Daily Archives: July 7, 2007

Remembering Harry: The Ladies

After reading the fourth Harry Potter book seven years ago (my goodness, is it that long ago?) I wrote some posts on child_lit complaining about female stereotypes. Some disagreed and some agreed. But one person (I thought she wrote to the list, but since I can’t find her post it must have been just to me) felt I was too hard on stay-at-home moms when I complained about Mrs. Weasley. Here’s what I wrote:

Female stereotypes. People have complained about this before, but I must say this book does nothing to allay those complaints. Even Hermione, much as I like her, comes off as the classic nerdy girl who turns Cinderella at the ball (instead of glasses to take off as usually happens she has bushy hair that was smoothed out for the ball. Wow. She becomes a beauty because of that? Those who’ve met me know I’ve got rather bushy hair myself and am always quite a beauty — joke, joke!!!) We have absolutely no sense of Cho other than that she is evidently a great Seeker and popular (always giggling with friends when mentioned in the text.) Ginny barely figures. Of the adults, the only one who is given much text-time is Mrs. Wesley, the ur-mother. But must she be quite so stereotypical? Why couldn’t Harry and Ron offer to help her as she fussed about in the kitchen, instead of leaving. She doesn’t go to the World Cup. And most annoying, when Dumbledore asks if he can count on her and Arthur regarding Voldemort it is Bill who interjects that he will tell his father; why can’t Mrs. Wesley have some sort of agency besides that of mothering? Rita Skeeter? What can I say? I guess it is a boy’s world, but I do wish there would be one female adult character on the lines of Sirius, Hagrid, even Snape. And Professor McGonagall is not nearly as well-formed in my mind as is Snape. (child_lit archives, July 12, 2000)

I don’t recall books five and six doing much to change my mind about this although I have since been persuaded to appreciate Mrs. Weasley more — her function in the stories as an ideal mother for a boy who yearns for his departed one. All of this came to mind after reading Katy Taylor’s, “The Greatest Story Ever Sold” in today’s Globe and Mail (thanks, Kelly, for the heads-up). She’s addressing all sorts of interesting issues in the piece (with some big children’s lit folks like Jack Zipes weighing in); has already infuriated a few fans (judging by the comments); and, with her final “Harry is bigger than Jesus … just because he is.”, line may have gotten a few others irritated as well. (Remember John Lennon in 1966?)

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