Hermione Granger, Girl Wonder
(Image taken from The Feminist Underground)
First off, let it be said: Joanne Rowling, I love you. Have my tiny babies. The Harry Potter series has revolutionized the Young Adult genre, getting kids to read again and changing what it means to write (and read!) “kids’ books.” The novels have a following that numbers in the millions, as well as a plot that probes the human psyche and characters with believable development. Suck on that, Twilight. (S. Meyer, we’re comin’ for you later.) Needless for me to say, the Harry Potter series changed the Western (and perhaps even worldwide?) literary landscape.
(Image taken from Broward Virtual Schools)
But is it a feminist text? Some people think not, seeing as it as adventure tale centered around one boy who grows up; bildungsroman, sure! Feminist? Nah. Plus there’s that tricky business about how the illustrious Joanne gave herself a fake middle initial. Her pseudo-pseudonym, J.K., was created in order to better market her books to young boys, lest they believe her book was a sort of Babysitter’s-Club-with-magic. (Ann M. Martin and your team of ghostwriters? Oh, we’re comin’ for you too, don’t you worry.) But I digress, bogged down in the minutiae of my most beloved genre, the YA novel. The fact remains that J.K./Joanne, while writing the first HP, was a poor, single mother on welfare. And look at her now! That in and of itself is a feminist achievement, in that she is a woman who has, almost singlehandedly, achieved a quite lofty goal.
But her characters are also feminist. Though no character ever drops the f-bomb, her heroes (and heroines!) fight for equality, and her villains against it. Moreover, she never pigeonholes her characters by gender (or, indeed, by race, class, or magical ability); women inhabit all walks of life: mothers, friends, murderers, annoying pests, from Rita Skeeter to Fleur Delacour, Molly Weasley to Bellatrix Lestrange.
(Image of these badass ladies found on Photobucket)
It is, in fact, this willingness on the part of Rowling to let the characters be full and whole rather than two-dimensional stereotypes that really puts her series on a pedestal for me. It isn’t fair to call Rowling’s work simply “feminist.” Instead, I see it as illustrative of numerous feminisms, depending on how keen one’s eye is and how femi-friendly one’s heart leans. One character stands out to me immediately: Hermione Granger, of course.
(Image taken from PrettyBoring)
Hermione, brilliant and brunette, could lead the charge for academic feminism in the novel, as she seems to take more comfort in fact than feeling. Many have said that she is a feminist because she isn’t afraid to be smart and because she doesn’t care about how she looks. I take a slightly different spin on this issue; Hermione, as a contemporary female, is completely aware of the ways in which her world is conspiring against her. She sees the Lavenders and Parvartis of her peer group focus on boys and make-up and love spells. She hears the cruelty of the boys in her class, one of whom she even LIKE-likes, as they tease her and put her down. Hermione’s too smart NOT to notice, not to care. It would be all too easy for her to shut up, get a straightening iron, and start “like, oh my god!”-ing with the best of them.
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Instead of clamming up and putting out, though, she perseveres, knowing herself. Knowing what it means to be strong. Hermione is, for me, a feminist hero precisely because she is scared to be smart, because she cares about how she looks, because she wants approval from boys she likes, and still goes ahead and is herself to a fault: needy, meddlesome, annoying, know-it-all-y. Refreshing. Flawed. Real. And hey, she sees nearly as much action as Ginny. Well, no one really sees as much action as Ginny, but you get my point.
(Image of this adorable pretend-couple also found on Photobucket)
Actually, I meant to write about both Ginny and Hermione, contrasting their relative positions and making comparisons to contemporary feminist philosophers. I got bogged down in the details instead, something Hermione would probably never do. I’ll get back to that point eventually, but for now, Hermione, I am proud to call you a feminist. (You too, Emma Watson!)
(Image taken from FitCeleb)