Is Harry Potter a Feminist Text?
As a fandom, there are many things that we have come to agree on over the years. Neville is a BAMF. Voldemort is a Drama Queen. The Prince’s Tale makes us cry. The Epilogue kind of sucked. But there is one question that divides us to this day, one that I have long intended to address in an essay but kept putting off: is Harry Potter a feminist text?
Every fan will have an opinion on this, and they are all different – I’ve heard the gamut of them, from “totally feminist” to “anti-feminist.” I will give my views on the matter, and beg everyone to keep the debate in the comments civil, since this is a touchier subject than most.
The way I see it, whether HP is feminist or not depends on three factors:
- Are the female characters strong? Do they all sit around fussing about dresses and waiting to be rescued, or do they kick butt and take names all on their own?
- Are the women independent? Is the #1 goal to find a man to settle down with, or is it okay to not give two hoots about men?
- How are the women treated within the universe of the books? Are they treated as no more than housewives and homemakers, expected to stay out of the “men’s business”? Or are they treated as equals?
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: there are many more males in the series than there are females, and most of the important characters are male. If you think of major female characters in the first four books, you get: Hermione, Ginny, McGonagall, Mrs. Weasley, Aunt Petunia, Cho Chang, Rita Skeeter, and Fleur (and yes, I’m stretching the “major” in “major characters” here). This slightly improves with Order of the Phoenix, when we get the addition of Luna, Tonks, Umbridge, and Bellatrix, and later on Narcissa Malfoy. Oh, and Lily Potter plays a significant role in the series. In any event, you can see why there are a dozen of each one at large costume events: the pickings are slim.
Compare that to the major male characters, and we don’t need to do any stretching: Harry, Ron, Neville, Draco, Dumbledore, Snape, Sirius, Lupin, Voldemort, Pettigrew, Hagrid, Lucius, Fred, George, Cedric, Viktor, Slughorn, Lockhart, Moody, Fudge, Bill… you get the idea.
Much of this can be attributed to the fact that Harry himself is a boy. Therefore, many of the adults he connects with will be male, and many of his friends will be male. While there is clearly a male bias in terms of overall characters, Hermione single-handedly proves that women are indeed significant in the series. So let’s move on from this.
Let’s also take a second to appreciate the variety and depth of the female characters who are present. Some are brainy, some are athletic; some are popular, some are socially awkward; some are overemotional, some are stoic; some are very feminine, others are less so. We have homemakers, teachers, journalists, politicians, and criminals. So this automatically puts the Potter series head and shoulders above many other books.
1) Are the females strong?
In a nutshell, yes. No female in Harry Potter is content to sit around just waiting for men to get things done. Hermione is the most proactive one of the trio – doing the research, coming up with the plans, doing the preparation… it’s all her. We can all agree that Harry would not have survived the first 200 pages of Deathly Hallows without Hermione at his side. We even see Hermione’s strength when she is tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange, and still does not crack.
Similarly, Ginny and Luna fight alongside the Trio and Neville time and time again. Luna is shown withstanding being held captive by the Death Eaters. Ginny is shown time and again to be incredibly powerful, with men afraid of her Bat-Bogey Hex. This is good because it shows that a girl can be very pretty, as Ginny is, and still be intelligent and skilled – the two are not mutually exclusive.
Mrs. Weasley raised seven children, including the twins – if that’s not strength, I don’t know what is. Tonks is an Auror, which puts her among the elite of the Ministry. McGonagall fearlessly leads the Hogwartians in the Battle of Hogwarts. Narcissa actually tricks the Dark Lord to protect her son.
None of the women are afraid to stand up to men. Hermione, Ginny, and Luna always tell the boys, in no uncertain terms, when they’re being idiots. All of the Weasley men cower before Molly’s rage. Petunia won’t let Vernon throw Harry out. Lily tells off the Marauders in Snape’s Worst Memory, and then tells off Snape for hanging out with Death Eaters. Even Bellatrix will not take orders from anyone short of Voldemort, and feels perfectly comfortable bossing Lucius around in his own house. In short, the women of HP are ferocious and opinionated, and have no inhibitions about making their feelings known.
One of the most pleasant things about the HP series is how little the girls fuss about their appearance. Hermione only dresses up on two occasions in the series: Bill and Fleur’s wedding, and the Yule Ball. And really, who doesn’t want to look spiffy at events like this? Yet afterwards, Hermione makes her views very plain: “she confessed to Harry that she had used liberal amounts of Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion on [her hair] for the ball, ‘but it’s way too much bother to do every day,’ she said matter-of-factly.” (GF433)
This is so wonderfully refreshing! A girl who thinks that constantly fussing with her appearance is too much bother. Similarly, while Ginny and Luna are also happy to get all dressed up when the occasion calls for it, we otherwise don’t hear them fussing about their looks. It’s important to have young girls read books like this, that emphasize being smart and brave over appearance.
Are there girly girls in the series? Of course there are, because it wouldn’t be realistic otherwise. Every single school will have a Parvati and Lavender, girls who love nothing better than a good gossip. And there’s nothing wrong with that – they are portrayed with affection and humor. However, let it be noted that when the going gets tough, both Parvati and Lavender join Dumbledore’s Army and fight in the Battle of Hogwarts.
The one girl in the series who is a stereotypically vapid one – Romilda Vane – receives a very negative portrayal. We are clearly meant to roll our eyes at her along with the characters, when Ginny relates, “Three dementor attacks in a week, and all Romilda Vane does is ask me if it’s true you’ve got a hippogriff tattooed across your chest.” (HBP535)
Ginny’s contempt for Romilda aside, one notable thing about the HP series is how it shows women relating to each other. Too often, women are portrayed as not getting along well with other women, blaming them for stealing men and so forth. Not so here – when Ron and Lavender hook up and draw Hermione’s ire, it is exclusively directed at Ron. Hermione acknowledges that Lavender is not at fault, which is very sensible on Hermione’s part.
Nor are the women petty beyond reason. Hermione saves Lavender in the final battle (DH646) even after everything they’ve been through. Cho Chang does show up at the final battle, despite her messy breakup with Harry (DH582). In short, the women of HP have their priorities straight, and it’s refreshing. The exception is Rita Skeeter, who is the definition of petty… but then, she’s a contemptible character in general, and certainly not meant to be exemplary.
The girly girl we see with the largest role is Fleur Delacour… who, in fact, is portrayed very negatively to begin with. She is very focused on her appearance, fretting about gaining weight, and is very vain in general. She is critical and superficial (both qualities evident in her Yule Ball date with Roger Davies), and just isn’t very nice.
“It is too ‘eavy, all zis ‘Ogwarts food,” [the Trio] heard [Fleur] saying grumpily as they left the Great Hall behind her one evening […]. “I will not fit into my dress robes!”
“Oooh there’s a tragedy,” Hermione snapped as Fleur went out into the entrance hall. “She really thinks a lot of herself, that one, doesn’t she?” (GF404)
But we see her come around throughout Goblet of Fire – it’s actually a great redemption story for her. This all starts when Fleur fails at the second task, getting attacked by grindylows. Suddenly, she isn’t worried about her appearance, but only about her sister; moreover, she shows some humility for the first time.
Fleur had many cuts on her face and arms and her robes were torn, but she didn’t seem to care, nor would she allow Madam Pomfrey to clean them.
“Look after Gabrielle,” she told her.
“I deserved zero [points],” said Fleur throatily, shaking her magnificent head.(GF505-506)
There is a big change in Fleur after this. She “was clapping very hard too” when Harry was awarded a lot of points for the task (GF507), and becomes quite likable toward the end of the book.
When we see Fleur again, in her capacity as Bill’s fiancé and then wife, she is quite different. Sure, she still owns the fact that she is beautiful – “I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk!” (HBP623) And she doesn’t exactly ingratiate herself to the women of the Weasley household – then again, conflict with mothers-in-law is very much the norm, and we shouldn’t hold this against her.
But she is also more gracious to many of the characters. She continues to love Bill despite his good looks being ruined, which shows how far she’s come from her superficiality in Book 4. She risks herself in the Battle of Seven Potters. She opens her home to the Trio, even putting up with Griphook for their sake.
Fleur pops up a lot in conversations about feminism in HP. Because though she is a Triwizard champion, but she is far and away the weakest of the four. Interestingly, I find that this argument usually breaks down along the gender lines that Harry and Hermione present to us.
“I know,” said Hermione, dropping her voice. “She’s so full of herself.”
Harry […] could not blame Ron for saying angrily, “Can’t you two lay off her for five seconds?” (HBP91)
“And [Tonks is] more intelligent, she’s an Auror!” said Hermione from the corner.
“Fleur’s not stupid, she was good enough to enter the Triwizard Tournament,” said Harry.
“Not you as well!” said Hermione bitterly. (HBP94)
The guys usually agree with Harry, that Fleur being a Triwizard champion shows that she is smart, capable, and has accomplished much of note. The girls usually disagree with this, lamenting that Fleur, as the only female champion, was absolutely pitiful. She couldn’t get past the grindylows, for Merlin’s sake!
I fall somewhere between the two. I tend to agree that having Fleur as a champ is a point for feminism, when considering that means she was more capable than any of the guys in Beauxbatons. Sure, she failed miserably (Hogwarts third years learn how to defeat grindylows!). But I don’t think this is a knock on women – rather, I think Jo put this in because Fleur personally needed to be humbled. Her flaw was arrogance, and she needed to fail so she could lose that arrogance (more or less) and become a decent person.
If anything, I think Fleur’s performance might be a subtle knock on the French, in keeping with the Anglo-French rivalry. After all, if Fleur is the best competitor that a French school could put forth, that’s not saying much for the school, is it?
Ginny Weasley’s Sexuality
One thing that real-world feminism has yet to correct is our attitudes toward female sexuality. There is an appalling double standard, where promiscuous men are heralded as “players” while women are degraded as “sluts.” The Potter books tackle this head-on, by having Ginny confront Ron about it.
“Right,” said Ginny, tossing her long red hair out of her face and glaring at Ron, “let’s get this straight once and for all. It is none of your business who I go out with or what I do with them, Ron —“
“Yeah, it is!” said Ron, just as angrily. “D’you think I want people saying my sister’s a —“
“A what?” shouted Ginny, drawing her wand. “A what, exactly?" (HBP287)
Ginny similarly tells off the twins and Ron on page 121 that it’s none of their business how fast she moves through boyfriends. Ron actually appears as a somewhat sexist character on several occasions (more on that later), and here tries to slut-shame Ginny for snogging her boyfriend in a deserted corridor. Ginny is having none of it, and gives him a piece of her mind. It is a good thing to see Ginny being completely unapologetic for her sexuality.
As a side note, it’s slightly upsetting that the HP fandom at large seems to have taken Ron’s side in all of this – I expected better of us. One of those things that most of the fandom agrees on, like I mentioned at the beginning, is that Ginny is slutty. It has become such an ingrained part of fanon, that the wizard rocker Witherwings even had to write a song “In Defense of Ginny Weasley.”
Ginny dated precisely three guys in her entire life – Michael Corner for a year, Dean Thomas for approximately eight months, and then Harry whom she marries. And we don’t even know which of these relationships actually included sex. This is the polar opposite of promiscuity – Ginny should be a poster child for relationships, not a recurring sex joke.
2) Do the women need a man in their lives?
This is the point that gets debated the most in my experience. None of the women in the HP series make it their goal in life to find a husband and settle down. Rather, it just seems to happen of its own accord.
However, there is one major problem: all of the single women are portrayed as horrible. Almost all of the women in HP end up married; the notable exceptions are Dolores Umbridge and Rita Skeeter. Umbridge is a career woman: she has achieved a high-ranking position within the Ministry and devotes her energy fully to that, without a husband by her side. Same goes for Rita Skeeter: she is a very well-known journalist, and has published several best-selling books, without a man by her side.
If HP were a feminist text, women like this would be celebrated. Instead, both of them are villains – they use illegal methods to advance themselves, and make life a living hell for people. In short, we are very clearly supposed to hate both of these women.
In isolation, there is nothing wrong with having female villains. However, when the only two important unmarried women in the series are the two most detestable ones, we have a problem.
Moreover, it seems like all the marriages that we see – the Potters’, the Dursleys’, the Malfoys’, the Tonkses’, and all of the Weasleys’ – are quite happy ones, where the wife’s priority seems to be standing by her husbands side and being a housewife. (Admittedly, we don’t know what Lily and James’s careers were, so that might be an exception.) The one marriage we see where the wife cares about more than just being there for her husband is the Lestranges’.
Bellatrix is not content to stay at home and breed pureblood babies. She goes out to fight for the cause she believes in; she is one of the most fierce and independent women I’ve read about. And once again, we are very clearly supposed to detest her.
Are there any single women on the side of good? Well, almost: there is Minerva McGonagall. In the series, we never get any mention of love interests for her, and her focus seems to be pretty exclusively on her career at Hogwarts. She was the beacon of hope for the single women out there for whom marriage just didn’t happen for whatever reason. And then came Pottermore, revealing to us that McGonagall had indeed been married. So it seems that a woman is only allowed to be single and career-focused, and have it be a good thing, if she has been honorably widowed.
Perhaps this is why we don’t see any young and eligible bachelorettes on the Hogwarts teaching staff. Whereas single young men are at Hogwarts in ample supply – Lockhart, Lupin, Snape, Quirrell (assuming he’s single), etc. – all the women are getting on in years. Think McGonagall, Sprout, Grubbly-Plank, Umbridge, and even Madam Pince. All the young women must be busy being housewives and starting families.
So while I loved McGonagall’s backstory, I was thoroughly peeved upon reading it. Because it seems to me that the HP series is telling girls, if you don’t get married, you end up an Umbridge or a Rita Skeeter.
Jo’s missed opportunity was with Nymphadora Tonks. Her appearance in Order of the Phoenix seemed to be a godsend to the female readers. Here was a young adult woman who was undeniably a badass, who was one of the elite Aurors and an Order member, who didn’t have a man in her life and didn’t seem to need one. After Book 5 came out, no one could argue that HP wasn’t feminist. And then it all went to pieces in Book 6.
In Half-Blood Prince, Tonks decides she’s in love with Lupin. But she doesn’t stop there. She so desperately needs him, she falls into a complete depression, becoming anti-social and having her powers weakened. Oh, is that what happens when a woman can’t get a man to love her? And how is this resolved – with Tonks moving on? No, it’s resolved with Tonks nagging Lupin until he finally agrees to be with her. A month later, she gets pregnant, and sits out the remainder of the war at home. She shows up in the final battle, chasing after her husband and getting killed. So, essentially, Tonks is completely useless in the last two books, and a complete waste of a really cool character.
Let me reiterate: none of these characters are a problem in and of themselves. But when you consider that the only irredeemable female characters – Umbridge, Rita, and Bellatrix – are also the only single ones (Bellatrix being single has an asterisk, but the point still stands), then it’s an issue. And meanwhile, all the good female characters get married off like proper ladies: Hermione, Ginny, Luna, Tonks, Fleur, and even Cho Chang all have their happy marriages.
Honestly, all I’d want is one female equivalent of Charlie Weasley, who just never married because he cared more about dragons according to Jo. If you look at the single male characters, you have Charlie, Sirius, and Hagrid among all the less likable ones. Whereas if you think about the female characters who we can be fairly sure remain single, we have the aforementioned ones, and gems like Alecto Carrow, Aunt Marge, and Hepzibah Smith.
I can’t say whether it was Jo’s intent to paint this picture, of all the single women being despicable and all the good ones finding husbands. But this is all a decidedly anti-feminist message.
3) How are the women treated within the series?
This question is perhaps the easiest to answer – the wizarding world is VERY far from feminist. This is neatly encapsulated in one passage from Deathly Hallows, showing how Ginny is treated when she wants to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts: they try to pigeonhole Ginny into the role of damsel and love interest, keeping her out of the action.
“You’re underage!” Mrs. Weasley shouted at her daughter as Harry approached. “I won’t permit it! The boys, yes, but you, you’ve got to go home!”
“Mum’s right, Ginny,” said Bill gently. “You can’t do this. Everyone underage will have to leave, it’s only right.”
“I can’t go home!” Ginny shouted, angry tears sparkling in her eyes. “My whole family’s here, I can’t stand waiting there alone and not knowing and —“
Her eyes met Harry’s for the first time. She looked at him beseechingly, but he shook his head and she turned away bitterly. (DH604-605)
“Ginny,” said Harry, “I’m sorry, but we need you to leave [the Room of Requirement] too. Just for a bit. Then you can come back in.”
Ginny looked simply delighted to leave her sanctuary.
“And then you can come back in!” he shouted after her as she ran up the steps after Tonks. “You’ve got to come back in!” (DH624-625)
I have to say, this whole bit infuriates me more than almost any other passage in the series. Ginny is nearly seventeen, and has admirably acquitted herself in the Department of Mysteries, the prior year’s battle at Hogwarts, and leading Dumbledore’s Army in the past year. And she is expected to sit in the Hog’s Head with her hands folded, patiently waiting to hear what’s going on.
And as Mrs. Weasley tells her this, a whole crew of guys (some of who are barely older than her) nods sanctimoniously and says she can’t stay and fight. Oh, how I wished Ginny would Bat-Bogey Hex the lot of them.
And worse, then Harry tries to boss her around into staying in the Room of Requirement. EXCUSE you, Harry Potter! As I recall it, when you were a good five years younger than Ginny, you went after Quirrellmort single-handedly; then went into the Chamber of Secrets a year later; and competed in the Triwizard Tournament all while significantly younger than Ginny was. And he has the gall to tell Ginny to sit out the action.
Moreover, Ginny’s companion in all this is Tonks, who was expected to sit at home but instead sits in the Room of Requirement awaiting news of her hubby. Funny, I thought that Tonks was an Auror, and fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts would be right up her alley. But that’s all forgotten about as soon as she marries Lupin; now being a housewife is Duty #1.
This is especially bad because it so clearly contradicts who Tonks was as a character in Order of the Phoenix. Instead of following her established character as a fighter for the good guys, Tonks is now pigeonholed into being little more than Lupin’s wife. Not good.
As usual, the only woman to call the guys out on their sexist BS is Hermione. When Ron is going through another one of his infernal self-pity-fests, Hermione finally speaks out.
“I notice I’m always the one who ends up sorting out the food, because I’m a girl, I suppose!”
“No, it’s because you’re supposed to be the best at magic!” shot back Ron.
Hermione jumped up and bits of roast pike slid off her tin plate onto the floor.
“You can do the cooking tomorrow, Ron, you can find the ingredients and try and charm them into something worth eating, and I’ll sit here and pull faces and moan and you can see how you —“
“Shut up!” said Harry, leaping to his feet and holding up both hands. “Shut up now!”
Hermione looked outraged.
“How can you side with him, he hardly ever does the cook —“ (DH293)
Harry shushed her because the goblins were near, and afterwards Ron abandons them and we never see the resolution of this little tiff. But honestly, if I hadn’t been holding the book I would have applauded this scene. Hermione refuses to be pigeonholed into performing the “woman’s role” of cooking and so forth. Ron’s behavior is remarkably similar to a shmuck my cousin married, and I wish my cousin had half the guts Hermione does to stand up to him.
The good news is that the girls of HP don’t take this kind of treatment lying down. Nobody tries to diminish Hermione and gets away with it, and Ginny always fights tooth and nail for recognition (with varying degrees of success). But the guys’ attitudes are clear: women are not expected to fight in battles; but to sit at home with the family and cook food. And the older generation seems to have accepted that as the norm.
Even though there are a select few women who have risen through the ranks and achieved great things – McGonagall, Dilys Derwent, Millicent Bagnold, Artemisia Lufkin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Gwenog Jones, and Amelia Bones – they seem to clearly be the exception, not the norm. Think how many people in the Ministry are male versus female, or how many Headmistresses Hogwarts has had… looks like women have a long way to go in the wizarding world.
This is probably why there was only one female Triwizard champion out of four – because fewer girls must have entered to begin with. The only one we know of who entered from Hogwarts is Angelina (GF261).
I don’t know whether this is intentional or not, but to me Voldemort always seemed one of the most sexist characters. Notice that in his multitude of Death Eaters, there are only two females, and none of them are there on their own. The first is Alecto Carrow, who is there with her brother Amycus. And the second is Bellatrix, who is there with her husband.
Why is this? On the one hand, I doubt many women apply to be Death Eaters since they’re so busy being housewives in this world. Alecto is one of the few single women we know. And I would really like to see Rodolphus try to tell Bellatrix to stay at home and make dinner.
But I also think that Voldemort probably thinks very lowly of women, stemming from his mommy issues, and probably doesn’t let women become Death Eaters unless there is a man vouching for them. We see that even though Bellatrix has obviously risen through the ranks to become his favorite Death Eater, he still derides her in front of all the Death Eaters in Chapter 1 of Deathly Hallows (pages 9 to 11), humiliating her by talking about Tonks’s marriage to Lupin. We don’t really see Voldemort mock other Death Eaters in the series, it’s usually just torture, but he really goes at Bellatrix and the Malfoys.
Women in Quidditch
One of the things that most clearly illustrates how far women have yet to go is the Hogwarts Quidditch teams. It’s frequently pointed out that there “were no girls on the Slytherin team” (CS110) – presumably, it’s because Slytherins come from wizarding families and have not yet embraced the slightly more progressive muggle attitudes about women playing sports. As for Ravenclaw, “Cho Chang, was the only girl on their team.” (PA259) And Cho Chang is an absolutely dismal player. We know very little about the Hufflepuff team – only four players are ever mentioned – and therefore can’t really judge them.
The Gryffindor team, at least, seems to have a decent ratio of girls to guys, though we don’t know if this is the norm. In almost all the rosters we see, there are three females (and except for Ginny substituting for Harry, always Chasers): Angelina, Alicia, Katie, and Ginny and Demelza later on. I think we’re to assume that Gryffindor has been fairly accepting of girls, since McGonagall played on the team in the 1940s. Certainly under McGonagall’s leadership of Gryffindor House, the team would be very girl-friendly, even having a female captain in Book 5 (Angelina Johnson).
But despite the Gryffindors’ inclusiveness, it’s plain to see that girls don’t have even nearly equal representation on the Hogwarts Quidditch teams. I wonder where the Holyhead Harpies do all their recruiting, since we see an average of one female Quidditch player graduate each year.
However, I think that the mere presence of Quidditch in the books is a huge point towards the HP-is-feminist side, because it is a co-ed sport. This is remarkable, since there are almost no co-ed sports in the muggle world; muggles seem to be under the impression women couldn’t compete on a level playing field with men.
Quidditch has men and women playing together with no differentiation. And it seemingly has always been that way – Quidditch Through the Ages has no mention of when Quidditch became co-ed, but it does say the Holyhead Harpies formed in 1203 (QA34), so it’s safe to assume Quidditch has always been co-ed. The need for an all-female team shows that women are underrepresented in Quidditch. But the women that do play are as good as any of the guys, and are treated as such.
This has even translated to Muggle Quidditch, which (like its roots) is a co-ed sport. And some of the best players I’ve seen are girls, finally given their chance to shine on an equal playing field with guys. My team has almost always been fifty-fifty guys and girls, and the girls have proven to be equal to the boys. The fact that the HP books have inspired a real-life co-ed sport is a huge accomplishment on Rowling’s part, in my opinion.
One point of feminism that occasionally gets forgotten is that it is about equality between genders. So, in the interest of fairness, we should take a look at how the men are portrayed in the HP series.
In my opinion, Jo does a fantastic job portraying the men, because none of them are obsessed with their own masculinity. A book I’m reading now, which shall remain nameless, has the protagonist forever worrying about how manly he is. HP is a refreshing change of pace, with guys who show their emotions and are never worried about how manly they are. I can’t recall a single instance of the word “manly” even being used in the series. There is also no derision of femininity in the series, no “you duel like a girl!” or riding brooms sidesaddle or anything like that.
Because of the element of magic, characters are evaluated based on magical prowess rather than physical strength. The two male characters who are the stereotypical cavemen – Crabbe and Goyle – both get a very negative portrayal in the series. In fact, they are portrayed far worse than the girly girls; Jo is clearly not appreciative of guys who are all brawn and no brains.
Moreover, for a story that takes place in a school, there is a surprising dearth of jocks as we know them. All of the guys, even the athletic ones (Harry, Cedric, Oliver, Krum, the Weasleys, Draco, etc.), are fairly intelligent. Many of them are also quite emotional – Harry, Draco, and Oliver are all shown crying in the series. And while the Quidditch players are understandably popular, they are not hero-worshipped at Hogwarts.
Since the impressive thing in the wizarding world is magical power, let’s examine the most powerful people. The five most powerful characters are Dumbledore, Grindelwald, Voldemort, Snape, and Bellatrix. So out of five, one is a woman and one is gay, so only three of the five fit into the stereotypical ideal of heterosexual masculinity. There is thankfully no correlation between masculinity and magical power here, so props to Jo for that.
There is certainly a lot about the HP books that can be interpreted as anti-feminist. The wizarding world has clearly not quite caught up to the muggle one, in this as in many other things, and it would appear that the expectation in the world is for women to be housewives. However, I anticipate that changing, as more enlightened muggle-born witches (like Hermione) just won’t stand for it.
The biggest point against is the very negative portrayal of all the single women in the series. This is very unfortunate, and one of the only things that I wish were different in the series.
Despite that, we cannot ignore how awesome the female characters in this series are. There is a wide variety of female characters with plenty of depth, not just token love interests. Hermione, Ginny, and Luna are fantastic role models for girls – tough, independent, and proactive. Having girls who don’t spend their time pining for men and fussing about their appearance is something more books should have. When my niece is a bit older, I will read HP to her in the hope that she grows up to be a Hermione.
So, my final verdict is that the HP books are ultimately a feminist text, because it presents women who are equal to (if not superior to) the men, and that is what feminism is ultimately about.