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.