Category Archives: Literature

That Girl is a Goddamn Problem: Girl Hate and Beyond in Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling has said that Pansy did not end up marrying Draco because Rowling always hated her: “I loathe Pansy Parkinson. I don’t love Draco but I really dislike her. She’s every girl who ever teased me at school. She’s the Anti-Hermione. I loathe her.”

The more I think about this the more furious I get. If I had to sum up most of my problems with the J.K. Rowling’s approach to writing, I would start with this quote.  This is at the bottom of the Harry Potter wiki page about Pansy Parkinson, a page that is literally nothing more than a list of all the mean things Pansy ever did. Because that’s all she did. That’s all she existed to do.

There’s a very overt thread of girl hate woven throughout the Harry Potter series. It becomes most noticeable in Half-Blood Prince, where teen girls in love become crazy, jealous and dangerous. But from Sorcerer’s Stone it’s there: we know right off the bat who are the nice girls and the mean girls, and we know who we’re supposed to root for. J.K. Rowling is often praised for her “strong female characters” and I would be lying if I said that Hermione Granger isn’t one of the most pansyparkinsonimportant characters that ever happened to me.

But as I reread and reevaluated the books over the years with a more critical, feminist lens I began to recognize clear patterns of sexism, gender essentialism and, yes, girl hate. I was shocked when I realized that, in these books that I’ve read countless times, there are no strong relationships between any of the women characters. (The fact that it took so long for me to realize it speaks to how normal the absence of women-centered relationships is in media but that’s for another time.)

It’s not even just that there are no strong woman-to-woman relationships: most of the women, especially the secondary characters, exist to act as a  foils for one another. Hermione in particular has two distinct foils. Pansy Parkinson, her enemy from the start and then, come Half-Blood Prince, Lavender Brown, who commits the crime of being a teen in puppy love. Cho Chang is a foil of Ginny Weasley (who is praised as “rarely weepy”); Fleur Delacour and Tonks (who are explicitly compared in-text by Molly and Ginny); even Molly Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange. What a disservice these books do to these women. They could be characters who live and breathe instead of existing to be compared to one another.

But I find myself particularly offended at her use of Pansy Parkinson, which is a place I never thought I would be. It may be petty or silly but I find myself wondering: why Draco and not Pansy? Why couldn’t Harry’s schoolyard nemesis be a girl, why not Pansy? Why does Draco get the redemption arc?  The back story? The capacity for sympathy from the audience? Why, in a magical world, must J.K. Rowling cling to the “realism” of teenage girl cattiness? Simple: revenge.  J. K. Rowling writes teenage girls based on real teenagers who hurt her solely to exact some sort of literary revenge. She creates a caricature of teenage girl meanness that is then read by real, live teenage girls. And it’s not just that mean teen girls exist in these books: they deserve lifelong punishment for their meanness or badness.

The fate of Marietta Edgecombe is an especially sadistic example of this. Marietta Edgecombe, who at 16 or 17 made a poor decision in a school that was under tyrannical rule from a powerful political interloper. We’re meant to interpret the embarrassing pustules as something she deserves and Hermione as clever for having the foresight to put that vicious curse in place. What happened in the long term? According to J.K. Rowling, while the pustules faded Marietta had lifelong scars because she “loathes a traitor.” What a horrifying implication: girls who make mistakes as teenagers deserve punishments that expand into their adult lives. The same with Pansy: she is deprived of a hypothetical relationship with Draco simply because J.K. Rowling hates her, because she is the “anti-Hermione.” There is no room for sympathy. There is no chance at redemption. These girls are not significant enough for that.

And maybe I could be more forgiving if it weren’t for the fact that the seeds of girl and woman hating bullshit J.K. Rowling plants come to full, forceful bloom when fandom steps in. Fandoms are notorious for their hatred of women characters, even ones that aren’t set up in-text for hatred. Pansy is a literary punching bag in many fanfictions: she’s typically a slut, a home wrecker, a bitch that no one likes. Including Draco. He’ll fuck her, cheat on someone (better and nicer) with her, date her, maybe even marry and have children with her but rarely like or love her. Draco, who committed actual war crimes beyond “being mean” and “being so afraid of Voldemort that she suggested they should give Harry over to him in an attempt to protect herself and her housemates.”

But Pansy doesn’t get that kind of nuanced motivation. Her yelling “There he is, get him!” is just another way to show the reader how awful she is. Complicated back stories and motivations are typically reserved for evil and morally ambiguous male characters (I say typically because Narcissa Malfoy exists). Draco, Snape, Voldemort–we spend a lot of time with their histories and emotions. But hey, these are mostly secondary characters. No author should be expected to flesh out all of their secondary characters. Archetypes and foils serve a very real literary purpose.

But I take issue with so many of the secondary characters in the Harry Potter series being women who fall into insidious, damaging stereotypes. Obviously J. K. Rowling is not the first or the last writer to do this. And it’s unfair to expect her to fix it or be perfect in this regard. But my resentment is not just because J. K. Rowling never intend for these characters to be more than vicious bullies, weepy depressives or annoying girlfriends. It comes from a deeper, more internal place. An ugly place that understands her desire to hate and punish literary proxies of real life girls. I remember being that kind of woman, full of hate and resentment for other women even as I claimed to be a advocate for them. And it scares me to think of young minds (like my own young self’s) being further shaped by that kind of mentality.

Ultimately, I’m tired of the long, harmful tradition of normalizing girl hate. Of making it common place. Of reminding us that it’s typical and expected. I want YA writers to shake up these shitty, false ideas of girlhood and girl friendships. I want a world, literary and otherwise, that teaches women how to be friends, how to support each other, how to critically engage one another. Where mean girls don’t begin and end at their meanness. I want stories about how wonderful we can be to and for each other. We shouldn’t have to unlearn how we’ve been taught to hate each other. Imagine if girl hate tropes disappeared from young adult novels. That would be real fucking magic.

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Link Dump: #92

Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,” wrote Data of his cat Spot. “An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature.” That’s right: this week’s kitty is the adorable tabby from Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show I recently wrote about. The show’s cast members had wildly differing opinions about Spot, but I just love that spacefaring kitty. And now, links!

A few recent search terms: “mmm cunt,” “sensual asholes.dvd” (which I’m sorry to say cannot be purchased from this website), and “pelicula ratas gigantes asesinas,” which is Spanish for “giant killer rat movies.” Like The Food of the Gods, maybe?

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Link Dump: #90

This week’s kitty is from The Sessions, a movie that doesn’t take many creative chances but is unusual by virtue of being about disability and sex. And now, a whole bunch of links:

And here are our recent search terms, which read like a window into some sad Google user’s erotic nightmares: “fat firl uteras pics,” “www.real-virgil-pussy-ukraine.com,” “she bends on her four ready for deflowring her stories.”

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Link Dump: #83

Japanese staring-you-in-the-eyes KITTY!

We’re baaaack! After a November hiatus, new content is finally returning to Pussy Goes Grrr. More to come over the next few weeks, too, as we wrap up 2012 and see what the new year has in store. In the meantime, we have a kitty for you—this week’s ominous feline comes from Kaneto Shindo’s spooooky ghost story Kuroneko, which literally translates into Black Cat—and some links!

Finally, some recent/disturbing search terms: “convinced sister to have sex with me,” “constantly worrying if baby is alive,” and “ten men dum in one pussy.” On the more amusing side, “lustoffuck.” Which, I guess, is “lust of fuck” condensed into a single word?

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Link Dump: #80

The kitties for this week’s 80th Link Dump are from notoriously kitty-friendly auteur Chris Marker and his short film La Jetée, which I wrote about yesterday. They’re lying on a blanket! So cute and comfy. And now, an abundance of links…

Recent search terms that amuse me include “self photo fail, dildo,” “last minut pusst,” and of course “سكس,” is Arabic for “sex.”

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Link Dump: #60

Look! It’s a kitty clinging to a tree in the Steve Martin vehicle Roxanne! So cute. Not unlike that kitty, Pussy Goes Grrr has been pretty sluggish lately, for reasons related to personal lives, spring break, etc. But more writing is just around the corner and for now, some links:

This week, we have a pair of search terms that double as advice column submissions. First: “vagina getting red every month.” That is called menstruating and, in the words of Carrie’s mom, it means you’re a woman now. Second: “am i a pussy for being affraid of heights.” Hey: 1) the epithet “pussy” is nothing to be ashamed of and 2) I’m also deathly afraid of anything beyond a second floor. Heights are scary.

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Things That Confuse and Anger Me About the Harry Potter Series: The Epilogue

By Ashley

And so I’ve reached the end. I’ve been so fully immersed in this project that Harry Potter has literally been all I think, talk, or write about. Even when I’m thinking about other things—classes, friends, my relationship, anything—the books and this project were sitting in wait, taking up a large portion of my brain, distracting the hell out of me. It’s very lucky that so many of my classes so far have been pretty low-stress and I haven’t been totally bombarded with homework. I started rereading in late August and it was like tumbling into the rabbit hole all over again: despite the fact that I’ve read these books countless times before and I was very consciously looking for flaws and plot holes and was concentrating so hard on the things that make me angry in this series (which is a lot), I still felt like I was 12 years old again. At that age, Harry Potter was my world, it was my main creative outlet, it saved me from a fucked-up family and distracted me when I wanted to hurt myself. Harry Potter, for all of the many, many, many problems I have with the series and its creator, is and always will be something I love entirely. Some people are afraid to think critically about the things that are dear to them, afraid that they’ll have to disown it or start disliking it. This is not true; never stop thinking critically about the media you take in, ever. I am a Potterhead. The fact that I can question JKR and say “Hey, this is fucked up or wrong or infuriating” does not take away from how much I love the series. With that said, I’m (obscenely) excited to rip this goddamn epilogue to shreds.

1. I think one of the reasons so many people hate this epilogue is because it’s so far removed from everything we know. I don’t fucking know 36-year-old Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We know the characters we’ve seen grow up from ages 11-17. It’s a lot to ask of the readers, just jumping 19 years into the future and expecting us to be all cool with it. You don’t stay the same from when you’re 17 to the time you’re in your mid-thirties. We, the readers, went through trauma in this goddamn book: we lost characters who meant something to us, characters who felt like friends and family, characters that we had known and loved for upwards of 10 years. Voldemort dies and then we just cut to this happy ending. It just doesn’t jibe with me, man. I feel like it would’ve been so much better to have a “1 year later” epilogue (if there had to be an epilogue at all); that way we wouldn’t have been so completely displaced from everything we just went through. We still could’ve seen them moving on with their lives and in their stupid little predictable relationships, but also seen them healing and grieving. This epilogue…it’s like none of what we went through matters anymore! Because the characters have had nearly 20 fucking years to cope and heal and move on. I had 2 fucking pages to cope and heal. And then BAM, we’re hit with these adult versions of the characters we know and they all have little carbon copy children heading off to Hogwarts.

2. The last few chapters of Book 7 are some of the best writing JKR does in the whole series. Mostly because it’s full of the action stuff she’s so good at writing, but she even outdoes herself with the emotional stuff with “The Forest Again.” The epilogue is just…weak. It’s so sophomoric. It feels like I’m reading Book 1 all over again, and not just because she has all these parallels to the first time Harry was on Platform 9 ¾.

3. Speaking of those parallels, OMG IS THIS REALLY NECESSARY. Do we really need to see Harry and Ginny’s little redhead daughter crying about how she wants to go to Hogwarts like her brothers, just like Ginny did in the first book? It’s bad enough that Harry and Ginny are practically copies of Lily and James but then they have children who are carbon copies of them! And their fucking names are Lily and James! And Albus Severus.

4. These names, man. These fucking names. JKR is trolling us hard. You do realize that, right? Like…did Ginny not get any fucking say over her kids’ names? Like, every single time she was like “Harry, darling, I have an idea for our daughter’s name!” Harry was just like “UH STFU NO 1 CURR”. And it’s not just them—fucking Rose and Hugo? HUGO?! WHAT IS THIS WHAT IS LIFE I DON’T UNDERSTAND. SCORPIUS? SCORPIUS HYPERION MALFOY?! WHAT IS THIS!? FUCK YOU. OH MY GOD I WANNA BREAK SHIT.

5. The name I find most mind-numbingly horrible and extremely offensive to the readers is Harry and Ginny’s youngest child, Albus Severus. Not just because that kid is totally gonna get picked on for having the dumbest name I’ve ever heard in my LIFE but because why the fuck would you fucking name your kid after Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape?! Who are you, Harry? I don’t even know you anymore. Why? What logic is this? Oh, yeah, Dumbledore, who asked you to risk your life over and over and over and who raised you like a pig to be sacrificed at the altar.  And Severus Snape, a man who bullied and tormented you for 6 years, hated your father completely and was obsessed—frighteningly, all-consumingly obsessed—with your mother for his entire adolescent and adult life. Yeah, TOTES NAME YOUR SON AFTER THOSE TWO GUYS.

6. For someone like me, the epilogue is especially unsatisfying because my idea of fulfilling, lifelong happiness does not involve marriage and children. It bothers me that we’re served this lackluster, uber-conventional, Babies Ever After ending and then we learn (in bits and pieces) the really interesting stuff—like careers and what happened to other, more interesting characters—after the goddamn book is out. Why couldn’t some of that shit have been the epilogue? It’s just so annoying that she’s presenting this—being happily married to people you met when you were fucking 11—as the way ALL her characters find lifelong happiness. That is not how life typically works out. Often times you don’t marry someone you met when you were 11. And if you do, you probably aren’t going to stay happy or married. Because like I said before, you change a lot from the time you’re 17 to the time you’re nearly fucking 40. And I know some people are all like “OMG, it’s a fantasy book!” Yeah, a fantasy book that is all about death and war and grief and fucking Nazism and totalitarianism. This fucking epilogue is such mood dissonance. It’s jarring and unpleasant because it’s so overwhelmingly—almost cartoonishly—happy and cutesy.

7. The main characters’ relationships feel a little…incestuous, don’t they? Like, okay here go their little carbon copies—who look just like them and are basically hollow extensions of their parents—off to Hogwarts to have their own adventures! But the core group—Harry (Al or James), Ron (Hugo, maybe), Hermione (Rose) and Ginny (Lily)—are all fucking related. They’ve known each other all their lives. Since we’re basically forced to think of these kids as extensions of their parents it gets creepy because an important dynamic of all the relationships involved the will-they-won’t-they aspect and even unresolved sexual tension. But all these kids are related. And that’s icky, yo.

8. This is a huge problem I have with the whole series: IT’S SO GODDAMN HETERONORMATIVE. There are SO many characters in this series; it is statistically implausible that they are all straight. And what makes it worse is this is a series that is supposed to be all about tolerance. But the only LGBT canon sort-of couple (Dumbledore and Grindewald) nearly fucking leads to another Holocaust. Uhm. Wow. Unfortunate Implications. Her revealing Dumbledore’s sexual orientation after the fact has always seemed tacked on to me; yeah, there are extremely vague hints about their relationship in the book but nothing explicitly stating “They were a couple”. This is something that I have a serious problem with. This is the reason most of my OTPs are queer. I want to see my own sexuality reflected in these characters that I grew up with and love.  I don’t want to feel condescended to after the fact when you say that one of your most important characters is gay. That’s a bullshit move, in my opinion. Taking the coward’s route and waiting until it was safe enough to come out with it does nothing—fucking nothing—for the LGBT community.

So there we have it! This was such a fun if time-consuming project. As always, please leave any comments you may have. Thanks for sticking with me through this! I’m def not going to be reading anymore Harry Potter for a while.

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