Feminisms in Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series of book is one of the most interesting fiction writings in modern times. The books feature a supernatural world of wizards, sorcerers, witches and magic in an ancient setting. A number of themes such as gender, equity, gender stereotypes, evil, friendship, fear and trust among others are recurrent in the books. There are also a number of stylistic devices such as neologism, imagery and allegory among others used in the book that make them a favorite among linguists and literary critics. One of the major themes that are widely addressed by critics is feminism. Many linguists are interested to learn how the main character, a male, is represented by a female author. As a fictional book with a lot of magic, it assumed that the author has more freedom to twist the characters in the book and present her ideas and story at the same time. This paper seeks to show that the author uses the main character, Potter to depict a new notion of feminism and gender studies of individuals who are willing and able to overlook gender stereotypes in pursuit of their goals.
The male protagonist, Harry Potter, is feminized in some ways throughout the book. A case in point is the cyclical change of Cinderella being transformed from a servant to an active entity at the Hogwarts. According to Gollardo-C and Smith (2003) this story of Cinderella ties to harry Potter in that he also underwent a similar `girl tale`. The authors note that the cyclical story `from abuse to glamour` in the home situation mostly happens in women which makes it significantly different from the `Jack and the Beanstalk` tale (p. 195) which also entails a boy`s transition from abuse to glamour. From the story line, Harry Potter lived with his step parents who did not treat him very well but he managed to feel important and be treated for who he was at the Hogwarts School. The story is similar in that Cinderella also lived with the step parents and worked as a servant but a fairy godmother gave her a chance to be at the ball. In most cases, a masculine character, like in the case of “Jack and the Beanstalk” would have been expected to fight his way to the top. This means that the author is using the background of Cinderella and Potter to compare the situation facing women and men. She appears to point to the fact there is hope no both the boy child and the girl child in making it in life. On the other hand, this story if Cinderella and her making it big at the ball also offers balance in the story line. Harry Potter Making it big was balanced out by Cinderella also making it big in one or another. Thus is equity and a boost for feminism in reinstating the fact that both sexes face opportunities thought they might not be similar altogether.
The author challenges men to take up feminine roles for their own good. Potter, being male is repeatedly made to look successful courtesy of his taking up feminine attributes. This according to Gollardo-C and Smith (2003) is an attempt to challenge the gender stereotypes adopted by children at a tender age. Psychologists note that children as young as three years learn to take up their gender roles from society and maintain them. When authors attempt to construct stories for children that normalize alternative gender, they typically resort to displacement to make stories more appealing. For example, Potter excelled in a playing the flying the broom, which is a “slight modification of the housewife`s tool” in Xaviere Gauthier words, denies him the masculinity expected in a male character (Gollardo-C and Smith, p. 196). He is presented as a male who is different from the others in various ways. This is an attempt by the author to push the ideals of feminisms through a male character that result to displacement of gender n the character which appears through the series.
The theme otherness presented in form of unnatural things and neologism captures the quest for challenging the accepted feminine stereotype. Gollardo-C and Smith (2003) indicate that the “otherness” represented by witches, Muggles and house elves opens up the critique of gender narrative. This means that individuals do not have to fit to the societal description of a particular gender and play by the rules. The “otherness” in this story seeks recognition and preaches tolerance. The situation for Harry Potter having to live with Muggles, a character who is also indicated as having a liking for feminine things could be representative of a pioneering individual. Furthermore, from the book series, Harry Potter is presented as someone who is tolerant and ready to respect the “otherness” in individuals without judging them. Take for instance his relation with Sirius Black. Although all efforts were made to make Harry Potter fear and despise Sirius Black, Harry Potter feared him at first but later came to understand that it was a serious misunderstanding and that Sirius Black was in fact as good as any other individual if not better whom his parents had appointed as his godfather before they died.
Gender stereotyping is evident in the Harry Potter book series throughout. One of the stereotypes in presented in the character of Hermione in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer`s stone. Here the girl as depicted as chatterbox that irritates the boys with her constant talk and her extensive bookish knowledge. Another female stereotype that Goallrdo-C and Smith note in Rowlings works is the character of Professor Sibyll Trelawney who exemplifies feminine stereotype of being sensitive. Rowlings indicate that the professor was “bumbling psychic considered ridiculous and irrational by almost everyone except a few girls. Another case is where “McGonagall loses control and falls into a furious, though ineffective, rage when Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, brings a dementor into Hogwarts alarmed, Harry notices that her face turns red with “angry blotches” and she balls her hands into fists” (Goallrdo-C and Smith p. 193). In contrast, men are portrayed as “more fun, mostly because they are curious, if not downright adventurous (Goallrdo-C and Smith, p. 194). One of these stereotypes is Mr. Weasely. However, Harry potter is not represented as a major player in any stereotype. He is always depicted as falling between the middle. He displays a lot of fear in dealing with Black (feminine) in the early days and a lot of courage in challenging him later (masculine).
The fact that Potter as a character does not show any bias towards any gender stereotype challenges gender stereotyping. The dress code used by Potter as described in the series is largely viewed to be feminine. Although he cannot be actually labeled as a cross dresser, his balance between the two worlds seeks to prepare readers to challenge the stereotypes. In Sorcerer`s stone, the authors note that Potter`s first days of school presented the actual scenes where the character seemed to comfortably assume the stereotypes of both genders comfortably. For instance, the wand that chooses Potter is the “brother” wand to Voldermort`s thereby connecting his to Voldermort. It can be assumed that the wand recognized the masculinity in Potter and choose him as a man. His connection to Voldermort, a very evil and ambitious character common in masculine characters would mean that the same traits are expected of him. This character in masculinity places him to either choose the Syltherin House or Gryffindor House. This decision is made by the magical Sorting Hat. However, it is at this juncture that Harry abandons his liking for the masculine. As he waits for the decision of the Sorting Hat, he desperately wishes not to be placed in the Slytherin House which was dominated by a number of characters that displayed masculinity through ambition, phallic power and roughness as represented by the characters of Draco Malfoy and Voldermort. The Sorting Hat also acknowledges that it is difficult to clearly identify Potters “true essence” (p. 198) and place him in the right house. Eventually, Potter is placed in the Gryffindor House together with his friends.
The other characters in the series are used to present the extreme stereotypes of either gender. Hermions, the chatterbox is displayed as a feminine person in many ways. She is accommodating and motherly and patient. Although Malfoy is constantly mocking her by calling her “Mudblood” (one born by nonmagical parents), she does not mock him back. Furthermore, Hermione accommodates the underdogs such as in the case of Neville Longbottom, who lacked natural magical abilities and was not as competitive as the fellow males. This captures the softer side of the feminine spirit that cannot be challenged and replaced.
From the above discussion, it is clear that the author is intent of promoting feminism. Uncharacteristically, she uses a male main character to drive her point through. By using a male character, the author is able to show how feminist can use particular male characters to push through life and even calls for men to be active players in the push for equality. The author presents Harry Potter as the right balance between feminism and masculinity. The author on the other hand uses the gender stereotypes in other characters such as Malfoy and Hermione to drive the point home and make Potter appear as the right blend of the two genders which all should aspire for.
Works Cited
Gollardo-C, X & Smith, CJ. Cinderfella: J. K. Rawling`s Wily Web of Gender. In Anatol, GL.
(ed.). Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays, New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003.
J. K. Rawling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, New York: Scholastic Press, 1999.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, New York: Scholastic Press, 2000. Print.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer`s Stone New York: Scholastic Press, 1997. Print.
Mayes-Elma, Females and Harry Potter: Not All that Empowering, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Print.

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