The Looking Glass : New Perspectives on Children's Literature, Vol 10, No 1 (2006)

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Men in Cloaks and High-heeled Boots, Men Wielding Pink Umbrellas: Witchy Masculinities in the Harry Potter novels

Annette Wannamaker

Abstract


J. K. Rowling has been accused of perpetuating patriarchal social structures by relying on traditional male-centered heroic narratives, and she has been lauded for creating feminist fairy tales; she has been vilified for championing feminist-inspired witchcraft, while being praised for getting reluctant boys to read; the characters who populate the fictional world of her novels have been described as sexist and stereotypical, or, conversely, as feminist role models.

This article argues that these contradictory readings by critics of portrayals of gender in the Harry Potter series coexist because, as is the case with many of the better children's texts, these complex novels function in a space between, where dominant ideology is simultaneously re-enforced, challenged, and negotiated. Ultimately, these books are popular with so many child and adult readers, not because they didactically advocate either feminist or patriarchal ideals, but because, through their complex portrayals of characters, gender, and relationships, they depict the anxieties, tensions, and uncertainties about contemporary gender roles that readers of all ages are continuously working to define and to negotiate.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680