When I was a kid, the idea of being a Slytherin was literally my worst nightmare. If someone had been like, "Would you rather get hit by a bus, or find out you were a Slytherin?" I'd probably have just splayed my 11-year-old self out on the street and been like, "Welp, this was nice." To this day, my sympathy for Albus Severus Potter and his Slyther-phobia runs deep. Slytherin is by far the most prejudiced against house in the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling focuses solely on the evil characters that the house produced, representing it to be such a black and white situation that Slytherin itself represented the concept of evil. The rest of us non-evil Slytherins never had a chance. Put simply: being a Slytherin ain't easy.
Like a lot of Potterheads who will never outgrow this series, I took the Pottermore quiz when it first came out a few years ago. My worldview and sense of self was immediately shattered when I was asked to choose between Hufflepuff and ... Slytherin . I balked, and immediately chose Hufflepuff, vowing to never think about it again.
But I think about it, guys. I think about it ALL the TIME. I think about it when I spend my Friday nights writing my geeky novel instead of going out with friends. I think about it when I continually avoid my hometown peeps in favor of the Original Squad that is my family. I think about it when I walk around New York and egotistically daydream about being famous, respected, admired (and on Taylor Swift's Instagram).
And at some point I had to check myself, and accept the truth: that I am an extremely progressive, decidedly dorky, annoyingly optimistic ... Slytherin.
I don't bring it up a lot, because I remember all too well the junior high days when saying "I'm a Slytherin" was basically the equivalent of tattooing the words "social deviant" onto your forehead. And again, as a Slytherpuff, I've got feet in two houses and am basically still spiraling in an existential crisis. But the one thing I have learned from this extremely dramatic post-pubescent Potter turmoil is that I have no reason to apologize for my Slytherin ways. The qualities of the Slytherin house that were used for evil are the very qualities that make me the person I am and the life that I lead — with friends who are dear to me, in a job that I love, and pursuing things that make me happy. The next time you judge a Slytherin based on the wrongdoings of the past, consider the following:
We Are Loyal AF, But We Aren't Savages — We Respect Our Own Loyalties As Well As Everyone Else's
Because we are so committed to the people that we love and the causes that we support, however few or many are included in that number, we respect the bounds of loyalty. We respect people's privacy when they don't want to talk ill about their families. We respect our friends' obligations to their other friends, even if we wish they would hang out with us instead. We respect the boundaries of our jobs and the dynamics of our offices. All of our passion and all of our love are funneled into the few things we value most, which makes us the most baller family members, friends, partners, and workers on the planet — but most importantly, makes us hyper aware of ever putting someone else in a situation where they feel their own loyalties are being compromised.
Yes, We Want Your Respect — But We Don't Want Anything We Haven't Earned
Making fun of Slytherins for being ambitious is just one more way we shame ourselves for being open and honest about what we want in life. It's the exact kind of attitude that prevents us from sharing our ideas, that makes us seem smaller in other peoples' eyes, that gets us passed up for opportunities that could change our lives. We are already a generation that is hella guilty of diminishing our worth and feeling like imposters every time we get even a shred of success. Why shouldn't we just own up to our hard work? Why shouldn't we take credit for what resulted from our struggles? The job market's rough enough as it is — don't make it harder on yourself by shrinking away from the respect you deserve.
Competitiveness Like Ours Is The Reason The World Progresses In The First Place
Call us cutthroat, tell us we have no chill, do what you gotta do to disrespect the hustle — but ultimately you have to understand that at the end of the day, humanity would not have advanced to nearly the degree it has if we weren't all historically hell-bent on one-upping each other as a species. How the hell do you think we got a man on the moon? Because we wanted to tell the rest of the world to suck it. How do you think you got all those fancy, handy apps on your phone? Because someone wanted to make a crap ton of money developing and selling them before the other guy did. Hard work yields rewards, and yeah, we go after those rewards — rewards that benefit everybody, not just us. So ... you're welcome.
Our Instinct For Self-Preservation Can Be Inherently Selfless
In the Harry Potter series, we see this characteristic for self-preservation play out in ugly ways. We see people kill to protect themselves and their own. We see them turn a blind eye to people in pain, to the massive wrongs of Wizard Hitler, just to keep themselves alive. This is the exact kind of brutality we associate with self-preservation, when really, if you're looking for it in more subtle ways — and from the right people (aka, not Death Eaters) — you'll understand that self-preservation is actually borne out of a want to be selfless.
The kind of self-preservation I'm talking about is the desire to take care of your own sh*t so somebody else doesn't have to. We are fiercely independent, and determined not to be a burden on anybody. We keep ourselves out of trouble to keep everyone else out of trouble, and to ensure that when the time comes, we have the resources and ability to take care of the people we love and want to protect most. We don't see a lot of that in the books, because there was simply no room in the narrative to see what the non-evil Slytherins were up to, but given the chance that is how a positive sense of self-preservation can play out.
In Summary — Just Because Our Qualities Have Been Used For Evil In The Past Doesn't Mean They Can't Be Used For Good
For so long we have viewed Slytherins negatively because we have seen their attributes used for bad things, but the truth is that all attributes can be used for bad things. We saw the bravery of a Gryffindor used for evil in Peter Pettigrew, the cunning of a Ravenclaw used for it in Professor Quirrell. It just so happened that within the Harry Potter-verse, Slytherins were mostly of a descent and heritage that was already predisposed toward evil — but I'm not talking about Slytherins in the Harry Potter-verse. I'm talking about modern day, just-living-their-human-lives Slytherins, who use their traits for good or for bad with the same variation that any Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Gryffindor would. In this day and age, and living in a world where Slytherins are not inherently prejudiced the way they are in the Harry Potter series, we are no more deserving of public derision than any other house.
In short, haters — you know you love me. XOXO, Slythergirl.
Images: Warner Bros; Giphy