Today, J.K Rowling is muddled in a controversy of her making and has fallen down from the list of celebrated feminist icons of the past decade.
But that doesn’t stop her from being a feminist writer in the first place and she did a fine job in serving the world of pop culture with strong female characters who not just stood up for themselves but also saved the day for the men around.
The entire novel doesn’t stand out to be revolutionary in its stand of feminism and is riddled with moments of random sexism, plus the central characters, be it the hero or the antagonist both are still male, yet I would say Harry Potter played a role in introducing a different brand of feminism to pop culture.
These three women from Harry Potter are at the heart of making the book different from other teenage pop culture book series. All these three women have highly developed three-dimensional characters. They’re smart and indispensable in their roles.
What’s more, all these women in Harry Potter have starkly differing personalities, clearly making a statement that there isn’t one brand of woman that is considered perfect.
Hermoine is clever and studious and she plays the strongest role among the main trio of the novel by saving the other two from all kinds of dangers time and again. Hermoine is also involved in all kinds of activism be it freeing the enslaved house-elves or fighting for equal status for giants and centaurs.
Ginny is completely the opposite of Hermoine. She is free-spirited, funny, and famous in her circle. Besides being super smart Ginny’s character very well knows what she wants.
She is head over heels in love with Harry and makes no attempt to hide it. She even suffers rejection from Harry initially but Ginny knows perfectly well how to move on with life.
Professor McGonagall is the image of perfection and mannerism. In her, one can see the image of a traditional English woman who is determined to preserve the nature of things in order to maintain the dignity of the institution she so believes in.
But, that hasn’t turned her into a cynical conservative in fact she is the most open-minded character who knows when to let go and when to hold on to things. Her desire for preservation is completely different from the extremist stands of the Slytherin and its followers. In fact, her preservation is inclusive of diversity and posterity.
Besides the powerful portrayal of women, JK Rowling also presents characters that challenge the traditional narratives of masculinity. Hagrid who is portrayed as a huge bearded man is actually very soft-hearted and possesses motherly tendencies. He also often cries and is emotionally not very stable.
However, Harry Potter isn’t entirely a revolutionary project and at times panders to the same old narrative of binary genders, performing assigned roles. One incident in the series that is cliched to the level of cringe is when Hermoine dresses for the ball, leaving her rugged and intelligent look behind, to be the beautiful woman that every man desires.
This plot of an intelligent woman undergoing a momentary transformation to rise in the eyes of the hero is so overdone and reeks of the patriarchal notions of beauty and womanhood.
Yet for all its shortcomings, Harry Potter did a huge service of challenging old narratives and providing unconventional and strong female characters to the Pop-Culture. ‘