The Battle of the Women: A Critical Look at the Molly/Bellatrix Duel (Rebuttal)
Fan Essay Rebuttal by Brian
Read “The Battle of the Women: A Critical Look at the Molly/Bellatrix Duel” here.
I’ll be brief:
There are some who would ascribe anti feminist associations to what many feel is an exciting and important event in the Harry Potter saga: the final duel between Molly Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange. While I can’t speak precisely to someone else’s viewpoint, I would assume this feeling is based around the idea that Bellatrix, a fierce and independent witch, is defeated by Molly, who seems to represent the more traditional values of a jobless woman at home raising her children.
I’m not going to go so far as to say I feel bad for those who hold this view, but I will say that I wish they could see the more positive message that this battle delivers.
The battle between Molly and Bellatrix is not so much one of Working Woman vs Stay At Home Mom as it is of a troubled and misguided female who is being taken advantage of vs a strong female role model who is the glue that holds together those around her. Bellatrix Lestrange—a married woman—is presented as worshipping a “man” who is known to be incapable of having feelings for anyone other than himself. She is so obsessed with pleasing this man that she does not once ever consider what might happen to her sister, nephew, or husband as a result, and she frequently puts herself in harm’s way for him. Rowling’s works are full of metaphors and symbols, but on a quite literal level, she here introduces us to a character who is in an abusive relationship and refuses to view herself as the victim of such.
Compare to that Molly Weasley. Yes, Molly is a stay at home mom, but that in and of itself is not anti feministic. Feminists believe that women should be able to choose their path in life without pressure from the outside world. Molly, who is throughout the series shown to be very adept at magic, has quite obviously chosen this life for herself, and her choice should be respected. Beyond that, she is never once presented in any manner other than as the strongest and most respected of characters. Powerful men like Sirius, Lupin, and Dumbledore frequently defer—or demur—to her judgment. Fred and George, arguably two of the wildest and most disrespectful characters in the books, are afraid of one person and one person only: Molly. (In fact, Angelina Johnson, a strong character in her own right but in many ways similar to Molly, is the chosen paramour of one of the twins, a nod to Molly’s influence.) Fred and George make fun of Voldemort himself when they invent You-No-Poo, but they are scared to death whenever Hermione threatens to tell Molly about their high jinks.
To say that the defeat of Bellatrix by Molly is an insult to feminism is actually an insult to Molly and Rowling. While some may cite Bellatrix’s position as Voldemort’s right hand (inaccurate, as Snape suggests and Voldemort’s wrath after the Gringott’s break-in confirms), it is truly Molly who is the standout female role model of the series. Harry, who lacks a mother and a firm female role model, instantly takes to Molly. When he trades sweets for a sandwich with Ron on the Hogwarts Express during their very first meeting, there is a distinct undercurrent of sadness, as Harry does not have anyone to make him sandwiches. He does not have a loving mother figure who is worried that he might get hungry on the train. The fact that Molly cooks and provides other sources of physical and emotional nourishment for her family is not something that should be held against her. She is the only witch presented in the books as strong enough to provide such sustenance for so many equally strong male characters: Petunia wilts at the slightest provocation; Hermione is initially not very confident (though eventually she grows to resemble Molly more); Minerva is stern, and certainly powerful, but she lacks the loving nature that Molly possesses and which is her true strength.
Minerva is almost certainly a more powerful witch than Molly. She is a tremendously capable user of magic, and if given the opportunity, there is little doubt that she would have been able to defend herself against Bellatrix quite handily. Her isolation is not exactly something to be desired, however. Molly may not be as magically adept, but she is strong in many other ways. As mentioned, she has the singular ability to control and manipulate the men around her in ways that are neither sexual nor disrespectful towards women. Bellatrix is a married woman, but she never once mentions her husband; she is always making reference to how devoted she is to Voldemort. In this way she is putting herself beneath Voldemort, which is undoubtedly how he sees her as well. Contrarily, no man who has ever come across Molly Weasley has ever assumed that he was her better. Sirius tried to go up against her—in his own house no less—, and even he was sent off with his tail between his legs (pun certainly intended). Thus it is fitting that Molly should be the one to send Bellatrix off.
Molly defeating Bellatrix is not traditional home roles defeating feminism. Molly defeating Bellatrix is feminism defeating women who are defined by the men in their life. It is strong female empowerment defeating abusive relationships. It is the choice to protect those around you and enact change in your environment defeating hate, greed, and servitude. But most importantly, it is love and respect defeating infidelity and a lack of family values. Bellatrix has no regard for family; she killed her cousin, virtually disowned her sister, and possibly abandoned her husband. Molly, on the other hand, represents love, honor, and the respect that a woman feels when she is protecting her family. To say that she is anti feministic is an insult to her life and life choices. She is one of the strongest, most convincing characters that Rowling created, and it is extremely fitting that it was she who defeated the embodiment of greed and familial disrespect that is Bellatrix Lestrange.
Ok, so maybe I wasn’t so brief after all.