Monday, December 3, 2012

Why You Don't Really Love Hermione-- But You Should

So I've been re-reading the Harry Potter books for the 10,000th time, and the same thing struck me that always does-- everyone (I'm talking about fans of the books here, not characters within them) talks about how much they love Hermione. Hermione is by far my favorite character in the series, and it might be a bit hipster-ish of me to feel this way ("Ugh, I don't want liking her to be so mainstream!"), but seriously, it drives me up a wall when people talk about how much they love the series and love the character but completely fail to understand her character.

Now, when I'm talking about fans, I'm usually talking about the people on reddit who post pictures like these: 

Usually with oh-so-clever titles like "My, How You've Grown Up, Hermione," or "Hermione the Atheist." (also usually accompanied by the quote: ""But that's - I'm sorry but that's completely ridiculous! How can I possibly prove it doesn't exist? Do you expect me to get hold of - of all the pebbles in the world and test them? I mean you could claim that anything's real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody proved it doesn't exist!"). 

Now, here are my bones to pick with this. First of all, the grown woman in these pictures is Emma Watson, who is an Actual Person and not a fictional character. I'm sure Emma Watson is a lovely person, but that doesn't make her Hermione Granger. Stop sexualizing a child (since, for the majority of the books, Hermione's character is not even 16 years old-- also why I find "Sexy Hermione costumes" to be really creepy). point here is, Hermione is a strong female character. She is unabashedly intelligent, courageous, kind, and many other traits. The trait I like most about her, however, is her commitment to standing up to bullies and calling them out, and more importantly, standing up for people or creatures who are in the minority and/or are being squashed by the majority.

If we take this and apply it to reality, it means that Hermione does and is all of the things that you hate in a person. She'll correct you when you're wrong-- and all skeptics and atheists react well to that, right? She'll also give you hard truths when you need to hear them, even if you don't want to.

I see Hermione in a lot of the women I respect. She stands up to Umbridge directly when Umbridge starts behaving unfairly toward the students (and jeopardizing their safety by refusing to teach them defensive magic)-- much like my friend Miriam of Brute Reason when she tells her university's administration to "wake up" in regards to the substandard level of care and attention given to mental health issues on her campus. Sure, a lot of people can grumble about bad administrations, or do things to make the administrator's lives more difficult (like vandalism or making unhelpful remarks), or simply leave the school because they don't want to fight for better things (not that I am in any way blaming someone who would leave the school in order to take care of their mental health)-- but Miriam doesn't do that. She gets shit done. She's now meeting with higher ups at her university to talk about the issues on campus and her suggestions on how to improve mental health issues on campus.

Then there's the fact that Hermione is willing to go against what everyone else believes or to call out big and powerful people in her world (like popular sports players or the Minister of Magic). I don't mean something like bragging about how you're an atheist to a generally atheistic crowd, I mean calling out a very famous and well-known atheist author or pointing out the misogyny of popular culture like my friend Chana has (by the way, 'geek culture' is pop culture, as much as you may try to deny it). 

Hermione also speaks up for minorities, oppressed, and generally ignored groups. You see this when she starts SPEW (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) that everyone else laughs at, or when she defends Eloise Midgen (the girl who is always referenced as having terrible acne), among other times. I see this in my friend Kate, who takes the time to transcribe videos from conferences so people who are hearing impaired can appreciate them as well. Hermione takes the time to care for those who show not a shred of interest in her (like Kreacher), the same way Kate encourages us to care and love for one another.

Hermione is like the progressive vegan who reminds you that eating animals is wrong because it is immoral and destroying our planet, like my friend Simon does (she doesn't have a blog, or I'd link it here, but she does this a lot in person, like when she and her partner create a non-profit to make free websites for vegan organizations). Hermione does this time and time again, much to the chagrin of the main characters (and every other character, to be honest), but she's right. She has a strong moral compass, and she follows it at all times, even when it's inconvenient.

Of course, Hermione gets harassed for supporting unpopular positions (like that Voldemort has returned or the importance of SPEW), much like Jen McCreight. We don't often see Hermione break down due to the torment of her peers, but I think that's more due to Harry's inability to deal with other people's emotions than to Hermione's unending perseverance-- although, let's be honest, she's quite a strong woman, just like Jen is).

While Hermione is the Reddit Atheist's heroine for pointing out illogical thinking, she also doesn't encourage being a shitlord to people she disagrees with. She goes out of her way to be nice to muggles, the group that wizards regularly look down upon or ignore. She encourages inter-house cooperation, even when tensions between them are running high (see: during Quidditch season), like my friend Sarah does during the Great Skeptic War of 2012. She goes out of her way to be nice to house elves, to the possible detriment of her own comfort. Hermione makes a point of not caring about her appearance (she is described as "unrecognizable" when she dresses up for the Yule Ball). If a stereotypical reddit atheist met real-life Hermione, he would hate her and call her a cunt.

I realize all of these analogies aren't perfect. I also realize that I'm leaving out many women I respect, so I'm sorry (it's more me being too tired to write more but also realizing that if I leave this as a draft I'll never finish it, so I'm just gonna hit post). 

But the next time you (and by "you," I more mean redditors and/or misogynistic nerds) want to whine about how you'd prefer a girl like Hermione over someone vapid like [insert x popular female celebrity], just remember, there are Hermiones all over the place-- you're just too busy shunning, harassing, mocking, or ignoring them.

[By the way, I have a feeling I'm gonna get a lot of hate for calling out "reddit atheists"-- I know, not everyone on reddit is an awful person, but let's face it: there are some serious sexism problems on reddit. Pictures of me have frontpaged a handful of times (namely because I work in a job that allows me a lot of opportunities that r/atheism would appreciate), and I'm either told that I'm hot, or ugly, or look annoying, or should be raped, or something like that. It's usually not "wow, congratulations on raising $1,200 for the SSA!" or questions about my job-- nope, it's "wow, check out her rack!" or "god, she looks annoying." So, yes, I know not everyone on reddit is awful, but if you are going to act like there's no problem there, then you're just objectively wrong.]


  1. *giggles* I want all of the feminist atheists out there to take a group shot with a sign that says "WE ARE ALL HERMIONE!" Nice parallels with the atheist community, and thanks for reminding me why I fell in love with that character in the first place.

  2. I read these books as a middle-aged man and I write this as a middle-aged, somewhat older man. As I read the books, Hermione was the character that I identified with most, and most wished I had been more like at that age. Hermione was a smart kid who thought in an intellectual manner far beyond her years. That doesn't mean that we actually WERE smarter than our peers, but it did mean we were permanently alienated from them. Hermione, unlike most of us who retreated in our shells, stood up and challenged her peers and the powers that be. Shouldn't every nerd identify with and envy her character?

    As for Emma Watson, She wasn't exactly how I pictured Hermione, but I thought she was great in the part (I've only seen the first few movies). At the time, I thought she was a cute kid who would grow up to be gorgeous, hot woman. However, despite the most diligent attempts of photographers and her publicists, I still think she's cute. Ad I still wish I had been more Hermione-like in Jr. High, or even today.

  3. "If a stereotypical reddit atheist met real-life Hermione, he would hate her and call her a cunt."

    And those are the real-life Draco Malfoys. You meet him on reddit. You meet him on twitter. You meet him on every forum and the comments sections of every website, youtube channel, or blog, calling real-life Hermione a mudblood, while real-life Snape lurks in the background, ready to jump in at a moment's notice and punsih any #Gryffindorbullies who try to stand up to him.

    1. I love that you took the analogy further! You're right, they are the real life Draco Malfoys. That could be a post in and of itself. :)

    2. Lets not forget that when it came down to the truly tough situations, Draco ended up being a good guy and it turns out Harry had just unfairly demonized him all along.

  4. Can we start saying "pornifying" instead of "sexualizing"? Because if you've had it you'll agree sex looks nothing like those pictures, but they look a lot like the first couple of pictures in a pornographic pic gallery.

  5. this is great. We are all Hermione!

  6. Interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.

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