This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shareerspeak. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Even Hogwarts Is Not Fantastical Enough To Give Fair Representation To Women. Here’s Why

More from Shareerspeak

Written by: By Nandini Mazumder

Note: This article reflects the opinion of the writer. Readers’ discretion is advised.

A woman once conceived stories filled with flying brooms and wands in a train from Manchester to London in 1990. We now know them as the popular Harry Potter novels, currently with a worldwide readership of well over 500 million. But while JK Rowling did produce an epic fantasy world I had wanted to be a part of when I was a kid, it now breaks my heart to acknowledge as an adult how sexist the seven books are.

Now, it’s a controversial opinion; I’m well aware. Some fans even go as far as to say that they are feminist novels, having female characters that evolve into powerful roles with somewhat considerable significance in the storyline. Unfortunately, while I don’t deny the latter part, with a consistent lack of representation and evident gender stereotypes, the novels are far from the former.

Here’s how:


All seven books of Harry Potter see a striking case of under-representation of female characters. Both the protagonist and the antagonist of the story, Harry and Voldemort, are male. Even amongst the accompanying leads of both Harry and Voldemort, the number of male characters outweighs the number of female characters.

JK Rowling herself is a single mother of a daughter. Yet, she wrote the entire series with such prejudices in her mind.

Hermione is the only girl in the iconic trio of Harry’s best friends. Hogwarts, where the story is primarily based, also shows a jarring disparity in their faculty team. The majority of the teachers are male, except for Professor McGonagall, Sprout, Trelawney and a few others. Dolores Umbridge joins the school in the fifth book, but even with her, female professors are outnumbered. To top that off, except for McGonagall and Umbridge, none of the other female teachers make any major contribution to the storyline, whereas most of the male teachers, including Headmaster Dumbledore, Snape, Lupin, Hagrid, contribute significantly to the story.

Additionally, not one Defence Against the Dark Arts professor was female. Why no women were seen as fit, strong or skilful enough to teach the Defence Against the Dark Arts is beyond me and frustrating, to say the least. Following the same unfortunate pattern, Voldemort’s army has more male members as well, with only Bellatrix Lestrange as the lead female villain.

The lack of representation doesn’t cease there. Harry’s teenage rivals from Hogwarts — Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle — were all males. The famous sport of the wizardry world, quidditch, was a male-dominated game as well. Even though we do come to know Cho and Ginny for their talent and skills in quidditch, their inclusion almost feels compensatory because of how less the number of girls in the teams are. These girls rarely ever take a match till a win; it’s always the boys who do.

The Ministry of Magic, the ultimate governing body of the wizard community in their country, also mostly consists of men. Some of the few female ministers named are Amelia Bones, Dolores Umbridge, Nymphadora Tonks, Tina Goldstein and Queenie Goldstein. But except for Umbridge, and Tonks to some extent, none of them add anything substantial to the storyline. The same gender disparity continues amongst the Death Eaters and the poor house-elves, too.

Although the house division of Hogwarts is fair and equal in terms of gender representation, the two houses that prove to be the most important and strongest are the houses founded by two men: Gryffindor (founded by Godric Gryffindor) and Slytherin (founded by Salazar Slytherin), both with attributes that are often associated with the domestic characters of men in our society.

Gender Stereotypes And Lack of Character Development

To my utter disappointment, I say that under-representation is not the only alarming trait in Rowling’s writing. Gender stereotyping is much common, too, and a noticeable lack of attention and character development of the girls and women in the story.

The girls are often described as giggly, gossipy and often in need of assistance of their male friends whenever caught in a soup. That is the pattern we see throughout the seven books. Hermione comes across as very uptight, disciplined and knowledgeable. But her wisdom only helps Harry and others to accomplish tasks, never her in achieving those tasks herself.

Instead, she acts as an enabler for the more significant male characters, mainly Harry. She boosts his confidence and self-worth every step of the way, sometimes even at the cost of downplaying herself. One such example is when she says, “Me? Books and cleverness. There are more important things: friendship and bravery. And Harry, just be careful (Rowling, 1999).”

When it comes to Hermione’s character development, we see a pretty flat graph. Her character remains one dimensional and predictable throughout the seven books, whereas her friends Harry and Ron both show considerable emotional growth by the end of the series. Ron becomes more confident and sensitive, and in touch with his sense of self-worth. Harry, too, overcomes his fears and becomes more self-dependent, and emotionally strong and assertive.

Additionally, not one Defence Against the Dark Arts professor was female. Why were no women seen as fit, strong or skilful enough to teach the Defence Against the Dark Arts?

Similarly, we get different character insights of Snape, Lupin, Sirius and even Hagrid, but not McGonagall. Her character remains quite one-dimensional throughout the series.


She is also given motherly attributes by Rowling, making her short-sighted and soft-hearted in the result. She seemingly lacks the bravery and confidence that the ever-enigmatic Dumbledore does. In the second book, when Harry enters the Chamber of Secrets, she fails to keep her emotions in check, unlike Dumbledore. So, when Harry successfully returns from the Chamber, Dumbledore stands tall in pride and confidence, while McGonagall gasps and heaves a sigh of relief, clutching her chest.

Another example is Dolores Umbridge. She always (yes, always) wears different shades of pink, evidently to symbolise her femininity, which is another ridiculous stereotype that should have no reason to exist anymore.

Another character, who is stereotyped the most among many, is Lily Potter, Harry’s mother. She succumbs to the biggest gender stereotyping trope for women, the unconditional and ever-sacrificing role of motherhood. She gives up her life for Harry by casting a spell, which is said to be the strongest in the Wizardry world, subtly upholding and glorifying the notion that there’s no other purpose in life for women as mighty and rewarding as motherhood.

Instances of more such stereotypes can be found when the seven books are read from a critical and feminist point of view, and not through rose-coloured glasses. Honestly, the concerns and problematic examples I have mentioned here are only a few out of a far longer list. Unfortunately, two or three countable and arguably significant female characters do not and can never make up for a consistent lack of representation and structural sexism in a book. They are compensatory, at best.

What’s upsetting and ironic is that JK Rowling herself is a single mother of a daughter. Yet, she wrote the entire series with such prejudices in her mind. A woman, who most definitely must have faced gender politics and biases in her own life (because, let’s be real, which woman doesn’t), is so steeped into the patriarchal pool of thoughts that her writing reeks of age-old conditioning.

She also made some outrageously transmisic comments in the recent past, proving to be an example of her questionable and ignorant mindset. It is no less than an immense disappointment to all Harry Potter fans worldwide.

You must be to comment.

More from Shareerspeak

Similar Posts

By Subhajit Murmu

By Md Sohel

By Sahil Razvii

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below