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6 Most Awesome Women in the Harry Potter Books and Movies

Most children's entertainment depicts female characters in ways that bolster gender stereotypes. But the Harry Potter universe offers up many great feminist heroines.

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Ginny, like Hermione, is courageous and willing to risk death to fight for what she believes in. But she’s also got something of a temper. She might have started off shy and starstruck by Harry’s celebrity, but by the end of the series, she’s no shrinking violet. Perhaps it’s for this reason that Ginny has so many detractors, fans who call her a slut or a brat and who deride her athletic talents. Ginny isn’t just a simpering love interest: she’s a fully-formed female character, and a pretty feminist one at that, who ends up with the hero in the end.

When you look at her parents, it’s easy to see where Ginny gets her boldness and courage from. Molly and Arthur Weasley are poor but generous, and as the series goes on we learn that despite being the most unlikely freedom fighters imaginable, they have been deeply involved in the fight against Voldemort for many years. Molly Weasley, in particular, doesn’t fit the standard profile for feminist heroines. In fact, when we first meet her, she fits the standard profile for the strict, henpecking wife who cooks very well but is prone to yelling at a very high volume whenever her sons or husband upset her (which happens rather often).

But at the very end of the series, we discover that Molly Weasley knows how to fight, and when the time comes to defend her family, she will do it. She will go head to head with Voldemort’s most vicious deputy, and she will win. She might even curse as she does it: Rowling only wrote a handful of curse words in the entire series, but she put one of them in Molly’s mouth. I have no doubt that Harry Potter fans will riot in the streets if the final movie omits the scene in which Molly Weasley rushes headlong into a battle to defend Ginny, crying, “Not my daughter, you bitch!” This moment is arguably one of the highlights of the seventh book and after reading it, one has the sneaking suspicion that Arthur Weasley wasn’t really henpecked all those years. He just knew something that we didn’t: his short, plump, kindly wife is actually a fierce warrior who is deadly with a wand.

No list of Rowling’s heroines would be complete without a mention of Minerva McGonagall, the brilliant Hogwarts Transfiguration teacher, or of Luna Lovegood, the eccentric student who befriends Harry, Ron and Hermione toward the end of the series. At school, Lovegood is ostracized and ridiculed because she’s so odd, but she has never felt the need to disguise her eccentricity in order to fit in. As a result, Harry, Ron and Hermione, who accept her the way she is, are the first friends she’s ever had. There’s also Fleur Delacoeur, the breathtakingly beautiful French witch, who ends up married to the eldest Weasley brother. Other authors might have written Fleur as a blonde bimbo, but again, Rowling challenges the idea that beauty and brains cannot coexist by making Fleur smart as well as beautiful. When other female characters try to dismiss Fleur as stunning but stupid, as women are so often taught to do in our culture, Rowling has a male character remind them that Fleur is in fact quite smart and magically talented.

It would be a mistake to believe that all the female characters in the Potter series are angels. This is far from true; some of the most evil and detestable characters that Rowling created are women. Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort’s aforementioned deputy, is a heartless, soulless murderer who enjoys torturing her enemies and gleefully kills those members of her family who are not loyal to Voldemort’s totalitarian cause. Her sister Narcissa isn’t any better, except that she balks at the idea of sacrificing her own son to Voldemort. The secondary villain of the fifth book is Dolores Umbridge, a power hungry and sadistic Ministry of Magic official whose pink clothing and girlish giggle aren’t fooling anyone. While Rowling has written some kind, principled and courageous female characters, she clearly doesn’t believe that women are somehow better or purer than men. In the Harry Potter universe as in ours, women are just as vulnerable to corruption and evil as men are.