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


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.


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

    • Hey Jenya! Glad you like the blog – you should totally submit something for issue two! The artwork is done by the wonderful Emily – you can find out more about her work on the About the Editors page. 🙂

      – Kirsty, Sonorus Editor

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