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Ana’s Spoons: Female Characters in Harry Potter

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Today is our monthly FF takeover of the QSF site. :) Here’s Ana‘s kick-off for the discussion today:

I don’t like Harry Potter.

No, that’s not exactly correct. I’ve read all of the books multiple times, visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, and indulged in some top-secret fan fiction involving Professor McGonagall and her cane. (I write kinky spanky stories, and the one after-the-fact mention of an expected caning fueled many a happy secret fantasy.) I love Minerva McGonagall.

Plus, the woman can change into a cat and go where she wills. What’s not to love?

When I moved overseas where English books would be scarce, I could only take a few books that would fit into my suitcases along with other less necessary items such as clothes and shoes. A friend had just introduced me to the Harry Potter series, and the detailed magical world caught my interest. In the midst of learning a foreign language and culture, I re-read Harry Potter at bedtime (this was before the good old days of e-readers and online reading).

And yet, I don’t like Harry Potter. Or at least I try not to.

Why?

Hermione.

Hermione.

Oh, unwanted, maligned, ridiculed (SPEW, right?) and tag-along nuisance who supports and marries our hero, Hermione.

Minerva McGonagall (spoiler alert!) is sidelined by a weak heart in the final battle while Dumbledore is the omniscient, omnipotent godfather-slash-mentor. Villain Voldemort terrifies, while Dolores Umbridge wreaks evil by, well, wearing pink. (Let’s ignore the lines written in Harry’s own blood.)

I’ve made peace with the dearth of female protagonists in mainstream speculative fiction. I’ve learned to accept these stories and adapt them in my own mind. And, certainly, there are wonderful writers of lesbian speculative fiction. However, there is nothing quite so fun and satisfying as enjoying a popular cultural phenomenon. When I talk about my love for Star Trek, as I did last month, it’s wonderful to see the Trekkies chime in. When I rant and rave about my love for Diana Wynne Jones, the crickets chirp.

So, I return to mainstream culture for its ability to connect with other people. But every time, Hermione gets in my way.

A quick search for misogyny in Harry Potter turns up this thoughtful, even-handed description, summarized by a quotation by Elizabeth E. Heilman:

Certainly, books such as these help to normalize a world in which most childcare workers and secretaries are female and most world explorers, engineers, and firefighters are male.”

(See: http://atheism.about.com/od/harrypotter/i/women.htm)

What about you? Are you a Harry Potter fan? If you are, how do you feel about its portrayal of women and girls? What are your favorite female characters and why?

Thanks for joining Ana’s Spoons!

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