How Hagrid Tames the Beast of Toxic Masculinity
On the surface, Rubeus Hagrid seems like the masculine ideal. He’s a giant with superhuman strength whose primary passion is for violent creatures like dragons and flesh-eating spiders. Those who get to know Hagrid a bit more, however, realize that he actually manages to defy toxic masculinity with every ounce of his character.
For one, Hagrid has no problem with gender nonconforming clothing, accessories, or behavior. He chose to put the pieces of his wand inside a flowery pink umbrella and is once described as wearing a flowery apron. He probably makes his own clothes (what store would have his size?) as we can see from the patchwork quilt on his bed and him darning his own socks. Despite the fact that he can get meals in the Great Hall whenever he wants to, Hagrid seems to genuinely enjoy cooking and baking as a hobby, and he is always trying to feed Harry, Hermione, and Ron whenever they come to his house. Hagrid is also one of the most emotionally open characters in the book and is never afraid to cry when he’s upset.
Harry comes to Hogwarts with limited exposure to positive masculine role models. He is able to connect with Hagrid because both of them have had experiences of not fitting in and being teased because of their differences. At this critical moment in Harry’s life, Hagrid is an example of a man who is entirely his own person without trying to fit into any ideals set by society and without worrying about other people’s judgment. As Harry faces more and more social ostracization throughout the series, Hagrid is always a reminder to him that staying true to himself is more important than being universally liked.
Hagrid may be a positive masculine role model for Harry, but he is more of a mother figure than a father figure. Our first introduction to Hagrid is of him holding baby Harry in his arms. Hagrid is the universal mother to all of the world’s abandoned children. From keeping Norbert the dragon in his wooden hut (“Bless him, look, he knows his mommy!” [SS 14]) to hiding Aragog the giant spider in the dungeons of Hogwarts, Hagrid cannot resist the urge to care for those he sees as his “babies.” He has a mother’s blindness for the faults of his children, completely incapable of understanding how others may see them as dangerous.
Throughout the series, there is the continual theme of the power of a mother’s sacrifice and the protective love it provides. Hagrid is constantly taking risks and making sacrifices for his many “children,” willing to undergo physical abuse and risk losing his job and his life. To a certain extent, Hagrid takes his protective sacrifices to the extreme, sometimes endangering Harry and his friends in his attempts to save one of his beasts. Yet for the most part, Hagrid’s love creates its own protective magic for Harry. Buckbeak and Grawp both play important roles in protecting Harry, and even Aragog provides his own invaluable services and information. Ultimately, Hagrid is mainly a mother to Harry, who is desperately in need of one. Our last scene with Hagrid involves him holding Harry in his arms yet again, trying to protect him even in death.
For the symbolic purposes of the book, Hagrid may represent another instance of the power of a mother’s love, but for the countless young girls and boys reading the series, he might be evidence of something much more important. Children can look at Hagrid and see someone who is physically strong yet willing to be emotionally vulnerable. They can see someone who has a masculine beard and yet wears feminine clothing and accessories. They can experience someone who enjoys watching sports and baking food. And most importantly, they can see a man who cares so passionately about his children that he is willing to sacrifice anything for their well-being. Although most of the world judges Hagrid, Harry and the readers are able to see Hagrid’s strength and beauty in being exactly the man he wants to be. Hagrid is subtly dismantling toxic masculinity, one rock cake at a time.