If you’re not familiar with the feminist themes of Harry Potter just yet, it’s time to get familiar. The fantasy world is filled with a variety of awesome female story lines and characters, and it makes sense because author J.K Rowling is also a female empowerment ambassador.
The single mother who went from a struggling, low-income daily life to one of the world’s most well-loved and well-known authors, we can see her influence weaved throughout the series’ strong female characters. Whether it be the queen of the nerds Hermione Granger, the ethereal Luna Lovegood, take-no-punched professor McGonagall, the crazed Bellatrix Lestrange, as well as some of the historic and mythical characters the Hogwarts students learn about, women play pivotal roles throughout the Harry Potter universe.
And of course in real life, we can’t get enough of Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the films, because of her solid passion for feminism and gender equality. She is the UN Women He For She campaign ambassador, and has even taken time off from acting to pursue her feminist education via her extra-curricular activities.
Although we can look to a fictional tome like Harry Potter and be inspired by the female characters for a number of reasons, there is certainly room for improvement, according to Canadian artist Louise Reimer. Based out of Toronto, she has created a series of awesome illustrations depicting the women of each of the Hogwarts houses but with a very feminist twist.
Telling The Huffington Post that she is heavily inspired by the stories of women in ancient mythology as well as folk art, she wanted to subvert some of the typical and not-so-positive narratives surrounding females and also add her love of the Harry Potter characters to the mix. She has drawn a series of motifs featuring a slogan for each house that sounds more like a feminist manifesto than it does a recipe for magic.
“I quickly realized most of the [mythology] stories involved sexual violence cloaked in romance or poetic images, like Daphne turning into a laurel tree to escape Apollo’s advances. I enjoy the imagery of mythology, but I think ‘Harry Potter’ is a much safer place for women than the realms of the ancient gods,” she said.
Another important aspect of this series, as well as the rest of her artwork featuring dominant female characters, is that she positions them in a way that elevates the female empowerment stakes.
“I imagine the figures in my personal works as existing in an alternate universe where male gaze doesn’t exist. They are comfortable in their bodies and value female kinship. They are free to express their femininity without judgement, be it as soft and romantic or butch as they desire,” she said.
Given that two of the houses in Hogwarts are founded by women – Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw – it makes sense that they could be feminist heroes to many. However, this description on SparkLife, where Louise’s images were published and the website with whom she collaborated to make this series, points out the difference in dynamic among the male characters and female characters when it comes to their role models, and why feminism even in this setting can have an impact on readers and fans.
“The world of Harry Potter isn’t without the patriarchal trappings of Muggle society…Harry’s mentors are for the most part male—Dumbledore, Hagrid, the Marauders, Snape—while Molly Weasley’s defining characteristic is ‘mum to many’ and Rita Skeeter, Dolores Umbridge, and Bellatrix are all presented as a toxic, if strong, blend of femininity. Hermione and Luna are both singled out for being ‘not like other girls’, and while Ginny morphs into something greater as the books progress, it’s hard to shake the idea of her as the prized little sister of Ron/Bill/Fred/George/Percy/Charles; something to be protected. We worry about the psychic scars to Dumbledore, to Snape, to Sirius, rather than the martyred women those memories stem from (Ariana, Lily). It’s a ‘theme’, is what we are saying,” it reads.
In an interview with Refinery29 about her series, Louise says while she loves the series dearly, there are ways in which she wishes it would’ve gone further in terms of the way the female characters were developed, which is why she wanted to create this series of illustrations to imagine Hogwarts in an even more feminist way.
“I liked Luna Lovegood and Professor Trelawney, but I wish there was more of a variety of female characters with more depth in the series. It seems like a lot of the female characters have to work really hard to be taken seriously, like Hermione and Professor McGonagall. Whereas the boys, like Ron, can be goofy, but still good wizards,” she said.
For what it’s worth, J.K Rowling has done a brilliant job of creating a piece of iconic pop culture in the Harry Potter series which has impacted millions of lives around the world in magical ways. She has spoken openly about being a feminist in a 2011 featurette on the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” DVD, and also explained how the female characters she created were crafted with great detail.
“Very early on in writing the series, I remember a female journalist saying to me that Mrs. Weasley, ‘Well, you know, she’s just a mother,’ and I was absolutely incensed by that comment. Now, I consider myself to be a feminist, and I’d always wanted to show that just because a woman has made a choice, a free choice to say, ‘Well, I’m going to raise my family and that’s going to be my choice. I may go back to a career, I may have a career part time, but that’s my choice.’ Doesn’t mean that that’s all she can do. And as we proved there in that little battle, Molly Weasley comes out and proves herself the equal of any warrior on that battlefield,” she said.
Nevertheless, we can’t get enough of Louise’s artwork and love that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not just for the boys, it is also a space where girls can come and enjoy stories about girls and women with a variety of powers and personalities. You can see more of Louise’s artwork by clicking here.