I listen to a lot of podcasts. It’s my favorite way to pass the time while I’m nannying. Recently, I started listening to a podcast called “Oh, Witch Please,” where two women reread all the Harry Potter books and rewatch the movies, and discuss them in depth. I’ve been absolutely loving it. It combines my love of literary analysis with the book series that shaped my childhood. It’s helped me appreciate the movies as pieces of film apart from how they compare to their book counterparts. They completely ignore J. K. Rowling’s authorial intent, and go purely off what is actually written on the page. In so many ways it’s progressive and feminist and inclusive, but the way they talk about Hermione Granger is deeply problematic.
Obviously, Hermione is a badass and absolutely the best character in the books. She’s the best witch at Hogwarts, she fights for the underdog, no matter how many assholes tell her she’s not welcome in the wizarding world. The women on this podcast feel the same way. There’s a segment in every episode called “Granger Danger” where they discuss what Hermione was up to in each book or movie. Most of the time I’m really onboard with what they’re saying, but what bothers me is the way they talk about Hermione’s femininity. They don’t allow her to have any traditionally feminine traits without arguing that she’s “too smart” to act that way.
The first time it really bothered me was when they were talking about the second book, and they were discussing Hermione’s crush on Lockhart and how much they hate it. They argued that it plays on the trope of weak women being prayed on by powerful men, and that it doesn’t make sense for Hermione, who is a “smart girl,” to do something so stereotypically feminine.
First of all, she is twelve in the second book. I think any twelve year old can get a pass on a silly crush. Secondly, smart women get prayed upon by powerful men all the time, and it doesn’t take away from their intellect. Implying that she wouldn’t have been taken advantage of if she was only smart enough is extremely misogynistic and victim blame-y.
In their discussion of the third movie, they bring up several instances where Hermione performs “normative femininity” which they argue are unnecessary. There’s a moment in the movie when Hermione catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror and she says, “is that really what my hair looks like from the back?” I understand being frustrated with tropes of traditional femininity, but in their discussion they imply that she is too smart to care about how she looks, which is, once again, deeply misogynistic.
Women tend to be multi demential, complex human beings, with lots of interests. You can be the smartest person in the world and still care about what you look like. It’s only natural in a world that is obsessed with outward appearances, especially for women. Saying that Hermione is too intellectual to care about her looks, devalues the intellect of women who care what they look like.
I just want to make it clear, I 100% recommend this podcast and I think the women who host it are incredibly insightful, I just think this devaluing of femininity and feminine traits is extremely problematic. Regardless of how they think Hermione would act, there is textual evidence to suggest that she has a girly side and that should be taken into account. I understand being fed up with media portrayals of women as shallow and self obsessed, but condemning all stereotypical feminine traits contributes to the misogyny perpetrated against people who exhibit those traits. I just expect better from women doing a feminist podcast.