Category Archives: Feminism

Like A Girl

I love feminist Ginny Weasley.  I know I’ve talked about how much I love her before, but while I was reading HBP, I was reminded of what a good feminist character she is.  She doesn’t let her brothers push in on her social life – she soundly tells Fred & George to mind their own business, and straight up puts Ron back into his place when he tries to butt in.  It’s very clear that she’s the only one in charge of who she dates and she’s not going to put up with her brothers trying to get involved.

When Harry breaks up with her for “her own good”, she’s obviously not happy about it, but she agrees with his reasoning (it’s not his decision alone!) and she doesn’t let it stop her from going about her life.  Rather than simply hanging around waiting for Harry to return and pick her up like a lost piece of luggage, she teams up with Neville to reactivate the DA and fight against the Death Eater’s reign at Hogwarts.

In pretty much every conceivable way, Ginny Weasley is a girl – growing into a woman – who lives on her own terms and refuses to allow other people’s expectations of her bring her down; the expectation of her brothers that she’ll date at a pace that’s comfortable for them, or the expectation that she’ll be an easy target because she’s a girl are disabused with the same casual confidence.  I just honestly love her so much, and she’s the girl who I wish I was at her age (mixed with a little Hermione, though).

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Mother Figure (2)

Molly Weasley is the type of mother I want to be, not only because she fucking rocks at being  a mother, but because she rocks at life.  Here are the facts:

  • Molly Weasley was sorted into Gryffindor House during her time at Hogwarts, meaning she is brave af
  • Canonically, she fell in love with Arthur when he showed her a working circuit board, which shows a decent level of intelligence as well as a recognition of passion
  • While it’s suspected that she wasn’t an active member of the Order during the first Wizarding War (due to being busy birthing and raising seven children in eleven years no I’m never going to let that go), she was obviously involved in SOME way – she clearly inherited her brother’s possessions, and she obviously knew many of the members when the Order re-formed during the second Wizarding War.
  • She is more than likely the creator of her infamous clock that shows where any particular Weasley is at any particular time.  Why do I say this?  Well, because it featured her particular family, and I would imagine that changing the spell or charm on it to add or remove people would be fairly complex, so I doubt that she got it from anyone else.  Also, Dumbledore himself mentioned that he had never seen anything like it, which further strengthens my argument that she made it for herself.  That is not some Lumos-level spell.  It’s serious magic (with serious implications, now that I’m giving it some thought, but that’s for another time), and it absolutely suggests that Molly is pretty talented.
  • She kills Bellatrix Lestrange.  Bellatrix is known to be a talented witch as well as a very talented deulist; many other talented witches and wizards had fallen before her, and it was Molly Weasley who took her down.

In other words, JK spent several books showing us motherly Molly, domestic Molly, stay-at-home-mom-and-wife Molly, and then slowly snuck in references to the idea that she did these things – became this person – because that’s what she wanted to do, and the life she wanted to lead; but that she was completely and utterly badass at heart and being a wife and mother did not diminish that at all.

Don’t ever discount the housewives; they’re probably there because they want to be.

 

 

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Mother Figure

Molly Weasley is totally my hero.  I touched on this a little bit before, but as I’m re-reading the series (I’m currently a couple of chapters into HBP) it’s really hitting home for me that Molly Weasley is who I want to be when I grow up.  Or at least, part of who I want to be.  Specifically, Molly Weasley is exactly the type of mother I want to be.

Molly Weasley is so good at being a mother.  First of all, the sheer number of children she has is impressive.  I have one set of twins and I’m overwhelmed some days – imagine if those twins came when I already had three?  And then to have two more after the fact?  Insanity.  That’s just…that’s so many children.  So many diapers, and bottles, and hours attached to a breast pump, and so many times saying the same thing over and over….the mere thought of the parenting ability that went into having seven kids 11 and under boggles my mind.

And she did a good job of it, too.  First of all, her children grew up to be incredibly successful.  When we meet the Weasley family, Bill and Charlie are already successful in their fields (curse-breaker and dragon-wrangler, respectively); by GoF Percy has gotten a  position in the Minstry of Magic; after OotP Fred and George opened their own shop in Diagon Alley and  did a booming business despite the atmosphere of fear created by Voldemort’s return; and after the series ended it’s canon that Ron joined the Ministry and later moved to help George and Ginny had a stint as a professional Quidditch player.  To have all 7 of her children grow to be so determined and ambitious – and to achieve their goals so spectacularly – tells a great deal about her parenting and the environment in which they all grew up.

It’s also incredible to me how matter-of-factly she opened her home and her family to Harry & Hermione.  This is a family that has – seriously, I cannot stress this enough – SEVEN children, and canonically struggled financially to raise those children.  But she opened her home to Harry & Hermione, for no other reason than her son (Ron) told her that they didn’t have anybody (in the Wizarding World in Hermione’s case and in the entire world in Harry’s).  She opened her home to them, fed them, did their laundry and assisted in their packing, chauffeured them to get their school books and get to school (in GoF I think she even goes BY HERSELF to get everyone’s stuff so they can all enjoy the Quidditch World Cup).  By all accounts she IS their parent, their mother, in the Wizarding world.  And she didn’t have to be.  She could have been polite but distant on the platform, maybe asked after their health when Ron came home for the holidays, but kept herself well out of their lives and focused on her own children.  But she didn’t do that, because she was too good of a mother not to want to reach out and help children who needed it.

And that’s exactly the kind of parent I want to be – the kind where when my kids bring home a friend who needs help, they know that I’ll be there to provide it.  Even if it’s inconvenient or difficult.  Because every child deserves a parent who’s willing to do the hard and inconvenient things for them.

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HERMIONE

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

So, I thought about Hermione a lot this week (no, I’m not going to acknowledge the fact that I haven’t posted in months.  You know where I’ve been).  My commute is 45 minutes long (closer to an hour fifteen during the evening rush hour) so I have plenty of time to think about Harry Potter.  It’s my favorite thing to think about.  This week the object of my musings was Hermione – specifically the way people tend to insist on shipping her with Harry or Ron and  how MAD THAT MAKES ME.

OK, so I’m not stupid.  I’m aware that she ends up with Ron.  And I’m glad about this – first of all, if I HAD to ship one of the couples it would be Hermione / Ron (do they have some kind of lame name?) – mostly because I feel like Rowling was TOTALLY hinting towards that ending for a while.  Also because I think Hermione was important as a sister / family to Harry, and also I LOVE THAT THEY’RE ALL REAL FAMILY IN THE EPILOGUE.  IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.  They were family to one another through the whole series, and it warms my cold black heart to know that they will always be together.

HOWEVA.  All that aside, I very strongly feel that reducing Hermione to the pivot point in a love triangle reduces her to SO MUCH LESS than her character.  I mean, Hermione was (arguably) the second most important person in the series – and I say arguably not because she shares the spot with Ron, but because without her Harry would have died like ninety million times if it wasn’t for Hermione and the fact that she was the greatest witch of all time ever.  She was a smart, caring, brave, FULLY REALIZED character, She was tortured, kept Harry alive (bajillions of times), ensuring Harry and Ron didn’t fail out of Hogwarts, researched everything that allowed Harry to destroy Voldemort’s (oooh, relax) horcruxes…..and people want to talk about which one of her best friends she wants to date.  SEROIUSLY?

I love Hermione.  She’s my favorite Harry Potter character (followed by DOBBBBBYYYYYY) and easily in the top five of my favorite fictional characters of all time (Racetrack, Newsies; Nynaeve, Wheel of Time; Eowyn, LOTR; Leslie Knope, Parks & Rec) so, YES it bothers me when people discount her or try to make her less than she is.  We have enough fictional women who are simply there for the man to play off of; do we need to cut down our more fully realized females to fit that mold too?

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Women in Wheel

One of the things I love about Jordan is how strong and well drawn his female characters are.  Unlike most of the other fantasy epics I read, with the men the main characters and the women just window dressing, the women in Jordan’s world are just as much a part of the action as the men.  The men assume the women need physical protection;  the main women at least don’t need that protection, thanks to their access to the One Power.  Each woman chafes against the limits this protection puts on her, in her own special way.

Egwene and Nynaeve were raised with that sense of protection; Egwene plans for this protection and how to work around it, Nynaeve allows herself to ignore it, but when her efforts to do so are thwarted, her temper rises to the surface.  It’s reflective of their larger personalities: Egwene is political, watching everyone around her and making her own plans based on what she sees.  Nynaeve, on the other hand, generally assumes things will go the way she wants and expects them to, but when other people mess up their plans, she becomes infuriated.  Elayne was also raised expecting a certain level of protection, but she assumes all desires to protect her come from her rank as future queen rather than her female status.  The queens of Andor have a reputation of bravery and strength, and she assumes that is what people expect of her.  When men–or people in general, when she becomes pregnant–try to protect her due to her femaleness, rather than her rank, she is shocked and angry.  Aviendha wasn’t raised with that type of protectiveness at all, and is legitimately taken aback by it.  She was a warrior before crossing the Dragonwall, and to her, the idea that she needs physical protection is incomprehensible.

Well, I went on a bit of a rant.  I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately–I might go more in-depth on these thoughts later on. I’m too obsessed with this series lately.

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I Hate Perfection

I realize that this post is going to be at least partially based on bitterness, because I try to hard to be perfect–the girl with the perfect nails whose apartment is always clean and welcoming, even when you drop by unexpectedly; the perfect girlfriend who gets her boyfriend amazing gifts and blows his mind every night.  Obviously, I fail hard.  My nails are not only chipped constantly, but I chew on my cuticles and the sides of my nails so they’re pretty gross.  My apartment, on the other hand, isn’t gross by any means, but I live with boys and we both work part time, so it’s not perfect by a long shot.  It’s certianly not worth a photo blog of how wonderfully I’ve decorated it.  As for the boyfriend…lets discuss that another time, over wine.

All this is simply to set up why I hate Ayla so goddamn much.  Everything she does is so unbelievably perfect.  Even when she does something so clearly hurtful to those around her–like going off with Ranec when Jondalar is waiting for her–isn’t out of spite, but ignorance to the ways of her new people.  She simply assumes that she has to be sexually available to everyone, all the time–it has nothing to do with her relationship with Jondalar!  As a writer, I have to admire Auel’s ability to create a woman who manages to be open to all men and not come across as a huge whore to our 21st-century Puritan-based values.  That doesn’t mean I can’t still hate her, however.  I can barely keep myself awake when my boyfriend gets to bed, much less wake myself up every time he gropes me throughout the night, or be sexually available to whomever wants me, whenever he wants me.

This brings me to the second, slightly less bitter, issue that I have with Ayla.  She is such a contradiction to the feminist side of me (the right 3/4s, if you were curious).  On one hand, she is obviously strong–physically and mentally–and self sufficient, and doesn’t need a man around her.  She lived alone for 3 years, for chrissakes.  But as soon as a man shows up, she goes back to being diffident and subservient.  As I said eyarlier, I kind of admire Auel’s ability to make Ayla this anti-feminist in such a natural way–it was how she was raised, after all–but that doesn’t make it less uncomfortable for me.  She somehow manages to be a misogynists wet dream–subservient, sexually available, unbelievably beautiful, and committed to quietly fulfilling the every need of the men in her life.

So, there you have it.  The reasons–both blatantly biter and honestly feminist–that I hate Ayla so much.  I actually really like her in Clan of the Cave Bear, and blatantly adore her through Valley of the Horses, but as I get deeper and deeper into The Mammouth Hunters, I find it more and more difficult to enjoy her as a character.

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Feminists Are Evil

So, I’m kind of a not-so-secret feminist.  I realized it when I was pretty young, before I had a word for it, when I thought it was out-and-out bullshit that my younger brother was allowed to walk to the 7-11 down the block with his friends and my sister and I needed an adult with us because we could get kidnapped and other such nonsense.  Now, I’m not out burning my bras in opposition to the patriarchy (tool of oppression or not, I love the way my cleavage looks with a good push-up), but being a woman, I am always looking for “role models” in my reading for myself and my potential future daughters (shudder).

That’s not to say I completely discount books without strong female characters—thus far, there have been like 5 women total (that’s a generous count), only one of whom isn’t purely someone’s wife or mother (Galadriel, obviously, and she’s only in the story so far for the space of a few pages).  It also doesn’t mean that a girl can’t look up to a male character or see him as a role model.  I’m a huge fan of the cross-gender mentoring relationship, even if the so-called mentor is fictional.  Girls can learn a lot from men, as boys can from women.  Before the gender of a character is considered, he or she must be an actual role model.  Humbert Humbert being the main character of Lolita doesn’t instantly make him a role model.  Similarly, making a woman your main character does not immediately make her a worthwhile role model—Alya from Clan of the Cave Bear is famously strong and capable, but she’s also Barbie-doll pretty and so perfect I had to make a drinking game to deal with it.  That tends to be a problem with many female leads—the author is so determined to make a strong female character that they forget to give her flaws to make the reader like and root for her.  What I want out of my books is females who are similar to the male characters we have so many of—strong, flawed, imperfect, but still working towards doing the right thing and being good people.  Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve found some of the best female characters in the Wheel of Time series.  Elayne, Egwene, Nynave, Min and Avendhiah (those are who I consider the main female roles, rest assured there are many more) are all strong and powerful in their own rights, separate from the men in their lives; they have a vital role to play in saving the world, and they know it.  The very scope of the series (remember, this is the series so gigantic that reading LOTR as a “break” from it seemed a good idea) give Jordan time to flesh out each of their characters as an individual, and there are huge lengths of the book that focus purely on the women with little to no interference from the men.  These stretches allow Jordan to flesh out the personality of the individual women, providing a more balanced portrait than would be allowed in a smaller series.  If the series had been smaller, it isn’t unreasonable to assume the female characters would be the ones cut, to make room for the more “important” male leads.

It’s important to me as a reader and a feminist that I read things that appeal to both sides of me, and I’m always looking for new books.

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