Role of Women in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Film

Generally speaking, when it comes to the identification of the role of females within the Harry Potter series, critics are notably divided here. According to Anne Collins Smith, there are two different directions of interpreting J.K. Rowling’s work; the ones who see feminism supported and thoroughly depicted in the books and those critics who think of the Harry Potter series as being sexist (cf. Collins Smith 80).

The critics who point out the sexism within the Harry Potter series are directed by writers such as Elizabeth Heilman, Trevor Donaldson and Christine Schoefer.

Christine Schoefer’s article is titled Harry Potter’s Girl Trouble and was published on the release day of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It focuses on the alleged sexism within the Harry Potter series. She states that J.K. Rowling’s message to the reader of her series is that boys should be the leaders in the world and girls are hardly likeable and thus play the role of the supporters of the male supremacy – at best (cf. Schoefer).

Matching Christine Schoefer’s thoughts in many points, Elizabeth E. Heilman and Trevor Donaldson have published their essay From Sexist to (sort-of) Feminist: Representations of Gender in the Harry Potter Series. These publications are strongly based on the idea of the Harry Potter series being a reinforcement of gender stereotypes (cf. Schoefer, cf. Heilman and Donaldson 139). Here, Heilman and Donaldson especially criticise the “absence of powerful females” (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 139). Females always fulfil secondary positions within the books, concerning power and authority, and the Harry Potter series follow typical stereotypes for both males and females (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 139). It is stated that the book series contains far more important male characters: 115 females mentioned in the series are barely more than half as many characters as the 201 males which are included. Also, according to Heilman and Donaldson, the more dominant characters are almost exclusively male. Here, they especially refer to evil characters such as Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy, Wormtail and of course Lord Voldemort (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 141).

However, they admit that female characters become more and more important throughout the development of the series, even though they interpret this change as being too forced and unrealistic. Also, they point out that female characters of further importance are either stupid or gossipy like Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown who can only be found paired whispering to each other, irritating like obtrusive Daily Prophet reporter Rita Skeeter, eccentric Professor Trelawney or prissy Petunia Dursley, or giggly and very emotional like almost all the female pupils in Hogwarts (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 142, 149).

Especially the girly sounds all the Hogwarts girls make are often mentioned when the representation of females within the book series is examined. Christine Schoefer feels as if the girls are notably less aware of what is important because J.K. Rowling always depicts them as being overwhelmed by their emotions (cf. Schoefer).

Heilman and Donaldson focus on two special female characters of the series: Hermione Granger and Professor Minerva McGonagall. Taking these two characters into account, Christine Schoefer, states that “[n]o girl is brilliantly heroic the way Harry is, no woman is experienced and wise like Professor Dumbledore” (Schoefer).

Hermione Granger and McGonagall are described as “the helper females” (Heilman and Donaldson 146). This means that Hermione and Professor McGonagall solely follow the purpose of supporting and caring for the male main characters (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 146). Hermione is depicted as often frightened and unable to show real bravery and thus only the “enabler of Harry’s and Ron’s adventures, rather than an adventurer herself” (Heilman and Donaldson 146) as she supports them with the theoretic background to perform charms or brew potions (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 146-147). She has the brains but not the skills to really perform heroically but mostly acts rather sensible throughout the first three books of the series (cf. Schoefer).

Professor McGonagall plays the part of Professor Dumbledore’s supporter and she barely makes any decision without his consent (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 148). She is described as beady-eyed and rather unattractive, looking stiff and eager to follow all the rules but is still overwhelmed by her emotions in critical situations (cf. Schoefer).

Resulting from that, the authors interpret this powerlessness of these two women as an emphasis of the female weakness in the book series (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 149). This phenomenon in general is, according to Heilman and Donaldson, also shown in the traditional depiction of families which often consist of a working father and stay-at-home mothers; this can be observed for example in the Weasley family as well as in the Dursley family.

The relationships between men and women are determined by men, for example when Ron decides to see Hermione as a love interest or Harry makes a romantic step towards Ginny (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 153). Also, the constellation between Ron, Harry and Hermione is only fixed when the boys save Hermione from a troll in the first book, before that they did not like her at all and this relationship suggests some sort of Hermione’s dependence of the boys (cf. Schoefer).

Nevertheless, Heilman and Donaldson also insist on male characters of the book to be depicted stereotypically. They are strong, adventurous, never cry and are not giggly at all. Harry’s masculinity is sensible, beginning with his urge to save the whole world of wizardry and the will to achieve this goal on his own. Heilman and Donaldson state that there are only few male characters who struggle to fulfil their positions as powerful males such as Percy Weasley or Draco Malfoy. Also, there is only one male who depends on his looks, which is Cedric Diggory (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 156).

This phenomenon can be seen far more often when looking at females like Parvati Patil and Fleur Delacour. Also, there are male characters which show no masculinity at all, such as Professor Flitwick, Professor Slughorn or Gilderoy Lockhart. These men are emotionally sensitive, eager to have an attractive appearance and like to dress in colourful robes. These openly feminine traits suggest the stereotypical imagination of homosexuals, even if the reader knows that at least Gilderoy Lockhart is not gay at all (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 156-157).

Heilman and Donaldson conclude that J.K. Rowling willingly confronts the readers’ already existing stereotypes of females and males in order to gain their reading pleasure. According to them, readers should gain the ability to achieve common sense ideas about femininity and question gender ideologies, thus taking a side in the discussion and creating their own identity within the gender debate. As this idea is applicable on J.K. Rowling’s work, to Heilman and Donaldson, Harry Potter can have a sort of feminist message. However, the series should still be read critically as to them, the Harry Potter series themselves are not feminist at all (cf. Heilman and Donaldson 159).

Christine Schoefer, on the other hand, is quite harsh with her overall impression of the series. According to her, the readers secretly feel consoled by the stereotypical roles that are implied on the series’ characters as this depiction of males and females is traditional and well-known to the world and makes it unnecessary to step out of the readers’ comfort zone (cf. Schoefer).

Nevertheless, there are also critics who see a feminist message within the Harry Potter series, such as Ximena Gallardo-C. and C. Jason Smith, who point this out in their article Cinderfella or Katrin Berndt, who treats this question in her work Hermione Granger, or, A Vindication of the Rights of Girl. Both publications admit that Harry Potter sometimes follows stereotypical depictions of gender and especially females, however, it is stated that these stereotypes are often only visible on the surface of a character (cf. Berndt, 161, cf. Gallardo-C. and Smith 191).

This assumption implies that all the criticism around the sexist depiction of female characters within the Harry Potter series surely has some elements that are undeniable but must be seen from a more liberal point of view, regarding the different characters on a more intense level. Anne Collins Smith speaks of both ways of interpretation as “not completely black-and-white” (Collins Smith 81). J.K. Rowling’s characters are very ambivalent most of the time.

Looking at Harry, for example, it is wrong to assume that his masculinity is really that sensible. It is rather that Harry is a very compassionate person and feels the urge to rescue the ones he loves as he already had to cope with the loss of his parents in early years. Harry blacks out on a regular basis, an aspect which is often ascribed to females in literature (cf. Just, 68). Also, he does not hesitate to cry in front of Hermione other than critics try to depict him (cf. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 267). Of course he does not cry that often like girls do, but anything else would be unrealistic. There are male characters who struggle to fulfil their positions as powerful males, but not only Draco Malfoy and Percy Weasley do so. Harry Potter, who does not know if he can bear the burden of being the Chosen One (cf. Rowling Half-Blood Prince 541), Ron Weasley who struggles with the mission he promised to complete together with Harry and Hermione (cf. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 251), and even Professor Dumbledore who never forgot that he was not able to save his sister from Grindelwald (cf. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince 475-477) are further examples for main characters who are not always depicted as powerful males. Stereotypes can hardly be found here, even if it is undeniable that certain traits of characters are sometimes foreseeable.

Simultaneously, it can be argued, whether the depiction of female characters is really that stereotypical or rather a more realistic one. It must be taken into account how realistic a novel about teenagers would be if there were no giggling girls, as this is a usual reaction for adolescent female children. Also, the role of Professor McGonagall is not that subordinate as Heilman and Donaldson assume. She is the one leading the resistance movement in the Battle of Hogwarts (cf. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince 496) as well as she is the one who always takes care of Hogwarts whenever Professor Dumbledore is not there. Professor McGonagall speaks up to her personal worst enemy, Professor Umbridge (cf. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix 296-298), as well as trying to help Harry through running the gauntlet of Professor Umbridge without letting the Ministry of Magic know (cf. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix 230-231).

It is questionable whether the critics are always right with their assumptions on the relationships between males and females in the Harry Potter series. Especially Hermione’s position within the Golden Trio is often criticised after being analysed not too accurately which maybe falsifies her real role within the hierarchy of the Harry Potter series.

Taking a closer look at three different female characters within the Harry Potter universe in the following, the criticism on the series shall be investigated and, from a more differentiated point of view, be tested on its validity. A closer look will be given to their alleged stereotypical depiction as well as the importance of the character within the series. After that, it will be examined to what extent J.K. Rowling’s depiction of women is really sexist or feminist and if these two features really exclude each other within a novel.

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It’s due on Thursday Mid

The movies title: ” Ivory Tower”

This course is intended to give students a broad understanding of social problems from a sociological perspective, and how they are often interrelated. To this end, you are expected to write a 6-8 page final paper that illustrates your cumulative knowledge gained. This will serve as your final exam. For this paper, choose a contemporary piece of entertainment (released in 2008 or later) that highlights a particular social problem. You can select a film (not a documentary), album/music, television show (not a docu-series), etc. Write a reflective analysis, relating it to the various topics we have covered in class.

1. Start with evaluating the type of inequality your selected piece of entertainment focused on, including but of exclusive to:

  • Race & Ethnicity
  • Social Class & Poverty
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation

2. Then select the social institutions within with which these inequalities exist (more than one may apply), including but not exclusive to:

  • Family
  • Education
  • Work & the Economy
  • Health & Medicine
  • Media
  • Justice system

The goal is to discuss how each of these sections is interrelated, rather than looking at each individually. How do they connect to each other, intersect and overlap? Be sure to bring in key class concepts like power, privilege, and oppression.

Feel free to extend beyond your selection, if necessary. In other words, if the film/tv show, etc. doesn’t explicitly highlight how the social problem relates to various topics, you can still discuss the ways they relate outside of that purview.

The paper should be double-spaced using 12-point font. In addition to the content, students will be graded for correct grammar and spelling. Citations should be in MLA, APA or Chicago format (the reference page does not count towards the page limit).


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