How 'Harry Potter' taught me to own my passion for feminism
When it comes to talking about feminism, the best way I know to begin the discussion is by turning to…Harry Potter. I know, it might sound a little far-fetched, but stick with me. We can even begin in the real world before we journey (in our minds…and hearts) to the Wizarding World for some lessons in feminism.
Right here in our very own Muggle universe, Emma Watson (AKA Hermione Granger, my ultimate hero) is advocating for feminism in very important ways, not the least of which is her HeForShe campaign with the United Nations (she was appointed as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador in July 2014 and she’s been rocking it ever since). If you have any questions about what feminism is, then look no further. Emma lays it out perfectly right here:
When I proudly call myself a feminist, it means I believe in equality for both genders; the freedom for members of both genders to express themselves as they wish, pursue the careers they find their passions in, and be treated equally in every regard. I often fear calling myself a “feminist” because I don’t want people to misinterpret my beliefs based on (incorrect) preconceptions they might have of the word, but I’m striving to be braver in expressing and fully owning my beliefs. Having strong women, like Emma Watson, speaking out directly and passionately about feminism, makes it easier for me to stand up for my beliefs, as well.
I’m even starting to look at those negative reactions as a positive, instead of a negative. How, you ask? Well, every time I identify as a feminist and someone scoffs at me, I have the opportunity to explain what feminism means to me and how it benefits both genders. I have the opportunity to educate, and that’s a great thing.
During my first year of college, I had many opportunities to discuss feminism and, although not everyone agreed with me, I always left the conversation feeling empowered and proud that I spoke up about something important. Having these conversations also helped me learn what other people think and believe, and I noticed how frequently we had the same opinions about something, but simply labeled it differently.
Your opinions are entirely your own, and you should share them with confidence. But, if confidence isn’t one of your strong suits (don’t worry, it’s not one of mine either), then know that you’re in good company when it comes to your feminist beliefs and that you have some truly magical support. Remember earlier when I promised that the Harry Potter connection to feminism goes beyond Emma Watson’s Muggle efforts? Feminist icons can also be found in the pages of the Harry Potter series, in the films based on them, and anywhere Potterheads are welcome. Here are some of my favorite feminists from the world of Harry Potter; I hope they inspire you as much as they’ve inspired me.
Hermione Granger: Oh, hey, it’s my girl Emma Watson again. Shout out to Emma for rocking feminism both on- and offscreen. Hermione Granger might just be the single most feminist character in Harry Potter, so it’s hard to decide where to even begin describing her awesomeness, but I’ll do my best. Hermione was proud of her intelligence and wasn’t afraid to raise her hand (and get 10 points for Gryffindor) in every subject. She saved Harry and Ron more times than I could count, had the courage to erase her parents’ memory for both their safety and the good of the Wizarding World, and she even fought for House Elf rights when no one else cared. No, I’m not at all embarrassed that a fictional children’s book character is one of my biggest inspirations in life. Hermione’s intelligence, drive and dedication to fighting for the rights of other mistreated groups make her a true feminist icon.
Minvera McGonagall: Minerva, you wonderful woman. Professor McGonagall had a way of respecting others while still respecting herself, and that is something to be admired. There were times when I thought she was maybe a tad too harsh with my favorite trio, but it’s only because she cared about students’ safety and wellbeing above all else. If you have something that you care about above all else, do the world (and McGonagall) a favor and choose to act on it.
Ginny Weasley: I really do wish we could’ve spent more time with my favorite Weasley. We know relatively little about the spunky redhead, and unfortunately a lot of what we do know is about her crushing on Harry. But please, let’s remember that Ginny did quite a bit more than that. She was a better Quidditch player than many of her male classmates, she didn’t let her brothers bully her, and although she was very worried about Harry when they were apart during the last book (understandably — we all were!), she didn’t sit around moping for him. She joined Neville and the others to stand up for those in need during the reign of the Death Eaters over Hogwarts.
Luna Lovegood: Luna Lovegood didn’t care what people thought about her, and you shouldn’t either. It’s difficult not let other people’s opinions of you dictate how you act, but it’s important. If you care that much what people think about you, there’s no way you’re going to fully speak your mind. You can’t please everyone, and there’s no way everyone is going to agree with you about everything. Get rid of those Gnargles buzzing around and get to it.
Rubeus Hagrid: He may not be a female role model, but Hagrid definitely is one to be admired when it comes to feminism. Emma’s HeForShe speech was dedicated to encouraging males to understand and support feminism, and Hagrid is the perfect example of this in action. Hagrid never treated his female students as if they were too delicate to handle the uhh, interesting, creatures in his classes and he never pressured the male students to act “manly” around them either. Rather, he treated all students equally, regardless of gender.
J.K. Rowling: Let’s not forget about the biggest hero of the Harry Potter series: J.K. Rowling. Ms. Rowling isn’t afraid to call herself a feminist. In fact, a featurette entitled “J.K. Rowling and the Women of Harry Potter” (it’s on the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 DVD) includes Rowling’s opinion on feminism and how it pertains to motherhood: “Very early on in writing the series, I remember a female journalist saying to me that Mrs. Weasley, ‘Well, you know, she’s just a mother.’ And I was absolutely incensed by that comment. Now, I consider myself to be a feminist, and I’d always wanted to show that just because a woman has made a choice, a free choice to say, ‘Well, I’m going to raise my family and that’s going to be my choice. I may go back to a career, I may have a career part-time, but that’s my choice.’ Doesn’t mean that that’s all she can do. And as we proved there in that little battle, Molly Weasley comes out and proves herself the equal of any warrior on that battlefield.” I couldn’t agree more, Ms. Rowling.
There are more examples of amazing feminist role models in Harry Potter, of course (Professor Sprout, Molly Weasley, and Tonks just to name a few), and we should try our best to do them proud and stand up for what we believe in. While it’s intimidating to talk to people you respect and admire about a topic they may not agree with you on, it’s important to open up the discussion. Without your voice advocating for the people or ideas that matter to you, nothing will change. Whatever you’re passionate about, take Dumbledore’s advice and don’t be afraid to boldly proclaim it.
As a student of the class of 2018 at Texas Christian University, Annelise Severtson studies Marketing and Writing. She identifies herself as a Jessica Day wannabe, defender of Hufflepuffs, and a lover of flannels (she often goes by Flannel-ise in honor of her impressive flannel collection). Annelise shares her perspectives on female empowerment, gender equality, and defying gender stereotypes on her blog youcancallmerosie.com.
(Image via Warner Bros.)