MuggleCast 634 Transcript
Transcript for MuggleCast Episode #634, Analyzing the Representation of Women in Harry Potter
Laura: Welcome to MuggleCast, your weekly ride into the wizarding world fandom. This week is a week for the books, because the girls are taking over, so get ready to party with us this week…
Chloé: Woo! [laughs]
Laura: … and also have a lot of meaningful discussion about representation of women in the wizarding world. This is super timely that we have this panel of lovely ladies together, but it’s also worth pointing out that we’ve never had an all-women led episode of MuggleCast in the 630-something episodes that we have. [laughs]
Chloé: Andrew, Eric, and Micah found dead.
Laura: Oh no, the chaos is already kicking off.
Chloé: Yeah, I’m here, so…
Laura: Chloé is like, “In case anyone didn’t know, I’m here for the girls episode.”
Chloé: To bring the chaos, yes. [laughs]
Laura: But I thought to get us started today to meet everyone on the panel… secret for all the listeners: You know everyone on this panel already, so you’re going to be really, really happy to hear who all we have with us today. And to do this, we’re going to go around and do some intros and share our fandom IDs, so your House, your favorite movie, and your favorite book.
Meg: I’m Meg, my House is Ravenclaw. And I was just on a MuggleCast episode in July, a Chapter by Chapter for Prisoner, and so I introduced myself then, but as a reminder, my favorite book and movie are both Goblet of Fire. So I was really excited that the Goblet of Fire commentary happened because that movie is just a good time.
Chloé: It was so good.
Laura: And I just want to take a moment to shout out, Meg also received another plug on the show recently because she is spearheading the revival of MuggleCast transcripts.
Meg: It’s true.
Laura: So allow me to thank you, Meg, because it is such an undertaking, but our listeners are so excited about it.
Meg: Oh, thank you for saying that.
Laura: And it is an important move in the right direction in terms of making our show more accessible.
Chloé: We love accessibility.
Meg: I love it too! I love accessibility. I love the orderliness of having transcripts for every episode. But I’m now going to be hyper aware of everything I say…
[Chloé and Laura laugh]
Meg: … because I’m like, “I’m going to have to transcribe that.” If I don’t finish the sentence, I’m going to have to put in that ellipsis there.
Chloé: Oh my God. Now I’m terrified of what my speech is going to look like written out. [gasps] Meg!
Laura: It’s fine, it’s fine.
Meg: It’s going to be really nice. It’s going to be really nice, I promise.
Laura: They’ll be like, “Oh, this looks like the MuggleCast social copy. That must be Chloé.”
Chloé: [laughs] Yes, everyone knows exactly what I sound like and speak like. Yeah, it’s true.
Pam: Hi, I’m Pam. I can’t remember the last time I was on, but it was probably a couple of years. I also co-host Millennial with Laura and Andrew, so shout-out to anybody that’s listening to this that also listens to our other show. My House is Gryffindor, and my favorite movie – I don’t know if this is controversial – but it’s Prisoner of Azkaban.
Chloé: No, it’s not. Not in my opinion.
Pam: Oh, really?
Chloé: I think it’s gorgeous.
Meg: That’s not controversial.
Pam: Well, with Prisoner, too, I don’t think anybody that was a fan when it first came out actually enjoyed it, because there’s so much that’s missing. But that is the movie in the franchise that’s grown on me the most, so it’s now my favorite. And my favorite book is Order of the Phoenix.
Chloé: Yeah, that movie is gorgeous to watch.
Meg: It’s so pretty.
Pam: Yeah, it’s also… I don’t know if you all ever talk about this, but something that really strikes me is that Prisoner of Azkaban is directly responsible for setting so much of the tone as far as the imagery we’re familiar with in the wizarding world.
Chloé: So true.
Pam: And it’s so incredible that what Alfonso Cuarón was able to do with the look and the style in Prisoner is what ended up sticking, as opposed to what Chris Columbus started with.
Chloé: Thank God.
Pam: So I could talk about Prisoner of Azkaban the movie for hours. I love it so much.
Chloé: The costuming too. The costuming for me is such a big transition in POA, and it’s so much more lived-in and realistic. No, I’m all for it.
Laura: Yeah, I agree. And I just have to say, this is such a great start to the show, because oftentimes I feel like I’m on an island when it comes to defending the POA movie.
Laura: Now, I will say, it’s not…
Chloé: The boys don’t get it. [laughs]
Laura: I mean… I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I love my Muggle boys. But it is great to hear that other people feel the same way I do about that movie. Again, it’s not a perfect movie, but none of the movies are, and I think tonally, it just really set the right direction for the rest of the series. But all of that said, Chloé, you want to go ahead and fandom ID? I know people already know our fandom IDs. We put Meg and Pam on the spot; we gotta.
Meg: I want a refresher.
Chloé: My name is Chloé. I am the Social Media Manager; I have been on MuggleCast quite a bit. My House is Slytherin, and I’m damn proud. My favorite book and my favorite movie are also Goblet of Fire, and that’s not just because of Fleur, but definitely a big part of it. Yeah, I’m so excited. This is a dream come true, having everyone on here.
Main Discussion: Femininity in Harry Potter
Laura: So I do want to take a moment to actually talk about the inspiration for this episode, because Chloé, this was your idea. It’s something that we’ve been chatting around in the background for several months at this point about timing and getting the right people together to do an all girls MuggleCast. So could you share a little bit more about your idea?
Chloé: Yeah, we threw it around, God, a few months ago. Laura and I did an episode together, and people were like, “That was hot, loved it, want Laura and Chloé and more women on the pod.” And I was like, “Yes, say less, let’s make it happen, girls’ takeover.” And then it got mentioned a few times, and I feel like Goblet of Fire is also the best time because I feel like we actually really start seeing the topics we’re going to talk about today. So I’m excited and really grateful that all of you were so game.
Laura: Yeah, super stoked about it, and really excited for this discussion. Chloé did a great job fleshing out the discussion here. And as we get into it, Chloé, I know you said that you picked this panel of women because we’re all girls’ girls. For anyone who’s not aware of what a girls’ girl is, could you fill us in?
Chloé: A girls’ girl to me is someone that supports women always, and empowers women, and lifts other women up. Someone who doesn’t feel like they need to compete against other women. I feel like that’s a trope we see a lot in especially 2000s media, women pitted against each other, the idea of the mean girl. But everyone on this panel is a girls’ girl, and that is exactly what I wanted. It’s also a feeling. You know when you meet someone in the wild, and you’re like, “Wow, I feel so supported by you and your energy is so good”? A girls’ girl is someone you meet in the bathroom of a bar, and she tells you that your hair looks pretty and then you feel really good about yourself. That’s the feeling we’re trying to invoke through this panel.
Laura: Yeah. And I felt that, too, immediately when we hopped on, even before the show started. Yeah, it’s just a different feeling to be in a discussion with all women. Again, I love my boys; they’re great, and I would never change my team. But there’s just something special and unique about being with your community, so I really appreciate the idea. But with that said, you alluded, Chloé, to the idea that a lot of this discussion is going to be centered around the portrayal of femininity in the Harry Potter series, I think with a special focus on Goblet of Fire. Could you intro this first topic for us?
Chloé: Sure. We’re talking about the demonization of femininity in Harry Potter and the “I’m not like other girls” pandemic.
Chloé: Yeah, sigh. Something super prevalent in 2000s media, TV, books, movies. I think we’re definitely seeing a shift, but it’s something that we grew up with. And I definitely wanted to talk about it just because obviously we’re all Harry Potter experts and we love it so much. But also, as someone who considers herself to be very feminine and very girly, and not feeling like that was actually good or acceptable growing up because I wasn’t going to be taken as seriously or it wasn’t as good as the women that we idolize when we’re growing up – like the Hermiones of the world – and even for example Mean Girls, the idea that feminine is mean and feminine is vain. So I’m excited to deep dive into it. For all my girly girls, you are valid. I’m taking you seriously. I’m excited to talk about how it’s empowering to be feminine, despite maybe what JKR says.
Laura: Yeah, and how femininity is not just one thing.
Laura: It’s multifaceted, and femininity can present in a host of different ways. I mean, just to put it out there, I feel like I do not fit the “girly girl” aesthetic as much as maybe you feel like you do, Chloé, right? But it doesn’t make either one of us any more or less woman.
Chloé: And we’re all equally feminine, right? Just in different ways.
Laura: Yeah. Let’s talk about growing up and who we resonated with as kids reading these books, or at least when we were younger. Was there a particular character that growing up we really wanted to be like that person?
Pam: For me, it usually wasn’t the women on the page. But I really appreciate, Laura, that you brought up the fact that you don’t present as feminine, for example, as Chloé does, who self-identifies as a girly girl. For me, growing up, I was just really self-conscious for a number of reasons. I’m Mexican-American, for anyone who doesn’t know, and I grew up in a predominantly white community, so already, I was predisposed to feel other, like the other girl, right? Or feeling like I’m not like the other girls, because the other girls were white, and they were more delicate, and they were thinner. And so escaping into something like Harry Potter… and I think a lot of women fall into this trap; probably a lot of young girls that read the series when they were coming out alongside a few of us as well fall into this trap of feeling insecure and not pretty enough, and so then they do identify with the women in this series who are respected beyond just what they bring as far as looks goes. And so while I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, what I do think is bad is pitting them against each other. Because that’s not fair, right? Somebody that’s outwardly beautiful can still be bookishly smart, like Hermione, for example.
Pam: But somebody that is super feminine… I definitely present more feminine now than I did when I was growing up, but I’m also a really big baseball fan. Somebody that wears dresses a lot – I love wearing dresses – can still know about baseball and enjoy it, not because they want to be a cool girl that’s in with the boys, but because they genuinely enjoy professional sports.
Chloé: Yes, let women be multifaceted and not just one thing. And I feel like that is one of the main issues with the way that women are written in Harry Potter. It’s like, you’re either a mother, or you’re helping a man, or you’re a pick-me girl, if I’m honest. And women are so many things and are allowed to be so many things, but I feel like each woman in this story is actually put in a category and they’re very rarely allowed to leave it, even though they are so deep in their characterization. Hermione is really smart, but she also is beautiful. There’s no denying both.
Pam: But even when they are allowed to leave – like Hermione gets to leave in Goblet of Fire at the Yule Ball – there’s consequences to that, and the consequence to that is that she has a falling out with Ron, who doesn’t know how to deal with it, and so then she reverts back after one night. I mean, we’ll never know why she does it; it probably just isn’t her vibe. But she wanted to feel beautiful and like a princess for one night, and then he had to go and ruin it because she wasn’t the Hermione that he sees Monday through Friday, every day.
Laura: And he was jealous.
Pam: And he was jealous!
Chloé: Yeah, and confused.
Meg: I think a lot of things in this doc that we’re going to find – especially about women being mean towards each other – a lot of it comes back to their relationships with men, a lot about fighting over men, men being involved… but to answer your original question, Chloé, I definitely felt a kinship with Hermione when I first read the books. I first read them when I was eight, so it was just when I was about to start the awkward years of being a preteen. And I never felt very pretty. I was never popular. I was very shy. Once puberty hit me, I had terrible acne. It was just a lot to deal with, and so reading about Hermione with crazy bushy hair and big teeth, that was comforting. It was like, “Oh, she’s not a beauty queen, but she has other traits that make her a worthwhile character.” But then Emma Watson was cast, who’s a beautiful human specimen…
Pam: I know.
Meg: But I think in the movies they did a pretty good job of… you can’t hide her beauty, but they tried.
Chloé: They tried, maybe in the first and the second, and then gave up. [laughs]
Meg: But yeah, I mean, when you’re watching Goblet, and she comes down the stairs and she’s beautiful, everyone’s like, “Oh my God.” She looks just as beautiful as she always has. This isn’t really anything super new.
Pam: Not to bring in another franchise, but it’s like in Twilight when Bella turns into a vampire. It’s like, well, Kristen Stewart was already beautiful, so how are you going to make her more beautiful? This is so funny.
Meg: It’s every makeover movie. It’s Princess Mia in Princess Diaries. It’s She’s All That. You take off the glasses…
Pam: Fix the hair, relevant to Hermione.
Meg: … and they’re beautiful. And they just needed a man to take off the glasses.
Pam: Yeah. [laughs]
Chloé: Daniel Radcliffe actually even said in an interview, like, “Emma has always been beautiful. And she looked really great, but it wasn’t a huge shift.” And also the idea, in the books and the movie, that curly hair isn’t as beautiful and needs to be tamed and needs to be changed…
Chloé: [laughs] You can talk about it more than I can.
Pam: I can, because actually, in the pandemic, I went back to my natural hair texture. But I feel like that specifically – and Laura can probably speak to this, too – is a testament to just the late ’90s and early 2000s when we were all straightening our hair within an inch of our lives. I just gaslit myself for ten years into thinking that my hair was straight, and it’s only now in the last three years that I’ve been taking better care of it. And it’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s why that one spot in the back of my head never wanted to straighten out.” It’s because I don’t have straight hair. I have curly hair. [laughs]
Chloé: Your hair is gorgeous. And we always want what we don’t have, right? Because growing up, I was like, “Oh my God, I want curls so bad.”
Meg: Yeah, I’m sitting here like, “I always wanted that volume.”
Pam: Yeah, it’s like, curly hair is trendy now; everybody wants to have curly hair. And there’s gatekeeping of what constitutes as curly, which is so dumb. But yeah, when Hermione was born as a character, I guess curly hair was just not chic.
Chloé: Well, that was a thing in the 2000s.
Laura: Like you, Chloé, I was just thinking the same thing: You always want what you don’t have. I will say, when I was a kid reading Harry Potter, I specifically wanted curly hair because of Hermione. [laughs]
Chloé: I love that for you.
Pam: Was she your character you wanted to be like?
Laura: Yeah. And I mean, I felt, I think, a kinship to her because again, she was someone who didn’t necessarily fit in with all of her peers. And I think a lot of us more growing up, we feel that way. As a kid, I was definitely a lot more tomboyish, and I was very into school and academics at the same time. So when it came to fitting into traditionally girly female tropes, I didn’t feel like I belonged there. So I really identified with Hermione, and because of that I wanted curly hair, and I used to desperately try to curl it and damaged it by using crimpers and all kinds of stuff on it.
Pam: Oh, not the crimpers! [laughs]
Chloé: I still use a crimper every once in a while. I’m not going to lie.
Pam: The irony of me straightening my hair and then trying to use a crimper after. [laughs] Please.
Chloé: Oh, that is peak millennial behavior. [laughs]
Pam: Tiny Pam had no idea.
Laura: But to get us… oh, go ahead.
Chloé: I was just going to say, I actually felt the exact same way that you did with Hermione in terms of not fitting in growing up, but with Luna, just because I’ve never considered myself technically very book smart. But in elementary school, I had no friends, and I read alone my books on the playground, and felt very alone and very lonely. And I really grasped onto Luna because the idea that someone could have all these different interests and people think that it’s weird, that was something I experienced growing up. And I wanted so badly to be Luna. I think that hasn’t changed; I think I always aspire to be like Luna. But yeah, I mean, I think there’s so many characters, especially the female ones, where you feel almost like there’s a part of you that doesn’t fit in, so you latch onto these characters that have that same experience.
Meg: Yeah, the arrival of Luna was important in a lot of ways, because before that, before Order, if you were reading the books and you wanted to identify with a female character, it was either Hermione or Ginny. It was basically like, “Do you like books, or do you like sports?”
Chloé: Yeah, sports. [laughs]
Meg: And then Luna came along, and it was like, oh, here’s finally a new character…
Chloé: You can be weird.
Meg: You can be weird! You can be the weird girl!
[Chloé and Pam laugh]
Meg: That was very important to me, my little artistic fifth grade self. I was like, “I can be weird?”
Chloé: Exactly! The creatives, we really latched onto Luna.
Meg: The creatives, yes.
Laura: Well, to move us along into the meat of the discussion, we have it noted here that a lot of JKR’s most unlikable characters tend to be strongly associated with overtly feminine characteristics, even if they’re not female characters, I’ll observe. Think about Lockhart, for example.
Chloé: [gasps] Oh, that’s such a good point.
Laura: So you’ve got characters like, Chloé, you brought up Rita Skeeter as an example. What were some of the others?
Chloé: Oh my lord. Rita Skeeter. Umbridge, and I think Pam has some really good points about her. Petunia as well. But yeah, it was so funny; I was joking in the Discord with Court, one of our patrons, a few months ago. And we were saying like, “If I was in JKR’s world, I would be evil. Everything about me would be evil, because of my personality, and the fact that I love pink.” And just being super girly for her, for some reason, is evil. It’s very weird.
Laura: And you’re a Slytherin.
Chloé: And I’m a Slytherin. Yeah, no, I’m, basically Umbridge, actually.
[Chloé and Laura laugh]
Chloé: Likes pink, is a Slytherin.
Meg: Alternatively, she would love me. I’m skinny, and I’m white, and I have brown hair, and I’m a Ravenclaw, and I don’t wear makeup. I would be on the page as probably a love interest to a character.
Laura: Yeah, that’s not your entire purpose in life.
Laura: And Meg, you had brought up… I think it’s later in the doc, but I also thought it was really relevant to this question around the way that these overtly feminine characters are portrayed in a negative light, but at the same time, some of the characteristics that are assigned to them are interesting. Would you care to tell us more?
Meg: Yeah, you notice throughout the series that the really feminine interests, the Divination and the high emotions, are really, really criticized. But in a lot of characters, it’s like if you don’t look feminine, that’s just as bad. We have Rita Skeeter being described as having mannish hands, and Millicent Bulstrode has a heavy jaw. And it’s like, acting feminine is bad, but if you don’t look feminine, that’s also bad. That also means you’re an evil character. But then with Rita Skeeter, her fake nails are pointed out, so it’s like, but you can’t try to look feminine. You have to be feminine, but don’t try to. It’s basically America Ferrera’s speech in the Barbie movie.
Chloé: Yeah, you can’t win. You can’t win. And also, if you try to be feminine, you have to be effortlessly feminine. Effortlessly, perfectly. Yeah, because if you’re Fleur, for example – who is described as the prettiest person we meet in the series, whatever – she’s so vain to everyone. Even though she’s very talented, it’s not talked about. All that’s talked about is the fact that she cares about her looks. It’s a lot. There’s no winning for the women in this series, and the women of the world, if we’re completely honest.
Pam: Yeah, I don’t think that she meant to do it. But to Meg’s point about a lot of these women that clearly put an effort into their appearance having mannish features, more masculine characteristics, that’s also such a reflection of the real world. And also, this happens a lot, too, particularly with plus size women who often are held to much higher standards and can’t just go out in effortless athleisure wear without being thought of or seen as sloppy, for example. And I think the same can be said for real-life women who maybe have more masculine energy but want to be treated like the women they are. My best friend is 6’2″ and she talks about this quite a lot, how she feels like because she’s so tall, she’s not seen as delicate, so men will not hold the door open for her…
Pam: … as much as they would for someone like me, who’s 5’5″, so I don’t know. I really don’t think that JKR meant to, but in a weird sort of roundabout way, she ended up holding up a mirror to a lot of what is wrong with society and their expectations of women.
Chloé: Liza said in the Discord, “My thought now as I listen: These characters reveal the author’s self-hatred.” And it’s so true, but it’s also like… I don’t know if… JKR definitely wasn’t thinking about it, but it’s such social commentary about just how we view women in this world. And what you were saying, Pam… I had this crazy experience at LeakyCon. Obviously, I had the most amazing time meeting listeners. But because I’m super feminine and I come across a certain way, they thought I was going to be much shorter. I’m 5’9″, so I got the comment five or six times, “Oh my God, you’re so much taller than I thought you were,” which is hilarious, because it’s like, oh, we make assumptions based on people’s personalities or based on their looks, about… we put them in boxes. And that’s literally what we do reading this book and in real life, and JKR just shows us the mirror of what we do.
Pam: Yeah. And I can’t remember which one of you brought up the internalized hatred; I think that that is something that can be said for all women. And what it really boils down to is what you decide to do with that, if you decide to learn and grow from that and become a better person because of it. I think that it’s very clear from the discussion we’ve already had that all four of us are already putting in the work to disband those preconceived biases.
Chloé: We’re not immune, though.
Pam: Exactly, yeah. But we’re not immune, and a testament to that is just us talking about what it was like growing up; we all basically admitted to feeling like at one point we were not like the other girls, but character growth is realizing that you don’t have to be different or put somebody else out to stand out.
Chloé: I’m exactly like the other girls. Period. [laughs]
Pam: Yeah, I like pumpkin spice lattes. I’m exactly like the other girls.
Meg: I want to be like the other girls!
Pam: Yeah, exactly.
Chloé: Yes, I want to be like the other girls.
Laura and Pam: Yeah.
Laura: Well, and I think a really important thing to point out there is what our own perceptions were of these characters as children, because I’ll be honest, from my vantage point, like I said, I was definitely more tomboyish and also more bookish than I was into “traditional girly” things. And definitely, when I was younger and I was reading these books, I absolutely identified with the negative characterizations of the really overly feminine characters, because it was reinforcing what society was telling me already. And that just goes to show, like has already been mentioned here, none of us are immune to this kind of thing. And if we’re artists, the way that we produce art, it is a mirror that reflects who we are and our interpretation of the world and the world’s impact on us. But that’s also true in the way that we interpret art, right? So I think that’s just a really important reminder to carry through the rest of this conversation. And then anytime we’re interpreting works of art, just to remember that your interpretation brings with it to the table your own sets of strengths and opportunities to better yourself as a person.
Chloé: Well, I’m thinking about… this is something people say, but the idea that you get annoyed with other people because they’re showing the worst parts of yourself, or the parts of yourself that you don’t like. And when we’re doing literary analysis, same thing; we see the things in our life or how we act that we don’t like, and we don’t like it in another character, and that’s really important too. There’s something so attractive about being that “I’m not like other girls,” right? Because she’s cool, and she’s different, and boys like her. And I think that – and tell me if I’m being too bold – I think all of us have wanted to be that at one point in our life.
Chloé: Or even attempted to be with boys, putting other women down around men to feel better and to feel like you got their approval. That is absolutely a thing I did. And it’s a thing that Hermione and Ginny and other characters do in these stories, and now looking back, it’s easier… but when I was reading it as a young person, I’m like, “Ooh, I can’t believe she did that,” when I was doing the same thing.
Laura: Yeah, “I would never.” And then it’s like, well, uh, probably did.
Laura: We’re all products of the society that we grew up in. But let’s talk about… I know we’ve touched on this a little bit when we mentioned Divination, but talking about the demonization of feminine interests we see sometimes in the books, whether it comes to courses or just general interests. Also, the theme of some women not wanting to spend time around other women and forging really strong friendships there. What are y’all’s thoughts on those topics?
Chloé: Please spend time with other women. That’s my first other reaction [laughs] is please spend time with other women.
Meg: Yeah, it’s a way to better yourself, to see other women, how their different lived experiences compare and contrast to yours. And it really is such a shame that in the books we see Lavender and Parvati, who love Divination, they just get made fun of.
Chloé: It’s awful.
Meg: Especially by Hermione, who tries to show off that she’s so much better than that, so much so that she drops the class and storms out. And then when Trelawney is sacked in Order of the Phoenix and Firenze takes over, we get that scene in the Great Hall where Lavender and Parvati are talking, like, “We’re so excited for Divination. Hermione, aren’t you upset that you dropped it now?” And she says something like, “I never liked horses that much anyway.”
Laura: I know.
Chloé: Oh my God, that is the craziest scene.
Meg: She’s like, “I’m still better than you in this regard.”
Chloé: Coming from a Muggle-born who has faced discrimination, right? To knock someone… but also the fact that Firenze is immediately considered a better teacher, even because he’s… and I’d argue that part of that is because he’s a man.
Meg: Yeah, he’s not silly, fruity Professor Trelawney.
Chloé: Yeah, well, the thought that someone who is a half-breed – which is considered less than in the wizarding world – who’s a man, is considered immediately better than Trelawney, who is gifted. Yes, she’s cuckoo bananas, and we’ve talked about that at length, but she does have the sight. And it’s super interesting. I will say, something that’s super ironic is recently I watched Emma Watson’s “What’s in my bag?” Vogue video. That girl carries around tarot cards, and pulls tarot cards every single day. Emma Watson would be a Divination girly; she would be with Lavender and Parvati enjoying that class. So I think that is so crazy. And I do love that fun little fact. [laughs]
Meg: And considering Hermione, it would just have been so nice to have seen Hermione have a better relationship with these two girls that she slept in a room with every single night. They must have been talking somewhat. It would have been… and you see the Gryffindor boys all have such a strong bond. It just would have been so nice to see her Hermione have that with her own dorm mates.
Chloé: I think it’s probably both ways, though. I do want to give Hermione grace. I wonder if Lavender and Parvati left Hermione out. Or maybe there was the case where they tried to get Hermione involved. It seems like Lavender and Parvati actually knew more about what Hermione was doing in the earlier books; they know that Hermione goes to the bathroom to cry after Ron insults her, for example. I wonder if they drifted apart because Hermione becomes close to Ron and Harry, and then Lavender and Parvati stop inviting her to things. I think that’s probably a two-way street, and we see that a lot with women.
Laura: Yeah. Well, and I think, too, we have to throw out the possibility that maybe the two of them were just objectively really annoying to be around. Both things can be true, right?
Chloé: Yes, yes.
Laura: There can be nothing wrong with them as characters, as people. And we don’t have to demonize their “girlishness,” but that doesn’t mean that they’re not annoying sometimes, and it’s not because they’re girly, even though I think the text might provide that interpretation. Both things can be true. I’m a fan of multiple truths.
Chloé: I know. Nuance, baby, nuance. [laughs] But I also think that… I love that Lavender – and I know that it comes across annoying, and that kind of bugs me – but I love that Lavender is allowed to be girlish and giggly and childish. Feels like very few of the children in this story are allowed to be children.
Chloé: And it feels like Lavender is annoying in a childlike way, which is so valid when you’re 11, 12, 13. I was so annoying. I would not want to spend time with me now as a 13-year-old, and that’s just the truth.
Laura: Well, just to wrap up this part of the discussion, I just want to pose this final question. Chloé, I think you included this in the doc because I know pink is your favorite color. Why does J.K. Rowling hate pink so much? I think this is an interesting question, because all of the representations of pink in this series are pretty negative, to be honest. [laughs]
Chloé: There’s one that isn’t.
Laura: Yeah, but it’s funny because she went on Twitter and said that pink is her favorite color. So I’m confused.
[Laura and Pam laugh]
Meg: Pink is just so feminine, and she needs to… well, and I think especially in the case of Umbridge, it’s the contrast of pink is such a soft, feminine color, and Umbridge is this very brash, evil character. It’s like, going into her room and seeing all the kittens on the plates. Kittens are nice; they’re fluffy. Umbridge is not nice; nor is she fluffy. But yeah, pink really gets demonized in the series, and it’s so funny because the costume designer from the movies, Jany Temime, said an interview once that she kind of assigned colors to the members of the trio, and she gave Emma Watson pink. And Hermione wears pink in a lot of the movies. They even changed the Yule Ball gown to be pink instead of blue.
Chloé: Which looked better on her because of her coloring, which is the reason.
Meg: Yeah, pink suits her.
Chloé: But it’s true; we do associate Emma with pink. But all the book instances of pink, the only other character that wears pink as much as Umbridge – or is mentioned – is Petunia, I’m pretty sure, and we’re not meant to like her.
Pam: Right. And this is something that I wanted to bring up, too, because I think a lot of times, beauty and effort into appearance are… from early on in the series, they’re used to hide something that’s more sinister, to Meg’s point with Umbridge. She has all these frills and pink, and she’s deeply evil underneath. With Rita, she has the really long crimson nails and her hair is done just right, but she’s a little sneak. And Petunia outwardly presents as feminine, the perfect 1950s housewife, if you will, but she’s awful to her nephew. And so I think that what this does, especially for young readers, is that it predisposes us to be wary of anybody that outwardly presents feminine, or is going to be putting more effort into their appearance, because now we have all of these examples of women that have done so and turned out to be not great. So we’re looking at other people like, say Fleur, for example. It’s like, “What is she hiding? She’s so beautiful. What is she hiding?”
Chloé: Hates blondes, hates pinks. It’s okay, I get it. [laughs]
Laura: But I mean, actually, it’s funny because there is that perception of Fleur and we see that throughout the books, but she’s literally the best student at Beauxbatons and that’s why she’s chosen as their champion. So it’s another great example that you can be multiple things. You can be multifaceted.
Chloé: People hate Fleur online, hate her for some reason, and they forget that she’s a total badass.
Pam: I do think so. But it’s tough because a lot of what we see of her is also characters that are observing her being a little snooty, like being loud about everything she hates about Hogwarts. If I loved my school that much, I might be a little pissed off about anybody – not just her – being like, “This place is a dump.” [laughs] That kind of stuff.
Chloé: It’s true. She’s not perfect; she has her moments for sure.
Pam: No, I don’t think she’s trying. I feel like it goes both ways. To Laura’s point, there can be multiple truths. With the Weasleys, definitely you can tell that she butts heads with a lot of them. I would never excuse Molly, Ginny, anyone else for being like, “We don’t like Fleur because she’s just too pretty,” or like, “She must be dumb, because she’s so beautiful.”
Chloé: But that’s kind of how it comes across, though.
Pam: It does. But then also, either in retaliation or for whatever reason, we also see her… she’s complaining about Celestina Warbeck playing during Christmas and stuff, and so I feel like they both go at each other’s throats but for different reasons, and neither one is right. And it sucks that we don’t see them really come together and put aside their differences to forge a better relationship.
Meg: Another thing I was thinking of recently is in the beginning of Half-Blood Prince when Tonks is depressed, Fleur has a moment where she says, “That Tonks has really let herself go. Really disappointing to see,” which is Fleur judging another woman’s femininity. Tonks’s femininity isn’t about the long beautiful blonde hair. Sometimes it’s bright pink. Other times it’s mousy brown, because she’s in her feelings. She’s feeling sad.
Pam: And I’m sure it’s a byproduct of her circumstance, too, because, we know her grandmother was a Veela. Veelas are the most beautiful women unless they’re angry, and then they turn into really scary creatures, but I’m sure that especially… and I’m sure we’ve all heard this too online, that women that are only prized for their beauty also have a lot of internalized hatred, or feel like that’s all that they can offer to the world. So we don’t know how much of the way she behaves is a byproduct of her circumstance, or what her home life was like, or what her family decided she was going to give to the world.
Chloé: That hits so hard, Pam. That hits so hard. As someone who grew up with a plastic surgeon as a father, and my mom, who was a fashion designer and then a skincare person, looks were everything growing up. And I was a child model, and I’ve been told my whole life, “Oh, Chloé, you’re so pretty.” And I was never told, “Oh, Chloé, you’re so creative. Oh, Chloé, you’re so smart. Oh, Chloé, you’re going to go so far.” It was always like, “Oh my gosh, Chloé, you’re so pretty.” And it really, really screwed me up because I just saw so much value in looks and very little value in other things, and I had to deprogram myself. And there are still moments where I immediately go to someone’s looks, or my own looks, and I don’t value other things about me, and it is really, really hard. And I think that Fleur is probably absolutely coming from that place. And also, there’s a part of it that is inherent to being a Veela, and Fleur is not completely human, and I think that does factor into some of the interactions – actually, all of the interactions – that she has with other women in the series, because men inherently like Fleur because biologically, she is a Veela, which threatens other women. And the other women see that she’s vain, and she is vain, because she’s a Veela. There’s a lot of layers when it comes to her. But it’s true that if you are thought of as just a pretty girl your whole life, it’s really hard to see yourself as more, and then when your looks go or when you gain weight or when you feel not as attractive, you’re like, “Oh, I’m worthless.” So I think there’s a part of that too.
Meg: I want to point out in the Discord, Legalize Gillyweed said, “Poor Fleur was probably sexualized from a young age because of her heritage too.”
Chloé: Oh, for sure.
Meg: I think that’s a very serious good point, that she had to grow up with that discomfort of knowing you are a beautiful thing, and men are going to want to look at you. And then take her to Hogwarts, and she walks in and all the boys are looking at her and she’s just used to that, and she’s probably used to other women seeing that and hating her for that reason.
Chloé: I wonder if she gives up even trying to charm women, to Pam’s point.
Meg: Yeah, maybe she just has given up. She’s like, “It’s not worth it. It’s never going to work out.”
Laura: All right, well, we’re going to take a quick break to go back and reevaluate what all of our favorite colors are. I know at least one member of this panel prefers pink, but the rest of us will confer and we’ll be back in just a moment.
Main Discussion: Female relationships in Harry Potter
Laura: All right, y’all, now we’re going to get into part two of our discussion, which pertains to how women treat other women in the wizarding world. Chloé, you have some points about Luna and Ginny. You want to inform us?
Chloé: Yeah, this is a positive relationship for me, and I really wish that we saw more of them. We obviously can read in between the lines. But Luna and Ginny are in the same year; they probably had classes together, maybe Double Potions, Double DADA. But Luna comes and is introduced to the trio as weird. And I think, actually, Neville is the one that says like, “Oh, I didn’t want to be alone in a carriage with Luna,” and Ginny stands up for her, and I really love that. And Ginny continuously stands up for her throughout the series. Like when Harry takes Luna to Slughorn’s Christmas party, for example, Ginny is like, “That is so great; I’m so glad you’re doing that. She’s so excited.” There’s clearly a relationship between the two women that is positive, and I love that Ginny is willing to stand up for Luna, who’s not as popular, who people think is weird. And Ginny is the most popular girl in school. I really love that, and it is the perfect example. And I think Ginny actually might be the most girls’ girl, except when it comes to Fleur, of the series. She really is supporting Luna here and putting her neck out for a character that other people don’t necessarily understand, and I think that’s awesome.
Meg: And Ginny, who has feelings for Harry, has no jealousy there. She’s like, “Harry is doing a good, kind thing by inviting Luna to this party, and Luna is going to have a great time, and I think that’s wonderful.”
Laura: Yeah, and I think, too, some of this could relate to the fact that Ginny in her own right feels like – and forgive the idiom usage here – but she feels like the odd man out because she’s one sister with a bunch of brothers, so she can identify with the feeling of maybe not belonging in her family. And she’s the only one in her family who’s had a very particular experience of being possessed by Voldemort.
Pam: I was going to say that she did not have a good first year, and I think that that’s probably why she’s so kind to people that are different. I mean, she didn’t make any friends, and that’s why she turned to a diary and then got possessed.
Laura: Well, we’ll pivot a little bit here, still thinking about Ginny, but Meg, I’m wondering if you can talk to us a little bit about Ginny and Hermione.
Meg: Yeah, we see Ginny and Hermione getting along very well. And something about both of them is they’re both really not girly girls. And I would have liked to see more Hermione Ginny interactions throughout the books, find out what they have in common other than just being the main female characters alongside with Harry and Ron. But they get along so well, and the only time they really… well, they disagree on some occasions, like when Ginny says, “Be nice to Luna.” But it’s always very, like, “Hey, knock it off. Luna is cool.” The one time that there’s a heated disagreement is in Half-Blood Prince when they’re talking about Harry having just cast Sectumsempra on Malfoy, and Hermione starts nagging Harry for the Prince’s book, for using that, and Ginny snaps and is like, “Give it a rest.” And Hermione tries to even placate Ginny by being like, “Well, I thought that… he’s off the Quidditch team now; I thought maybe that would upset you.” And she says, “Oh, don’t pretend that you understand Quidditch, you’re only going to embarrass yourself.” And it’s the most heated confrontation we get between Hermione and Ginny, and it’s over a sport, which is a very typically masculine thing, but then at its heart, it’s over Harry. They’re disagreeing over treatment of Harry; Hermione is saying, “Harry brought this on himself.”
Chloé: It’s so real between two best friends to have a disagreement like this and snap at each other. And I’d argue that we have enough evidence that Hermione and Ginny are best friends. Hermione knows about Ginny’s crush on Harry way before anyone else, and it’s clear they’ve had in-depth conversations about it. And also, Hermione has given Ginny advice on how to move on. And we don’t see any of those conversations because we’re reading the book, obviously, from Harry’s point of view, but it’s very clear that Ginny and Hermione have a strong relationship and they talk often about things that the boys probably don’t understand. I’m assuming that everything that Hermione can’t tell the boys, she probably tells Ginny, and I kind of liked that they have a snap at each other because with my best friends, we’ve certainly had moments where I’m like, “Dude, what? Cut it out.” And that’s real. That’s sisterhood.
Meg: It is. I just wish the snap had been over, like, “Stop being such an asshole to Luna! God!”
[Chloé and Pam laugh]
Chloé: I wonder, though… they probably did have those conversations. It’s just we’re seeing it from Harry’s point of view, so of course they’re going to fight about Harry.
Pam: Yeah, Harry’s ears are going to burn if he knows they’re talking about him.
Laura: But yeah, I mean, that’s the limitation of the story being told from a Harry’s point of view is that, as a reader, it could be very easy to walk away with the impression that Hermione and Ginny really aren’t super close, because we really only start to see a core four as opposed to a trio around the time when Ginny is brought to the forefront because she’s being set up to be Harry’s love interest.
Meg: Another great instance of Ginny and Hermione’s friendship, I think, is in Order of the Phoenix when she tries out for Quidditch, and Fred or George is like, “I didn’t know she played Quidditch,” and Hermione is like, “She’s been stealing your broomsticks out of the cupboard since she was eight.”
Chloé: Yes, that’s such a good point.
Meg: It’s like Hermione knows that about her more than any of her brothers do.
Chloé: We have to read the subtext and the context clues when it comes to forming the female relationships and female friendships in Harry Potter, because we get tiny little snippets.
Pam: It is interesting, though, because out of everybody that should be more gatekeepy – because we’ve talked a little bit about how some women gatekeep their relationship with the men in their lives because it makes them feel better – if anybody should gatekeep, it should be Ginny because she’s had her brothers’ attention her whole life. But the fact that we never see her be wary of Hermione or be… not defensive, but she’s never threatened by Hermione, and I think that that speaks volumes to her security as a character. And I think that that’s really cool.
Laura: Y’all are actually making me appreciate Ginny’s character a lot more through this conversation. I’m usually not a huge fan, not because there’s anything wrong with her.
Laura: Yeah, mainly because I’ve always felt like her character in the books was honestly underdeveloped.
Chloé: That’s true.
Laura: Yeah, but I think if you read the subtext, though, you learn a lot more about her. At the very least, we can fill in some headcanon, right? [laughs]
Chloé: Right, yeah. That’s what you have to do when you’re talking about the women if it’s not Hermione, if I’m honest.
Pam: Yeah, that’s true. And she has some good moments, like her standing up to Harry when he’s just being a total jerk, and being like, “You should have just asked me what it was like to be possessed instead of going crazy, because I have been.”
Chloé: She’s fierce.
Pam: Yeah, she has no fear. And that’s one of the things that does come up time and time again, in tiny little pockets of Ginny throughout the series. [laughs]
Chloé: It’s also the reason that it’s so infuriating how she was portrayed in the movies.
Chloé: Because she is such a solid match to Harry sass, and it’s so good. And I always read Ginny and was like, “Oh my God, I want to be that sassy.” I kind of aspired to be as sassy and have as good comebacks as she did, because probably Fred and George taught her a little bit of that.
Pam: Oh, 100%.
Chloé: The subtext is the best part.
Laura: Well, what about Molly and Tonks for another example of a positive relationship between women in the series?
Meg: It’s interesting because the majority of their relationship we see is in Half-Blood Prince, when Remus has told Tonks that he doesn’t want to continue their relationship, and Molly kind of takes on a motherly role. And part of it, you can’t help but wonder, is it because Molly is hoping that Bill will choose Tonks instead of Fleur?
Chloé and Pam: Ooh.
Meg: She has a few lines where she’s like, “You could be with Tonks instead,” and Bill is like, “I don’t want that, Mom.” And you wonder if it’s Molly being like, “Well, Tonks’s femininity is something that I agree with more.” But it is nice to see that Tonks in her depressed state feels comfortable going to the Burrow and sitting at the table and having tea and soup with Molly. And it makes me upset that we didn’t see more of Andromeda in the series…
Pam: That would have been really fun, yeah.
Meg: … see more of Tonks talking to her own mother about this, especially when we learn so much of Andromeda’s sisters, Narcissa and Bellatrix, and they are both just not nice characters. And it would have been so nice to see Andromeda, how she would compare to her two sisters.
Pam: Yeah, and not that we need more from Harry’s perspective – and I know we’re talking about women, so I’ll just make this point really quick – it just would have been really nice to see Andromeda and Harry talk to each other because she was so close to Sirius, and he lost Sirius so early. And I’m shocked that that never happened, that he never met her.
Meg: And Harry becomes godfather to her grandson.
Chloé: Andromeda would have been the best female representation if she was more included, if I’m honest. It feels like she is actually… and again, we get tiny little snippets. But she’s a Slytherin, first of all, and she’s good, and she married a Muggle-born, and she chose love, and she leads with her heart first, and she’s a strong witch. It is really sad we don’t get to see Andromeda. And I think that that’s something that would have added so much to just the world of femininity in Harry Potter.
Meg: She would have been too powerful.
Pam: Everyone’s favorite character, we couldn’t have that.
[Chloé and Meg laugh]
Laura: Well, what about some of the negative portrayals of relationships? We touched a lot on Fleur lately – I will never sound as sophisticated saying that as Chloé does – but why don’t we start there? Because I do see a lot of Fleur v. insert character here in this list.
[Chloé and Pam laugh]
Chloé: I mean, we don’t have to do all of them. I just have to stand for my girl.
Laura: No, no, but I think in general we can talk about Fleur and think about the themes that we see between her and Hermione, her and Molly, her and Ginny, right? And what we’re seeing there.
Chloé: I put in the doc, I said, “Fleur is my pièce de résistance,” because she is arguably the most… she is the most feminine character in Harry Potter, and I’d argue that she’s treated the worst by other women that we see. Everyone attacks her, essentially. And yes, she’s not perfect. We know this; she’s not. But because she is so pretty, she is immediately villainized because men are attracted to her. And it’s men that these women believe that they own, like Molly, for example, with Bill, her first son, her baby, her everything. The first man to marry off picked Fleur, who’s French, who’s a Veela, who’s pretty, who’s vain… and she would prefer someone else. She doesn’t want to give him up to Fleur. And until Fleur proves herself after Bill is bitten by a werewolf, she finally comes around, but she’s ostracized by the entire family. She’s ostracized by Hermione; from the minute Fleur walks in the door, Hermione doesn’t like her because Ron and Harry’s attention is immediately captivated by Fleur. And she makes so many offhanded comments, but Hermione did the same thing with Lockhart. What is that about? They call her “Phlegm,” which I think is a reference to the fact that French people have something in the back of their throat. Is it? I don’t know.
[Meg and Pam laugh]
Laura: I know, I was going to say with Fleur, it’s not just about the internalized misogyny. It’s also xenophobia.
Pam: Right. Aren’t the British kind of prejudiced against French people too?
Meg: Yeah, the British and the French are…
Chloé: They don’t like each other.
Pam: There’s some true colors showing.
Chloé: And it’s also maybe a little racist, I’d argue, because of Fleur’s blood status. She’s not completely human. And there’s a lot of instances where Hermione and even Molly and the Weasleys have shown that they do have some wizarding prejudice when it comes to people that aren’t completely human.
Laura: Yeah, and they don’t so much have the issue when it comes to half-bloods or Muggle-borns, right? But we definitely saw it at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban with the way Ron reacted to Lupin, for example. Yeah.
Chloé: And Hagrid, too, finding out about Hagrid.
Laura: And also the way they react to conversations around house-elf liberation.
Chloé: Yeah, like, “Slavery is normal. We’ve all accepted it.”
Laura: Yeah, “Get over it. That’s just a thing we do here.”
Meg: “They like it!”
Chloé: “They like it,” literally.
Laura: Ugh. Gross. Well, we just talked a little bit about the Weasleys, and we centered on Molly. I was wondering if we could talk about Molly and Hermione quickly, because that’s a big theme in Goblet of Fire.
Chloé: It reminds me of the 40-year-old women that talk shit about teenagers and about what they’re doing. Molly judges Hermione because of a Rita Skeeter gossip article about the fact that she broke Harry’s heart and purposely gives her, what, less… she doesn’t knit her a Weasley jumper that year.
Meg: She gets a smaller Easter egg at Easter.
Chloé: She gets the smaller Easter – it’s so petty. It’s so petty.
Laura: I know.
Meg: It would almost be better if she didn’t send her anything.
Chloé: Yeah, it’s so petty. [laughs] And I’m like, “Hermione is 14. Molly, you are 40. Please. Act like it.”
Meg: I think there can be some grace there because we know how strongly Molly feels as a motherly character towards Harry. And she’s seeing what he’s going through, especially in Goblet. And for him to have to be doing these terrible, scary tasks, and then for someone to be breaking his heart at the same time? It’s just too much for her to handle.
Chloé: It’s true.
Meg: But she really does not approach it maturely. She doesn’t even ask Harry about it; she just makes up her mind.
Chloé: She should have asked Harry or Hermione. Also, you hope that she feels maybe not as strongly towards Hermione, but at least a little bit. She’s known Hermione the same amount of time. Hermione has spent time with her at her house.
Pam: I think it’s that… I get what you’re saying. Yes, she should. But I do think that the relationship is different because she knows that Harry doesn’t have a mother, and we get that beautiful moment in Order of the Phoenix where she says, “He’s as good as mine.” That’s what she basically says. And so we know that she feels a sense of responsibility to be a mother figure for him, because he doesn’t have that and he doesn’t go home to a great life. But I do feel like this is the most frivolous Molly is in the entire series, getting hung up on gossip. It’s kind of like… do you guys remember going…?
Chloé: She’s wonderful.
Pam: I was just going to say, it’s like when you used to go grocery shopping with your parents in the ’90s and it was all tabloids by the register. I don’t think it’s as much that anymore, but I know my mom used to read the headlines and be like, “Ooh, that’s interesting.” [laughs]
Chloé: Oh, my mom loved People. My mom loved… she still does.
Pam: People is reputable, so your mom’s got taste. [laughs]
Chloé: She does, she does. But Molly is a really, really wonderful mother, and I do want to note that. She is a dream, absolutely. But I do love, and I think… Debbie in the Discord said, “Molly is an authentic portrayal of a mother.” Yes, she is authentic. I think that she’s better than a lot of mothers; I’m just going to put that out there.
Pam: The Weasleys are obviously a white family, but a lot of the way that Molly and Arthur operate reminds me a lot of my grandparents. Even if they didn’t have much, they would figure out a way to feed everybody. They would always take in strays. They were everyone else’s grandparents and stuff, and I just feel like that is so Arthur and Molly. It doesn’t matter that they don’t have a lot; they’ll figure out how to make sure everyone has a place to sleep, make sure everybody has a warm meal, make sure everybody has something to open up during Christmas. And I just think that that is so beautiful to think about, all of that.
Chloé: She still sent Hermione a gift. I wonder…
Pam: Yeah, all that she does that we don’t see.
Chloé: Maybe it wasn’t petty.
Pam: I think it was a little petty. [laughs]
Laura: It’s a little petty because…
Chloé: What if it’s both, though?
Laura: … isn’t she also noted in the book as being cold towards Hermione when she sees her? It’s a thing.
Pam: She is, yeah, and then Harry is like, “Oh, Mrs. Weasley, you didn’t actually believe all that?” and she gets all flustered because she did.
Laura: Yeah. Well, this just goes to show they don’t teach media literacy at Hogwarts, which is a problem. But I mean, that’s also a real world problem, so we’ll let them have that.
Pam: That’s true. They only have the Daily Prophet and the Quibbler. Like, what do we expect?
[Meg and Pam laugh]
Chloé: Right, and neither are…
Pam: Reputable? [laughs]
Chloé: Both often do fake news.
Meg: Witch Weekly, the Most Charming Smile Award.
Pam: Oh yeah, Witch Weekly. Yeah, that’s true.
Laura: Well, were there any other points in the negative relationships column y’all wanted to touch on?
Chloé: I think Hermione versus Lavender. We didn’t talk about the way that Hermione treats women, and it’s a little… it’s pretty rough. She just views her as less than because she has different interests, and she’s giggly, and obviously, I think Ron comes into play later. But Hermione has a mean streak, and it’s usually with other women, like the way that she treats… God, what’s Cho’s friend’s name? Marietta Edgecombe. That is too far. She puts Rita Skeeter in a jar; very much Rita Skeeter could have died and would have died if she tried to transform. Hermione doesn’t treat Luna super well. There’s a lot of moments where you’re like, “Whoa, chill, dude.”
Laura: So here’s the thing: Hermione really has no chill. She’s got a very strong sense of justice about her, and 50% of the time I love it. I think the Rita Skeeter plot and the way that that plays out, I think, is really hilarious because honestly, Rita Skeeter is a grown woman who is literally harassing teenagers for a gossip rag.
Chloé: [laughs] She had it coming.
Laura: She definitely had that coming. And also, when it…
Chloé: But she’s cuckoo bananas sometimes. Hermione takes it far.
Laura: Oh, I know. She’s like, “Here, you want to join my club? Sign this piece of paper…”
Chloé: “And I’ll permanently disfigure your face.” Like, whoa.
Pam: That’s why she’s a Gryffindor.
Chloé: Yeah, but the other girl is 15. Oh my God.
Pam: No, I agree. I’m just saying that there are bad traits for every House, and this is Hermione personifying bad traits of Gryffindor. And I can say that, as a Gryffindor.
Meg: Extreme Gryffindorism.
Chloé: But the way she treats Luna and Lavender…
Laura: Yeah, it’s the rashness of it, right?
Pam: Yeah. She’s literally not thinking logically in those moments, because all she’s seeing is red. And I relate. That’s not a great quality to have, but…
Chloé: But it’s a damn Gryffindor quality.
Pam: It is.
Chloé: I think those examples are… obviously, she’s pursuing justice, and that’s what matters to her, so we’re able to think about it and make excuses. I think the way she treats Lavender and Luna is just really insensitive and mean, and I think there’s very little excuse for the way that she treats them.
Meg: With Lavender, there’s also the huge aspect that she loves Ron, and Lavender got there first. And she should be angry at Ron for that, but she makes all these comments about Lavender.
Chloé: But even before, though, in Prisoner of Azkaban.
Meg: Even before. She’s always been very, very against her, but especially with… and when I first read Half-Blood Prince, I didn’t like Lavender, because I loved Ron and Hermione together. I was like, “Lavender is terrible,” because I was 12.
Meg: And then rereading it, though, Lavender is a true Gryffindor. Lavender went up to Ron and was like, “I’m into you; let’s kiss.”
Chloé: Oh, yeah. No, Lavender is ballsy, and I love it.
Meg: Yeah, that’s her showing her Gryffindorism.
Laura: She also didn’t deserve the way that she was treated the way that Ron ended things with her. Also, she’s just in love and 16. I acted the same way.
Meg: She was just a teenager with a crush on a guy.
Pam: I thought you were going to say she also didn’t deserve the way she maybe died. [laughs]
Chloé: Oh, well, that too, Pam. That’s a given.
Meg: I am a Lavender is alive truther.
Chloé: Me too!
Pam: I hope she is.
Meg: Maybe she’s like Bill and she likes her steaks a little more rare now, but no, she’s fine.
Laura: I like that it’s open-ended.
Chloé: Me too. And listen, I would have probably been besties with Lavender and Parvati. Let’s be honest, I would be the giggly girl with them. And I’m all in.
Laura: That would be your trio.
Chloé: That would be my trio, yeah. And I’m all in.
Laura: As we come to an end of this discussion here, there’s a really great point that we have in the doc about internalized misogyny. We’ve talked about throughout the show how the author’s views socially come through in the work. I think our own views – and every other reader, their views – come through in our interpretations of the work. What does it say when we take this particular interpretation of the way women are portrayed in Harry Potter and overlay that with some of the social commentary that has come from prominent people like the author for example?
Meg: It’s an example of pretending to be a feminist, but not acknowledging intersectional feminism at all…
Chloé: [snaps fingers] Snaps.
Meg: … which is needed for feminism to be real feminism.
Chloé: It is very ’90s feminism, and that’s the truth. New wave feminism, and what I’ve subscribed to, is that you can be a woman in any which way you want, and that is awesome, and I support you.
Pam: Yeah, there’s space for everyone.
Pam: That’s what, really, feminism should be.
Chloé: Be a tomboy. Be a girly girl. I don’t care.
Pam: There’s space for trans women. There’s space for nonbinary people. There’s space for BIPOC women. There’s space for cis-het woman. There’s space for queer women. And I think that J.K. Rowling might not share those particular views, but the important thing is that we walk away from this discussion keeping that in mind, so that we’re better people outside of this episode.
Chloé: Yes. You can be a woman any way you want, and I will support you and love you for it. As long as you do the same for me, right?
Meg: Yeah, we mentioned earlier in the episode the description of women as having masculine features and how that makes them not real women, not good women, and it’s just so in tune with the comments today of looking at a trans woman, saying, “Oh, we can always tell.” By saying things like that, you’re not only being a horrible person to trans women, but also just cis women who just happen to have more masculine features.
Chloé: Or intersex.
Meg: And it’s the opposite of being a girls’ girl.
Pam: Yeah, not a girls’ girl.
Chloé: Well, to your point, Meg, a listener wrote in to our Patreon about Rita Skeeter being trans-coded. And it’s something that’s talked about online often, but because of the nails and the makeup and being super done up all the time, and also having more masculine features while being done up, people have said that Rita Skeeter… and obviously, she’s not the nicest character; we’re not meant to like Rita Skeeter. People have said that JKR even maybe unintentionally wrote her views regarding trans women into that character, and I think it’s a valid point. I’m not trans, so I don’t think I can really flesh that out. But it’s interesting reading back and knowing what we now know about JKR’s views and seeing the internalized misogyny and the way that she writes women that she doesn’t like tending to be either overtly feminine with masculine qualities… it feels like she was telling us before she actually exposed herself.
Pam: Yeah. We didn’t talk about her, but I would say Madame Maxime falls into that line of thinking as well.
Laura: Oh, yeah.
Pam: Because obviously, we do learn that she’s half-giant too, right? Yeah, like Hagrid. But she is also, because she’s tall, given more masculine features. But then, also is an example of a woman who is dressed extremely elegantly, and more done up than the cool girls or the girls that are not like the other girls and stuff. So again, it’s an example of writing where the beautification on the outside is hiding something on the inside.
Chloé: Madame Maxime is so fabulous, by the way. [laughs]
Laura: Yeah, she is, but she is still described as a handsome woman.
Pam: Yes, and because probably, she’s tall. Again, all of these things that people deem as more masculine qualities.
Laura: It’s really interesting the ways that society informs the way that we talk about these things, because I’m sure if you went back over all of our years of podcasting history, you could probably find some coded language that we didn’t even realize we were using, right? And that’s just the reality of the evolution of being a person. So none of this is to say that it would be possible or even that Harry Potter should have been written in a different way. I think that it is…
Chloé: I love that it’s flawed.
Laura: Yeah, and it should be, because people are flawed, right? We are all flawed. And just like we hear a whole lot out of Order of the Phoenix, the world is not separated into good people and Death Eaters. There is light and dark in each and every one of us.
Chloé: And masculine and feminine traits in each and every one of us, and that is awesome and okay.
Laura: I think that puts a nice bow on things. We are going to step away for just a moment, but we’re going to be back with a fun speed round of segments to wrap up the show today.
Laura: All right, time to get into our speed round of fun questions and answers. Chloé, do you want to kick this off? Because I think these were all your questions.
Chloé: Yes, I just wanted us to have a little fun at the end; obviously, we’ve been so deep this whole time. What chapter in the entire series would you want to see from a woman’s perspective? Obviously, we see it all through Harry. What perspective do you want to see?
Meg: Mine is one we definitely talked about during this episode. We talked about Ginny not being as fleshed out as she could have been in the series, and we talked about the chapter where she says to Harry, “I can’t believe you forgot that I was possessed by Voldemort.”
Chloé: [laughs] Love.
Meg: So I would love to see “Christmas on the Closed Ward” from Ginny’s perspective…
Chloé and Pam: Ooh.
Meg: … because I’d also want to see her dealing with her dad has been attacked by a snake, going through that. We see Harry devastated by it, but to see one of his children devastated by it also. And then I’d love to see her talking with Ron and Hermione, being like, “Why is Harry acting like an ass?” and them being like, “I don’t know, maybe you should talk to him.” And then that moment happening of him saying, “I forgot.”
Chloé: So good.
Meg: That’s what I would say.
Pam: Yeah, to piggyback off of Meg’s, I would love to see probably any chapter in Chamber of Secrets from Ginny’s point of view, because there’s so much of that story that gets glossed over. But also Hermione’s perspective from Chamber of Secrets of figuring everything out, up until the point that she gets Petrified would be fascinating.
Meg: That would be great.
Laura: I was going to say, you don’t want the perspective of her actually being Petrified in the hospital wing for three months.
[Laura and Pam laugh]
Pam: That would be boring. No, but it could fade to black as soon as she peers over the corner and sees the Basilisk.
Laura: For sure. No, I’m just teasing. I’m just teasing.
Pam: Yeah, imagine if she heard every single thing that was happening around her while she was Petrified. [laughs]
Laura: Oh my God, can you imagine Harry and Ron standing by her hospital bed trying to figure it out…
Pam: Yeah, she’d be screaming.
Laura: … and she’s laying there being like, “She answer is literally in my hand.”
Meg: She’s like, “I have it right here.”
Pam: She’s just like, “I’ll stay Petrified because you’ve both killed me.”
[Meg and Pam laugh]
Chloé: Hermione literally saved those boys so many times in the hospital bed frozen. Insane.
Meg: She saves the day even when she can’t even move or talk.
Chloé: Or talk, yes! I think you guys both had such beautiful, deep, meaningful answers. I want to see the Yule Ball from a girl’s perspective. [laughs]
Chloé: Exactly. Any girl’s perspective, maybe Ginny or Hermione, just because I’m assuming they’re getting ready together, and there is nothing better than getting ready with your girls before a night out. I think it’s the best part of the night, usually. And I want them to talk about Viktor Krum and Ginny going with Neville, and talking about that Harry asked Ginny, and all of those… I just want that girliness. And I guess I can get it in another book, but I desperately want to see it from Ginny or Hermione’s perspective. And also, her blowup with Ron, and how she puts it together that Ron is starting to like her and that there’s an undercurrent there now that she didn’t notice before. And also the inner dialogue of her finally feeling really beautiful; that, I would love to read.
Laura: I agree with that. There’s also that great line where Hermione leaves to go get ready for the ball, like, three hours early.
Chloé: Yes. [laughs]
Laura: And Ron shouts after her, “You need three hours?” I remember reading that and being like, “Duh.”
Meg: Yeah, sometimes you do!
Chloé: Yeah, the shower, the hair… you know she has a Spotify playlist in the background that’s like, bad bitch energy. She’s using her Sleekeazy potion, and she had an everything shower. Boys don’t get it.
Laura: Yeah, it’s a ritual. It’s just a ritual.
Chloé: Exactly. And it’s fun. It’s so fun.
Meg: It’s self-care.
Pam: It is self-care.
Laura: Yeah. I mean, we’ve all, I think, at some point done something like this. I specifically remember being at Harry Potter conventions back in the day, and the big event was the Yule Ball, and I absolutely took three hours to get ready for that. [laughs]
Pam: But also, depending on who you were sharing a room with… because we were all young and bunking up as much as we could to save money. It was like, you have to go back to the hotel halfway through the day because everyone needs to shower first, and everyone has to do their hair, and everyone has to use the same mirror and the same blow dryer. It was an experience.
Laura: Okay, well, these were supposed to be a speed round. [laughs]
Chloé: Oh, shoot.
Laura: It’s okay.
Chloé: Which witch? Which witch do you think you’re most like in the series?
Laura: I was going to say, in some ways Hermione, but I like to think that I’ve got some Tonks going on.
Chloé: Oh, for sure.
Laura: Not just because of the hair.
Chloé: No, you’re badass like her.
Meg: It’s hard to choose, but I think… I would like to say Luna because there are a few strong Luna-isms that I have. Over the summer I like to dye my armpit hair blue; I think that’s something Luna would maybe do for fun.
Pam: That’s incredible.
Meg: I love the… it’s great. It’s fun.
Chloé: You match Laura’s hair!
Meg: I do! Oh my God!
Meg: Hair matching!
Chloé: That’s a social post.
Meg: And then I also love the more strange, unloved creatures. You guys were so harsh on the tailless whip scorpion in the Goblet of Fire movie commentary.
Meg: Someone called it gross. I think Micah called it gross. I was like, “I’m not here for that.”
Meg: They’re nonvenomous! They’re not going to hurt you! They just want to hide. They didn’t deserve to be abused like that by Moody.
Pam: My answer would be Hermione, but only a little bit. I don’t really resonate a lot with the women of Harry Potter. But I also think part of that is because I’m a woman of color, so it’s hard to see myself in these stories. I just have to cherry pick qualities from different characters to find myself.
Chloé: I’m Fleur, we all know it. Good and bad parts of her. And I’m willing to admit that.
Laura: Next one.
Chloé: Who’s invited to the sleepover? You can only pick three witches. So who do you want to have a slumber party with?
Laura: Do they have to be witches?
Chloé: They can be nonbinary magical people. [laughs]
Chloé: I was thinking of just the girls theme. But if you want to invite boys to this slumber party, fine.
Laura: No, it’s not that, it’s not that. I was thinking about…
Pam: Laura is like, “I want to invite Crookshanks.”
[Chloé and Pam laugh]
Laura: I was thinking about Winky! I feel like she never gets included.
Pam: Oh, Winky!
Chloé: Aww. Female magical beings, yes.
Chloé: Winky. That’s so cute, Laura. God, you’re so good.
Laura: Oh, thank you. I just feel like she needs a hug.
Pam: She does.
Chloé: She so needs a hug. I also need a hug.
Pam: She needs a girls’ night. Dobby is not cutting it. [laughs]
Chloé: No, no. I feel like Hermione would invite Winky low-key to a girls’ night, though.
Laura: Yeah, I think she would for sure.
Chloé: Dr. Lim said, “Dude, Winky would be a party animal.” True. She does love herself a drink. [laughs]
Meg: She loves that butterbeer.
Laura: Yeah. Well, that’s the other reason I thought of her, too, is I feel like we’d have a good time. But I also feel like she needs the emotional catharsis of being included, so she gets to come.
Chloé: I’m inviting Tonks, Laura, because I have a big fat crush on Tonks, and I also have a big fat crush on Laura.
Chloé: Because I just love Tonks so much. And then also Luna and then also Fleur, because duh. [laughs]
Laura: Yeah, Luna has got to be there for sure.
Meg: She’s going to bring the Gurdyroot.
Pam: She’s also going to do the tarot card readings, 100%. She’s going to read your aura and everything. She’s on my list too. I said Luna, Ginny, and Tonks.
Meg: Same exact for me, because Tonks is always a good time.
Pam: Yes, so Meg and I are hosting a joint sleepover. [laughs]
Chloé: Okay, Laura and I are having our own with Winky. Whatever. I feel like that group would play Just Dance. Does that resonate with anyone else?
Pam: That’d be fun.
Chloé: I feel like Ginny and Tonks would really slay Just Dance. [laughs]
Meg: They would.
Chloé: “Grubbly-Plank and McGonagall would have an amazing sleepover,” PotterPeep1591 said.
[Meg and Pam laugh]
Chloé: Yes, honestly. Molly, McGonagall, Grubbly-Plant, Sprout. I want to be at that sleepover too. It’s probably classy.
Meg: Madam Hooch!
Chloé: Madam Hooch. We know Madam Hooch likes the ladies. There ain’t no way she doesn’t. [laughs]
Laura: Yeah, I was definitely going to say my third person would be McGonagall. So McGonagall, Winky, and Luna. I feel like…
Chloé: McGonagall is bringing scotch and in her tartan robe.
Pam: She’s going to let her hair down.
Meg: And biscuits.
Pam: Biscuits, that’s important.
Chloé: And then the last one is what wizarding world cosmetic do you wish was real? And I checked and all of these are canon in the doc, which is pretty cool. But I was wondering which thing would you put above the others? Because I want all of these cosmetics, because it seems easy and it’s magic, but…
Meg: Bubotuber pus, absolutely.
Chloé: Me too, me too.
Meg: Because pimples? Evil.
Pam: I would go with the Sleekeazy’s.
Chloé: Sleekeazy’s, yeah, the hair potion.
Laura: I feel like I would probably choose something like the hair-thickening potion. But here’s the tea, y’all: I do this a lot. I see something, like a product, that I will think, “Oh my God, I need to have this,” and then it sits unused for months. So I imagine that’s what would happen here easily.
Pam: Easily influenced. I can relate. [laughs]
Chloé: First of all, the two of you influence me to get products all the time, so just know that.
Laura: I know.
Chloé: I also feel so good when people ask me, like, “Oh my God, do you have a product recommendation?” because I love giving them. But I feel like, Laura, what probably exists in the wizarding world is hair color changer.
Laura: Hell yeah.
Chloé: A spell to change the color of your hair any color you want. How cool would it be to wake up one day and be like, “Today I want red hair,” and the next day be like, “Today I want black hair”? Like, if that existed? Obsessed.
Meg: Basically Tonks’s ability in a bottle.
Chloé: Yeah, Tonks’s ability in a bottle.
Laura: That would be great. I’d be so into that. All right, well, I’m going to have to decide what my next hair color is going to be based on that discussion, and maybe I’ll fill y’all in.
Meg: Tonks pink?
Laura: Maybe. I don’t know if I can pull off the bubblegum pink. We’ll find out.
Chloé: You can pull anything off.
Laura: Aww, thank you, love. Thank you, love. This has been wonderful; I’ve loved being on this panel with all of you. I feel like we’ve had some discussions that only a panel of women could have about interpretations of Harry Potter and the female characters in it, so thank you so much for being here again. We’ll get into some closing reminders here. If you’re an Apple Podcasts user, for just $2.99 a month you can receive ad-free and early access to MuggleCast right within the Apple Podcasts app. Patreon offers more benefits. If you would prefer to support us right within the Apple Podcasts app, that’s totally fine. The offer is there. Just tap into the show and you’ll see the subscribe button, plus a free trial for this is available. We would also love your support on our Patreon; we are a weekly podcast thanks to our supporters. And just a reminder for any of our Patreon subscribers who listen to us through Spotify, you can go to the MuggleCast show page on Spotify. Tap the banner that says “Exclusive episodes for subscribers,” then you can connect your Patreon account to Spotify and access all of our bonus episodes and ad-free content right there. Make sure that you hit follow on the show, too, because it’s the Patreon-exclusive feed, and it has some super cool artwork. If you use Spotify but aren’t a patron yet, this is also a great way to support us and enjoy our twice monthly bonus MuggleCast segments as well as ad-free MuggleCast. Whether you listen on Patreon, the Patreon app, your favorite podcast app, or Spotify, you get access to bonus MuggleCast if you are a patron. And if you’re enjoying MuggleCast and think other Muggles would, too, you can tell a friend about the show. We’d also appreciate it if you left us a review in your favorite podcast app. And Chloé, do you want to do the honors with the social plug?
Chloé: I would really like to do the honors. Thank you so much, Laura.
Laura: Go for it.
Chloé: Do not forget to follow us on our social media. Our username is @MuggleCast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok – and Andrew for some reason loves to emphasize it, so – and Threads! So go check us out; we have a lot of fun on there. I certainly have a lot of fun on there. [laughs] So make sure to check us out. I also wanted, if any of y’all want to plug yourselves at all, or I know Laura and Pam are on Millennial, so if you enjoy this conversation, you should absolutely check Millennial out. We also have fun on there. Follow me if you feel inclined; I’m at @ChloéLaverson on Instagram and TikTok and YouTube. I do a lot of stuff just like this, talking about Harry Potter and girly stuff, and it’s a lot of fun.
Meg: I’ll plug my art site.
Laura: Go for it.
Meg: I’m an artist and you can find my stuff at Meg-Scott-Art.com, because MegScottArt.com was taken. So it’s MegScottArt but with two hyphens in there.
Pam: And Chloé already did a fabulous job of plugging Millennial for Laura and I; that’s the show that we do with Andrew every week.
Chloé: I’m a stan.
Pam: [laughs] If you want to join us over there and you’re okay with a more explicit show, please feel free to check us out. And if you want to come hang out with me anywhere online, I’m at @PamGocobachi everywhere, and it’s a mouthful, but I’m sure Chloé will include links in the show notes.
Laura: Yep. And y’all know where to find me; I’m @LaumTee on Instagram. On Twitter, @Laurrrrrrrrita is my username.
[Chloé and Pam laugh]
Laura: I don’t remember how many r’s there are in it, but…
Chloé: It’s eight. It’s eight r’s.
Laura: Oh, okay. See, Chloé is our social media expert, so she knows my handles better than I do. If you can’t find it, just go to any of the MuggleCast socials; they follow me, so you can find me there.
Laura: Anyway, this has been so fun. Again, thanks, y’all, for coming. And thanks, everyone who tuned in with us tonight and joined us live in the Discord. We had so, so much fun with y’all tonight. We will see you next time. We’d love to hear your feedback about this week’s episode, so please feel free to leave us some comments on the socials. If you’re a patron, leave some comments on the Patreon. We want to hear it in the Discord and MuggleCast@gmail.com. Please keep it coming. We want to hear what you loved about this this week. Again, thanks for tuning in, y’all, and thanks, panel, for being here. I’m Laura.
Chloé: I’m Chloé.
Meg: I’m Meg.
Pam: And I’m Pamela.
Laura: Bye, y’all.
Meg and Pam: Bye.