Reading is a magical activity that has the power to influence not only the way we feel when reading it, but the way we think, the way we act, and the way we see the world. For me, few series that have influenced me more than Harry Potter. It taught me about love and heartbreak, friendship and loyalty, bravery and courage, and there were even important lessons about feminism from Harry Potter.
Before I found my inner feminist through texts like The Bell Jar and "The Yellow Wallpaper", I was a nerdy little girl with her nose stuck in kids lit. I ate up stories with feminist heroes, like the Nancy Drew series and To Kill a Mockingbird, and I was thrilled whenever I discovered a girl on an adventure, like the sisters in Chronicles of Narnia series. When I found the Harry Potter books, I saw that even though the series was about a young boy wizard destined to save the world, there was something in the story for girls like me, too. Little did I know it was loaded with feminist lessons I would later live by.
Harry Potter can teach readers young and old about life, and here are 5 lessons it teaches us about feminism. Hermione Granger is only the beginning.
1. Girls And Women Aren't Just Damsels In Distress
The female characters in Harry Potter — whether we're talking about adventure seeking, troll chasing Hermione Granger or self-sacrificing, protective mothers Molly Weasley and Lily Potter — are all wonderful examples of women saving the day rather than needing to be saved themselves. These heroines are strong, smart, and brave, all of them fighting at the battle's front lines right alongside the men, and often times even better than the men. At its very basic level, the Harry Potter series teaches us a simple rule of feminism: women are strong and independent, and they don't need to be rescued by men.
2. A Woman Is Not Defined By Motherhood — Or Weakened By It
With the inclusion of inspiring role models like Molly Weasley and Minerva McGonagall, the Harry Potter series helps teach us that women can decide what kind of future is right for them, whether that means becoming a mother or not. Womanhood, motherhood, and family are concepts that will always be intertwined, but they don't have to define one another. Professor McGonagall, an independent and successful woman in her field, chose to remain childless throughout her life, but her "alternate" life choices did not make her any less happy, fulfilled, or woman-like. On the other hand, Molly Weasley decided to dedicate her life to her family and become a homemaker, but as we all know, her "traditional" life choices certainly didn't stifle her or make her weak. Neither woman was solely defined by their family, or lack thereof, but instead by their own strengths, passions, and desires. A woman is who she chooses to be, and that means whatever is right for her, not society.
3. When Given The Same Playing Field, Men And Women Are Truly Equal
The thing that separates the power of men and the power of women is not their strength, smarts, or ability, but their opportunity, and Harry Potter teaches us that. Whether it was the diverse staff at Hogwarts, the inclusion of many women in the magical government, or the fact that some of the best Quidditch players were women, Harry Potter was filled with example after example of how accomplished women can be when given the chance. They can, quite literally, fly past the men on the playing field, as long as they are allowed to play on it with them.
4. It Is Essential To Stand Up For What You Believe In
Hermione Granger is an amazing feminist hero for so many reasons, but one of the most admirable things about her is her passion for fighting injustice and voicing her opinions. Whether it was an argument with her two (male) best friends about what women can and can't do, or a full-blown campaign for equal rights for house elves, Hermione helped teach us how important it is to stand up for what you believe in, especially when it comes to social injustices (cough, women's rights).
5. Women Can Be Whatever They Want To Be
The female characters in Harry Potter were everything from stay at home mothers to educators to reporters to professional sports players, and so many other things in between. From Molly to Ginny to, yes, even Reeta Skeeter, the cast of Harry Potter were all great examples of all the things women can be, which is literally anything. There is no limit to what a woman can do when given the equal same opportunities men are given.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures; Giphy (5)