feminism was not as inclusive as third-wave, and that was my point.

    Sorry about the Order goof. As to whether Molly married Arthur before his career choice, I don’t know. I expect Lily Luna to pop up any moment and fill in. ;-) But surely Molly knew of Arthur’s interest in Muggles and job intentions before she married him. I can’t see in the books anywhere that she demonstrates Muggle-related prejudice. Whether Arthur’s idosyncracies and resultant experiments–i.e., the Ford Anglia–exasperated her, well, nothing wrong with that. It bothered her that the Ministry despised his work and kept him from advancing, but she accepted it and the poverty it brought, and didn’t resent Muggles themselves. Molly doesn’t demonstrate color prejudice either; she knows Ron has a black roomate and that Ginny is dating him. We never hear of any protests on that front.

    I think Molly did choose to be a stay-at-home mother. But I’m also certain she had other choices.

    Molly didn’t dislike Fleur because Fleur was a Veela. She disliked Fleur as a person. Molly felt more affinity with familiar Tonks than this exotic young woman. (And the reader is supposed to regard Fleur with rolled eyes until the hospital scene at the end of HBP.) I like Fleur, myself, as a person who defies categorizing, who has great equanimity, who doesn’t use her beauty as a self-advancing tool, and who disregards beauty for valor (Harry’s saving her sister, Bill’s injuries).

    Molly doesn’t have to be “completely there yet,” in my opinion; her journey is quite satisfactory and I’m sure, if Rose marries Scorpio, she’ll work through that, too, and love him as a grandson. I don’t think you can compare her to Hermione, apple to apple; it’s more apples and oranges (Molly being the orange, of course–wink!).

    Gwen, it’s not Bella’s not having children; it’s her indifferent coldness to them that is, I think, Rowling’s point, demonstrated so chillingly at Spinner’s End. Even DE Narcissa protests. Bella has no idea of motherhood, cannot even have empathy for motherly feelings, and sees children as expendable sacrifices toward “the greater good.” Perhaps this is Rowling’s critique against Thatcherism and criticism she endured for being a single mother temporarily on the dole.

    We have no backstory on Bella’s fertility issues. I don’t criticize her for not having children, just her attitude toward them and families (especially large ones, a big issue beginning in the 70s). I think Bella’s biggest sin is her lust for power, and her consuming desire to control others in her insistence on conformity to the cause. On a working woman note, her “professional” dedication has broken her through the glass ceiling in the DE circle. Too bad it was in the cause of evil.

    Nevertheless, we have other good working woman examples in the Hogwarts teachers. No glass ceiling there, as women are Headmasters.

    As for Molly and Hermione, I’m sure she’d gladly welcome Hermione. She doesn’t want any of the Trio going off on dangerous journeys in DH, but her displeasure extends to all three. She’s never given any indication of seeing Hermione or her ideas as a bad influence; also, Hermione has been with the Weasleys without Harry. I don’t think Molly would object to Hermione or Ginny being working women, either, because she would know their good values.

  32. Gwen said, “…one can apply analysis of gender expression to anyone!”

    And therein lies part of the problem. If one always sees everything as always about gender expression then everything by definition will always be about gender expression even if it really isn’t because everything has to be about gender expression. The conclusion is already drawn a priori.

    But this isn’t just a criticism of gender expression but of any way of looking at things with a set of assumptions & conclusions already in place. I’m sure you’ll disagree, so in order to avoid any unpleasantness, I’ll just bow out. I’ll just say that my own views are more aligned with what Library Lily and Arabella have said.

  33. Just want to add something I forgot. Molly’s son Bill works with gobins and she shows no problem with that–she’s proud–so this shows a lack of racial prejudice. Also, we can’t fairly expect Molly to be a complete third wave feminist, because she hasn’t been raised with “the pieces in place” as has Hermione. She’s been part of the transition of the pieces. Yet she shows growth and acceptance of third wave ideas. I doubt she would pass on early learned prejudices to her grandchildren as she did when she was younger and they weren’t of concern to anyone. And with this, I also expect to bow out.

  34. Arabella, OMG! I LOVE the idea of their being a glass ceiling in the career of a Death Eater! I’d love to see Gwen tackle that in her next blog!

    Secondly, I think we were saying the same thing, perhaps differently, about Molly, we’re just taking it from different preferences (you obviously in the pro-Molly camp and I in the less-than-pro-camp)–which inlays the supposed combative nature of our conversation.

    I too believe that Molly overcame many prejudices, and while I don’t see her NOW being a third wave feminist, I think it is ABSOLUTELY possible that she becomes one! We–and by that I mean “I”–have to remember that in both the Pureblood Weasleys and the Pureblood Prewetts that Molly and Arthur break out of that all over the place by being content (I have to imagine they’re content) for their children to marry a Mudblood (Hermione) a girl of color (Angelina) and a for one of their songs to wind up with a boyfriend (come on, we all know that Charlie winds up with Oliver!) :)

    One Big Happy Weasley Family indeed!

    And Gwen, LOL I can just imagine Molly opening her own line of “Weasley Jumpers”!!

  35. I ran into some people (I am not one) that were pretty pissed about Molly slaying Bellatrix and all the implications they thought it had. I never saw Bellatrix as remotely feminist, actually I thought she was one of the more stereotypical female characters.

    Molly besides raising a large number kids had the garden which did alot to feed the family in lieu of income, and the Weasleys didn’t really seem to be wanting of anything important. I was actually more surprised that Ron and Ginny didn’t ever work. In general though there seems to be this assumption that most women in the world don’t work and the ones that do don’t have families and I’m not sure that is accurate. We don’t know a whole lot about the lives of most adults in the world ie McGonagall’s in her seventies, she could be a great-grandma by that point, but we don’t really know much of anything about her private life.

    I think Pansy is meant to be seen how we see most of the bad guys through the books, and making her a proponent of explicit (muggle and wizard) racism makes her a bad guy in a taboo and disgusting way and not a bad guy in that badass way that’s fun to dress up as at halloween. Either way it’s tricky analyzing characters who’s appearances are so brief we don’t have a whole lot of canon to go on. Though(digression,) I was kind of surprised that if Voldemort was supposedly this very dynamic and persuasive guy that attracted tons of followers, that we hardly see any people we know turn onto his side besides the most extremely one dimensional characters like Crabbe/Goyle, easily the dumbest people in the whole series.

  36. Death Eaters and a glass ceiling! Now that is an inspired variation on a theme.

    I think Molly disliked Fleur because she was foreign, and didn’t go to Hogwarts and was exotic and just not the type of people the Weasleys associated with. In other words, a touch of xenophobia kicking in, until Fleur showed she loved Bill much like his mother loved him, at which point Molly saw something in her to identify with.

    I agree that JKR does present Bella and Molly as polar opposites, and children do have something to do with it. But I don’t think it’s as much about the decision not to have children, as the disposition to kill other people’s children. Molly makes life. Bella takes life. To me it’s as simple as that. As for Bella’s childless state, it’s probably a mercy, seeing as how she’d have wanted nothing better than to sacrifice them for Master, in the tradition of the Ancient Greeks.

  37. Arabella I just wanted to chime in that I really liked your points on Molly. I’m a Molly Weasley fan as well (man, how could one not be after that final battle!). It’s true that feminism is about choice, and being a feminist vs not being a feminist is about so much more than whether you work or not. One of my older sisters used to be a total riot grrl feminist, but since having children she’s thus far chosen to be an at home mom, she’s still a feminist as far as she’s concerned (and in my books as well). Also, what with seven kids, it seems like one parent would need to stay at home with them all, at least in the early years, particularly seven wild Weasley kids.
    I never saw Bellatrix (or Rita Skeeter) as an attack on working women or feminists. Bellatrix reminds me most of a religious fanatic, and we know that Rowling is definitely opposed to fanaticism.
    I think Molly would’ve embraced and accepted Hermione as her son’s wife. She already seems to have treated her like another daughter for years, and while they could potentially clash on issues, like Hermione being a working mom, not wanting to have a slew of kids, etc, I think they already have a very solid and positive foundation.

  38. Thank you, diva_alex. I didn’t really posit Bellatrix as a feminist; rather I used her to represent the militant intolerance that arose during second wave that disrespected stay at home mothers as inferior. This was where I parted company with feminism, as it betrayed it’s own original principles of all choices being worthy.

    Bella breaking the DE glass ceiling was a satircal joke.

  39. “that disrespected stay at home mothers as inferior…” and, I should have added, children as hindrances and expendable.

  40. Am I the only one who objected to Molly calling Bella a common misogynistic expletive prior to killing her? I realize that the insult pales in comparison with the act, but still: why did it have to be that word? It’s a word most often used by men to put down and otherwise demean women. Why did JKR lower her character – and herself – to that level?

    And as an aside, was I the only one who saw in that scene echoes of Ripley’s penultimate victory over the Alien Queen in Aliens? As in: “Leave her alone, you b….!”

  41. Thanks, KiwiMcI.

    It’s not so much the words, Not my daughter, you b…! vs Get away from her, you b…! as the similarity in situations that makes me see the parallel: in both cases a mother (or surrogate) is demonstrating deadly strength and determination in defending her child.

    Which is nice. But why use that word? Have women come as far as they have only to be reduced to using the same weapons which have traditionally been used against them?

    Is this a lapse on JKR’s part? Or a deliberate act of trying to reduce the impact of the word by co-opting it, as black people have done by domesticating the n word?

  42. And as an aside, was I the only one who saw in that scene echoes of Ripley’s penultimate victory over the Alien Queen in Aliens? As in: “Leave her alone, you b….!”

    No you definitely aren’t.

    Also I think it would have been really funny if the line had actually appeared in the book as “not my daughter you beee” like how Ron says “effing.” Not to make light of your point though RR I think it’s a valid question.

  43. This is probably a moribund thread and I’m very late to the game (*helps the cleaning crew sweep the peanut shells off the bleachers*) but here are my two knuts on a few things mentioned:

    First, thanks for your post and follow up comments, Gwen. I wasn’t familiar with the concept of “third wave” feminism. I was kind of in between the “second” and “third” waves, so I’ll call myself a “new wave feminist.” :-) I love Hermione and rather identify with her, too. In addition to what you and everyone else said, I would also add that she seems a more skilled fighter than Harry even if she received the rare E and Harry the O on their DADA OWLs. She knows many more spells than he does and is inventive and flexible in using them (defodio, duro, etc.)( just like Snape says in the first DADA lesson he teaches in HBP, by the way).

    I was thinking about the Slytherins and Quidditch. Quidditch is actually an unusual sport in that both men and women play it, not only at the school level but at the professional level as well, even though it appears to be a fairly brutal sport. However, in the books (as opposed to the movies), the Slytherin team is all-male. The attitudes of many Slytherins appear to be stuck in the 1940s in terms of gender as well as pure-bloodism. So far as I know we see only two Slytherin girls by name — Millicent Bulstrode (large, looks like a hag, has a cat) and Pansy Parkinson (mean girl, face like a pug, makes racist comment to Angelina, proud that Draco allows her to . . . pet him, eager to turn Harry over to Voldy); we also hear of Pansy “and her gang of Slytherin girls” who giggle and laugh at Cho for going on a date with Harry in OOTP. One thing I rather liked about the movie is that they tried to soften Pansy up a bit (well, changed her character, really), because the Slytherins are portrayed in such a one-sided, negative way despite Rowling’s claim that not all Slytherins are bad and they are necessary for harmony and balance between the houses. In the movie the pseudo-sexual component is taken out, Pansy is just shown urging Draco to come sit back down and listening to him talk, and she’s shown with the Gryffindor girls attracted to the aroma of the Amortentia cauldron before Slughorn puts the lid on.

    Okay, I think I started rambling on the Slytherin topic; I’ll move on.

    Arabella, in regard to your question in comment 35 about whether Molly married Arthur before he chose his career: they dated while in school (in GOF 616, when she and Bill spend the morning with Harry, she says Filch’s predecessor caught Arthur coming back to the dorm at 4 AM after they had been for a late night stroll and Arthur still has the marks from it) and they eloped young (in HBP 93, when Molly complains about Bill rushing into marriage with Fleur, Ginny points out Molly eloped with Arthur and Molly replies that they were made for each other, what was the point in waiting). So I’d say that she probably knew he’d be going to work for the Ministry but not what his career path would be in the future. I think Molly assumes wizard stuff and ways are better than muggle stuff and ways (doesn’t she refers to Arthur’s muggle paraphernalia as “muggle rubbish” at one point and at another say how she doesn’t know how muggles manage without magic), but would be horrified at the thought of physically harming or abusing muggles and bears no prejudice against muggle-born witches or wizards like Hermione, Dirk Creswell, Ted Tonks, etc. or half-bloods like Harry. In this she’s probably guilty of a soft racism. In fact she, Arthur, and Voldemort in a sense represent three stereotyped ways in which people might view an aboriginal tribe. Molly would assume its ways were inferior but would never want to see the people of the tribe physically harmed. Arthur would romanticize them a la Margaret Mead, assuming his own notions of them were reality, and in doing so misrepresent them. Voldemort would subjugate and enslave them and kill any resisters, if he was in a good mood. If he was in a bad mood, they’d all die.

    I’m going to post this and start and second comment.

  44. Meant to say “a second comment.” Oops.

    Red Rocker, I would use the “b” word in an appropriate context and I didn’t have a problem with Molly using it. It now has a second meaning different from its original meaning of a female dog. (Now, from the dog’s point of view, I’d be rather insulted by its use to describe Bellatrix!) It’s not the same as reclaiming “queer” (not that I agree with the concept of “reclaiming” an offensive word and then naming departments with it) because it’s not being reclaimed by women to describe themselves (and shouldn’t be). Rather it’s a term for a really nasty or obnoxious woman. Used the way Molly uses it, I don’t have a problem with it. I do have a problem with its gratuitious use to address a woman to her face or to describe a woman as if she really were just a female dog.

    Tamela – just curious why you connect Oliver (Wood, I assume?) with Charlie, aside from their being on the same Quidditch team (Charlie would have been three years ahead of Oliver, I believe). I have seen the family tree on Rowling’s website which shows Charlie as unmarried, which could be suggestive or not, but is there some other info “out” there about Charlie?

    Arabella – Narcissa is not a DE. Not sure if it explicitly says that in the series, but I’m fairly certain Rowling has stated she is not and does not have a Dark Mark.

    Red Rocker, again – with regard to Fleur, based on the many novels I’ve read, Agatha Christie, trashy romance, and otherwise, there is a long tradition of specifically anti-French snobbery among the English, in addition to more general anti-foreigner snobbery. So I think you are right that there is some anti-French snobbery coming into play in her initial dislike of Fleur. And Fleur does display some bad behavior that goes away after Bill is mauled. During the Tri-Wizard she complains of the draftiness of Hogwarts, the heavy food, the lack of magnificent ice sculptures at Christmas, etc. She does show appropriate gratitude to Harry for saving Gabrielle, and as Harry says, she was good enough to get into the Tri-Wizard Tournement and get past the dragon to get her egg, though she does not get past the Grindylows (non sequitor alert – Harry of course has no problem with them thanks to Lupin’s lessons). At the Weasleys, Fleur is vain about her appearance and lets her hair whip across Mrs. Weasley’s face. Of course one could say that she is insecure and boasts at Hogwarts in an effort to make herself and her school appear more important and that she feels unwelcome at the Weasleys and is trying to put on an indifferent front. In any event, she seems to be a lot nicer by the time of her wedding and puts up first with Ron as an uninvited guest for two months early in DH, followed by Ron, Hermione, Harry, Luna, Dean, Olivander, and Griphook as univented guests in her tiny cottage for several weeks near the end of DH, two of whom need medical attention and one of who wants special food on a tray, and she does it all without complaining, then comes and joins in the final battle with the others.

  45. Thank you, Lily Luna! I knew I could count on you for the Weasley marriage backfill. Still, Molly *could* have known of Arthur’s Muggle leanings. I like your Three Views. I don’t blame Molly for her impatience with Arthur’s pack-rat hobby.

    Two points. I did call Narcissa a DE, but meant it in general terms–she is the wife of a high-up DE and shows marked DE sympathies in her pureblood snobbery until HBP. So I consider her a de facto DE, if without a personal Dark Mark.

    As for the b-word, some women have been proudly “reclaiming” this ugly term for years. I’ve known a couple women to have proclamatory plaques and signs on their work cubicle walls (!) and see same on bumper stickers. Just last week I was behind a car plastered with b-stickers such as “I’m a b—-, but I’m not your b—-” and others even worse. As I understand it, a lot of a anger motivates “b—- pride.” Gee, ya think?

  46. I always took the application of “bitch” in general-not in the reclaiming kind of use-to carry the same connotations of its literal female dog meaning.

    I agree about the French thing, particularly in GoF. It was is neat that she eventually became a somewhat likable character finally in DH though.

  47. Arabella I wasn’t really commenting on your paraticular description of Bella as a militant feminist, but rather commenting on something I noticed at Azkatraz, some interpreted Bella and Rita as examples of working women, or women working in non-traditional roles and said that Rowling portrayed them badly and glorified the traditional female roles of motherhood and teaching. To be fair, I didn’t get to the actual talks on that topic, but I don’t see Rita and Bella in that way. We don’t know the reasons that Bella is childless, but her attitude towards children as expendable, and as tools to be used in some cases, is certainly horrifying.
    To me, the Hogwarts teachers all seem like university professors (plus teaching at any level is so difficult), and we have career women like Tonks and the future generation of Hermione, the working mother. I rather liked that Rowling gave motherhood heroic status. I don’t have children and don’t know if I ever will, but I’m so full of respect for moms. I think that making it more managable for women to work and have children, as well as giving equal respect to the choice to stay at home or the choice to work is one of the challenges we face as a culture, and an issue third wave feminism deals with, I believe.

  48. I think that JKR has Dickens’ proclivity to create memorable caricatures. I see a lot of her characters in that light: Pettigrew (lying sycophant, see also: Grima Wormtongue); Fleur (foreign femme fatale); Merope Gaunt (fallen woman); Lily (Madonna, Beatrice); Cornelius Fudge (civil servant blinded by ambition); Mundungus (petty crook, see also: Fagin); Xenophilius Lovegood (eccentric professor); Umbridge (sadistic headmistress) and so on. Although they are in many cases stereotypical, I wouldn’t call them sterotypes because JKR paints them with richly convincing detail; hence the term caricatures.

    I see Molly as one of her many caricatures. In this case, we have a picture of nurturing domesticity and protective motherhood run amok, complete with gifts of unwanted handknit sweaters, a magic clock which keeps tabs on the safety of her family and a plenitude of children which she can ill afford to clothe. I think that JKR pokes gentle fun at her throughout the series, although she does give her a moment of heroism when she goes mano-a-mano with her evil counterpart, Bellatric Lestrange.

  49. Molly, a caricature, Red Rocker? Ouch! I don’t see her that way, frankly; it’s clear that the primary reason the Weasley household runs smoothly is because of Molly’s domestic skills. Is she to be denigrated because she’s a stay-at-home mom? I think to do so is to not respect the choice that many women make to do that. Sure, there are career women in the Harry Potter series, but are they drawn any more realistically than Molly is? I’ve always taken it that Rowling was showing both sides of the career fence. To be blunt, if we were comparing Molly to Rita Skeeter, I’d say that Rita is more stereotyped and maybe even a caricature than Molly is.
    Also to add to the previous conversation about the use of the “B” word, I think it’s a lot like the “N” word– if a female says it to another female, or about her, that’s one thing–but if a Male says it about a female or even worse, to her face, that’s much, much worse. As for Molly’s use of the word when she addressed Bellatrix, I didn’t find it offensive. Short, pithy, and to the point. Had Molly stopped to think of a more politically correct word to call Bella, she’d probably have been dead. And Bellatrix didn’t exactly respond in a “Who, Me?” manner. She knew what she was, and I think was very proud of it. Not for long, though!

  50. Fricka, agree that Skeeter is more stereotyped and more of a caricature than Molly.

    It’s not that Molly is denigrated because she’s a stay-at-home mother. Rather, she seems an exaggerated version of a woman who is so obsessed with her job as a mother that she has no sense of humour or perspective about it. In other words, she takes her job way too seriously. This has nothing to do with her choice – I’m pretty sure that if she had worked outside of the home, she would have been equally obsessed by that (as well as being a mother) and we would have had another kind of caricature: the stressed out Second Shift mother.

    I think that it’s one of the hallmarks of a caricature, or an exaggerated character, to have little self-awareness and thus be oblivious to one’s potential absurdity. Our divine Ms. H comes close to the same fate sometimes – as the earnest geek – especially when she comes up with SPEW, but she is way too intelligent to be so neatly pigeon-holed.

  51. In my last comment, I was trying to say that JKR was not necessarily poking fun at stay-at-home mothers but at a certain type of overprotective, over-the-top mother epitomized, to my mind anyways, by Molly. That is to say, I did not think it had anything to do with Molly’s decision to be a stay-at-home mother, but rather the kind of stay-at-home mother she was. I added that Molly would have been over-the-top no matter what she chose to do – stay at home or work outside.

    Upon reflection, I think that was a baseless assumption. JKR did not attempt to separate her personality from her role. In fact, we see very little of Molly Weasley outside of her role as mother. She appears to be totally defined by her role.

    One could argue that of course she has a life outside of her family, has thoughts, plans, dreams, interests, activities that do not involve her family. But there is no evidence to that effect (that I’m aware of). What JKR shows us is a woman who exists totally within her relationship to her husband and children.

    Accepting without question that a woman’s worth or value is not diminished by being a stay-at-home mother, that this is as valid a choice as working outside the home (or more often, doing Second Shift detail), what do you think about someone who defines herself entirely through her service to others, no matter how lovingly or willingly that service is given?

    More importantly, how does JKR feel about the choice that Molly has made? Does she value it? Does she value it as much as she values the choice Hermione has made to define herself in terms of her intellectual ability and accomplishments? Or as much as she values Lily’s choices: to be a loving mother and wife, yes, but also to be the best darn potion maker in three counties, not to mention inspiring undying love and devotion in the heart of an unloving man?

  52. Yes, I think she does, RR. Molly is the nurturing center of the series and all the good and lonely “other” characters are drawn to her orbit. Her caring hospitality is highly valued, even when she’s on the rampage–there may be comments, but no one leaves. She represents stable home and hearth, and her heartbreak and fears over loved ones and friends is moving, just as her trying to corral a bunch of ingenious kids and “mad scientist” husband is amusing. She finds her fullfilment as a supportive wife and mother. As do many women I greatly admire.

    Perhaps Molly is a tribute to Rowling’s own mother, whom she deeply loved. And Hermione and Lily are both good mothers. In fact, that is their main portrayal in canon (Lily as sacrificial mother, Hermione as adult wife and mother).

  53. Also Rowling made clear in her ” A Year in the Life” interviews that she, Incredibly Successful Author, values her role of mother above all.

  54. Don’t forget that we are seeing Molly through Harry’s eyes and he primarily , if not completely, sees her in the only role he knows her to be – mother. For all we know, when her kids are all either in school or working she could be authoring a cookbook, teaching classes on advanced household charms, or volunteering at St. Mungos. We really have no idea what she’s doing with her time when her family is not around.

    It also occurred to me that she may come off as only living for her husband and children to some (not me, though), it probably has something to do with the fact that by book two, all of the children are out of the house for the majority of the year. It’s the syndrome that occurs when away-at-college kids return for the holidays. Mothers tend to fuss because they have missed their children and it’s nice to have a chance to return to the role of mother.

  55. jensenly I thought you raised some really good points. As tends to be the case with everyone, we see our mothers first and foremost as our mothers, they are there *for us*, and that defines them for us. We’re very critical of their failings and short comings because of that as well. Seeing our mothers as whole people is one of the challenges of adulthood. Since HP is told from the perspective of “the children” in general, and Harry in particular, and the Weasley’s are Harry’s surrogate family, we them primarily in this light.
    Reading this dicussion on Molly, I remembered something from a Pottercast interview Rowling did. I believe she said something along the lines of wanting Molly to finish off Bellatrix because she wanted to show that just because a woman chose to devote herself to raising a family doesn’t mean she doesn’t have other talents. Mrs. Weasley is clearly a tremendous witch with many talents, most of which we don’t see, and can only infer from her raising and homeschooling (until hogwarts) seven pretty smart, talented kids.
    I can’t really blame Molly for prioritizing people’s saftey above all else during the series. Her role is needed, as frustrating and overprotective as she can be sometimes. To me, it’s not a gender thing, or shouldn’t be, both men and women ought to put their children first if they’re going to have them. I liked that whatever Harry expects from mothers, he seems to hold similar expectations of fathers as well. He told Lupin when Lupin said James would have wanted him to help Harry “I’m pretty sure he’d wonder why you’re not sticking by your own kid”.
    Erm, this was a Hermione thread, wasn’t it? I guess I’ll try for a while to ponder what Hermione was like post Wizard War, in her career and as a mother. I believe Gwen raised the interesting issues of comparing and contrasting her and Molly.

  56. Speaking of Hermione, I was pondering today on her attempts at knitting, specifically knitting socks to liberate house elves who are happy in their servitude. My thought was, following the analogy set forth in the Elfin Mystique, she might consider knitting a set for Molly. Who in turn will no doubt knit countless sweaters for Hermione. Can you imagine the mutual exhange of equally unwanted presents, year after year, neither woman quite understanding what she is to do with the gift, but trying to be polite about it?

  57. Thanks, diva_alix, for diverting us back to the topic at hand. Portrayal of motherhood in the series is a very interesting and sometimes complex issue, hence we got a little sidetracked. No worries– I’m famous for going off on tangents in class!

    I love thinking about Hermione post-war, because everything (or nearly everything) is open. I don’t see JKR’s post-publication comments on the trio’s lives as canon but rather as (quite influential) theories. If it’s supposed to be taken as fact then it should be in print.

    I’ll leave that tangent where it is. I think Hermione would make an excellent magical lawyer. I’d say she’d specialize in non-/part-human civil rights, working to help house-elves, goblins, and other disenfranchised races gain better legal standing and treatment in the WW. Maybe one day she’d be part of the Wizengamot and would be a shoe-in for the position of Chief Witch. With Molly and Arthur as doting grandparents (and probably the Grangers as well) and Hermione’s school-age time management skills, I think she’d be able to balance work and kids. I think she’d also make sure Ron knew, before they had kids, that she wasn’t going to be exactly like Molly and that he’d have to pitch in his fair share (half!) of household and childcare duties.

    While JKR would disagree with me (along with a number of fans), I believe that Hermione and Ron got divorced after a number of years, possibly before we see them all again in the Epilogue. No one refers to Hermione and Ron as married; Hermione’s last name is never mentioned. And plenty of divorced parents (my own, for one example) drop off their kids for school together and are amiable towards one another.

    It’s not that I dislike Ron at all; I really like him and think he’s a wonderful friend. But there’s a wide gap between being a friend and being a husband. Even JKR said that Ron makes a better friend than romantic partner. He and Hermione have personalities that are just too disparate to work in the long term. And before John gets annoyed at me again, the alchemical wedding and production of Rose, etcetera, etcetera (John explains it much better than I can) still occurs, but it doesn’t necessarily last a lifetime. They’re forever connected through their children.

    While Hermione and Ron are both stubborn people to an extent, I think Hermione is logical enough, and hopefully Ron becomes mature enough, to acknowledge that a divorce is better for their friendship and their kids than a lifetime of unhappiness and resentment.

    Okay, let the firestorm begin…

  58. YAY! We’re back to Hermione. I’m glad we’ve had that whole Molly segue as it leads to the role of mother’s–or if you’ll allow me to expand–parents.

    Gwen, you know the teenage Ron and Hermione lover in me would love to argue with you, but I can see some of your logic, and while I probably see it a bit differently, I can see where the marriage might not work. But, wouldn’t THAT be an interesting family to delve into. A split home…A split Weasley home! Unheard of! And therefore, fascinating!

    Why they might not be “made for each other” in the long term, I really, really think they would complement each other amazingly with their parenting skills. I’m not a fan of the Strict-No-Fun Hermione Mom or the Easy Going Life of the Party Ron Dad, but I think that the ramifications of the war and the rebuilding would allow them both to mature. Yes, that’s right, Hermione needs a bit of that as well.

    I believe that they both have interests and rewarding jobs outside of the home and bring their fulfillment with the life they have to their children. I think that no matter how they’re lives go down, there would always be a respect that they have for each other and that would translate into a teamwork parenting style that would be irrefutable and inpenetratable, whether they remained together or not. I’d even like to believe that they single-handedly DRAG WW ideals about gender roles and family dynamics into the 21st Century.

  59. No disagreement here: agree about the personalities being too disparate, not to mention degree of intellectual ability and ambition, and both sense and sensitivity. In fact I don’t see any points of similarity between those two, with the exception that they are both Harry’s closest friends. Getting a divorce from him would be the best thing that could happen to Ms. H. – aside from not having to marry him in the first place.

    I just don’t see it happening in the Potterverse: it doesn’t fit the myth of happily ever after, which is where JKR seems to wish to leave us.

  60. Since we’ve wandered into the wildest thickets of guesswork with this line of thinking, I’ll pose an alternative:

    Hermione and Ron both mature in lots of ways, commit wholeheartedly to one another, despite not being “made for each other” or “right for each other” (whatever any of those things mean); and despite some struggles perhaps early on in their marriage, and some mistakes on both their parts, they stick it out and love and forgive and understand one another.

    So rather than being “logical” and “mature” enough to realize they should divorce, they become logical and mature enough to realize that they can, indeed, both put aside selfishness for the sake of their marriage and kids, and make the marriage work through genuinely loving one another and sacrificing for one another.

  61. Um, sorry. No. Not at this time. I guess I got overly excited that someone else felt that way and could articulate it so well for us all.

    I’m sure I’ll be coherent sometime in the near future and will better express my vast opinions and whatnot. Until then, let me just say, thank you for this alternative view.

  62. Tamela, gotcha :-)

    Just wanted to be sure you hadn’t lost part of that comment somehow. I’m too tired, I think, to have interpreted “Yes. This.” as approval of my comment ;-) But that’s my fault, not yours! Just wanted to make sure I was understanding your right.

  63. Travis, to pose an alternative to your alternative, what if one of the two fell out of love with the other (or they both did)? Should they commit to a marriage of (in)convenience for the kids? As a child of divorced parents, I tend to bristle at the idea that if parents simply stick it out in an unhappy marriage the children will benefit. Children will pick up on tension no matter how well disguised the parents think they’re behaving (that doesn’t sound great, but I’m getting too tired to fix it). And do you really think Ron is a good dissembler? A “broken home” does not automatically spell life-long trauma, unless there were other factors that I don’t think would come into play for Rose and Hugo.

    I think we’re approaching their marriage from two different perspectives; if the love was still there I think both Hermione and Ron would try to work through whatever issues arose. But people change throughout the course of their lives, and the two of them at the age of 20-22 when they get married and around 40 when we see them on the train platform are probably very different people, especially having endured a war and restoring the WW. What if Hermione isn’t even similar to the person Ron fell in love with back at Hogwarts? Sure, he can try to love this new Hermione, but perhaps the new Ron isn’t able to. With both their stubborn streaks, and especially Ron’s hot-headedness, they’re going to clash. If that wears away at the love between them then why stay together? Happy parents apart are better than unhappy ones together. Besides, I’m sure they would both find new partners who are great parents (Draco and Astoria could be divorced…)

    I also consider external factors in this proposed divorce. There’s got to be a lot of pressure on the two from the start of their relationship: 2/3 of the Golden Trio and Harry’s best friends garner a lot of attention. The public (and probably their friends) will have certain expectations, which can be hard to live up to for 18 year olds. Based on the fact that most of the parents we see were together since school and got married soon after, there’s probably the expectation from the beginning that Hermione and Ron will get married, so while they may be happy and in love in the first few years as an unmarried couple, maybe neither of them actually wanted to get married in the first place. But how do you oppose so much public and personal pressure?

  64. Gwen, I can definitely see your point about Brenda and Eddie, I mean Hermione and Ron, getting divorced. Even the Epilogue I thought implied a less than ideal dynamic between them. Ron’s comment that Hermione didn’t think he could pass a muggle driving test without Confunding the examiner hints that Hermione has some degree of contempt for Ron’s abilities. And then Ron whispers to Harry that he did indeed have to Confund the examiner because he forgot to look in his side-view mirror. So he’s lying to Hermione in order not to have to admit his inadequacies. Not a healthy marital dynamic.

  65. Let the fun begin! I’m going to sit back and let Gwen and Travis duke it out, but I am curious. Gwen, are you suggesting, that Hermione, this strong, third wave feminist who stood up to all of Hogwarts to fight for the rights of house-elves, centaurs and smart girls being allowed to be taken seriously, no matter what others thought of her was willing to marry and bore children with a man that she didn’t want to simple to avoid opposing public and personal pressure?

  66. I suppose it’s too much to ask that any characters in the HP series have happy endings? I mean, real life is one thing, but can’t people ride off into the sunset in the Epilogue?

    Besides, in all the fan fiction I read, Ron & Hermione may have difficulties in their marriage but it’s always the great…well, you know what, that gets them through. ;)

  67. When Gwen first started this interesting discussion I went “Oooooh! Things are about to get heated!”
    While I can see Gwen’s point, I disagree, but couldn’t initially articulate why. I think Travis said it really brilliantly. I certainly disagree with staying together “for the sake of the children” when love is gone and every honest and sincere attempt at saving the marriage has been made, I don’t think that Ron and Hermione ever reach the point of love being gone, even if it is at times extremely strained and tested.
    Ron and Hermione have a strong foundation of friendship, which is the foundation of any lasting romantic relationship. By Deathly Hallows, I believe they both showed growth and maturity as characters, Ron came to terms with his insecurities, redeemed himself, and showed some real leadership and ingenuity, and I think Hermione, (and everyone really), learned something about forgiveness. Hermione herself praised Ron’s brilliance in thinking of the basilisk fangs in the chamber and managing to get them in.
    As far as the epilogue goes, to me the back and forth about the driver’s test etc, indicated to me a married couple, not a divorced one, and a couple doing a typical, corny married couple shtick.
    I definitely think that Hermione is not one to be pressured into doing anything that she, in her heart of hearts, doesn’t want to do. She has too much respect for herself, too much moral courage, and too much self-knowledge.
    rev_george Your comment cracked me up! And, I’m also of the opinion of “come on, they’ve all suffered enough, let them have a happy ever after!!”

  68. Marrying because of romantic emotions really is a recent development and a shockingly flimsy foundation for it. It isn’t analogous to love- which is a deliberate action by the lover. I don’t see Ron’s and Hermione’s marriage based on immature emotional attraction but on mutual respect, acceptance of differences and shared experiences. If you go into a marriage with the view that you could “fall out of love” with each other it’d be better not to do so at all. But with the role models that both Ron and, presumably, Hermione have had in their parents they have an excellent start. I think they have chosen to love each other and entered marriage with eyes wide open. That’s a great example to the millions of young people and adults who have read the stories.

  69. What Matthew said.

    I think you’re right, Gwen, that it’s “two different perspectives” from which we’re approaching marriage. I don’t much see what falling in or out of love has to do with it. My concern here is that we’re departing far, far away from literature and into a debate that’s bound to get both religious and political. So it might be best just to leave it at that.

  70. Just wanted to say that I agree with Korg as well, as a working guide to successful marriage.

    I just don’t see that happening in the brief interchange we get between the two in the Epilogue, where they seem to be extended versions of their adolescent selves, especially Ron. But maybe that’s because he is an eternal adolescent. Good thing he’s married to an eternal grown-up.

  71. Marrying because of romantic emotions really is a recent development and a shockingly flimsy foundation for it.

    Why yes, that’s quite true. Originally marriage was a commercial enterprise that solidified bonds between men through the exchange of women as property. Love is not necessarily a romantic emotion (there are all types of love). Given a choice between the two I’ll go with love over being traded like property any day.

    Tam, I never said that Hermione was perfect. The pressure to marry is very, very different than the pressure to, say, not show intelligence in class. And there’s a wide difference between fighting against established the oppression of others and standing up to nebulous societal pressure in the form of indoctrination since birth and friend/familial expectations. We’re all taught to marry someone of the opposite gender as soon as we’re born (since the vast majority of us have two married, male-female parents and family members). We’re given wedding day Barbie to play with as toddlers. On tv, in books and magazine, and simply walking down the street there are straight married people. Today when I go to Grand Central I’ll be bombarded with ads for Women’s Entertainment TV, whose bread & butter is wedding shows. Some argue that not getting married is against our very nature. Everyone acquiesces to societal pressure to fit in and survive at some point. So when I say that pressure to marrying is strong and prevalent, I also mean that even the most independent and level-headed character can succumb to it.

    I’m not even arguing that this scenario happened; it was just an alternative.

    But maybe that’s because he is an eternal adolescent. Good thing he’s married to an eternal grown-up.

    That’s part of my problem with this marriage. It’s like every “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode and knock-off show out there: shrewish, responsible wife & easygoing, child-like husband. How is it an equal partnership when Hermione is basically raising 3 kids? That’s where I think the major tension comes in: Hermione would expect a partner in marriage, and while Ron would try to live up to that, that’s also not his experience of marriage. If our parents are our models for relationships (which I’m not certain of 100% of the time), then Ron doesn’t have a model for equal partnership. He expects Mum to take care of him and to do minimal work.

    And revgeorge, in much of the fanfic I read, if it even deals with post-epilogue, they get divorced, Snape is alive, and, well, Hermione and Snape have much more in common. I’ll take a shot in the dark and say we read very different stories!

    Everyone looked pretty happy in the Epilogue! Divorce doesn’t equal the end of the world. Maybe they’re all riding off into the sunset, but Hermione & Ron have separate horses.

    1. Gwen,

      Why yes, that’s quite true. Originally marriage was a commercial enterprise that solidified bonds between men through the exchange of women as property. Love is not necessarily a romantic emotion (there are all types of love). Given a choice between the two I’ll go with love over being traded like property any day.

      Where’d that come from? It doesn’t seem to bear any relation to anything I wrote.
      also, Ron might be “child-like” a lot of the time but that doesn’t make him childish. I think it is unfair to suggest that Ron “expects Mum to take care of him and to do minimal work”. He has two parents and his dad seems like a loving, supportive man who works hard at the ministry. Nothing wrong or bad about that role model.

  72. then Ron doesn’t have a model for equal partnership. He expects Mum to take care of him and to do minimal work.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Arthur seemed a pretty hard worker to me.

  73. Funny how when I mentioned work and marriage, more than one personthought I meant paid labor outside the home. Arthur is a very hard worker at the Ministry, without a doubt, but what housework does he do? I don’t ever recall him cooking a meal, doing laundry, back-to-school shopping without the kids, or cleaning. You know, the not fun stuff. And before you say “he probably did some of that but we just didn’t see it” let me reply that that is the point. We only have what we see to go by as standard Weasley practice. A loving and supportive father figure is wonderful, kudos to Arthur, but that, in some ways, is easier than the loving, supportive washer or dishes role.

  74. I’m in agreement with the last line.

    I’m not certain it stands to reason that because Ron’s mum stayed at home and did the housework that he’d expect Hermione, who clearly has a job outside the home, to come home and do all the housework just like his mum did.

    If we’re continuing our imaginative exercise here, this is what I’d suggest happens:

    In the early years of their marriage, Ron, who’s used to seeing mum do all the housework, will come home after a day of work, probably earlier than Hermione, and relax. Hermione will get home later, exhausted, and also relax. The next morning, Ron will complain that his joke shop robes aren’t ironed. Hermione will correct his thinking. Ron will have an initial period of time in which he resists doing his share of work, but then he’ll realize he’s wrong, that he needs to adjust his thinking, and that they need to share the housework.

    And it’s not as though Molly hasn’t taught Ron and the other Weasleys how to do housework! (Think garden gnomes, cutting the vegetables without magic, preparing for the wedding).

    So I’ve come back around to thinking Ron’s choice to love Hermione will cause him to make changes where he needs to.

    Funny how when I mentioned work and marriage, more than one person thought I meant paid labor outside the home.

    I’m not really sure what anyone thought you meant in particular, but being one of two working parents, I’d say that it’s simply a given that work outside the home is or at least should be part of working on one’s marriage, so the two naturally go together in my mind.

  75. So I’ve come back around to thinking Ron’s choice to love Hermione will cause him to make changes where he needs to.

    And vice a versa. Like Gwen said, Hermione is not perfect. They both have to overcome things to work as a long time married couple with careers and children to raise. I imagine in this time where Ron is learning that he has to iron his own work robes, Hermione is learning that telling Ron he’s “doing it wrong” after everything Ron does is probably not going to work too well either.

    :)

  76. Gwen said, “…in much of the fanfic I read, if it even deals with post-epilogue, they get divorced, Snape is alive, and, well, Hermione and Snape have much more in common. I’ll take a shot in the dark and say we read very different stories!”

    Quite true. I read mostly canon compliant stories set usually in post-DH times. The only sad thing is that with the end of the series it’s getting harder & harder to find good fan fiction. On Harry Potter, that is. I couldn’t bear to read fan fiction on another popular series… ;)

  77. I think we’re meant to assume that Hermione and Ron are married. In the epilogue, they remind me of Molly and Arthur. Plus, we don’t really see any split couples in HP, do we? The only ones that come to mind immediately for me are Voldemort’s parents and Hagrid’s parents.

  78. Ron began to show upward growth in DH after his Deluminator/ Horcrux insecurity destruction–from second banana to leader, from follower to initiator (basilisk fangs), from self-absorption to selflessness (Hogwarts elves). (Not to mention losing a brother and friends in hideous battle, and forgiving his wayward brother.)

    There’s no reason to believe Ron didn’t continue this growth pattern, while maintaining his basically humorous personality traits. I agree with you, Travis.

  79. So far we’ve ignored the other half of Hermione’s “have it all” future, and admittedly that was my fault for throwing a contentious and improbable theory out there. Ah well.

    Is the career aspect of her adult life just not that interesting, or is everyone is agreement that she continues her fight for social equality from within the Ministry?

    Anyone think she would return to Hogwarts and teach? Lord knows she’s qualified in most subject areas. Would she be a good teacher? And how would the kids react to having Mum teaching them and all their friends?

    revgeorge, there are tons of good fanfic out there, though I can see it getting more difficult to find if you like to stay canon compliant. When I used to have spare time (I think back in March…) I read a lot more fic, but lately I don’t really know what’s out there. Tamela would!

  80. First, anything we know about the Trio’s future is post-DH canon, given by Rowling in interviews. Given that as a given (heh):

    Hermione, if she works with Magical Law Enforcement, is a force to be reckoned with. And she continues her battle for social equality, but in more realistic ways.

    And, like Harry, she may very well pop up to Hogwarts to teach, and she’s a good teacher; she might even replace Prof. Binns (well-due to retire) and teach History of Magic (main text, Hogwarts: A History). Since Harry occasionally teaches, I don’t see their kids having a problem with it.

  81. Yes, it’s true. I love me some fanfiction!

    I guess we’re all assuming Hermione is locked into “interview canon” and she fights for justice and the rights of all, becoming the youngest ever Ministry of Magic, right?

    I could see her as a guess lecturer…ala Lupin and Moody (those being the only temp. DA’s that actually taught anything!) but I can’t see her doing it year in and year out. The only student I ever imagined coming back to teach–and I really thought for the longest time that Rowling was leading to this all along–is Harry.

    Hermione I think would make an excellent teacher, gaining the respect and fear of her students, but I don’t think she’d be too many students favorites. A bit like McGonagall–or Snape that way.

  82. Tamela, even though it’s off topic (but when’s that ever stopped us), you have any recommendations for good fanfic sites? I need my continuing fix. Thanks!

  83. revgeorge There are a lot. I usually go to the Quidditch Pitch first as they take all sorts of stories. There is also a lot if different places that specialize in certain ships or characters, so you’d have to be more specific in what you’re looking for.

    I’d also suggest you try Live Journal, most specifically a community called “Crack Broom” which is basically a Reccing comm. here is there memories listed by pairing so you can peruse easily the type of ships –or gen–you’re most interested in.

    Let me know if you want any more info! :)

  84. Chiming in to the fanfic discussion, I’ve found some very good ones on HPANA (my first Harry Potter site). There are a few writers I follow regularly. Gnargles&Snorkacks has written some great ones, and is writing one now about Dumbledore. She typically aims for canon compliant stories. There’s one by another author called Nineteen Years EARLIER, about everything between the last chapter and the epilogue, a very lengthy story about Snape, etc etc. One of the authors and readers, HufflepuffActress, was at Azkatraz, where we met and hung out for the first time.

  85. I like this article because it points out a perspective I hadn’t thought about before, but I’d argue that if Hermione’s a third wave feminist, she’s doing it wrong. Hermione seems to embody third-wave feminist ideals in many aspects of her life – the Muggleborn identity possibly intersecting with gender is an interesting argument here – but I would argue that she doesn’t go about it it a way that many leading truly third-wave feminists would approve of. S.P.E.W. is not a “grassroots campaign” at all; Hermione spends much of her energy attempting to convince house elves of their own oppression and acting against their wishes. In fact, they essentially organize against her, refusing to clean the Gryffindor common room in response to her activism. Perhaps she’s the embodiment of a young third-wave feminist, enthusiastic about social justice and eager to make a difference in the world – and not just for women. But in her house elves campaign, I see many of the elements of second-wave and even third-wave Western feminist movements that so many women of color and women from the global South have criticized. If Hermione learned to ask those whom she considers oppressed for their own ideas about what needs to be done, if she researched past and current movements and tried to work within any existing efforts, if she worked in solidarity with and not for the good of other people/house elves…then she’d be a good third wave feminist. Until then, she falls into the trap of the academic feminist who’s privileged in many ways and who thinks she knows best for everyone, without trying to learn from other perspectives and types of knowledge. And I think that those of us who love Harry Potter and aspire to social justice work should take Hermione as a warning, as well as an example.

  86. featherofeeling, welcome & thanks for commenting! Always great to see additions to older postings.

    Joivre, I think this post went up before you started to comment regularly. It was a very interesting conversation. Very helpful in many ways.

  87. If Hermione were to be a cliche, prototypical, “third wave feminist,” the message would have been lost. Hermione embodies cultural feminism in that she embraces her “stereotypical” feminine traits. But it is impossible to pin-point Hermione as any certain prototype because she is without a doubt, one of the most complex characters in the series. It is unfortunate that her marriage to Ron has to determine if she is indeed an ideal feminist or not. But throughout the series Hermione learns to do whats in her heart, which indeed makes her a “liberated person” and not just a “liberated female.”

  88. Thanks for your comment, HH! Good one. Reminds me of when we could almost but not quite rationally discuss feminist issues around here. ;)

    Anyway, I think your comment a fair & accurate one. I never really saw Hermione as an icon or prototype of feminist orthodoxy. Or any other orthodoxy for that matter. I looked at her as a real, live human being with all the complexity & inconsistencies that come with that. Even though, of course, she’s a fictional character. :)

  89. The oldies are definitely getting some traffic lately!

    I think arguing against “Hermione as cliche or prototypical feminist” is arguing against something that no one here as put forward. Though admittedly, I haven’t gone back and read this entire thread, and it was a long time ago. A quick search on the page, though, shows that “prototype” and “prototypical” were not used until the last two comments ;-)

    Hermione is a nuanced character and doesn’t fit some stock archetype, of course. But being a third wave feminist does not automatically make one a stock character.

  90. I guess I was more or less just stating the obvious… no necessary argument. Also I found this thread incredibly intriguing and wanted to be in on the action if further posts were to be submitted.

    I am not quite sure if that was a dig towards my comment RevGeorge, but I am new to this whole shindig so I don’t want to step on any toes.

    Anyways, I found this blog while doing some research for a class, my presentation is about Hermione as a cultural feminist type character, the title of the presentation is “Subverting Cultural Norms: Hermione’s voice in a wand-driven world,” which I find very fitting in regards to this thread. Thanks for some great ideas!

  91. HH, no dig on your comment. It was actually kind of a compliment. I just forgot that not everyone goes way back on the site. Sorry about the confusion that I engendered. I hope you find the site helpful & come back & I hope your presentation does well.

  92. Travis said, “I think arguing against “Hermione as cliche or prototypical feminist” is arguing against something that no one here as put forward. Though admittedly, I haven’t gone back and read this entire thread, and it was a long time ago. A quick search on the page, though, shows that “prototype” and “prototypical” were not used until the last two comments.”

    Well, I meant to use them. :) And actually I have used them or similar words on other threads dealing with this subject. I have thought at times that the argument was being pushed or heavily implied that Hermione failed to live up to some predetermined level of feminist orthodoxy & thus she failed as a character & as a feminist.

    Perhaps that’s a mistaken impression on my part. It’s been awhile too since I’ve read any of these old threads on feminism. For a very good reason too, which I’d forgotten about until I commented. My bad.

  93. No, I do think it’s fair to say that reading has been put forward before (that Hermione fails as a character because for some reason she fails as a feminist). I actually argue (following Sarah Zettel) that she does not.

    I just didn’t remember that being the argument of this particular post.

    But HH clarified that the comment was not specifically in response to this post’s argument, so I think we’re all responding to different things ;-)

  94. Well, I don’t know if anyone is reading this anymore but thought I’d pitch in anyway. While I agree that Hermione is a great role model I dislike the fact that whenever feminism in HP is discussed she is brought up in order to assure readers that the HP series does not have a “feminist issue”. One positive portrayal of a female character cannot save an entire series which portrays women, quite frankly, as less important to the story, less powerful than men (which woman is as powerful as DD and Voldemort?) and less developed as characters. Hermione Granger alone cannot solve all the problems a feminist reading of the series may reveal.
    Second, to address an issue discussed here, that of Molly vs Bellatrix. I personally don’t see why so many people consider Mrs Weasley a more feminist character than Bellatrix. I’m not arguing that Bellatrix is a feminist character at all what with her servitude to Voldemort and her constant concern over how he would react and what he would think of her actions. However, Bellatrix doesn’t display the sexist attitudes that I think Molly does. Molly uses derogatory terms for women and I don’t just mean the b-word but also terms such as “scarlet woman”. She readily believes Hermione is dating both Krum and Harry at the same time and shuns her. She considers Fleur to be shallow and vapid simply because she is beautiful and so on. This is not the sort of behaviour I would associate with a feminist character. As Arabella claimed Bellatrix is disdainful towards stay at home mothers I would like to ask for evidence of this. Surely, Bellatrix despises the Weasleys for being blood traitors but I don’t see any evidence of her opinions on stay at home mothers. Her sister is one as well, after all. It is Molly rather than Bellatrix who makes sexist comments about other women and displays catty behavior. And I am certain that had Molly known more about Bellatrix there would be even more things about her she would disprove of (Bella certainly fits Molly’s definition of a scarlet woman, after all). Also, considering the fact we have so many stay at home mothers in the HPverse Molly is hardly a free thinker in that regard.
    I also find the points about how Bellatrix attacks and doesn’t like children to be problematic. I don’t condone any type of cruelty and certainly think Bellatrix deserves to be in Azkaban and the key thrown away, but the way this issue is framed is different. We have many characters who are cruel to and dislike children. How about Greyback for example? Is he killed by Molly Weasley? No? Is dislike and cruelty towards children only a crime if you are a woman? Bellatrix biggest sins are not her childlessness and lust for power. It’s her bigotry and her sadistic tendencies which make her a bad person. Her attitude towards children is frankly quite irrelevant and I don’t see why whenever a woman is presented as a villain a comment about her position on children needs to be made, as though something needs to be clarified there. So to me the duel is one of the most problematic points in terms of feminism, in the series. Despite Hermione Granger being a feminist character of course :)

  95. Hi, Anna, I had not seen this discussion before and I appreciate your comments! I tried to look back at the rest of the discussion, but I don’t have time to read much of it, so I may be repeating things that have already been discussed.
    Hermione is a great character that I love, with a lot of feminist traits. She also has traits that I cringe at, like doing too much for the boys (helping a lot with their homework, packing ahead for them for the horcrux search, being overly responsible, etc.), putting herself down (particularly in book 1 where she says “Me! Books and cleverness! There are more important things— friendship and bravery . . . ” SHE had just as much friendship and bravery as Harry in addition to her cleverness), and cowering at Harry’s anger and trying to appease him. However, I don’t think this is a flaw of the books, because we are all a product of our culture in addition to our upbringing, our beliefs, and our basic personality. She is a whole and real character, not perfect. I really like Hermione.
    I also don’t think it’s anti-feminist that she marries Ron— we are often attracted to our opposites, and that brings conflict but also a lot of growth if we are willing to let it.
    I don’t have any problem with the characters being real and not perfect, far from it. But I was very bothered by the fact that Professor McGonagall is quite stereotyped with many “spinster” characteristics such as being uptight and sitting stiffly in contrast right from the very beginning to Dumbledore’s warmth, twinkling eyes, and quirkiness. She shows much less wisdom and openness than Professor Dumbledore (for example, she does not listen to or trust the trio when they warn her that someone’s going to try to steal the stone).
    I know the fact that the men are in positions of authority may be simply a portrayal of society’s flaws, but in that case I wish McGonagall’s character and her relationship to Dumbledore could have at least SUBVERTED the outward hierarchy and she could have been shown to be as whole and real a person as him.
    Although McGonagall is a powerful magical person with much authority, Dumbledore does not trust or treat her as an equal and he often gives her tasks with no explanation, expecting her to defer to his orders without question, even though she is a good, strong, intelligent person and his deputy headmistress, second in command after him. When a dementor gives Barty Crouch Jr. the kiss in book 4, he says”Minerva, I’m surprised at you!” immediately assuming she is at fault, rather than giving her the respect and trust she’s worthy of and first getting her side to the story.
    I was also really bothered in book 6 when Hermione shares with Parvati that she is going out with McClagan (or whatever his name is), and Harry thinks to himself that he can’t believe what lengths GIRLS will go to to get revenge. Ron has already certainly gone to much greater lengths to get back at Hermione for believing that he had drunk the felix before the game, and he did so long before Hermione decides to get revenge on him. Why wouldn’t it be what lengths HUMANS will go to to get revenge? That comment, with Harry judging girls in general, seems so incongruent with the rest of the story, Harry’s personality, and his friendship with Hermione, that it stood out and bothered me.
    I don’t mind anyone in the story not being a perfect feminist, or the stories being realistic about or revealing our societal flaws, but I do mind these small things woven into the story that support negative stereotypes that are specific to women and not to humanity in general.
    I know there are men in the story who are male stereotypes, like Bagman, but he is not anywhere near as major a character as McGonagall, who is in every book and appears next to and in contrast to Dumbledore so frequently, which plays up the disparity between the two of them.
    I know we each bring our own lens to these scenes and characters, and these were a couple of the things that stood out to me.

Leave a Reply