Tag Archives: Harry Potter and feminism

Around the Common Room: December 7, 2012

In the cheerful spirit of Happy Hoggy Days, here’s a gift many a Harry Potter fan should enjoy: a Harry Potter and Philosophy podcast put together by Keith Hawk at MuggleNet, starring our own Carrie-Ann Biondi and two of her students! Says Carrie-Ann:

It’s kind of a survey-ish discussion among the five of us ranging over a variety of questions and issues in philosophy and literature that John Granger came up with, so it’s very accessible to a wide audience.

Listen and enjoy! And now, here’s your roundup of the week’s news:

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Harriet Potter

So, I’ve been reading this really interesting book (if you haven’t bought a copy, buy a copy) that raises some difficult issues surrounding the Harry Potter series. This is a quote I’ve been thinking about on and off. It’s themes we’ve discussed here before, so I wanted to throw it at you and hear your thoughts:

Why is Harry not Harriet? Why is it called the “Wizarding World” instead of the “Witching World?” After all, if you’re going to use the controversial term “witchcraft” with historical references to past witch hunts and everything, why not stick with a matriarchal motif? Why is the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the Minister of Magic, and every other key authority figure in the series male? Are the Harry Potter books sexist?

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Luna Lovegood is My Role Model

To complete my trifecta of important girl characters, let’s talk about my fellow Ravenclaw: Luna!

Many younger readers (and the adults too!) aspire to be more like some of their favorite characters. Who doesn’t want to be brave like Harry, self-sacrificing like Snape, fiery like Ginny, loyal like Ron, intelligent like Hermione? It’s one of my dearest hopes that more readers, especially the girls, aspire to be more like Luna: weird, honest, kind, and most importantly non-conformist.

It’s an understatement to say that Luna doesn’t fit in anywhere at Hogwarts. When we first meet her in OOTP, Neville, the underdog of Gryffindor, is afraid to share a train compartment with her. Even her fellow Ravenclaws exclude her, and she doesn’t seem to have any friends until Ginny is nice to her and defends her when others tease. When she talks about the D.A. as “almost like having friends” it broke my heart. Haven’t we all been there at some point?

No matter her social situation, though, very little upsets Luna. Rowling most often describes her and the way she speaks as “serene.” While Luna’s not numb to what’s going on around her (I’ll argue she’s the most perceptive character we see [<—slight pun intended]), she’s also not crying in the bathroom and fretting over why no one likes her. She never tries to change who she is so that others will accept her. Most people and characters try, to a greater or lesser degree, to fit in and be accepted, popular, loved. Think about all the back-to-school prep that’s been going on lately: if you buy the right clothes you’ll be like the cool kids (and it’s assumed you want to be cool); if you have the right backpack/hairstyle/shoes people will accept you. For Luna, none of that matters. I think she sees through the artifice of it all and rejects it. She would rather be happy and weird. That level of self-assurance and inner-strength are both admirable and rare, especially in adolescents. Continue reading

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? Continue reading