Feminism and Equal
Opportunity: Hermione and
the Women of Hogwarts
MIMI R. GLADSTEIN
Women in the enchanted and enchanting world of Harry Potter are anything but second-class citizens. J.K. Rowling depicts a world where equal opportunity among the sexes is a given. Unlike our Muggle world, equality is not something one needs to strive for; it is as natural a part of this world as flying on broomsticks and nearly headless ghosts. Rowling creates a world where what is and should be important is the “content of one’s character” and the choices one makes. It is not through magic that the goal envisioned by classical liberal feminism is achieved at Hogwarts: equal rights for men and women. Rowling’s world gives reality to John Stuart Mill’s forward-looking words that the subordination of women should be replaced by a principle of “perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on one side, nor disability on the other.”1
While the history of Western philosophy is replete with instances of women being left out of the discussion or disregarded as worthy subjects of study, there is a tradition that sees women as equal moral and social agents. From Plato, up through several Enlightenment thinkers, and now contemporary feminists, philosophers have sought to treat women as the equals of men. This chapter will explore how Rowling’s
1 John Stuart Mill, On Liberty and On the Subjection of Women (Ware:
Wordsworth Classics, 1996), p. 117.