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On Feminists

(I'm actually wondering where this belongs - that's the problem of having two journals with different friends on them... Well, since it was sparked by some Harry Potter essays, I'll leave it here... And then there's the second problem, just how to link them...)

Figured it out. The essay that has sparked this comment is the "Why All the Female Characters in..." (duh...)

This essay condemns virtually all of the female characters in Harry Potter that are expected to be taken as role models by young female readers worldwide (and, on the flipside, praises one that I personally find repulsive, both as a woman and as a person). It criticises one character for following the stereotypical female career of being a teacher, and calls a couple of others whores who must have men in their lives.

How shall I say this? Well, I think I have a very poor understanding of what feminism actually is. I've skimmed the wikipedia article, and I understand that the term refers to a variety of ideologies which often contradict each other, but I am not familiar with current...shall I say...'trends'.

But I certainly have a problem with the particular feminist ideology expoused in this essay, i.e. the view that women who fight alongside the men for their beliefs, provided those beliefs aren't concerned with anything remotely close to those assigned to women by patriarchical societies, are the ideal that we should all be aspiring towards.

Firstly, I do not understand why love - whether familial, romantic or otherwise - should be considered a feminine and thus weak and despicable emotion. Do we have to turn ourselves into emotionless robots, or people who take pleasure in highly materialistic aims such as gaining more power, influence, money, experience etc in order to be considered 'ideal'? I found another argument (which may well have sparked the above essay) a much more balanced analysis of the character of Nymphadora Tonks in Half-Blood Prince (HBP). Concern for people one loves should not be dismissed as weak and feminine, (I'll leave aside the issue that there isn't enough evidence about his feelings, that she was being manipulative etc.) and 'love making one stronger' seems to be a major theme of the story.

Secondly, why the criticism of a woman taking a career as a teacher? There are about as many male teachers as female teachers at Hogwarts, a much better ratio than in any school I've been in (I'm not counting university...I admit that frankly, there are far to few women in the higher levels of any profession). More importantly, considering all the flak that primary and secondary school teachers get, and the huge task they are faced with, especially in a world which is increasing dumping on them the responsibility of raising children to be sensible, reliable adults who can deal with whatever life throws at them, I would rather praise McGonagall and all the other teachers for dedicating their lives to the future.

This leads me on to my next and most important point. That rather extreme feminist ideology is, I feel, taking the wrong approach to the issue of 'equality'. If being equal means that all women should become like men, then I fear that our society will become unbearable and unsustainable. Although women should be able to aspire to most (if not all) of what is available to men, we must also remember to look to our future. If no one develops the capability to raise the next generation to be compassionate, caring, sensible, reliable and a whole lot of other characteristics, then the human race will destroy itself. It does not have to be women who remain at home raising the children - I know of one house-husband, and I wish I knew more. Because it is highly improbable, in the pressures of the modern world, for one individual to have a brilliant career as well as raise children well, we should not be fighting for women to become more like men, but for characteristics associated with each gender to become more acceptable in both the sexes. It's not just that women should be able to go above the glass ceiling, but men should be able to take the back seat without being regarded as being ineffective and unmasculine (gender is a social construction anyway). In other words, changing our patriarchical society involves much more than simply allowing women to walk beside men, men must also be encouraged to walk beside women and be happy to take on what has traditionally been left to 'the fairer sex'.

(Little side discussion:) From a biological perspective - which was covered in one of my linguistics classes, of all places! - humans are perhaps the species where there should be the most equality between the sexes, at least amongst mammals (I mean, look at certain birds, and seahorses). Even amongst our closest relatives, the male is often much bigger than the female, and tasks necessary for the subsistence of a community are divided up such that there are clearly defined roles for male and female members. However, men and women of the human race are rather similar in size, so what does that tell us? Certainly, our reproductive organs mean that certain functions are determined based on what one's sex is, but no other tasks have to be pre-determined.

And yes, this came from a Harry Potter discussion, which, at least in my mind, is not a world that is constructed well enough to devote all that much time to (although I devote too much time reading some of these essays and discussions...). However, there are a lot of intelligent people in the...fandom (seriously, that word has too many negative connotations) so what comes out of it is often very good material for discussion.

And on another note...I'm not replying IN the fandom itself because I am quite happy sitting outside it, and I understand that there are some opinions that you just cannot change.