How to Make a Magical World More Magical

Hello!

We are still beavering away at Sonorus #2 – we can’t wait to share it with you all!

Here’s another great piece from issue one, this time from Vivienne Egan. Let us know what you think.

Remember, if inspiration strikes, submissions are open until 1st November!

Team Sonorus

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How to Make a Magical World More Magical 

One of the things that always bugs me about fantasy, futuristic or sci-fi worlds is the fact that their creators can hardly ever conceive of a world in which men and women are equal. When the slate is blank, there are so many possibilities. You’re designing your new world, and yet imaginative worlds doesn’t seem that interested in exploring more enlightened gender relations.

For me, the Harry Potter series shows gender roles and sexuality in a way that is at least embarrassingly dated, and at worst grossly irresponsible. From school to home to work, in both the muggle and wizarding worlds, we see gender norms repeated without question, particularly in domestic life.

Let’s compare the two families we see in close focus in the home: the Dursleys and the Weasleys. In each family, the men are the breadwinners; both women are the homemakers and carers. Both couples are (we are led to believe) married before reproducing; both the women take on their husbands’ names (see also: the Potters, the Lestranges, the Malfoys, the Lupins, Bill and Fleur Weasley, the Longbottoms, and so on).  Both women remain in the home after their youngest children go to school.

But the difference is that one of the families is magic. Why – if you can automate cleaning, if cooking is just a matter of knowing a good recipe spell, is a magical woman still confined to the home in this world?

How dull that, with the whole corpus of wizarding lore at her disposal, a witch’s main remit as a woman (after you marry and make more wizard babies) is perfecting domestic spells and making sure your children get off to school with all the right books and accoutrements: in essence, not that different from Petunia Dursley’s daily life, except with more kooky clocks.

When we look closer at these gender roles, we can see the beginnings: when you box magic folk up as a “wizard” or a “witch” from the time they get their Hogwarts letter would do. You’re setting them up for a lifetime of gendered interactions. How would “Witchcraft” differ from “Wizardry”?  What if a girl wants to identify as a wizard and vice versa? Just as in the muggle world, the masculine form is the default descriptor (see “the wizarding world” vs “mankind”, for instance).

Consistently throughout the series, it is the men who hold power and knowledge; women are helpers and aids who largely act out their gendered identities. Consider the Order of the Phoenix: at Grimmauld Place, Molly Weasley is the chief cleaner and cook, while others go out and engage in dangerous and important work. Sirius, who is also confined to the domestic sphere, is restless and depressed because of it. Hermione’s intelligence saves Harry on a number of occasions but she’s content with giving him a boost rather than taking the glory. On the dark side, Narcissa Malfoy’s only effect on the plot is through her maternal action – to protect her son from harm. Bellatrix Lestrange, meanwhile, is a kind of frenzied, sexualised acolyte who acts out of her love for Voldemort. These women are important to the plot largely via their traditionally feminine attributes: mother, carer, helper, sex-crazed devotee.

And there’s no evidence that anyone has a problem with that. Even Hermione – who vigorously speaks up about the rights of house elves and takes no shit from anyone – seems fine with it. I can imagine Hermione spearheading the feminist movement in the wizarding world (and probably getting the same crap as she did when she started S.P.E.W.).

I believe a far more exciting alternative would be to show young readers a world in which the women are not confined by the same gender roles as we muggles are. The magical community doesn’t have sexist Hollywood films or TV advertisements; they don’t have Page 3, they don’t have big corporations foisting pink for girls and blue for boys on them. Imagine if millions of kids could read this series, now and in perpetuity, and find a gender equality to strive for. Now that would be truly magical.

Vivienne Egan is a freelance writer and editor whose Harry Potter credentials extend back about 12 years to when she and her friends would gather each day in the school library to hang out and talk about whether Harry and Ginny would get together, read fanfic while awaiting Goblet of Fire’s publication, and write their own Harry Potter quizzes. Her feminist credentials are more recent, but no less enthusiastic. You can find her on Twitter @VivEgan41.

Feminism and Lily Evans

Hello!

Here’s another one of the articles from issue one by Laura Stanley, a woman who appreciates fairly-minor-character love!

If it inspires you, we can still accept submissions for issue two until 1st November. :)

Team Sonorus

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Feminism and Lily Evans

Sometimes, I forget that not everyone’s lives revolve around Harry Potter. Some people just don’t know what House they’d be in and some people just don’t know who Harry Potter’s parents are. I’m always surprised when people look at me with that classic confused/pitying expression when I tell them Lily Evans is my favourite character. Lily Evans? SHE’S NOT EVEN A MAIN CHARACTER!!!!

Well, no, she’s not a main character – she is, of course, dead from the very start. But she is one of the most important characters – arguably the most important, as it’s her love that Harry’s life depends on, and it’s her loins from which he sprung. Without Lily, there would be no Harry Potter.

But to be honest, my love for Lily is not simply given because “She made Harry!!!” I love Lily because I am 100% sure that this 21-year-old ginger is a total feminist idol and I would go to the ends of the earth to not be the person on the wrong end of her wand. I think James Potter, amongst others, would agree.

J.K. Rowling, in writing Harry Potter, is drawing from two well-established literary genres – one predominantly female inhabited, and the other predominantly male. She writes in the tradition of boarding school novels; the kind written in the 1950’s by Enid Blyton and her contemporaries. Though there are books about boys in boarding schools, the genre is mostly centred around, and written by, girls and women to the point where such literary institutions have become synonymous with female space. But Rowling accompanies this with the element of fantasy, changing the limitations of the aforementioned boarding school genre. Fantasy novels have, in the past, been coded as fiction for boys (note: Rowling was told to use a pseudonym so boy readers wouldn’t know she was a woman) and the female characters in the genre often suffer from being reduced to two-dimensional stereotypes – especially that of the ‘strong warrior woman’.  Whereas the girls of the boarding school story are likely to be rather ordinary girls with ordinary problems, girls in the fantasy genre are likely to be emblematic warrior princesses who respond to their problems with incredible strength with a capital S, usually in spite of their sex. Lily Evans, however, is a girl of Malory Towers but she’s of Eowyn’s kin too; she resists being pigeonholed. The fate that befalls our heroines in girls school stories (as marriage pushes them towards domestication and thus, the sidelines) does not happen to Lily, as she embraces her fantasy-self, fighting against evil as well as balancing the trials marriage and motherhood. With Lily, Rowling is teaching us that there does not have to be a choice – we can be both wife and warrior; there is strength in both.

And whilst that is brilliant, what I love most about Lily Evans, as a character, is her reluctance to compromise on who she wants to be and who she wants around her. To illustrate this, I urge you to take out your copy of Order of the Phoenix and read aloud what she shouts at James in Snape’s Worst Memory:

 ‘Messing up your hair because you think it looks cool to look like you’ve just got off your broomstick, showing off with that stupid Snitch, walking down corridors and hexing anyone who annoys you just because you can – I’m surprised your broomstick can get off the ground with that fat head on it. You make me SICK.’

This girl, at the tender age of sixteen, is not mincing her words. And she’s not letting Snape get away with calling her a slur either. No way.

A big criticism of Lily Evans tends to come from Snape apologists, who say that Lily gave up on his friendship too easily after he let slip he believes people of Lily’s heritage are inferior. To this, I say bullshit. Lily is a character, a person, in her own right. She is not there to fix Snape (or James for that matter.) Yes, Snape had a terrible childhood, and made terrible friends, but if he couldn’t see the error of his ways for himself, then it was not Lily’s problem to sort him out. She was his friend – she owed him nothing. He messed up alone by calling her a slur in front of their school peers. He’s let her down in the biggest, most hurtful way and no one does that to Lily Evans.

And to those who argue that one little slip up is nothing compared to how much he loved her then again, I call bullshit. This love was destructive. He saw in Lily a girl who was lovely – but to him, she was an anomaly. To him, she was a girl who was fantastic regardless of her heritage; he chose to ignore her parentage, when Lily rightfully saw no reason to.

Lily Evans knew herself well enough at 16 to stand up to bullies and bigots, and to stand up to friends who fall into both categories. She is a true Gryffindor – “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”  She is a woman NOT TO CROSS and even Voldemort knows it.  She’s defied him not once but three times. She’s top of his hit list.

Lily Evans was sure of herself in many ways, just as I am sure in others she was not, but she remained true to herself first and foremost. She overcame adversity with remarkable aplomb – she’s a freedom fighter AND she had a baby at 20!  She loved (a feat which eluded many in the series) her family, and she never stopped fighting, whether it was for herself or her son; they are not mutually exclusive. In the end, she juggled it all without compromise to her character or her beliefs and that is precisely why I think she’s a feminist who should be loved throughout the ages.

Laura Stanley is a 22 year old aspiring writer, feminist and wannabe Spice Girl from Lincolnshire. She studied English Literature and History at the University of Sheffield, where she wrote her dissertation on representations of gender in the Harry Potter series. In her spare time she enjoys reading, dancing and pretending to be Daenerys Targaryen. Feel free to follow her @laurastans on Twitter if you wish to witness her madness firsthand.

Long Haired, Skinny, Pretty, and Partnered – The Conventional Beauty/Relationship Norms of Harry Potter

Hello from all at Sonorus!

Whilst we’re working away putting issue two together, we thought we’d share a few of the contributions we had for issue one with you, starting with the article below by the excellent Amy Maynard. :)

We still have issues of Sonorus #1 available to buy through our shop, and we can accept submissions for issue two up until the 1st November 2014.

We hope you enjoy!

Team Sonorus

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Long Haired, Skinny, Pretty, and Partnered – The Conventional Beauty/Relationship Norms of Harry Potter

I can’t find any ‘good’ female character that I relate to in Harry Potter. And it’s because I’ve got short hair, a pug nose, I’m single, and I’m a bit overweight. If you look at the series closely, J.K. Rowling disappointingly always casts her good female characters as conventionally attractive, and relegates them to the role of wife/girlfriend. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but not many. Let’s take a quick look at how the female characters conform.

  1. Long Hair

All of the female characters with the exception of Tonks, (who often changes her appearance at will anyway), are described as having long hair. Whether it’s bushy like Hermione’s, flowing like Fleur’s, in pigtails like Hannah Abbott’s, or even in a tight bun like McGonagall’s, all of the female characters are devoid of a pixie cut. Even the bad characters, like Bellatrix Lestrange or Narcissa Malfoy, are described as having long hair. Good or bad, J.K. seems to have a weird aversion to short hair. Maybe because of the pervasive stereotype that short haired women are gay? Because goodness me, we can’t have a female character without her being in a heterosexual relationship! (The only thing rarer than an Invisibility Cloak in the world of Harry Potter, it turns out, is a gay person).

  1. The ‘Girlfriend’ Role

As well as lesbians not existing in Harry Potter, apparently there are also no single women under the age of sixty. Think about it. All of the main female characters, with the exception of Luna, are, or were, wives or girlfriends. Hermione (who could do better than Ron, let’s face it). Fleur. Ginny. Mrs Weasley. Pansy Parkinson. Cho Chang, aka Harry’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Lily Potter. Lavender Brown. Even Bellatrix definitely had a lady-boner for Voldemort. In comparison, these are the male characters who were never relegated to ‘the boyfriend’ role: Neville, Seamus Finnegan, Dean Thomas, Ernie MacMillan, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Charlie Weasley, the Weasley twins, and Oliver Wood. And even when given the boyfriend role, at least Viktor Krum and Cormac McLaggen were never reduced to a sappy punchline like Lavender ‘Won Won’ Brown.

Speaking of sappy, oh my God, Tonks mooning over Lupin was THE WORST. Here was a sassy young woman who was fully capable of having her own purpose in the storyline without being Mrs Lupin, aka Lily Potter 2.0. Blech.

  1. Beauty

But why are these women being snaffled up by dudes, lest they be condemned to a life of disgusting singledom? Because they’re thin and pretty babes.

Where are the fat female students in Harry Potter? I can only think of one, the hefty Millicent Bulstrode, who is described as being very ugly. Much like the pug-nosed, hard-faced Pansy Parkinson. Because in Slytherin, it makes sense that if you’re ugly on the inside, you MUST be ugly on the inside! That’s deep, J.K. That’s some real deep symbolism right there.

As for the older women, there’s only two overweight main female characters. Molly Weasley, and Dolore Umbridge. Mrs Weasley is described with the kind term ‘plump’, and has warm eyes. Umbridge, the bad character, is repeatedly likened to a toad. The characterisations of Parkinson, Bulstrode and Umbridge send the resounding message to women who have average looks and/or are overweight that they may as well hurry up and get their Death Eater mask already. We don’t want any uggos in Dumbledore’s Army, gawd.

I like Harry Potter and I like J.K. Rowling, but there are some definite conservative gender norms at play when we consider the role of women in the series. It’s like the Stepford Witches. J.K., not every homely, overweight and single woman with short hair is non-existent or evil. We exist, and we want our stories to be told.

At the very least, could I be sorted into Hufflepuff? And have a lesbian best friend from Ravenclaw? Thanks.

Amy Louise Maynard is a university student and freelance writer who likes red wine and staring wistfully into the distance. She doesn’t like angry bees, dirt, or radishes. Her Patronus would be a disgruntled pug. You can follow her on Twitter @amybetweetin.

Sonorus #2 Submission Deadline Extended!

Following consultation with Professor Trelawney and her inner eye, which revealed that the editors don’t actually have time to put the second issue together for a few weeks, the deadline for Sonorus #2 has been extended until Saturday 29th March 2014.

Keep them coming, guys!

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150 Word Challenge: Should Hermione have married Ron?

The news that J.K. Rowling said in a recent interview (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/02/jk-rowling-hermione-harry-ron-married) that she had Hermione marry Ron for personal, rather than literary, reasons has been all over the internet! Though there seems to have been disproportionate emphasis placed on the comment hat Harry might have been a better match, there has been a lot of discussion amongst fans around the interview and if Hermione and Ron’s relationship was plausible.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to write no more than 150 words in response to the question: ‘Should Hermione have married Ron?’, preferably considering it in relation to gender. We’ll put the responses together into a feature for the next issue of Sonorus.

Send your submission to sonoruszine@gmail.com. The deadline is the same as for all other submissions (keep those coming, by the way!) – 1st March. As usual, anyone can write for us, and we’ll publish anything as long as it isn’t mean! :)

Write away!

We need your words for Sonorus #2!

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Submissions are now open for the second issue of Sonorus: Feminist Perspectives on Harry Potter!
Sonorus is a compzine, edited by three UK-based Harry Potter fans and feminists. We had a great response for issue one (which is available to buy here), and are now looking for submissions for our second issue. We can accept: 
  • Articles
  • Opinion pieces
  • Fan fiction (on a related theme)
  • Fan art (on a related theme)
Some prompts to consider:

Female role models in the series

Feminism/ social justice in the Wizarding World

Your favourite character – can they be seen as a ‘feminist’ character?

Gender roles in the series

The differences between the books and the films and their impact on gender

Race in the series

Fan fiction – the interpretation of characters by fans and how gender is affected by this

Gender and careers in the series

LGBT issues in the series/the fandom

Women in sport in the series

Femininity/masculinity in the series

Gender in relation to good vs. evil

Motherhood in the series

Relationships in the series and in fan fiction

J.K. Rowling as a female writer

This list is by no means exhaustive, and we are interested in any submissions related to gender in the Harry Potter books, film and fandom, and connected to the series as a cultural phenomenon!  Due to not wanting to replicate ideas we will only be able to print articles which are different from those featured in the previous issue. (ETA – a list of pieces from issue one is now available on the shop page.) All other submissions (as long as they are not discriminatory in any way) will be printed in this or a future issue of the zine.

We welcome submissions from people of any gender, and from new writers as well as people who submitted to the first issue.

Please send submissions and questions to sonoruszine@gmail.com.  The deadline for submissions is 1st March 2014. 

We look forward to hearing from you!

Sonorus #1 now available to buy!

Sonorus Zine

It’s taken hours of work, a lot of paper and loads of cutting and sticking, but the first issue of Sonorus: Feminist Perspectives on Harry Potter is now ready! Click here to go to the shop page and order your copy.

It’s so exciting!

Let us know what you think of it – send us an email on sonoruszine@gmail.com. And look out for the call for submissions for issue two!