Over the past two days, the Internet has been in uproar over J.K. Rowling’s declaration that Hermione Granger should have married Harry Potter, and not Ron Weasley. I, for one, am fuming. Not because I “ship” Hermione and Ron, nor do I “ship” Hermione and Harry, but because, lost in the midst of this “who gets the girl?” debate is the kick-ass feminist, “brightest witch of her age,” who becomes reduced to a marriage trophy.
If J.K. Rowling, the self-titled feminist, had a relevant regret on Hermione’s narrative, it should only have been that she didn’t include how many award-winning wizardry achievements Hermione had gone on to complete post-Hogwarts. By regretting only Hermione’s marriage, J.K Rowling has, perhaps inadvertently, placed the entire focus of Hermione’s character around just that.
Hermione has now been cursed with the Bella Swan fate of absolutely HAVING to end up with one of the male protagonists. Hermione — the most intelligent of her year, the brains behind every plan the trio find themselves in, the girl who uses time travelling magic just so she can study more — has had her character compacted to a prize for the male protagonists.
This patriarchal literary need to close a female character’s story with marriage, however, is nothing new: consider Charlotte Bronte’s feminist role model Jane Eyre admitting “Reader, I married him,” and J.R.R Tolkien’s Éowyn, who kills the Witch-King after declaring “no living man am I! You look upon a woman” and then is neatly married off to give birth to sons. The ultimate ending for a woman, it seems, is — more often than not — marriage (and there was me, thinking we were moving beyond the ‘princess finds prince’ trope).
What’s more, beyond reducing Hermione’s entire existence to a prop of male validation to either Ron or Harry – depending on which one you believe “deserves” the girl — the non-issue of who she marries reaffirms yet another patriarchal myth: that a woman cannot partake in a platonic mixed-gender group without her main purpose becoming an object of male desire.
Ultimately though, the most distressing element of the entire matter is that Hermione — who sent the message to school girls of an entire generation that it’s ok to be strong and independent, to be clever but not kissed, to like books and not boys, to speak out in class and that achieving your best is something to be proud of — now sends an entirely different, and patriarchal message, one that overshadows all of the former, straight from the author herself: “Make sure you choose the right man.”
About the author: Kate Byard is a feminist writer and poet from Oxford, UK, currently in between an Undergraduate Degree in Literature and Masters Degree focusing on representations of sex and gender within 20th and 21st century literature. She is using her research time to also run sexual consent workshops with young people in schools, campaign for abortion rights, disability rights, and racial equality, protest against ecocide, and smash the patriarchy. Follow @katebyard for a tweet by tweet account of her progress.