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Communal Lessons From ‘Harry Potter’

Last weekend the eighth and final Harry Potter movie hit theaters. In the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling created a magical alternate universe. Neither a utopia or dystopia, her magical world is fraught with real-world complexity. Reflecting on this groundbreaking series and its allegorical world, there are four important progressive lessons for the Jewish community to take away.

1) Women belong everywhere men belong

One of the most obvious and delightful characteristics of the Harry Potter series is gender equity, pure and simple. In J.K. Rowling’s magical society, witches and wizards are equal. The Ministry of Magic (their governing entity) is equally mixed, as is the magical sport of Quidditch, which women not only play, but play together with men on co-ed teams (More on gender equity in Quidditch at Ms. Magazine.) While the main villain, Voldemort, is male, his number two is a woman—the cruel and twisted Bellatrix LeStrange. Even the stay-at-home-witches and homemakers, like Molly Weasly, are written as feminist role models.

And of course, there’s Hermione Granger, the main female character, who is intelligent, studious, courageous, sensitive and principled—a far cry from the way girls are usually included as “the token girl one” or a undeveloped love interest. She is, undoubtedly, one of the best feminist role models out there (especially compared to the sad range of alternatives like the Disney princesses or Twilight’s Bella Swan).

Leah Berkenwald is the online communications specialist at the Jewish Women’s Archive, and a contributor to its Jewesses With Attitude blog, which cross-posts regularly with the Sisterhood.

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