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Witches Are Doing It For Themselves

Suppose for the moment that in literature there are three female archetypes: the Sensitive Housewife, the Wanton Woman and the Spunky Girl-Power Girl. This is clearly a generalisation of the worst kind, but it works if one is prepared to generalise: for instance, I would count Helen in Jane Eyre as a Sensitive Housewife despite the fact she died as a child. Now JK Rowling has eliminated two of these archetypes by allotting these literary roles to non-humans, with the Veela as women employing their sexual wiles and the house elves (notably Winky) as emotionally dependent, willing servitors. I am aware this makes Dobby parallel to Nora in A Doll’s House, and feel that now I have made this analogy, I can die happy.

Hence JKR has left us with one archetype for human (or half-human, any human blood seems to qualify one) women in the Harry Potter universe: that of Spunky Girl-Power Girl. I would argue that almost all the women we see in the Harry Potter universe conform to this archetype, and am prepared to prove this statement, point out that OotP backs me up all the way and discuss both the possible effects on the books of this very P.C. stance, and the disservice it does the female characters. (*comes out of her corner punching*) First: to prove that the women of the Harry Potter universe are almost all portrayed as cooler, more often correct and stronger than their male contemporaries.



Take McGonagall, the woman invested with the greatest authority in Hogwarts. McGonagall is Cool. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me on this, but I don’t think you’ve all noticed quite how cool she is. McGonagall? Cooler than Dumbledore. She isn’t portrayed as prejudiced against the Slytherins, or prejudiced against anybody. She clearly has feelings, but she also has cool judgement. She never gets kicked out of Hogwarts, which has happened to the headmaster twice in five years. She is there for the small important things, like assuring Harry he can be an Auror, and perhaps most importantly saving Draco from the false Moody. In a book which has a male protagonist and two male contenders for Most Powerful Wizard/Witch Ever, the women play an extremely large part in defeating the menfolk on opposing sides. It would have made sense to show Snape rescuing Draco, but no, it’s McGonagall, and I think this is a significant and conscious choice on JKR’s part.

Moreover, McGonagall is not coded as morally reprehensible like Dumbledore. She objects strongly to Harry being left with the Dursleys, a point of view with which the readers immediately sympathise. By OotP Dumbledore is still sunnily talking of Harry having so luckily grown up humble and only a tiny bit malnourished! She verbally withers Umbridge and displays rebellion to a sensible degree, like encouraging Peeves and heading the concerted teachers’ effort against Umbridge – she heads rebellion against evil from within, which is a good deal more admirable than the potentially very vigilante-like Dumbledore’s Army… though that, too, is suggested by a woman.

‘Yes, Sarah, McGonagall is cool. Sometimes women are’ yawn the populace. But my point is that McGonagall is merely one of the more obvious of this mass of stronger and more morally correct women, which in my view includes such unlikely candidates as Petunia Dursley, Mrs Crouch and Alice Longbottom. Elkins, in her essay, so rightly points out that Mrs Crouch – viewed in the text simply as a weak swooning woman – takes Polyjuice Potion every hour on the hour while dying and driven totally out of her skull by Dementors, and thus is made of chilled steel. Alice Longbottom, even though she is a batshit insane zombie, clearly has more force of personality and emotion than her husband. We see her interacting with her son (whom remember, she only really knew as a baby) and showing him affection. She still has the awareness and strength of personality to recognise and interact in a positive way with her son. The text does not suggest that Frank Longbottom has the awareness and strength of personality to interact with anything but his drool cup. (*disclaimer and nota bene: I am not making fun of the poor Longbottoms, I am making a point.)

‘But Petunia Dursley?’ I hear you cry. ‘That Harry-torturin’ HOR?’ Why yes, yes indeed. Petunia Dursley’s not a pleasant woman, is in fact that awful backbiting horse-faced woman in ladies’ golf clubs whose bitterness sours the cress sandwiches, and she was responsible to a great extent for her son’s obesity. But she knocks spots off her manly-Muggle contemporaries, the boy Dursleys. Which we see most clearly in OotP. Here’s this woman who horribly resents her sister, which is canon from PS, and for which I cannot blame her. If my prettier sister (and I do have one) got magic, a wonderfully exciting life and to marry James Potter while I was lumped with bloody Vernon, I would spend my entire existence fighting the temptation to choke the bitch with her own toad. Her sister’s killed and she is left with a baby she does not want – and by the lack of other little Dursleys I’d say that the Dursleys planned on a one and only and thus resented the intrusion of Harry, or that after the advent of Harry they did not want any younger, impressionable children Harry might influence – a kind of terrible situation for any woman. And she took this child in, with no more than a letter from some old guy that it was necessary for her to do so. I’ll bet that entailed the mother of all fights with Vernon.

And then! In OotP (bless the book, it does my work for me) what happens? Harry, whom she has been harbouring in her home, is by now a stroppy teenager who is getting on her last freakin’ nerve. No affection has grown up between them (obviously Harry is not to blame for this, but had he been a meeker, more conciliating child Petunia probably would’ve been a bit fond of him). And her darling son has been attacked by Dementors. Petunia has a much more informed idea of the dangers of the wizarding world than Vernon. Petunia knows that if the Forces of Magical Darkness (as she has reason to suppose these are) know where Harry is, they are bound to come back. Which puts her life, and her husband’s and son’s lives, potentially on the line for a considerable time to come, every time they go out of the house. She could be Crucio’d when she goes to get the shopping, Dudley could have his soul sucked out of his mouth in the playground! And yet she, who plays simpering subservient housewife to her husband, does not only keep this kid who she resents and whose mother she resented. On no more than another letter from this old guy she doesn’t know, with Dudley still in bits and pieces, she takes charge. No they’re not handing Harry over to death, Vernon can sit down and shut up! She manipulates him with precise and devastating efficiency – ‘the neighbours will talk’ – and then she gives Harry crisp orders to stay in the house. She knows what to do. I am in full accord with Vernon Dursley’s last words in ‘A Peck of Owls’ – yeah, Harry, YOU HEARD YOUR AUNT!

It might be noteworthy that Marjorie Dursley, while coded as one of the Nasties and deserving of Blowing Up, also seems to have power over Vernon Dursley. Women are strong, they are invincible, they are wooo-man. Of course, what woman does not have power over men in these books? Again, not sexual power – that’s for the filthy Veela – but Girl Power. Rita Skeeter demolishes Harry and publishes an interview that makes him squirm, but does he defeat her? No, Hermione defeats her. Only Even Cooler Women can defeat women, you see, it’s a cardinal rule of the Harry Potter universe. Harry gets to die of mortification, Hermione gets to make Rita Skeeter her bitch.

And then take Draco. (‘We knew this was coming,’ groan the morbidly interested bystanders. ‘No, you take him. Really.’ Sarah stoutly defends herself and declares her intention of keeping this professional.) We see all three of the Trio go up against Draco physically. Ron, who is bigger, stronger and presumably – having grown up with the twins – a dirty fighter, attacks him in PS. He gives Draco a black eye but Draco gives him a heavy nosebleed. Draco holds his own. In OotP, Harry gets to beat seven kinds of shit out of Draco, but not only does he have Great Big George Weasley’s help, but immediately there are the Dire Consequences of getting kicked off the Gryffindor team. Burn, man. I bet Draco thought it was the Best Beating Ever. Whereas Hermione bitchslaps Draco in PoA and gets the hell away with it. Now Draco not slapping her back may be more a product of social rules than JKR’s rules – You Do Not Hit Girls – but both Ron and Harry explicitly expect some kind of retribution from Draco. Sweet and forgiving little soul he ain’t, let’s face it, but no, there is no Great and Bloody Stupid Malfoy Scheme of Vengeance. Hermione has vanquished Draco, as it is proper Woman should, where the menfolk failed.

Women are in the main shown as more intelligent. This is not only shown with Hermione and with the fact McGonagall seems to have more cop-on than Dumbledore, but in a myriad of ways throughout. In OotP, Harry’s total romantic denseness is put side by side with the much more savvy Cho. He figures they haven’t really worked out when she’s already snapped up Michael Corner. He’s babbling like an idiot while she’s all ‘Mistletoe. Hey, I really like you, Harry. Did I mention, BOOM CHICKA BOOM? Huh? Did I?’ And Hermione, who attracts World Cup players while Ron and Harry are tripping over their dress robes, can explain all the romantic failures of Ron and Harry. In GoF, even Padma and Parvati Patil, fairly walk-on roles, are shown at the Yule Ball as dismissing Ron and Harry as romantically pathetic dates and scoring themselves some tasty Beauxbatons beaux.

In keeping with this intelligence theme, take Hagrid. (Yes, I’d rather not as well.) Hagrid has two female parallels, in the Bad Freakin’ Teacher and the Half-Giant Stakes. Hagrid also has not a parallel but a contrast: the Good Care of Magical Creatures Teacher, Professor Grubbly-Plank, who is female and who clearly should’ve got the job in the first place. (Damn you, Dumbledoooore!) Now Trelawney is undoubtedly a bad teacher. Yet she does manage to convince and interest many of her students, unlike Hagrid, and she has enough savvy to manipulate Neville at least into breaking a cup. She at least does have some genuine prophetic power and her field is a very woolly one and also one in which she is not hurting anyone. She can only be really disturbed by those possessing more Girl Power than she: Hermione, McGonagall and Umbridge. (More on Umbridge’s Girl Power later.) The bad girl teacher is infinitely superior to the bad boy teacher, and as for the half-giant stakes, can there even be a question?

Let us examine the facts. One half-giant is a totally incompetent and dangerous teacher given the position out of sheer blatant favouritism, whereas the other as far as we know has achieved the position of headmistress purely on her merits. One of them is savvy enough to deny her blood in a public place, potentially in the presence of witnesses, the other is not. Madame Maxime was brave enough to go to the giants with Hagrid, but she was not RETARDED enough to go back with a ragingly violent giant. She is, however, smart enough to save Hagrid with Conjunctivitis Curses against the giants (one suspects Hagrid’s attempt at rescuing her in a similar situation would have been challenging the giants to a duel.) She also has equal physical hardihood to Hagrid, by his own account, despite the fact she does not live like a savage in a hut. Score-card shows that Madame Maxime rules, Hagrid drools. She’s much too good for him.

Girl Power is shown to its fullest extent in the role of motherhood. Mothers are very, very important in the wizarding world. Your father, well, there’s a good chance he may suck, but your mother is going to rock hardcore. And yes, I do include Mrs Black in this. She was obviously a more powerful figure than her husband, and she was trying to bring up her sons in the way she thought was best. Her constant screaming at Sirius indicates that she did care fiercely what he did, and though of course she was wrong because she was evil, that Matriarch had a good deal of Girl Power. As did her entire family. Sirius mentions more famous female ancestors than he does male – Araminta and Elladora trump Phineas, much as I love him. The Black girls kick the Black boys’ asses, frankly – the evil ones are to be discussed later, but Sirius’ rebellion was quite a bit less successful than Andromeda’s, wasn’t it? She lived, and had an equally strong daughter – Nymphadora Tonks is a far more vivid and powerful figure than her contemporary, Newly Introduced Order of the Phoenix male: Kingsley Nonentity Shacklebolt. The Black boys include a father whose personality has certainly not survived death, Sirius who has a great many issues and weaknesses – not least his unrepentant effort to kill Snape using one of his dearest friends as a murder weapon – and Regulus, who dithered his way out of the Death Eaters and into death. And the Black girls are the only ones who carry on the line and in their turn become the all-important mothers. Back to the Egyptian system, everybody, quick!

Molly Weasley is the quintessential mother figure of the books. She’s not perfect by any means, but does she ever have Girl Power. Arthur Weasley is her bitch. She makes the twins tremble in their boots. She sweepingly adopts any stray bespectacled children she finds lying around, she is the dominant personality in a house full of men. Force of numbers, ha! Girl Power will triumph! She manages the house on the very small income her husband apparently brings in ‘cause he likes this job and doesn’t want to support his children properly, wah. Of course, all mothers are good mothers. Mrs Crouch performed a superhuman feat to save her son from Azkaban. Narcissa Malfoy sends Draco packages of sweets and worries about him being far away, much more proof of love than we ever get from Lucius. We’ve already seen Petunia is a far better mother surrogate than Vernon is a father. Even Seamus Finnigan’s never-seen mother is a far more powerful figure than his father. ‘By the way, darling, I have magical powers. Pass the jam.’

Of course the chief mother figure is Lily. Sainted dead mother is a common figure in literature, but in these books Mother Love rules all. Mother Love whips Voldemort and makes him cry on her riding boots. The only reason Harry is Our Hero, the Boy Who Lived, is because of Lily’s self-sacrificing love. Not only that, but OotP further loves it some Girl Power by actually showing us this paragon. We have all the boys, Harry’s father figures and… other male people. James is a vain bully, Sirius is a lazy bastard who demands that he be entertained with Snape torture and who we know will perform the Prank, Lupin is self-confessedly deceiving Dumbledore, endangering people and isn’t even enough of a prefect to stand up to his friends, and Peter is a creepy stalker who is going to turn evil. So much for the Marauders: but Snape too is a repellent, racist, wand-happy little git. Not so Lily! Lily is pretty, Lily is cool, Lily is taking none of their boy-type shit. Put Snape the hell down! She won’t go out with James, no, he don’t own her, she’s not one of his many toys. All recognise her girl power. Harry’s all, dude, my dad must have Imperio’d her to get that cool chick, Snape resents it enough to call her names (does she falter? No way! Scorn for all! She is Lily Evans, and she will smack down all the boys in her path!), James is grovelling for some of her lovin.’ I bet that Arthur Weasley is a macho man of the household compared to James Potter when he was married, I bet she made him wear a French maid’s uniform and give her foot rubs every night. Even her death, as mentioned, is Girl Power to the max and makes Voldemort run crying to his mommy – who again is a good person who was cruelly abandoned when she Gave Up All For Love, and probably would’ve been a good mother if she hadn’t died in childbirth and all. The only bad mother we see is Hagrid’s mother – and she, significantly, is not human.

‘But Sarah,’ I hear you sigh exasperatedly, ‘you’re just being totally biased. There are plenty of weak women in Harry Potter. What about Moaning Myrtle, Sarah? What about Bertha Jorkins? What about Luna Lovegood, come on, Sarah, really!’ I’m glad you mentioned all of those people. Luna Lovegood, for a start, is clearly pegged as the Sage. She’s wise in a crazy seeming way – she’s Dumbledore by the time she’s fourteen, I don’t think you can get more Girl Power than that. Compare her to a contemporary Ravenclaw male – Terry Boot, who wants Hermione (and more Girl Power!) in his house, or Michael Corner, who’s threatened by Ginny’s immense Quidditchy Girl Power! Compare her attitude to her own bullying and Snape’s attitude to his. Snape – twenty years of bitterness and still going strong. Luna – totally over it while it’s still happening.

As for Moaning Myrtle, I certainly think she has strength of character – enough to come back from the dead to stalk someone – but in my mind, Bertha and Myrtle both perform much the same function. Not only are they very necessary characters because they both have information – girls have knowledge and boys want it – but the Greatness of Women is exemplified in them by pointing out it is a Cardinal Crime to Kill the Womenfolk. Sure, Crouch Jnr. can kill his daddy. No problems there, and throw a sacrilegious burial into the mix. Wormtail kills Cedric Diggory. (A fact which Harry should notice and feel more guilt about, by the way. In my opinion. Which is an important opinion. In my opinion.) Bellatrix can kill Sirius. (Boy, can she ever!) But only Voldemort can kill women. He explicitly says he and not Wormtail disposed of Bertha. He used his basilisk to kill Myrtle, possibly Tom Riddle’s first move beyond-redemption. And we all know who killed Lily, don’t we? That bastard! The girls are great, the girls are the source of life, girls cannot be hit (even Draco knows this) and that fucker is killing the womenfolk! He must be stopped. He probably wants all the Girl Power for himself… he is truly, truly evil!

‘The evil women surely do not have moral fibre, Sarah,’ the doubters wearily proclaim. This is silly. These women have a lot of moral fibre, and a lot of Girl Power. They just happen to have wrong and twisted beliefs like ‘Kill all the Mudbloods!’ or ‘Umbridge for Empress!’ Examine the books. In each book we have a subvillain to Voldemort: Quirrell, Tom Riddle, Peter Pettigrew, Crouch Jnr. and Umbridge. Well, well, well. One woman in the bunch. And she isn’t even on the Side of Darkness. And her evil kicks their asses. When it came down to it, Quirrell was a weak-willed twit who was giving Voldemort head, Tom was all hat and no cat – stay there while I explain my whole plan to you, Harry! I haven’t managed to kill even one person with my giant snake! – Peter was a tame rat and Crouch Jnr… well, he had his moments, but when one came right down to it he was conducting an overly-elaborate plan when he could’ve just summoned Harry to his office and asked him to hold something. Umbridge would’ve thought of that. Dolores Umbridge was the best subvillain ever. Girl Power!

None of this shilly-shallying for Umbridge, no sirree Roberta. Want to dispose of Harry Potter? No channelling Voldemort, setting up a Triwizard Tournament, blah blah blah evilcakes for Dolores. ‘Dementors! The Potter boy! Get on it! Stat! P.S. Kill anything in your path.’ And she is genuinely creepy. I have never been so revolted by anything in the Harry Potter books as that detention/mutilation session. She is quietly, dreadfully creepy. She looks innocent and girlish in a very bad wrong way, and she is in the Ministry! It’s like having a Barbie doll turn into Chuckie’s Bride. And she is subtle. Crouch Jnr and his habit of Transfiguring and torturing students in broad daylight? Not so much. But Umbridge keeps to the letter of the law because she’s making the laws. Never expect the Hogwarts Inquisitor! She’s got students on her side, not because the Slytherins are like ‘Finally! An evil mistress, rocking!’ but because the Slytherins (and others, I’d presume) approve of some of her tactics. Fire Trelawney? Who can argue with that? Fire Hagrid? You go, girlfriend! Kick two boys (one much bigger and older) off a team for whaling on a smaller student? I can see her point. Umbridge isn’t scary cartoonish evil, she’s the evil you let into your house and give tea to and then slowly, slowly you start to realise you’re going to be killed to bits. And that is much more chilling. For most of the book, Umbridge is wandering Hogwarts as its ruler, basically doing a little dance and going ‘Dah, dah, dah, dah dah dah… Can’t touch this!’ Respect to the Girl Power of Evil, and remember… she is eventually defeated by Hermione, not Harry. How could it be Harry? He doesn’t have Girl Power…

The Girl Power of Evil is also represented by the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. As discussed, Mrs Black represents even when she’s a portrait (which nobody burns!). But the Girl Power of Evil carries onto the next generation. Avery, Nott, Macnair? Faceless whiners! But Bellatrix Lestrange (née Black) appears only a couple of times in GoF and OotP, and girl, can she bring the evil. We see her first in a court room. All the other named and male Death Eaters have sloped off somewhere, Crouch Jnr is cowering and crying for daddy, Voldemort is floating around in the ether murmuring ‘Woe…’ Bellatrix is telling the howling mob how cool Voldemort is and how great she is. It takes great force of personality to be on trial for Azkaban and be yelling ‘Four, five, six, eight, who do we appreciate? The Dark Lord! Raaaaaaaah!’ While her husband is sitting there going ‘… I suppose there’s no chance for a not-guilty plea, huh?’ One henchman gets called Wormtail, one gets called Bella. You do the math. Moreover, the Greatest Tragedy in All Five Books, the Death of Sirius, is that Voldemort’s blow? No way, Voldemort is fleeing like a bitch ass from Dumbledore at the time. Bellatrix brings Sirius down, and then laughs in the face of Harry’s Crucio. ‘Call that an Unforgivable? I’ll show you an Unforgivable!’ Her aunt would’ve been so proud.

And Narcissa Malfoy (née Black) also came out punching strong for Evil Power in OotP. Kreacher goes to her, doesn’t try to find Bellatrix but goes directly to Narcissa because he knows she is a Black to be relied on. Does Narcissa shiftily say she’ll tell Lucius and shoo Kreacher away, giving us the Good Narcissa some of us hoped for? No sir. Nor does she - as say, Macnair or Avery might’ve done - go off half-cocked to axe-murder Sirius. She presumably goes to Lucius and Voldemort and they cook up a very nice little plot, and thus the Black women do for Sirius, and would’ve done for all those pesky kids if Voldemort could have just taken on Dumbledore. All clues point towards Evil and Formidable Narcissa, and there were clues before that. Lucius is in no way an uninvolved father, buying brooms for the Slytherin team, advising Draco on his behaviour, obviously he would have minded which school Draco went to. He wanted Durmstrang, but in GoF Draco tells us that Narcissa got her way. Lucius is a rich, powerful politician, the rest of Narcissa’s formidable family are dead or imprisoned, she is a lone aristocratic housewife, and she damn well gets her way. ‘Draco goes where I say. To heel, Lucius!’ (I am starting to get ideas about Conventional Wizarding Marriages: The Lore of the Dominatrix. But, um, however.) If women ran the evil show, they would win like anything. Lestrange/Malfoy for Dark Lady and Vice Dark Lady!

If there is a heroine in the Harry Potter books, it is currently Hermione. Because she is the Chief Girl, and the only female member of the Trio. As a fully delineated character, she has more flaws than we see in many Girl Power roles, but she still brings the Girl Power like anything. Harry and Ron? Harry and Ron nothing! Hermione knows all! But the bookish, know-it-all character is a staple and it does not make her the most powerful character of the three, I hear you cry? Oh, quite so! But Hermione is not only the thinker, she is also the Action Queen. Set Snape’s robes on fire? Make the potion to find out if dastardly Malfoy is the Heir of Slytherin? Need a Time-Turner? Help with spells for getting through the Triwizard Tournament? Want the hottest date at the Yule Ball? Romantic advice? Find out the mysterious professor’s secret? Need ideas for a vigilante army? Call Hermione, at 1800-GIRL-POWER. Sure, Harry falls into situations where he has to defeat the Dark Lord, but Hermione works at it. ‘You’re a great wizard, Harry. Now get your ass over here and lead this army! March!’ And in another example of Hermione Smacks the Bitch Asses Up, she is the one who deals with Marietta Edgecombe – another example of a woman with Information. All Harry can do is squabble with his girlfriend over it. Hermione tries to liberate the house elves – or domestic drudges – while the boys mock at her. She is the House Elves’ Susan B. Anthony! She is the House Elves’ Rosa Parks! Hermione knows Crookshanks has not killed Scabbers, and that Ron should’ve asked her to the Ball. Harry and Ron? They are the village idiots! Hermione owns those bitches!

Ahem. Now for Ginny Weasley, possible future Heroine with a capital H for Hero’s Love Interest. She’d’ve been an argument against girl power all the way through the books at first sight – shy, adoring, manipulated by Tom Riddle. But there were always hints that she was more. Ron said she never shut up usually, and the Valentine she sent to Harry was extremely bold. (‘Hey, baby! Hey baby, you so fine! You so fine you blow my mind, baby!’ Not so different from ‘He’s so divine, I wish he was mine’, now is it?) And now sweet sweet OotP has made her the Crowning Point of my Brilliant Essay. Because Ginny Weasley is Girl Power Personified. Hoo, girl, she should have a Uniform. Seeker practically as good as Harry? Prankster as good as the twins? Who can comfort Harry with Knowledge of what he’s going through and a Plan of Action? Ginny I Can Practically Fly Without a Broomstick Weasley! And the already established narrative tradition, Everybody Hurt Draco Quick, endorses her Power as well. She makes bat wings sprout out of his face, and there is no evidence there are repercussions, since Draco is in the dungeon playing ‘Daddy Come Back’ blues songs. If there are Girl Power steroids, Ginny Weasley took them all summer before fourth year.

Girl Power also shines out of people’s souls and makes them bee-yoo-tiful. Unless they’re old, but Dolores might’ve had girlish charm in her youth. But the foxy young ladies, they bring it. Bellatrix was canonically the heavy-lidded hot in her salad days, and Lily was the Pretty. Petunia sounds hotter than Vernon deserves. Narcissa is a gleamingly aristocratic Queen of Society. Fleur Delacour is the hottest thing since they invented fire. Cho, pretty, Hermione, dazzling when tarted up, Madame Maxime hotter than Hagrid has a right to expect, Parvati and Padma Patil gorgeous Indian twins who every Gryffindor boy but Retarded Harry are probably spanking the little pony over. Ginny Weasley has a string of boyfriends. And on the boys’ side? Um. Harry has knobbly knees and is scruffy. Ron has freckles and huge gangly limbs. Hagrid looks like a bear, Dudley looks like a pig, Draco may well look like a rat. We have a menagerie going on here. And the misguided males who steal Girl Power to make themselves pretty? Sirius, Cedric and Tom Riddle. Yes. Corpse, corpse and mutant snake man. I tremble for Bill Weasley. Girl Power cries out for vengeance!

As the issue of beauty ratifies Girl Power, so do a number of other factors. Nothing is ever the girls’ fault! Why did the Hogwarts Four break up? Hmmm, Salazar left, and since Godric was his Bestest Friend Ever (oh OotP, how can I thank you?) it was the stinky boys’ fault. (Those bastards.) Evil Power’s second Great Feat of OotP, Mr Weasley’s maiming, was performed by Nagini. Who, let me make this clear, is a girl snake. There is no denying the Girl Power. Eeet is eeeeeeverywhere!

This trend having continued for five books now, I expect Bellatrix Lestrange will be defeated in a resounding battle with either Hermione or Ginny, parallel to Harry’s defeat of Voldemort, on a smaller scale but Infinitely Cooler and More Filled with Girl Power. (If it’s Ginny, afterwards they can rush into each others’ arms. Er, that is, Harry’s arms. I can see you, you femmeslashers in the back. Don’t think I can’t. ) I expect if we have any more girl villains, they will kick ass and send chills down our spine. I expect Ginny Weasley will become cooler and cooler with each new book. Harry may even pine after her. There is nothing that Girl Power cannot do. Behind every great man, there has to be a great woman! With a whip and jackboots.

And yet the Girl Power leaves me a little cold. Congreve summed up the appealing in women with, I like her with her faults, nay, I like her for her faults. I like Hermione’s bossy, control-freak bits a lot more than the bits where she Knows All and the Boys Are Mindless Dolts. I like Bellatrix’s crazy psychology more than her Badass Killing of Sirius. And the Personification of Girl Power, Ginny Weasley, bubbling over with spunk, leaves me cold. I see no flaws left in this girl. I liked her when she was a shy, crushing fool, and now… bleh. Girl Power is a fine thing, but as a narrative device for exciting interest and sympathy, I think it falls down. It leaves us empathising far more with the stupid boys.

But that’s just a personal opinion. And my favourite character is Draco Malfoy, so what do I know?
(Yes, I know, we all thought I could go the distance and I fell down on the home stretch. But hey, look at all this meta. I think I did pretty good. Girl Power!)

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
lettergirlmj
May. 26th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
Wonderful essay! It was great to be able to read it again!

Though I've gotta say that this: Sirius, Cedric and Tom Riddle. Yes. Corpse, corpse and mutant snake man. I tremble for Bill Weasley. Girl Power cries out for vengeance! is the most amusing part of the essay! (Well, there were a million amusing things, but that one stands out most at the moment!)

Good luck on reloading the rest!
anitaray
Jun. 2nd, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
Ah, one of my favourite essays! It was awesome to read it again, and IS YOUR MIDDLE NAME CASSANDRA, WENCH?

>I tremble for Bill Weasley.

Whoa!
arinad_kitten
Jun. 9th, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
Once Ginny became "Girl Power Incarnate" I lost a once loved character...

(also dearly loves Draco XD)
polly_oliver
Sep. 17th, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Draco Malfoy is your favorite character, since your characterisation of him is so lovely, but I sort of am, anyway. I like fanon Draco as much as the next Harry Potter-obsessed-person, but after book three or four, canon Malfoy just kind of disappears into the background as a whiny, pale-faced, wimp. Not nearly as snide and snarky as he'd originally been. A sad excuse for a bully archetype. (I rather like the bully archetype, actually--there are so many insecurities inherent in that sort of character, and sometimes a non-evil character who hates the hero/ine can be the all-important Bearer of Uncomfortable Truths. And *those* characters are LOVELY.)

Um...aside from all of that, I think my favorite female character is Luna Lovegood, who least fits the Girl Power thing, since she's so quirky and no one takes her seriously. But I also have an antithesis to your argument: Nymphadora Tonks. Sure, she starts out as spunky and independent, but she loses all that flair in mooning over Lupin. She goes completely limp, which was really sad for me, because I had high hopes for Tonks. She was weird and funny and klutzy without being a total screwball! She was the most relatable member of the Order of the Phoenix because she still acted like a kid sometimes, but she *was* a member, AND she was an Auror. But Then. She Falls Utterly In Love. And she completely falls apart? What?

I have more issues with Tonks and Lupin's marriage as well (like the fact that Lupin never seems happily married except when his son is born, tries to leave her, and kind of just went "Oh, alRIGHT, I'll marry Tonks if y'all will stop yer bitchin'!" at the end of HBP, which is a shitty proposal if you ask me), but that has less to do with Tonks as a character than with Lupin. Anyway, Tonks seems to have totally lost her Girl Power somewhere along the way, so: exception that proves the rule? or what?
(Anonymous)
Dec. 18th, 2011 07:33 am (UTC)
I agree completely. While girl power is awesome and amazing, too much can ruin a previously adored and flawed character. It's like a joke. Subtly used and saved for certain times, a joke can be a good thing, but use it too much and it just becomes... meh.
Bit until the "Meh-point" (as I like to call it) hits, girls, you bring the fuckin' RAIN down! No drizzles or fine mists in this forecast, no ma'am, bring on the hurricanes (many of which are named after females if you haven't noticed)!

Well, best wishes!
-Theodora
baddest_witch
Feb. 14th, 2017 04:02 am (UTC)
I agree with you, I absolutely adore McGonagall and many of the HP women. Although I love Dumbledore as well and wouldn't call him morally reprehensible, the Dursleys are the only reason Harry isn't dead. And the only reasons Albus got kicked out of Hogwarrs were because the Minister didnt want to deal with Voldemort being back.

Also I think the DA is quite admirable. Young people doing it for themselves, as you will. They're strong enough to fight back against a corrupt system that's trying to leave them helpless, so for that I admire them. Besides that, I agree with you.
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