Columns, Opinion

Ryan: Accio equality

Politicians everywhere have failed me this week.

I haven’t been able to find a single legislative muse for my weekly rant. But fear not, readers! I found solace in a most unusual place: The Magical World of Wizardry.

According to a CNN article published Sunday, J.K. Rowling, author of the little known children’s series Harry Potter, gave an interview where she voiced her regrets about pairing Ron and Hermione off.

Of course, the Internet exploded and everybody between the ages of 12 and 27 had a meltdown. It was even “trending” (why is this a thing?) on Facebook for a while.

So while all of my friends from high school were crying out about this travesty, all I could think was, “who really cares?” J.K. Rowling developed Hermione for years over the course of seven books. Why is this one modicum of her character so important? Don’t worry. I have the answer. It’s because she happens to be a female character.

Yes, sorry to break it to you, but this is going to be one of those articles. The leftist, angsty college student is about to explain society’s feminist shortcomings. Don’t worry. I won’t burn my bra. I hear that’s bad for the ozone layer (or is it the troposphere?).

Too often in popular literature, I find that female characters get melted down to only their romantic interests. In particular, The Twilight Saga provided the main female character with very few characteristics outside her relationships with two different men. Somewhere around 50 pages into the book, Bella is “in love” with Edward. Then the rest of the series follows her internal crisis of #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob. So much for female empowerment.

What’s worse is when this one-dimensionalizing (I’m making that a word) happens in books that don’t focus on the love triangle. Take The Hunger Games, for example. The series is supposed to be about this girl who fights against an unfair system (with scary parallels to our own society) because she has been forced into it. Suddenly Katniss, who is just trying survive, becomes the face of a major rebellion. So why is everyone so focused on whether she ends up with one of the way too hot Hemsworth brothers or Josh “Small Fry” Hutcherson?

Clearly the latest Hermione debacle is only a symptom of a greater issue. Growing up, I wanted to be Hermione. She was the know-it-all who wasn’t afraid to raise her hand and be heard — something a lot of girls struggle with at a young age. She was a well-developed female character who didn’t deflate under the pressure of budding romances.

Honestly, I couldn’t care less who Hermione ends up with. That is one of the least significant parts of her personality. I want to know if she’s happy and if she’s doing work she loves. I want to know if one of my role models for the last decade succeeds because if she can, so can I. Here is a character that a generation of girls looked up to, and the massive concern is that she might have married the wrong guy? Think about the kind of message that sends to girls.

We are not defined by our romantic relationships. We need to start telling girls that it is perfectly okay to not want a husband or a wife today, tomorrow or ever. In general, we need to change the way we talk to young girls about their futures. If they think the highlight of their lives is a bunch of white taffeta and a shiny ring, it’s going to be so much harder for them to truly change the world.

There are amazing female role models in politics today — Hillary Clinton. Elizabeth Warren. Wendy Davis. But they are not enough. Our political system vastly under represents half the population. At the federal level alone, only 22 percent of politicians are female and only 10 percent of governors are women. The 21st Century is a time for change, but only if we make it one.

According to a Sept. 17 Huffington Post article, a woman only earns 77 cents to every dollar a man makes in America. Throw in countries like Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, and it becomes even more evident how much further we as a world have to go.

If we could stop focusing on what kind of shampoo Bella Swan uses to lure in men or whatever and start looking for ways to make this world a better place, that’d be great. There are countries where girls will never know who Hermione Granger, Scout Finch or Jane Eyre are, and it’s not because they choose not to, but rather because they’ll never be allowed to read.

I think that alone seems a bit more pressing.


Sara Ryan is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences studying political science and math. She can be reached at[email protected].

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