J.K. Rowling has long been writing strong female characters who embody the principles of gender equality, but until now she hasn’t officially referred to any of them as feminists. In Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, which was released as e-book only as part of a Pottermore Presents series on September 6, everyone’s favorite Transfiguration teacher became the first Harry Potter character to be dubbed on paper by her creator as a feminist.
The exact quote, which occurs in a chapter on Minerva McGonagall’s marriage, is as follows: “Known to successive generations of students as ‘Professor McGonagall,’ Minerva — always something of a feminist — announced that she would be keeping her own name upon marriage.”
Why is this such a big deal? After all, Rowling often makes an effort to champion feminist causes on twitter. She even identifies herself as a feminist in an extra feature on “J.K. Rowling and the Women of Hogwarts” on the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 DVD. But these are platforms you probably only see as a Harry Potter superfan. (Then again, if you follow Pottermore and bought these Pottermore-affiliated e-books, you may very well already follow JKR on twitter and have watched all the bonus features on all the DVDs multiple times over). To have the word “feminist” printed in the actual Harry Potter canon takes things to a whole new level.
To have the word “feminist” printed in the actual Harry Potter canon takes things to a whole new level.
Many people are afraid to use the word feminist because of its “negative connotations” or because it sounds “too extreme.” First of all, the best way for “feminism” to stop being associated with angry, man-hating, bra-burners (Side note: Where is this image still coming from?) is to have more and more women (and men!) of all attitudes, perspectives, and walks of life stand up and say “I am a feminist.” This has the added benefit of making the movement more inclusive and diverse as well.
Now add some fictional characters–especially in children’s books and YA–to the milieau and you have the perfect potion for making the idea of women’s equality more mainstream. Literary figures serve as role models, so it is always so refreshing to see a character identified as a feminist on the page, especially one as well-loved and respected as Professor Minerva McGonagall.
What do you think of JKR’s use of the word ‘feminist?’ Which other HP characters would you like to see acknowledged as such? Let us know in the comments!