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!