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Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?



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  #41  
Old January 20th, 2007, 6:56 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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Originally Posted by Tonks2005 View Post
I never said Jane Austen had to do that at all. I was merely illustrating the fact that her characters are confined by their age. Back then women had none of the choices we have today. I was using this example to show that not much has changed in the way of writing and that even today, some authors continue to perpetuate the stereotypes of the female characters set in Jane Austen's age.
Personally, I don't find "Pride and Prejudice"'s female characters stereotypical at all - on the contrary, I see them as wonderfully fresh and acutely individual. In that age of restrictions and strict social rules, she has managed to portray women who are rarely found in literature even today - they are complex, vital, they develop, their feelings are intense, they are just masterfully written. They might be subjects to social rules and laws, but they are not weak, they are not prisoners, they are free in their souls - just like Lizzy says, Jane will be very easily happy, because of her own kindness and her own character.



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  #42  
Old January 20th, 2007, 8:56 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

I think there are some strong female characters in Harry Potter, but it worries me that they are outnumbered so heavily by the powerful male characters. All the central characters are male - the hero (Harry), the chief villain (Voldemort) and the hero's main mentor (Dumbledore) - leaving the female characters only ancillary roles to fulfil.

There is a certain amount of what strikes me as tokenism (girls gaining places on Quidditch teams, an equal number of male and female teachers - including an equal number of male and female Heads of Houses)but it does always seem to be the males in the foreground. For me the most blatantly unhelpful piece of tokenism is having a female competitor in the Triwizard - the fact that she is the only female out of 4 contestants and that she comes a woeful 4th out of 4 in the competition only serves to undermine the position of women in the series.

Where I do think the books strike a feminist blow, though, is in their non-stereotypical presentation of men. There are plenty of positive examples of men who adopt traditionally "feminine" roles - e.g. the very maternal Hagrid who is a surrogate mother to his creatures. Most of the overtly macho, dominating male characters are either villains (e.g. Lucius Malfoy)or in some way flawed (e.g. Sirius).


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  #43  
Old January 20th, 2007, 9:18 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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Originally Posted by Yoana View Post
Personally, I don't find "Pride and Prejudice"'s female characters stereotypical at all - on the contrary, I see them as wonderfully fresh and acutely individual. In that age of restrictions and strict social rules, she has managed to portray women who are rarely found in literature even today - they are complex, vital, they develop, their feelings are intense, they are just masterfully written. They might be subjects to social rules and laws, but they are not weak, they are not prisoners, they are free in their souls - just like Lizzy says, Jane will be very easily happy, because of her own kindness and her own character.

Elizabeth is not stereotypical, I agree; however, the situations into which she is placed as well as her friend Charlotte who is the epitome of the age are both stereotypical.


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  #44  
Old January 21st, 2007, 3:16 am
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

I think GOF required that Fleur be the only female Triwizard champion. Krum and Cedric were necessary in part to set up some of the romantic tension. Hermione going to the Yule Ball with Krum and Cho turning down Harry because she had already agreed to go with Cedric would not have had nearly the impact if they had not been Triwizard champions. Harry had to deal with the fact that the same Cedric he had tipped off about the dragons in the first task seemingly "stole" Cho from him. This leads to Harry not taking Cedric's advice about taking a bath with the egg until just a few days before the Second Task.

Also, Cedric dying sets up the doomed romance between Harry and Cho. We wouldn't have that if the other Hogwarts champion had been a girl.


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  #45  
Old January 23rd, 2007, 9:31 pm
rILEY  Female.gif rILEY is offline
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

Yea there are weak women written into the series, but in general they are all very diverse. The same goes for the males. There's some really weak, pathetic guys too. I don't think JKR believes in gender stereotyping. Atleast that's not how she writes her books. Instead, she tries to make them as realistic as possible by mixing weak with strong. Strong and weak women. Strong and weak men.

I'd like to add that in no way was this written to be a feminist novel. It's about a male fighting a male for power helped by other males who are in turn aided by females. Get it? lol.

Knowing what's been said about her past, it's obvious she herself is a very strong female herself and I really doubt she'd go around supporting old world stereotypes about women, but what really matters her is that JKR didn't sit down to right a book for or agaisnt feminism. Whether she is or isn't a feminist herself, I can't tell from the books. But the series has so many other important themes, that I don't even think that matters. I mean she definately doesn't go one way or the other on the issue.

I personally think the series could of been written with a female headmaster or minister of magic or something. I've definatelty seen a running theme of males dominating the head power seats in the books with female side kicks. I don't think anyone could dispute that.


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  #46  
Old January 24th, 2007, 4:44 pm
jenny_d_b  Female.gif jenny_d_b is offline
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

I think the reason we've seen a male Minister of Magic and a male Headmaster (although we do know that there has been female ones according to the pictures in Dumbledore's old office, and McGonnagall will become Headmistress if the school opens up again) is that JKR isn't trying to write the perfect world, she's trying to write a realistic world. Men have the main positions in the world today. I think her books reflects our society in a good way.
But when I've been reading I've thought that the books are not sexist. For instance, we've had no jokes about girls because they're girls, the good students are mainly girls (Hermione, Ginny and let's not forget Lily) and so on and so on. Hermione might be emotional, but I don't see that as being sexist either. I mean, crying is often more about feeling the total impact of something, I think girls are often better to grasp things, to cope with them, than boys are. Girls get the whole picture while boys often see what they want to see.
The hero is a boy, but I don't think that is sexist. The villain is male - yeah, well, they often are. Most criminals, at least serious criminals, like murderers, rapists etc. are men.

The women play an important part of the book. You have all forms of females represented:
The independent, free-spirited, adventorous girl - Ginny and Tonks.
The clever sidecast, who always helps the hero out and is not afraid to speak her mind - Hermione (Harry would've been dead a couple of times by now if it hadn't been for Hermione)
The weird outcast who follows her own rhytm and doesn't care at all what people think about her - Luna.
The villain's right hand and tremendously evil - Bellatrix.
Caring mother, head of the family - Molly (she runs everything, if it had been sexist Molly would be the one not really able to stand up towards her spouse)
The brave girl who would die for what she believed in - here I would put in all of the main girls, Ginny, Luna and Hermione, but the person that first struck me was Lily.
The strong, fierce woman who stands tall even through a storm - McGonnagall.
The mysterious loner, alcoholized weirdo with a nick for planning dramatic deaths for her students - Trelawney.
The mother who is below her husband and happy with that - Narcissa.

The girls in the series are definately not weak. I think the fact that Hermione is quite average looking in the books is great. Both Krum and Ron still falls in love with her. It just shows that it's not mainly her looks that count, which I think is a great advantage and the opposite of sexist, which would be more in the lines of she's pretty so I'll date her just so everyone knows I'm dating a hot girl - that would be sexist.
I am a feminist myself and I don't see how anyone can say that this book doesn't give women justice.
If anyone comes badly out of it, it's the boys. Ron - not particularly smart (we still love him to bits though).
Harry - selfish and arrogant at times (but deep inside he's prepared to do what he has to do for the greater good).
Malfoy - annoying jackass.
Bloeuf - constantly worrying about what other people feel about him or his politics, what the paper will say to this and that...


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  #47  
Old January 27th, 2007, 4:51 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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Originally Posted by jenny_d_b View Post
I think the reason we've seen a male Minister of Magic and a male Headmaster (although we do know that there has been female ones according to the pictures in Dumbledore's old office, and McGonnagall will become Headmistress if the school opens up again) is that JKR isn't trying to write the perfect world, she's trying to write a realistic world. Men have the main positions in the world today. I think her books reflects our society in a good way.
I don't totally buy that. There are some powerful women in the world in politics (in the British political climate in which JKR is writing there are some female government Ministers, even if they are outnumbered by their male counterparts, and we have had a female Prime Minister) and, unlike at Hogwarts, where roughly 50% of the teachers are male, in the real-life British education system the vast majority of teachers are female. I don't think JKR is reflecting the real world at all.

I suspect that there's a tension between JKR's actual socio-political views and the fantasies she has built up in her own mind through her reading.

She's clearly a feminist, a socialist and an anti-racist, and this comes out in the books, not only through the fact that characters like Malfoy (who subscribe to blood prejudice and the primacy of the "old" families and who are derogatory about girls) are portrayed negatively , but through the fact that she makes a point of having mixed-gender Quidditch teams, a mixed-gender staff, a multicultural student body etc.

However, as JKR has largely been influenced by writers who were writing in an earlier age, when white males were the ones with all the power, I think subconsciously she reflects these kind of archaic power relations in the writing. So while theoretically she believes women are equal to men, whenever she thinks of a warrior or a leader or a villain, she tends to imagine them white and male.

Many of the incidental examples of powerful females and non-white characters always seem to me like they've been hastily thrown in at the last minute, as if she wrote the books first and then realised herself that they were a bit dominated by white males and felt so worried she had to tokenistically bolt on e.g. a black female Quidditch captain in the background to redress the balance.

The other possibility is that she wanted real-life 21st century kids to identify with the Hogwarts students, to imagine that they themselves would have fitted in at Hogwarts, so she made the student body as mixed-gender and multicultural as any modern British comprehensive.

The adult characters, however, are possibly supposed to be as unlike real life as possible, so young readers will feel themselves transported to a strange and fantastical world. So she's gone for all-out archaism in her depiction of the Hogwarts staff and the Death Eaters, depicting typical Dickesnian (white, male) villains and straight-from-central-casting boys' boarding school masters.


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  #48  
Old January 28th, 2007, 6:55 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

I think JKR has used the women in the series to show that females aren't always as frail as other authors intend them to be, which is what Pride and Prejudice is all about. Molly Weasley is by far the most outspoken woman in the series, with the possible exception of Hermione. Molly isn't afraid to stand up for her friends, or to defend her family.
The only time JKR used the females as frail characters was when there was a delicate situation. For example, in SS/PS Hermione is often picked upon by the guys, hence her angry/upset moods. This is the only time during the book when she is like this, except for when Harry is about to save the school, then she becomes worried. Another example would be when Molly had to confront the boggart. Throughout the series, she is strong. Then her worst nightmare has come to life in front of her eyes and she is upset, which is understandable.


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  #49  
Old January 29th, 2007, 12:52 pm
silmarilien  Female.gif silmarilien is offline
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

just a note.. there has been a female minister, go to the archives mugglenet has on the Jkrowling.com posts.. on the wizard of the month.. there was at least one that i remember.. and i recall quite clearly it did say: first female minister.. as in.. there were more.. and i agree with the revious post that says that men are portrayed differently and that the typical macho ones are villains.. how ever i standin the..Harry has the traits of a sexist novel... while not being entirely so..


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  #50  
Old January 29th, 2007, 5:35 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

I think that the series as of the first four books was pretty weak from a feminist point of view, going on to redeem itself in OOtP but taking something of a step backwards in HBP.

First of all, in the first books Hermione really hadn't come into her own yet. While she may have been more skilled magically than Ron, in a series that values bravery over intelligence (the kids are Gryffindors, not Ravenclaws), Hermione is the thinker and Ron is the doer. They become friends when Harry and Ron have to save Hermione from the troll after Hermione freezes up, something she does again with the Devil's Snare. Obviously, she is brave too - she puts herself in great danger in both PS/SS and (she thinks) in going with Harry down the Willow passage in PoA, she slaps Malfoy and disarms Snape with the boys. But even in those situations, Ron gets the role of the action hero sidekick while Hermione's role is more figuring things out than getting things done. Ron serves as general in a giant chess game with potentially fatal consequences, Hermione solves a riddle. Hermione figures out that the monster is a basilisk, Ron goes with Harry to rescue Ginny, not doing much but doing enough to get an award for special services to the school. Ron tells an apparent mass murderer that he'll have to kill him if he wants to get at Harry, Hermione keeps Harry from acting rashly when he uses the Time Turner, although he has to ignore her to save himself, Sirius, and her by casting the Patronus. She stands by him in GoF, but we are told that she isn't enough - Harry misses Ron, who is really his best friend.

At this point, the only adult witch we know besides the Hogwarts teachers is Mrs. Weasley. There is nothing wrong with being a homemaker, but it says something that the ideal wizarding family is one in which the mother stays home even when her impoverished family could do with the extra money. The glimpses we catch of other adult witches isn't much better. Narcissa stays home: we know a lot about Lucius, but never hear her speak. The ministry officials we know are men, although we get a mention of a Mrs. Fudge and see Mrs. Crouch as a distraught mother. Although Frank and Alice Longbottom were both aurors, at the trial we hear of "Frank Longbottom, an auror, and his wife." Looking at the rest of the Weasley family, there are seven children, and Ginny at this point appears to be the weakest. Bill is a "cool" curse breaker, Charlie works with dragons, Percy may be a jerk, but he is obviously a skilled wizard, the twins are cool mischief makers, and Ron is a key sidekick. Ginny is the shy little girl who needed to be rescued in CoS. The only other really main female character, McGonagall, is obviously a strong woman, but in an inferior degree to the strong male of the school, Dumbeldore. When he leaves in CoS, there is no question of her being a fully adequate replacement. The rest of the important teachers are mostly male: Snape, and all four DADA teachers up to that point, plus Hagrid, compared to the colorless Sprout and the laughable Trelawney.

We know Harry's father's friends, but not his mother's. James goes down fighting to protect his wife and child, Lily's action may be more crucial to the series, but she does, as Voldemort tells Harry ,die begging him for her son's life. Hers is the instinctive bravery of a mother, not the active defiance of James.

The minor characters are even more skewed male. The Quidditch team has near gender parity, but the three girls are interchangeable. Besides Harry and the twins, the distinct personality on the team belongs to Oliver. Besides the trio, Neville is the most prominent Gryffindor of the year, and while Seamus and Dean seem like likeable enough guys, Parvati and Lavender are rather conventionally silly girls. The only female triwizard champion is the weakest.

The girls do better in OOtP. Ginny comes out of her shell and emerges as a powerful witch. Hermione takes the lead in starting the DA, and finally takes an action role in the ministry battle. McGonagall may not be as strong as Dumbeldore, but she reveals herself as someone who can show her mettle when it matters: she isn't just the stern but kind professor, but an Order member who defies Umbridge and the Ministry with guts and spirit. We meet the spunky young auoror Tonks, and find out that Lily and James had both escaped Voldemort three times. The Order has decent female representation, and on the other side, we finally meet the formidible Bellatrix Lestrange. We see, and hear of, working women - Amelia Bones, Umbridge, Cho's and Marietta's mothers. We finally have a female DADA teacher - she's inept, but so were Lockhart and Quirrel, and she certainly is a legitimate villain, even if she's an intentionally apalling teacher. The DA has gender parity. We meet Luna. All in all, its a huge step forward.

HBP is weaker from a feminist perspective, but it doesn't undo the advances of the last book entirely. Ginny is still an impressive subsidiary heroine, Bellatrix is still a feared adversary. But other women suffer. Tonks actually loses some of her powers because of her love of Remus: the strong auror becomes a weepy lover. Fleur is strong only in that she stands by her man, which is supposed to redeem her as a character. When the sextet reforms on Harry's command, Hermione and Luna are the ones who go to round up professors, missing most of the battle.


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  #51  
Old January 30th, 2007, 10:53 am
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

That's an excellent analysis, seeker.

Just a couple of observations:

Quote:
First of all, in the first books Hermione really hadn't come into her own yet. While she may have been more skilled magically than Ron, in a series that values bravery over intelligence (the kids are Gryffindors, not Ravenclaws), Hermione is the thinker and Ron is the doer.
I agree. However, given that in Britain there is a huge debate about whether education has become "too feminised" and the fact that girls regularly outperform boys is often attributed (even by government ministers)to the fact that the system has been rigged in their favour (people often allege that coursework and the opportunity to retake exams unfairly favours girls, who are often described as "naturally" hard-working, and penalise boys who are sometimes thought to be "more intelligent, but lazier"), the fact that JKR portrays a girl as being unquestionably the cleverest, most academic student in the year, even in a traditional "masculine" school, where there is no coursework and everything is judged on the basis of competitive exams, is in my view a welcome feminist statement in itself.

Quote:
At this point, the only adult witch we know besides the Hogwarts teachers is Mrs. Weasley. There is nothing wrong with being a homemaker, but it says something that the ideal wizarding family is one in which the mother stays home even when her impoverished family could do with the extra money.
I agree. And it's not just the fact that she is a home-maker, it's the fact that she is totally defined by her family - everything about who she is, from the clock in her kitchen to her Boggart, is to do with her love for her children. Mr Weasley is portrayed as an exceptionally loving parent, too, but that isn't his entire identity.

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The rest of the important teachers are mostly male: Snape, and all four DADA teachers up to that point, plus Hagrid, compared to the colorless Sprout and the laughable Trelawney.
In fairness, Flitwick is as colourless as Sprout, and Binns is not only as laughable as Trelawney, he's also a lot less integral to the plot (at least so far).

Quote:
We know Harry's father's friends, but not his mother's. James goes down fighting to protect his wife and child, Lily's action may be more crucial to the series, but she does, as Voldemort tells Harry ,die begging him for her son's life. Hers is the instinctive bravery of a mother, not the active defiance of James.
Stuff about Lily has obviously been kept back so we get a big surprise in Book 7 - she's been deliberately shrouded in mystery. I really hope that her missing friends are going to be part of the surprise (I tend towards the Lily-and-Snape-were-friends theory), because if she really let her husband choose both her son's only godfather and their secretkeeper from his friends without a very good reason or any protest, she is either a complete wet blanket (which is inconsistent with what we see in SWM) or one of those awful, shallow, man-obsessed women who dump all their friends as soon as they find a bloke.

There are hints that Lily is more than just a passive victim in HBP - her Potions brilliance, for example, gives her an active, non-family-centred talent.

I actually think Lily's sacrifice has been presented as being far greater than James's, not as just an instinctive, passive thing. Whole threads have been dedicated to how unfair JKR is being to James.

What does my head in, though, is the whole implication that motherhood is the most important role women could possibly have and the only fulfilling life choice. A mother dying for her son creates powerful ancient magic. Women who abandon their children (eg Merope, Hagrid's mother) are heavily censured, far more so than men who do the same. We know that Bellatrix is really bad because she says that if she had a son she would gladly sacrifice him for Voldemort (and she's already suspect because she's childless in the first place). There's a lot of ideological implications in HP that I, as a single, childless woman, find deeply disturbing.

Single women with careers (with the possible exception of McGonagall, who's still devoted her life to children) are usually evil and manipulative - Rita Skeeter, Dolores Umbridge.

Quote:
Fleur is strong only in that she stands by her man, which is supposed to redeem her as a character.
Please note, it's OK for a man to lose his looks in a werewolf attack. Of course, his fiancee will still love him - it's terribly shallow for a woman to judge a man on his looks. The fiancee, of course, must stay beautiful. It would be unthinkable for a man to have to stay with a woman whose face had been ravaged by a werewolf.

Like I said in an earlier post, everything that JKR says and does outside her writing suggests she's very feminist, so I can only think that a lot of this is subconscious, unintentional. It puzzles me, though.


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Old January 30th, 2007, 11:27 am
Xenophanes  Undisclosed.gif Xenophanes is offline
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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Originally Posted by Melaszka View Post
What does my head in, though, is the whole implication that motherhood is the most important role women could possibly have and the only fulfilling life choice. A mother dying for her son creates powerful ancient magic. Women who abandon their children (eg Merope, Hagrid's mother) are heavily censured, far more so than men who do the same.
Well, the only man I can think of who leaves his family is Tom Riddle Sr. and he is certainly censured for it. He's depicted as shallow and snobbish for doing such a thing , and is finally murdered by his avenging son specifically for that offence.*

Quote:
We know that Bellatrix is really bad because she says that if she had a son she would gladly sacrifice him for Voldemort (and she's already suspect because she's childless in the first place).
To be fair, some readers knew she was really bad by the way she tortured and killed innocent people.

Quote:
Please note, it's OK for a man to lose his looks in a werewolf attack. Of course, his fiancee will still love him - it's terribly shallow for a woman to judge a man on his looks. The fiancee, of course, must stay beautiful. It would be unthinkable for a man to have to stay with a woman whose face had been ravaged by a werewolf.
We're never given any indication of how Bill would (or should) react to Fleur being disfigured. As far as the novel goes, Fleur stays with him because she loves Bill for more than just his looks, not because she feels she'd be shunned for not staying with him.

*(This is despite the fact that, if we follow the "marriage by magical coercion theory" of Merope/Tom Sr., Merope effectively drugs him, force him to have sex with her, and has him father their child. One would wonder how this would be presented if the genders were reversed.)



Last edited by Xenophanes; January 30th, 2007 at 11:34 am.
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  #53  
Old January 30th, 2007, 12:19 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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Originally Posted by Xenophanes View Post
Well, the only man I can think of who leaves his family is Tom Riddle Sr. and he is certainly censured for it. He's depicted as shallow and snobbish for doing such a thing , and is finally murdered by his avenging son specifically for that offence.*
I didn't mean to imply that he wasn't censured at all, but the way that JKR has chosen to present the relationship he, at least, has the mitigation that he was tricked into the relationship (again, there have been a lot of people on the Merope's Love Potion thread who are quick to leap to TR Snr's defence on these grounds). He's depicted as shallow and snobbish in general, not specifically for the way he treats his wife and child. His parents are murdered by Voldemort, too, although they haven't abandoned anyone, and as most of Voldemort's victims are innocent martyrs, the fact that Voldemort murders Tom Riddle Snr seems weak evidence to support the proposition that JKR censures his behaviour. I admit it's a matter of interpretation, but in my reading of the books, although Merope is depicted with more pathos, her abandonment of Voldy is depicted as being a bigger deal than Tom Riddle snr's (Harry, for instance, reacts angrily to Merope's choice to die, while he passes little comment on TRS walking out).

Quote:
To be fair, some readers knew she was really bad by the way she tortured and killed innocent people.
OK, so I was lazy in the way I expressed this. Bellatrix's evil is further underlined by the fact that she says she would sacrifice her son...etc. It's still, in my view, evidence of the Myra Hindley attitude - a woman who harms children is more "unnatural" and evil" than a man who does.

Quote:
We're never given any indication of how Bill would (or should) react to Fleur being disfigured.
No, because JKR has chosen to go with the traditional Beauty and the Beast scenario. She could easily have created the reverse situation, but she chooses not to overturn the convention that women choose men for their personality, men choose women for their looks (notwithstanding the fact that Hermione, as someone has already noted, breaks this mould a bit. She's not a traditional beauty, with her buck teeth and frizzy hair. But she still wows Harry by how lovely she looks at the ball in GoF, when she actually puts in the effort. No emphasis is ever put on Ron's or Harry's appearance - it is simply irrelevant). And I do think we get a bit of a hint to how Bill woudl react if Fleur were disfigured - she says "I have beauty enough for both of us" - implying that her beauty is the most important thing about her.


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  #54  
Old January 30th, 2007, 3:27 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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Originally Posted by seeker View Post
But even in those situations, Ron gets the role of the action hero sidekick while Hermione's role is more figuring things out than getting things done.
It is a cherished, old stereotype of women that we are not capable of logic to the same extent as men. Hermione being the smart one, who can solve logic puzzles and mysteries, is counter to a stereotype, just not the one you apparently would prefer Rowling to counter.

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At this point, the only adult witch we know besides the Hogwarts teachers is Mrs. Weasley. There is nothing wrong with being a homemaker, but it says something that the ideal wizarding family is one in which the mother stays home even when her impoverished family could do with the extra money.
You are forgetting that Mrs. Weasley is a mother of seven. Once Ginny goes to school, her going out to work would bring in more money, but until very recently, a decision by both of the Weasleys to enter the work force would have meant taking on rather large child care and tutoring expenses. Her decision to stay home (and provide housekeeping, home schooling, and child care services to her family at no extra cost) may well have made more economic sense. It certainly does for large families in Real Life, and RL families don't need to home school the way a pureblood wizarding family does. (Do the Weasleys even exist, in the eyes of the Muggle government?)

As a consequence, at the time we meet her she had been out of the work force for perhaps two decades. (How old is Bill Weasley?) Her skills may be a tad rusty. In GoF, she becomes involved in the war effort, as well. (And it is her decision, Dumbledore asks HER if he can count on her and Arthur, she answers for them both).

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We know Harry's father's friends, but not his mother's. James goes down fighting to protect his wife and child, Lily's action may be more crucial to the series, but she does, as Voldemort tells Harry ,die begging him for her son's life. Hers is the instinctive bravery of a mother, not the active defiance of James.
Rowling chose to write the growing up story of a boy. I guess this precludes some necessary aspects of being a feminist novel, such as equal attention to male and female characters. Harry is more interested in male friends and rivals, and identifies with his father, as is normal for a boy, especially a pre-adolescent. As far as Lily vs. James, Rowling has made it clear that she thinks Lily's action is more important, and this fact is made clear in the early books with the whole blood protection thing. Readers who insist that James is more important because he fought may be falling for some stereotypes themselves. (There is definitely a stream of feminist thought which suggests men, espoecially young men, are more aggressive, and that this is not a thing women should try to emulate, but that, rather, as women gain more influence, society as a whole will adopt different values which might see Lily's protective actions in the proper light. You know, the style of feminism that suggests that as more women become world leaders, we will have fewer wars, because women don't like them).

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When the sextet reforms on Harry's command, Hermione and Luna are the ones who go to round up professors, missing most of the battle.
No, actually, their mission is to keep an eye on Snape, which they do, and prevent him from helping Draco, which they don't. They fail to challenge or try to stop him when Flitwick brings the news that there are Death Eaters in the castle. In my view, this failure is due to Hermione's independent opinion that Harry's distrust of Snape is without foundation, and is to her credit. While she has changed her mind after the events of HBP, I think the jury is still out on whether she made the right choice there. (I think she did, because I think it will come out in Book 7 that Snape was, after all, worthy of Dumbledore's trust).

At any rate, Rowling is writing a book about a male protagonist, his father figures, and a male villain, along with other characters that have a role int he books. Lily's, I think, will prove central, though we may not learn all that much more about her that would help with the gender quotas. We already know she was spunky, talented, powerful, and independent.

However, to me Hermione is the creation that proves that, if not feminist books, the HP series are at least a series written by a feminist. She's a great female character, warts and all. She plays an essential role in most of the books, has a collection of traits some of which are not stereotypically feminine, and is someone I would consider a fine example of what a girl can be/accomplish.


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Old January 30th, 2007, 3:47 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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Originally Posted by Melaszka View Post
And I do think we get a bit of a hint to how Bill woudl react if Fleur were disfigured - she says "I have beauty enough for both of us" - implying that her beauty is the most important thing about her.
I don't think that this says something about Bills possible reaction, but more about Fleurs own view on herself and what is important for her (not Bills physical aspect).
Anyway and getting back to topic, there is actually no problem for a woman to want to be pretty. It's not antifeministic to value her own beauty.
Fleur in this sense shows a lot of 'feminism' because she says and does exactly what she wants, regardless of what the rest of people (women and men alike) could say. It's in her personality (and she is quarter veela too). Fleur also shows that she does not rely on beauty only to have success, or she never would have applied for the Triwizard.

The Harry Potter books are not feministic novels, but they have a wide range of female characters, with different abilities, strenghts and weaknesses. And I would not consider the female characters to be inferior to the male characters in the books.

Hermione is an example how a girl who is not particulary pretty or fixed on boys can have a lot of success in different areas. She excells in everything she does, both academical and personally.
Even Molly as a housewife has not been portrayed as the 'weak' sidekick to Arthur, but as a strong willed and active woman.
Tonks might lose her power due to love, but she also fights for this love, and what is wrong with that?
In the Black family it seems that Mrs Black was the one holding the power of the family, not Mr Black.

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Originally Posted by zgirnius View Post
At any rate, Rowling is writing a book about a male protagonist, his father figures, and a male villain, along with other characters that have a role int he books.
I agree. It's a book about a boy and for me the female characters are reasonabley well described.
At any rate, I don't like it too much when in a fictional book or movie they sort of force inside the obligatory woman, only to make it more 'feministic'. We had this conversation in the LotR discussion, about Arwen being more prominent in the movies than in the books, and IMO it was not necessary to make this change, only to give women more attention.


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Old January 30th, 2007, 3:52 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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I admit it's a matter of interpretation, but in my reading of the books, although Merope is depicted with more pathos, her abandonment of Voldy is depicted as being a bigger deal than Tom Riddle snr's (Harry, for instance, reacts angrily to Merope's choice to die, while he passes little comment on TRS walking out).

This is the same way I interpreted it. I never understood why Harry was so quick to judge Merope but basically ignore what Tom Sr. did,which in my mind is equally as bad.


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Old January 30th, 2007, 3:57 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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This is the same way I interpreted it. I never understood why Harry was so quick to judge Merope but basically ignore what Tom Sr. did,which in my mind is equally as bad.
Well I don't see this as a lack of feminism, but because the situation of Tom and Merope was totally different. Tom Sr went away because he didn't want to be there in the first place, Harry knew that so he didn't question this. I personally understand perfectly Tom Sr reaction and would probably have done the same, but that's off topic anyway.
And I don't think that Harry judging Merope is a sign of antifeminism but a higher emphasis on the role of the mother in the books, (same as Lilys sacrifice is valued higher than James) as well as the importance of Harry feeling pity for Voldemort. That is the important thing in that part, not the critizism of a woman.


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Old January 30th, 2007, 4:04 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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Originally Posted by Melaszka
I admit it's a matter of interpretation, but in my reading of the books, although Merope is depicted with more pathos, her abandonment of Voldy is depicted as being a bigger deal than Tom Riddle snr's (Harry, for instance, reacts angrily to Merope's choice to die, while he passes little comment on TRS walking out).
Harry passes little comment on many things that are important - he doesn't always understand things the first time he hears them. Merope was the magical person in the marriage, so Harry is surprised that she wouldn't use her magic to stay alive for her son, since he is thinking in terms of eating and having a place to sleep, and not life and death, as with his own mother.

The main thing is that Tom Riddle grows up desperate to know about his father, and spends hours looking through the trophy room for evidence of him. His anger later leads him to kill his father and grandparents, framing Morphin and also causing the ill-fated Frank Bryce to be nearly imprisoned.

To be fair, JKR has said that her books read like a "litany of bad fathers."

Time Magazine Interview, July 2005

Much of Rowling's understanding of the origins of evil has to do with the role of the father in family life. "As I look back over the five published books," she says, "I realize that it's kind of a litany of bad fathers. That's where evil seems to flourish, in places where people didn't get good fathering." Some of that must surely flow from her own experiences: her relationship with her father has been uneven, and the father of her oldest daughter is no longer part of Rowling's life.


We see that attitude from Lucius Malfoy to Barty Crouch Senior to Vernon Dursley. Even some of Harry's father-figures aren't stellar. Lupin is always too busy to write a letter, apparently, while Sirius wants to be Harry's "pal" instead of his Dad. Snape plays the disciplinarian to Harry with disastrous relationship results, while Dumbledore's "kindly grandfather" is wonderful and yet rather ineffective, except that Harry loves him.

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Originally Posted by Melaszka
What does my head in, though, is the whole implication that motherhood is the most important role women could possibly have and the only fulfilling life choice. A mother dying for her son creates powerful ancient magic. Women who abandon their children (eg Merope, Hagrid's mother) are heavily censured, far more so than men who do the same. We know that Bellatrix is really bad because she says that if she had a son she would gladly sacrifice him for Voldemort (and she's already suspect because she's childless in the first place). There's a lot of ideological implications in HP that I, as a single, childless woman, find deeply disturbing.
OK, but whoa. I don't think JKR is saying that because someone is childless that they are lesser - and that's certainly NOT what makes Bellatrix evil. Lots of characters in this series do not have families, though they do have networks of colleagues or friends, and they take an interest in children's lives. Bella likes to torture people into insanity, and she wouldn't mind doing it to children if she could catch one - she's a criminal.

But once a woman has a child, I think JKR is just saying that the priority becomes that child no matter what, and you cannot put other things or people ahead of that child. That may not be politically correct, but that's her view, and that seems to be the way she lives her life.

And you can't ignore the basis for JKR's interest in exploring motherhood and poverty and society's view of that - she is writing from her own experience:

http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/...attenstone.htm

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She ended up teaching English as a foreign language in Portugal, where she fell in love with Jorge Arantes, married him, had a child, began writing Harry Potter, and fell out of love. When she told Jorge how she felt, he threw her out. She returned the next day with the police, collected Jessica, and headed back to Britain and the most dismal phase of her life. She had no money, no job, nowhere to live. "Pretty much everything was gone." She also feared being dragged back to Portugal to fight a custody case.

She considered moving to London, where many of her friends lived. But they were single, childless and carefree. London wasn't the right place for a woman with worries. So the girl, born in Chepstow, raised in the Forest of Dean, headed for Edinburgh, where her sister lived. "I knew two or three people, and I was incredibly lonely. I was really angry." Did she resent having Jessica? "No, never. I was very angry at myself." Why? "I don't know. I never expected to find myself in that situation, and I was furious with myself. But I certainly never regretted leaving, and I never ever for a second regretted Jessica. She kept me going."

It's not that she was particularly ambitious for herself, or that she had mapped out her life. "I just never expected to mess up so badly that I would find myself in an unheated, mouse-infested flat, looking after my daughter. And I was angry because I felt I was letting her down."

One day she visited her sister's friend and realised she'd hit rock bottom. "She'd had a baby just a couple of months before me, and I saw Thomas's bedroom full of toys, and at that point, when I packed Jessica's toys away, they fitted into a shoe box, literally. I came home and cried my eyes out."
I think what's interesting about that quote is the way JKR took on the responsibility for her daughter herself, instead of blaming her ex-husband for the problems. When you read that and think about Merope, who gave up because her man was gone, then it's easy to see why JKR doesn't think too highly of her as a mother.


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Last edited by silver ink pot; January 30th, 2007 at 4:15 pm.
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Old January 30th, 2007, 4:05 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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And I don't think that Harry judging Merope is a sign of antifeminism but a higher emphasis on the role of the mother in the books, (same as Lilys sacrifice is valued higher than James) as well as the importance of Harry feeling pity for Voldemort. That is the important thing in that part, not the critizism of a woman.

Maybe it is not antifeminist but it does seem to indicate that Harry is more quick to judge a womans actions then a mans. I suppose you could be right about the motherly role being held up on a higher level and that could be the reason for Harry's harsher judgment.


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Old January 30th, 2007, 4:47 pm
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Re: Harry Potter: A Feminist Novel?

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Maybe it is not antifeminist but it does seem to indicate that Harry is more quick to judge a womans actions then a mans.
Well I don't think that this is the case with Tom and Merope, as their actions were totally different and required a different judgement. But actually this reminds me of this one scene when they are discussion the identity of the HBP and Hermione thinks it's a girl, and Harry insists on him being a guy. Hermione says that he only thinks that because he doesn't believe a girl to be capable of being so smart.
Harry immediately denies this, it's more he thinks the idea is ridiculous, knowing Hermione who is in almost every magical aspect superior to Harry. He knows that and it's allright with him.
His judgement was not based on chauvinism, but on a random feeling (that turned out to be true, as we know the HBP was a guy).

I also see in Harrys judgement of actions no major discrimination towards women, just a normal behaviour of a teenage boy.

If JKR wanted to make a message regarding teenage gender roles, I think she made this quite clear with Ginny and Ron and their conflict in HBP. Ginny in fact is what we could say a perfect representation of 'teenage feminism', she is gutsy, she does what the boys do too, she successfully hexes guys, she is independent, meaning that her happyness does not depend on being with Harry or not (her reaction in the funeral), etc. Nontheless she has to endure a lot of critisism (from Ron and from the fans).

Hmm, I think I am getting off topic here.


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