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Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?



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  #401  
Old April 15th, 2012, 7:46 pm
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kittling  Female.gif kittling is offline
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

From the Feminism in DH or lack there of thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by JackIanto View Post
In the words of Germaine Greer (when speaking of Betty Friedan)
"Women don't get the respect they deserve unless they are wielding male-shaped power"
This phrase has really solidified one of the problems I’ve always had with the series.

I started off with a bit of a problem with Ginny – not in her self but that it basically seemed to me that Harry liked her for two reasons; She was a Weasly and she acted just like a boy.
But then look at some of the other girls ...
Cho was all weepy and had feelings and there fore too confusing and far too much bother. Lavender (and most of the other girls in Gryffindor for that matter) was again ‘silly’ and 'girly' and I don't think we're left in much doubt that she is not to be admired adn the same can be said for the 2 Gryffindore fangirls of Professor Trelawny - again more girly sillness.

There is to me something very Enid Blyton about the gender roles – except that the tom boy in JKR’s stories are elevated becoming second only to the mother.

The more I looked at the ancillary characters (and the majority of the female characters are not only ancillary but so ancillary that they could be removed from the book and leave the story more or less intact*) the more this rule where females who are good have ‘male’ traits and female who act female are bad unless they are a mother seemed to hold true.

But I don’t think it’s restricted to this – the guide didn’t seem so much to be ‘male trait’ = good, ‘female trait’ = bad in women, but male trait = positive, female trait = negative in everyone; taking femaleness into a very negative light unless that female behaviour is to be a ‘good mother’.

There are several ‘feminised’ males and this seems to be always either used for comic effect or to denote untrustworthiness. For example a wizard wearing a woman’s nightdress to pass for muggle is apparently comic, Lockheart’s obsession with appearance, beauty products, and clothes multi-task being used both for comic effect and to show he can’t be the manly creature of his books, and he isn’t trustworthy in a more general sense either, and lets take the greyest character in the book, Severus Snape, words used to describe him; he has at times a ‘soft silky’ voice, his robes swish and billow. The descriptions of his robes remind me strongly of a poem by RL Stevenson Auntie’s Skirts – (although none of the same words are used I think it is they fact that both capture the movements of a Victorian/Edwardian woman’s dress)

*the only exceptions being that Lily has to die, and possibly Hermione.


Quote:
Originally Posted by StarryVeil View Post
Well, there are plenty of women in the series who have concerns other than raising their kids.
Firstly every character you mention in the list is an ancillary character; Lily, Luna’s Mum and Alice Longbottom are very much in the past 2 being dead and the other is insane.

Yes we get to see Tonks who is an auror – but her abilities as an auror are continually undermined in the story to such an extent that some people wonder how on earth she managed to become one. All the others that we actually see aremale and not just competent but exceptionally good at their job but Tonks is so clumsy that she can’t even enter a dark house with out knocking things over and she says that she only just scraped through some of her training and this is despite the fact that being a Metamorphmagus has a unique ability. Oh yes and has ‘no talent for some very basic spells such as Scourgify’ Either way the way she is portrayed in the series This makes it look like she only qualified because she has a special power and again to me this doesn’t give me the impression that women are equal in ability to men.

As for the mother issue – she became one of page in the last book and then promptly dies – for the vast majority of the series she isn’t a mother at all.


Quote:
Petunia and Narcissa are, I would say, the epitomes of “trophy wives” so I don’t think they are supposed to be portrayed as participating in a lot of activities that are independent of their husbands. Rowling has, I think, shown her disapproval of this sort of a wife.
How they are supposed to e portrayed isn’t how they are portrayed – are there any mentions of either woman ‘participating in any activities besides being a mother let alone a lot that are independent of their husbands? I can’t recall any but if I’m forgetting something please quote it – personally I would much prefer it if I was wrong!

As for the ‘her disapproval of this sort of wife’ thing – I think I agree with you but I don’t think I’m happy about it! Why? Because to me Rowling seems to show that being a ‘good mother’ is what women should want to be, the fact that she shows disapproval of any other type of wife doesn’t really count as a positive thing to me – rather I think it indicates that the idea that ‘its ok to be a housewife / mother if you choose to be one,’ isn’t the guiding philosophy of these books, it is simply that there is one legitimate choice; good motherhood. :/

Quote:
Neville’s mom was an Auror.
Mention of Alice Longbottom brings me to an interesting inconsistence in the series.

She is first introduced in Goblet of Fire.
GoF;The Pensieve
‘Yes, they were talking about Neville’s parent’s,’ said Dumbledore. ‘His father, Frank, was an auror just like Professor Moody. He and his wife were tourtured for information about Voldemort’s whereabouts after he lost his powers,’


So when we first hear about her she is the wife of an Auror not an Auror at all.

However a book later

OotP; Christmas On The Closed Ward‘They were Aurors, you know and very well respected in the Wizarding community,’ Mrs Longbottom went on. ‘Highly gifted, the pair of them.’


So in the 3 year gap (GoF being copyright 2000, and OotP being copyright 2003) JKR decides to give Neville’s mother a name and makes her an Auror as apposed to the wife of an Auror. That’s a pretty big shift imo & I can’t help wondering what happened in the real world to cause the change.


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  #402  
Old April 18th, 2012, 2:42 pm
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Sereena  Female.gif Sereena is offline
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kittling View Post
The more I looked at the ancillary characters (and the majority of the female characters are not only ancillary but so ancillary that they could be removed from the book and leave the story more or less intact*) the more this rule where females who are good have ‘male’ traits and female who act female are bad unless they are a mother seemed to hold true.
This certainly seems to apply to Dolores "the evil in pink" Umbridge. Part of what makes her loathsome and to some characters disgusting are her pink outfits and her super girly style. It strikes me as rather strange that JKR chose to make a character dislikeable by endowing her with a very feminine dress style and demeanor. The students at Hogwarts seem to react quite strongly to her clothing (even Ron who never notices anything) and even "silly" girls like Lavender and Parvati mock Umbridge.
Note: I actually love pink and think it's a great color. I wear my pink cardigan with pride

On the other hand Bellatrix is more evil than Umbridge and she is in my opinion the only female character which wields male power (or any kind of power at all but I digress). She may not be a tomboy in looks but we do see her with weapons such as knives which are usually associated with men. She is also the only female character that enjoys fights as far as I'm aware anyway. So this is probably where the motherhood issue comes in. So maybe the only type of feminity glorified is motherhood--- but acting like a man is also bad---- heh, I'm confused by my own reasoning now.

Quote:
Yes we get to see Tonks who is an auror – but her abilities as an auror are continually undermined in the story to such an extent that some people wonder how on earth she managed to become one. All the others that we actually see aremale and not just competent but exceptionally good at their job but Tonks is so clumsy that she can’t even enter a dark house with out knocking things over and she says that she only just scraped through some of her training and this is despite the fact that being a Metamorphmagus has a unique ability. Oh yes and has ‘no talent for some very basic spells such as Scourgify’ Either way the way she is portrayed in the series This makes it look like she only qualified because she has a special power and again to me this doesn’t give me the impression that women are equal in ability to men.
Poor Tonks, that seems rather harsh. After all the only person who defeated her was Bellatrix and Bellatrix pretty much defeated everyone so I'm not sure that says something about Tonks's abilities. But I agree with you that she doesn't really inspire the same competence that Kingsley does for example. It would be interesting if their roles were reversed and if we had a female character with Kingsley's imposing manner and air of competence.

Quote:
JKR decides to give Neville’s mother a name and makes her an Auror as apposed to the wife of an Auror. That’s a pretty big shift imo & I can’t help wondering what happened in the real world to cause the change.
Well spotted. I have no idea what could have made her to change that. Maybe she simply forgot. Doesn't Dumbledore mention they're both Aurors when talking to Harry afterwards though? Can't remember.


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  #403  
Old October 6th, 2012, 6:48 pm
igetje  Undisclosed.gif igetje is offline
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

This thread is so interesting; I hope it's ok to revive it. I'm very interested in gender politics myself and for as long as I can remember (this seriously started when I was a little girl) I've been bothered by how the "media" projects this idea of: being a boy/man is normal, being a girl/woman is not - just how many tv shows have you watched where there is: one white boy with his three sidekicks: one black boy, one fat boy, and one girl. Or worse; a group of boys and a token girl. (I'm thinking the Little Rascals). This goes as far as that in discussions on the internet I've seen people refer to "women and other minorities". Hello? How are women a minority? I believe technically there's actually a few more women than man on the planet, but you'd never think so from mainstream media which only portrays equal amounts of men and women in shows aimed at women.

When it comes to Harry Potter, I feel JKR really tried to go beyond this. I think she really tried and wanted to portray women as equals to men in the wizarding world. I just think she didn't do as good a job as she might have wanted. I know there's many here as well who consider the book feminist or at least not portraying women in a stereotypical way or being an 'oddity' as compared to men but think about it. Imagine if all the men in HP were women and vice versa- a girl lead. She'd have a girl and a boy best friend, the girl would have 5 sisters and 1 brother. The most fleshed out classmates after that are a female Neville, and a female Draco; the headmistress is female, there'd be a female Hagrid, the main villain is and the most hated teacher are female, so are 3/4 house-ghosts, 3/4 of the tri-wizard champions (the one guy gets the lowest score), almost all of the aurors and death eaters - I could go on. Noone would read this; not even women would find it believable, I think. And I think that shows how deeply it is ingrained in our society that bein a man is normal, being a women is... not.



Last edited by igetje; October 6th, 2012 at 6:55 pm.
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  #404  
Old October 7th, 2012, 5:47 pm
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Sereena  Female.gif Sereena is offline
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

Quote:
Originally Posted by igetje
When it comes to Harry Potter, I feel JKR really tried to go beyond this. I think she really tried and wanted to portray women as equals to men in the wizarding world. I just think she didn't do as good a job as she might have wanted. I know there's many here as well who consider the book feminist or at least not portraying women in a stereotypical way or being an 'oddity' as compared to men but think about it. Imagine if all the men in HP were women and vice versa- a girl lead. She'd have a girl and a boy best friend, the girl would have 5 sisters and 1 brother. The most fleshed out classmates after that are a female Neville, and a female Draco; the headmistress is female, there'd be a female Hagrid, the main villain is and the most hated teacher are female, so are 3/4 house-ghosts, 3/4 of the tri-wizard champions (the one guy gets the lowest score), almost all of the aurors and death eaters - I could go on. Noone would read this; not even women would find it believable, I think. And I think that shows how deeply it is ingrained in our society that bein a man is normal, being a women is... not.

I agree that there is an idea of the male as the norm both in the society and yes, perhaps to some extent even in HP. The problem you note stems, I believe, from men being seen as a more desirable public than women. Books portray the fates of men because they know that this way they can avoid being labeled as chicklit and also attract a broader public/readership.

However, my main problem with the series is not that there aren’t enough female characters but that there aren’t enough important female characters. Many fans argue that the female characters are strong, smart and some of them even independent. I’m not disagreeing with this but the fact remains that all central characters are male. The hero, the villain, the mentor, the spy. Female characters regardless of how smart or brave they are, act as helpers in the causes of men. I could consider a book feminist even if it had one female character and 20 male ones as long as that female character was central to the story and well developed, not merely a man’s sidekick.


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