In Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book in the Harry Potter series, Ron’s twin brothers, Fred and George Weasley, open a magic store.
I’ve been waiting to get in this store for five books. Its creation is the life dream of the Weasley twins, and Harry even gave them his galleon winnings from the TriWizard Tournament so Fred and George would have the funds to open it. I was so excited to finally enter Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes at the beginning of Book #6 along with Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron. What a major disappointment. I was so bummed. Let’s just say this is not the store Margot Weasley would’ve come up with. Here’s the passage.
“Haven’t you girls found our special WonderWitch products yet,” asked Fred. “Follow me, ladies….”
Near the window was an array of violently pink products around which a cluster of excited girls was giggling enthusiastically. Hermione and Ginny both hung back, looking wary.
“There you go, said Fred proudly, “Best range of love potions you’ll find anywhere.
Ginny raised an eyebrow skeptically: “Do they work?” she asked.
“Certainly they work, for up to twenty-four hours at a time depending on the weight of the boy in question–”
“–and the attractiveness of the girl,” said George, reappearing suddenly at their side. “But we’re not selling them to our sister,” he added, becoming suddenly stern, “not when she’s already got about five boys on the go from what we’ve–”
“Whatever you heard from Ron is a big, fat lie,” said Ginny calmly, leaning forward to take a small pink pot of the shelf. “What’s this?”
“Guaranteed ten second pimple vanisher,” said Fred….
“What are those?”
She was pointing at a number of round balls of fluff in shades of pink and purple, all rolling around at the bottom of the cage and emitting high pitched squeaks…
“They’re really cute!”
“They’re fairly cuddly, yes.”
Pink, love potions, pimple cream, cute, and cuddly stuff for girls? Why is the girl section segregated out at all? Pink wasn’t even a “girl” color a hundred years ago, so why does it dominate marketing strategy in Diagon Alley? Why, in the magical world, for goodness sake, is a store selling products to kids as gender segregated as a Target in California? Don’t wizards get pimples? Is the point that guys just won’t care if they have a break out? They don’t need to be “attractive,” the efficacy of their love potion doesn’t depend on that?
At least Hermione and Ginny seem skeptical, right? They hang back, the products are “violently” pink. But why do the cool girls have to be the exception, different from the rest of their pathetic gender? The other females are shown in “excited” cluster, “giggling enthusiastically.” Ginny ends up joining the crowd, anyway, seduced by a cute, fluffy thing.
Why do my kids have to read gender cliches in a series as imaginative as Harry Potter? In the imaginary world, anything is possible: animals talk, kids fly, unicorns prance around. Can’t we show children a magical land where girls and boys are treated equally? Is that so hard? Why do we have to bring stereotypes to fantasy land?
I’m on Book 7 now, and I’ve got to write: If Harry Potter, a series with a male protagonist, titled for that male, where the author was told by her publisher to use initials to hide her gender, is considered feminist because a third of the characters in power positions are female, we have a long way to go before achieving gender equality in the fantasy world.
I feel like Rowling rooted her story in the present time and political climate. The marketing scheme in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes is devised by Fred and George, who are basically clever kids cashing in on what they see around them. I’m thinking the reader is invited to identify with Hermione and Ginny in their wariness of the “violently pink products.” As far as Harry Potter being a feminist work, I think that’s said because the author is a woman and because she portrays what I perceive to be more or less an accurate representation of women in society, both wizard and muggle. Sadly, realistic representations of girls and women is still considered “feminist.”
I typed something into Google and somehow wound up here. And I’m so very glad I did! T We’ve been conditioned to accept gender roles, like the ones in Harry Potter, and it’s only now after reading this post that I’m actually questioning some of the less obvious ones. Has there ever been a good female defense against the dark arts teacher? Ever? I remember as a kid the shock I got when reading Tamora Pierce’s book ‘The Woman Who Rides Like a Man’. It had never occurred to me that a girl could sword fight and save the handsome prince and do stereotypically ‘male’ things. It quite literally flabbergasted me. In a good way. And it’s frustrating how slow the change in publishing is happening. Great post, I’m glad I stumbled upon it 🙂
The ONLY female Defense Against Dark Arts teacher is Dolores Umbridge. Most of the power positions in Harry Potter: heads of school, head of Ministry, Quidditch stars are male. I’ve written several posts about this as I complete each book. It really bums me out because I was told this is a feminist series. I love it, it’s great, but its not feminist. I like Tamora Pearce a lot, except I do kind of resent how the imaginary world is STILL sexist i.e. the woman rides like a man. Why can’t she just be a great rider?
I’ve heard a bit about how the Harry Potter series can be read as a metaphor or allegory (Nazism, etc.) for various things that would suggest that the story is not about a utopian society but one where traditional structures have to be challenged (the house elves, mudbloods vs pure wizards) to work towards a better society. However, I think the books are pretty conservative. That is, they’re more about restoring order than change. Even though Minerva ends up in a power position in the last book, the epilogue emphasizes heterosexual couples and marriage as the “happy ending”.
Interesting. Has there been academic writing on gender and Harry Potter that you know of?
No, that kind of thing isn’t really where I concentrate my energy. But I’m sure there’s something out there.
I always thought that the “love potion” thing was morally questionable. If you are using magic to make people do things that they wouldn’t do by choice, well…in real life that would be more than just “funny” or a little “mischief”.
Do you know the Tiffany Achings series, by Terry Pratchett? A Young Adults fantasy series with a female protagonist, titled for that female, and where most of the characters in power positions are female (they are witches so…of course). The books have gorgeus covers (the British covers, at least), with the protagonist in central position. Although there are variant covers with the Nac Mac Feegles.
Agree about love potions! Voldemort’s mom and dad actually had the bad effects of that, his love wore off, she couldn’t deal with the fact that she had to enchant him to make him love her. I have not heard of that series but I’ll look it up.
You’re on book 7 and you haven’t realized that J.K. Rowling always differentiates between one kind of girl and another and that the books are full of stereotypical gender roles? Look at what all the male and female professors teach. Look at how people respond to Hermione.
I’ve written several blogs about sexism/ gender roles in Harry Potter, but so many people speak of the series as feminist and strong female characters, I keep thinking something will change. I’m saying, by now, there’s no way.
I know people disagree with me but I maintain that the best part about Harry Potter is the worldbuilding. She pulls in a lot of different fantasy traditions and creatures and manages to bring something original to them. I’ve never really read for the characters. And to be honest the books really started to drop in quality after book 4.
I don’t know if I’m just too Potter- headed for my own good, but I feel like Hermione, Ginny, and Luna – like. Characters have become stereotypes since the books, because they’re so popular. Whenever a new book comes out with a similar character, people immediately think of the harry potter character. And I don’t remember there being anyone like Luna or Ginny or even Hermione before the Books.