Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fiddler on the Roof

Question: How do you critique a work that is meant to depict an oppressive society? How do you separate what the society is saying and what the movie is saying?

Yesterday I watched Fiddler on the Roof. I'd been feeling a hankering for the songs (Sunrise, Sunset and La Chaim especially.)

It's difficult, because yes, the three daughters Tzeitel, Hodel, and Chava are very likable characters, and they do rebel against their father, something unheard of in their oppressive society. But to what purpose do the daughters rebel? Not for freedom, but to choose a different owner, a slightly different brand of servitude. This is where my question comes in, because what other life path could they choose? Even outside the bounds of their faith there is really nothing they could do to gain true autonomy. This is just a caution not to view these daughters as liberated.

I think that if they really had decided "screw you, dad, I can make my own life and be free" instead of "screw you, dad, I would like to marry/serve this other man" their characters would not have been portrayed sympathetically. Because the closest character to that ideal is Yenta, and while every character is given some sympathy in the film, she is given the least, and is portrayed as intruding on everyone else's life and not being a welcome sight to anyone. It's okay for the daughters to rebel against the master given to them by their society because they're not really challenging the paradigm that still holds in our society--that a woman needs (must belong to) some man.

And there was a lot of ownership going on from the suitors to their chattel--I mean beloveds.

Least was Motel. I think that the things Motel did were a reflection of his society. In his song Miracle of Miracles, the last line, "God has given you to me" is something that I would frown on if I heard it in a modern song. In the context of their society, though, it seems consistent with the language that he has available to him to describe the nature of his relationship with Tzeitel.

And his extremely rude and bossy handclap as a form of command towards Tzeitel at the wedding was an imitation of Tevye--a clear joke directed to the audience in which we are meant to laugh at their society. (O irony! O infamy!)

Next came Perchik. I don't like Perchik. He was far too physically pushy with Hodel. He was always grabbing her and dragging her somewhere, and doing a "dance" with her that she was clearly an unwilling participant in. (Is this my personal alarm going off? Maybe. I ain't the only one with alarms calibrated so finely, though; not even close: the malady is not a rare one.)

Now, could that just be a reflection of their society? Perhaps, although the movie did go to some pains to establish that Perchik had more respect for women than most men in that society. What wasn't necessary was that the tugging and pulling and dancing led directly to True Love. Aargh.

Okay, and then this Far From the Home I Love thing? It's better than Little Mermaid, because at least Hodel feels sad that she's abandoning her home, her family, and everyone she loves to go live in this strange barren wasteland with her (grabby!) beau--but she still does it anyway. I don't think this is a depiction of her society. Even though her society doesn't exactly oppose her decision, it's not really something that's done very often, and it's not anything they would have encouraged her to do. No, this is our society feeling Hodel's pain but admiring her for making the right decision (doing what our society would have done) and abandoning her identity to serve her master--I mean betrothed.

Last and possibly worst is Fyedka and our little bird Chava. Chava does something very similar to what Hodel does--she abandons her entire identity--her faith!--for this man. (Admittedly Fyedka is much more handsome than Perchik, but beauty is subjective.) This is absolutely not something that was condoned by her society. It is something that we understand given the roles and expectations of our society, and it's harmful.

Equally upsetting was the manner of their meeting. So Chava's out walking her cow when four young Russian men suddenly accost her. The encounter is brief, but you can hear them mocking her language (this is racialized misogyny). She tries to get away. They surround her. Some of them touch her and grab her. She says "please" a few times. I get upset.

But fear not, damsel! Your prince Fyedka has arrived! He quickly sends those gang rapists--I mean ruffians--packing. She's still upset, and I was about to approve, but then what happens? Fyedka guilts her into talking to him by saying "you feel about me the same way they feel about you." Um. Chava is scared of him, and, hey, justification for that attitude is, like, still visible walking across the field. They hate her and were trying to hurt and humiliate her. These are pretty fundamentally different attitudes.

The movie approves of this statement, however, because it gives Fyedka pure intentions and a heart of gold, so that her attitude (although utterly rational) is undermined for our viewing pleasure. Gah, this is just like Hermione all over again.

Damn, I hate that part of the movie.

So there you have it. Perchik and Fyedka are given status over Hodel and Chava that goes beyond what can be explained by their society, and the basic characters of the three daughters are not ones seeking freedom, but rather ones seeking a type of servitude that will make them "happy."

A Song of Ice and Fire

Okay, this is a critique about Someone Who Got it Mostly Right, a rare breed, and even more surprising to find it coming in the form of a white man (that doesn't make it better, only more surprising.) George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

Wow, I love these books. I used to like Robert Jordan (THERE'S a subject for critique, if I ever feel like pushing myself into depression) when I was in middle school, but as I have gone from annoying and immature to more confident in myself and a better thinker, so has my taste gone from immature to actual quality. This is epic fantasy as it should be done.

And the women! Oh, a fantasy wife that is neither unrealistically allowed to run the house nor without value in the house! Women, portrayed as real people! Oppression and misogyny that is not glossed over! Oh glory! A tomboy who is a real person! A girly girl who is a real person! With character arcs and everything!

Sudden thought: Why do I have to be grateful for that which should be ubiquitous? Shit, there goes my emotional high. My points of contention:

Cersei is a feminist. In fact, she is the only feminist character. She reminds me of Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing--"O, that I were a man!" She is also the least likable of the POV characters. Her portrayal is a little condescending--does she have to be quite so clueless about what's going on around her? I mean, can we cut this woman some slack? The book appears to frown on her sleeping with others, but I don't see what was so great for her about sex with Jaime. I mean, I do, but at the same time both times we saw them having sex it was Jaime sexually assaulting Cersei. No means no, Kingslayer. But my point is that portraying the only feminist as unlikable, cheating, clueless, vain, cruel, and so on--well, it's not very nice. And it's not very representative.

Two lesbian interactions. Dany and her handmaid...for Dany it was portrayed as happening because she needed a man but didn't have one. Lesbianism as temporary, not serious, to be replaced by heterosexual interactions. Cersei and Taena was all about Cersei wishing she were a man. Lesbianism again as poor substitute for someone who just really wants a penis, whether to possess it or to be penetrated by it. Not cool, my man.

Okay, I get that rape is a fact of life, and I get that refusing to name rape or talk about rape minimizes the problem. But at some point it just starts to get upsetting. You need a big fat trigger warning on your books or something, because dude, I was triggered. More than once. As in, need to put the book down, stare at nothing for half an hour, freak out, trying to escape from my memories, finding it necessary to tell myself over and over again that it didn't really happen in order to calm down. Please consider that many people may have such reactions to rape in your books.
Maybe you should think about whether so much rape is really necessary for your vision. It didn't at first, but now that it just keeps happening again and again and just won't stop it sort of reminds me of Terry Goodkind. Or even Robert Jordan and his penchant for getting his characters into BDSM situations. I'm leaning toward gratuitous. It's definitely really, really scary.

I'm worried about Brienne and how you're going to deal with her. Her thoughts seem to turn to Jaime a lot more often than his thoughts turn to her. Please don't let Jaime become her whole motivation. Let there be give and take in this budding relationship. Jaime has a much stronger sense of self and is far less romantic than Sansa; he should be able to see past Brienne's looks.

Melisandre. She wears red. She's beautiful. She's an evil witch and (given what Maester Aemon said) stupid too. She has too much power over her man. She's a very irresponsible character for you to have made. Very stereotypical, no sympathy at all. Really. "Hopefully this honest, simple, pulled-himself-up-by-the-bootstraps dude will be able to slay the beast!" Davos's character, though I like him, reeks of unexamined privilege. The beautiful women as evil temptresses is something I would expect from, say, Genesis, not you.

Lord Tywin's dead wife. She is portrayed as a nice, dutiful woman who literally lived and died only to give life to her children and lend Tywin some pathos. She reminds me all too forcefully of the Disney trope that the best mother is a dead mother. (Cinderella, anyone?) Knock it the hell off.

Thank you for your time.

15 Simple Ways

I'm trying to do a bunch of different types of things, so I was thinking, "what can I do that's not a book or a song or a movie or concentrating on just one character?" Then I thought, "I bet if I go to one of those sites like yahoo or MSN or something, they'll have something moronic right on the homepage and I can make fun of that."


This little piece is entitled "15 simple ways to keep your partner happy" by David Wygant. Oh, this should be good. Note that the title of this piece addresses "you," as in, they are addressing whoever he thinks is reading the website. As we shall see, the article is directed towards men. The implication here is that whoever is reading the site must be a man, or if there are women reading it, they're not worth marketing toward or even mentioning.

Digression: People on this forum have asked me before what the problem is with setting men as the default assumption and then switching to women. "It doesn't mean we value them any less," they say. Well, I think the title of this article is a good example of the problem with defaulting to men. Women don't get enough space or attention, and what space they do get is designated just for women ("chick flicks") and not usually considered to be of worth to the larger society (which is composed of men, natch.) Meanwhile, women are expected to like men's things, or at least put up with them, because men are the default--it's for everyone! It's for you!

So you're in a relationship and your partner starts nagging.
Hooo boy.

Presumably this situation is supposed to be familiar to every man. Those nagging women! What can we do to make them shut up?

She tells you that you just don't understand her, and that she really wishes that you would just do more "little things."

Jesus Christ. "Then she starts to cry! While taking forever in the bathroom! And she tells you she has a headache!" The scare quotes and other elements of the syntax really make it sound like "you" aren't really interested in understanding her, like this is some alien woman speech. "Little things," what could that possibly mean?

1. Rub her feet instead of asking her if she wants you to rub her feet. Make it look like you want to do it.

Because you certainly don't actually want to do it. Touching your partner gently, in a way that makes her feel good--who would actually want that? But you have to make it seem like you care.

2. Make her dinner one night. Don't ask her if she wants you to make dinner. Make her dinner before she gets home.

Sigh. So what, this guy is usually home before this woman, and she usually makes dinner? No wonder she needs a foot rub--he's bloody useless. Honestly. How about instead of "one night," you make it a regular thing? "One night" is seriously a token effort here.

5. Send an eCard in the middle of the day... something cute to remind her how much you really care about her

Okay, this isn't so much a women's issue as a public service announcement: E-cards are pathetic and don't show any caring or effort at all. Geez, at least with the note you have to come up with something yourself. It's basically the equivalent of buying someone a gift certificate to Fred Meyers--PATHETIC. Do you even know this person at all?

6. If she's going on a business trip, offer to drive her to the airport or pick her up to make her life that much easier.

What the hell? How do you not do this already? This man, who the author assumes is you, is useless. Remember: sexists hate men too.

7. Let her have control of the remote control. Don't monopolize it for a change. Just give it to her and let her actually sit there and enjoying watching one of her shows. Then you can share one of her interests by watching it with her.

Bleargh. And you thought I was overreacting with the headache/bathroom line.

This one is actually problematic in several ways. It assumes that the man usually has control of the remote because, well, he's the man. He uses the word "let" to describe giving the woman the remote, as though it is an act of kindness, not a decision that the woman has any control over. He thinks men should get points (and encourages you to think the same way) for letting a woman watch one show that she wants to watch. This is what I was talking about at the beginning of the article. In this hypothetical couple, the woman is expected, whenever they watch television together, to watch what he wants to watch. Being "allowed" to watch a show that she wants to watch is considered a bonus.

8. Offer to iron one of her shirts or take her clothes to the dry cleaner.
9. Clean up the bathroom without being asked. Don't just sit there and ignore the mess around the toilet. If you know it drives her crazy to see water splashed all around the sink, dry that area after you use it. [...]
12. The next time she gives you a massage, give her a massage the next day. Offer it! Don't just say you'll give her a it!


You know what? I can't go on. Here's this, though:
It's the little things. The guy who makes the biggest mistake is the one who ignores their significant other then all of a sudden give them an expensive gift to make up for it.

Just in case someone was going to say "why are you assuming he's talking to a man? Maybe he's talking about lesbians too! Maybe YOU'RE the bigoted one!" He's talking to men about how to make their girlfriends or wives stop nagging them.

Midnight Train to Georgia and The Letter

As the posters in my ninth grade health class said: "What is popular is not always right. What is right is not always popular."

Today's critique will contrast two songs, "Midnight Train to Georgia," and "The Letter." Disclaimer: I like both of these songs, especially Midnight Train to Georgia. I'm not going to stop listening to them. Heck, if I refused to listen to any song that encouraged gender roles, I would lead a sad and quiet life. But I can enjoy the songs without wholly embracing their messages, and as I have said, I believe there is value in examining our culture for the gendered patterns that are so ubiquitous.

L.A. proved too much for the man,
So he's leavin' the life he's come to know,
He said he's goin' back to find
Ooh, what's left of his world,
The world he left behind
Not so long ago.
He's leaving,
On that midnight train to Georgia,
And he's goin' back
To a simpler place and time.
And I'll be with him
On that midnight train to Georgia,
I'd rather live in his world
Than live without him in mine.
He kept dreamin'
That someday he'd be a star.
But he sure found out the hard way
That dreams don't always come true.
So he pawned all his hopes
and he even sold his old car
Bought a one way ticket
To the life he once knew,
Oh yes he did,
He said he would
Be leavin
On that midnight train to Georgia,
And he's goin' back
To a simpler place and time.
And I'll be with him
On that midnight train to Georgia,
I'd rather live in his world
Than live without him in mine.
Go, gonna board, gonna board,
Gonna board the midnight train.
Gotta go, gonna board
Gonna board
Gonna board the midnight train
(repeat, fade)

Give me a ticket for an aeroplane
I ain't got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone
I'm going home, because my baby just wrote me
a letter

I don't care how much money I've got to spend
I've got to get back to my baby again
Lonely days are gone
I'm going home; my baby just wrote me a letter

Well she wrote me a letter, said she couldn't live without me no more
Listen mister, can't you see I've got to get back to my baby once more?
Anyway, yeah,
Give me a ticket for an aeroplane
I ain't got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone
I'm going home, because my baby just wrote me a letter

My baby just wrote me a letter

These songs talk about similar things. The speakers both describe going somewhere to live with their lovers. Yet they are different, and their differences in my opinion subtly encourage gender roles.

Where are the speakers going?
The man in The Letter is going home. He is returning somewhere familiar. It doesn't say what he was doing before, but apparently he has been lonely. The woman is going to a strange place. She's never been there before; it's "his world," not hers. The difference is key. While the man is going somewhere familiar and safe, the woman is following the man somewhere strange, somewhere she doesn't necessarily want to be, for him. The woman's sacrifice is greater here. Both situations are presented uncritically.

Why are the speakers traveling?
The man is going because his lover, who is at home, wrote him a letter to say that she "couldn't live without him." There doesn't appear to have been much communication in the first song. The woman is going simply because the man is going. There needed to be an impetus for the man in The Letter to go; just his lover being there wasn't enough. She had to ask. Not so for the woman in Midnight Train to Georgia.

What do the songs narrate?
Both songs choose to narrate the story of the man involved. The verses in Midnight Train to Georgia are all about the man's journey, what happened to him, why he came to LA and why he's going back to Georgia, what he did in between, and so on. Only in the chorus does the woman talk about herself, and her motives are centered on him, whereas the motives of her lover do not appear to have anything to do with her. The man has a life independent of her; the woman might as well not--if she did, she doesn't care and she's giving it up anyway.

For The Letter, though, we are in the situation with the man. He's talking about his situation, addressing the man at the ticket booth. The song is framed in terms of him: what he has to do, what he wants, what happened to him. Again, the woman is mentioned only in relation to the man, and she can't even live without him. Nothing's said about how he's holding up without her, but it certainly seems that if she hadn't asked, he wouldn't be going home just yet.

So yeah, I would say that these songs talk about men who have lives apart from their lovers and women who don't, women who are passive and men who are active, and find men's lives more worth talking about than women's.

Remember: It could have been different, but it wasn't.


Here's the thing about Mulan (and this is going to be my critique for the day): no matter how kickass she is, the film does everything it can to undermine her threat to the patriarchy, in order that we may like her, assured that society will be safe from disruption.

Mulan disobeys her father, but does she do it for herself? Does she do it because she has a desire to fight in the army? No. Even though she has shown that she desires to learn and think and be heard, privileges reserved in her society for men, she has not shown any desire to fight or kill or become a soldier. She disobeys her father, enforcer of the patriarchy, in order to save her father, to serve him.

This is true of China, the captain, and the emperor as well. These are all entities that have actively contributed to her oppression as a woman, and what she does, she does for them. She is fighting to save the system which is responsible for all the misery in her life, and because of that, her disobedience is acceptable.

Then, when it's all over, when she has fought through hatred and bigotry and danger to save China and the emperor, she is offered a job on the council. Does she take it? Does she take this opportunity to have what she most craves: respect, independence, acceptance, the opportunity to learn and think and be heard? No. The threat to this society which has spit on her so is passed, and now, well, "I think I've been away from home long enough." You certainly have, you uppity girl.

Then she goes home. She gets approval from her father (approval from her mother or grandmother didn't merit a touching scene, I guess), which is good. Then--you know what would make Mulan really happy? A husband, of course! You see, something just for you, Mulan. We all know how much you like marriage.

Seriously. What the hell? Now that Mulan is done with her silly excursion, she gets wholly enveloped back into the patriarchy, with the approval of all the men in her life. Her grandmother's line when she sees Shang ("Woo! Sign me up for the next war!") implies that the thing of greatest value that Mulan did while she was away was find a husband. Fuck this shit, I tell you what.

Hunchback of Notre Dame

Ever seen The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Probably the darkest movie Disney has ever done. ("And now all Paris is burning because of you!") Also one of my favorites (Bells of Notre Dame? EPIC)

It's also a movie that has the potential to be very socially conscious. Sexism, racism, religion, deformity, class awareness--this movie touches on it all. Sadly, it fails to follow through on these issues.

Esmerelda. She's pretty cool. A little cliched, the highly sexualized spunky girl with a heart of gold. Still, she's a fun, talented, brave woman.

But did you notice that she was basically the only woman in the movie? Racking my brains for other women, I come up with 1) Quasimodo's mother, 2) that little girl in the purple dress, and 3) Laverne the gargoyle. Either way, note that she is the only adult human woman alive during the actual story.

Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that the three other main characters are all attracted to her. Quasimodo is helplessly in love with her, Phoebus finds her exciting, and Frollo has unholy desires for her. Did anyone else notice this? It's kind of freaky.

Because, okay, here's the thing. Only having one female character is bad. Women make up half of the population and that's about what it takes to satisfy me. A scarcity of women results in situations like we have with Esmerelda the Only Woman Available, and also the beginning of the movie.

Quasimodo's mother, as she must be defined, for her character gets its importance only from her relation to a man, dies in the first four minutes of the movie. She dies a heroic death in the service of a male, and that's what makes her likable. This may be the only situation like this that has been pointed out to you, so you may think I'm coming out of nowhere on this one, but I'm starting to get pretty tired of women who we approve of because they make sacrifices for men.* (Harry Potter also made a pretty big deal out of this.) I'd like to see someone we approve of because they make a sacrifice for a woman.

You may say "But this is bullshit! Quasimodo's mother (whose name we do not know) would have done the same thing for a daughter!" Well, that's the thing. She didn't have a daughter. Quasimodo was a male. (So was Harry Potter.) This is what happens when you have almost every character be a man: women don't get a chance to interact with each other.

And interacting with other men, Esmerelda is always in a subordinate role (Clopin's assistant, the archdeacon's, um, advice-taker, the soldiers' victim) or in a sexual one. There's probably some really nasty stuff to unpack here given that she is not just a woman but a woman of color, and that the men who love/fetishize her are all white, including Quasimodo who should be a man of color but is distinctly not--but I'm not as familiar with the patterns of racial oppression. Suffice it to say that I think it adds to the creepy.

One more thing that annoyed me was the climax. Esmerelda is a fierce, competent woman and would have been at least as valuable an asset as Phoebus in fighting Frollo and his soldiers, but instead she is incapacitated. First she is tied to that whole burning stake, putting the woman in danger so that the man can find his character development. Then, she is unconscious, making it look like the woman is dead so that the man gets extra emotion for the fight. She is completely put out of commission, and robbing such a strong character of the chance to be in the final battle, except as an object of motivation for the man, is lame. This is, like, the gypsy princess here. Can she get some action?

Le sigh. Some things they did right:
1. Phoebus does not beat Esmerelda in their fight in the cathedral.
2 Laverne is just as likable as the other two gargoyles, and not defined by her sex.
3. Esmerelda ends up with Phoebus, not Quasimodo.
4. Clopin is the shit.

*Arwen is pretty much the gold standard for this phenomenon.

Harry Potter: Hermione Granger

I'll start with the one thing that everyone in the world is most likely to be familiar with*: Harry Potter. Or rather, since the thing is such a behemoth, Hermione Granger.

What's up with Hermione Granger? She's such an awesome character. She's smart, of course, and earnest, and is quick on her feet, and dedicated, and honorable and loyal and good. She can be a little insensitive, a little too serious, but who doesn't have flaws? She's just a great person, you know?

So why does the text shortchange her so?

Let's start with the fact that she's consistently described as "shrieking" "squealing" "shrill" "wailing" and other negative gendered terms historically used to put down women who won't shut up. Her dialogue when you look at it isn't really so annoying, but colored by those terms it does seem to put a damper on your interpretation of it. (Just one of the many reasons why I want to go back and replace all her "'dialogue,' character [word for said that isn't ever said, except when it's modified by an adverb]" with "'dialogue,' character said.")

I pity Hermione. She is a strong female character, but she is isolated from other strong female characters. The closest to a female friend that she has is Ginny, and that friendship doesn't really seem to occur until maybe the fifth book. Even then, she is never seen talking with Ginny (except in those annoyingly frequent "whispering with Ginny and Mrs. Weasley scenes). She only recounts the conversations that she has after the fact, filtered for Harry's and Ron's consumption. Does she really only have Harry and Ron to talk to? Especially given the portrayal of shallow Parvati, Lavender, and Pansy, and the indistinguishable Angelina, Alicia and Katie, Hermione seems like an exception to a rule of weak female characters.

I mean, wouldn't it be nice to meet her mother? A girl like Hermione, so unafraid to be smart and so uncompromising in her values, must have a heck of a strong female role model. We know Harry's parents, living and dead, quite well. We spend an inordinate amount of time at Harry's house. Why, then, have Hermione's parents been reduced to nothing? We see them only a few times, mute, in Diagon Alley, without personality. Couldn't Harry have gone to Hermione's house? Couldn't they have exchanged a few lines of dialogue? Given how important the parent/child relationship is in Harry Potter, depriving Hermione of her relationship with hers seems unfair.

A second female opinion would certainly be nice sometimes. Harry and Ron are very good-hearted, of course, but they can be just as insensitive as she ever is. It would also be nice to have her accusations of sexism be validated. In Half-Blood Prince, I was so frustrated with the whole "I can tell the Prince is a he" thing. Hermione made the perfectly reasonable point that, because Prince might be a last name, the Prince might be a woman. Harry countered with "no it can't, because I just know." This absolutely ridiculous argument was then of course validated by the text, making Hermione's accusation that Harry was being sexist seem laughable, even though it really wasn't.

Ah, poor Hermione. No family, no female friends, and a true love who thinks that she belongs to him. Really. Ron's jealous possessiveness of Hermione's sexuality, which, though a forgivable flaw of a deeply insecure boy, was still a flaw, was unevenly treated, made fun of by the text or validated by it. (Ron's jealous possessiveness of Ginny's sexuality, by the way, is not a forgivable flaw, in addition to being deeply disturbing.)

With the Yule Brawl, happily, Ron's actions were not portrayed sympathetically. ("missed the point.") The whole storyline was of course pretty unbelievable and a little unsettling. Viktor Krum, 18 year old Quidditch God, stalks 14 year old gangly Hermione who, though she is an awesome character deserving of love, Krum doesn't even know? Especially when in the seventh book it was pretty much confirmed that he was a bit shallow ("all the good-looking girls are taken" echoes of Yule Ball Ron). I don't know, it seemed pretty off too me. At least Hermione was portrayed as being allowed to do that.

But take for example the sixth book. Cormac McLaggen. At Slugworth's little party, Harry meets Hermione and notices that she looks disheveled. What's going on, he asks. "Cormac McLaggen makes Grawp look like a gentleman," she says. Given that Grawp recently tried to snatch Hermione (another scene with very disturbing sexual subtext), from which she must be protected by Harry and because of which she is reduced to shaking and whimpering with fear, you'd think Harry's response would be one of concern or at least sympathy.

No. It's "Serves you right." Excuse me? Hermione just used the word "escape" to describe getting away from this punk who apparently is more unpleasantly sexually aggressive than a giant, and Harry says "serves you right." For what? Going out on a date? I'm sorry, does she belong to Ron now? She made a petty choice, yes, but it was a choice she had a right to make and it certainly does not justify unwanted sexual aggression (the word I'm looking for here is "assault.") That the text does not pass judgment on Harry's nasty comment shows complacence with it.

And in the seventh book the subtext grows ever more upsetting. Fenrir Greyback? For God's sake, does the man want to bite her or rape her? Hell, that's not even subtext. That's Hermione being threatened with rape by this man-beast and Ron being all "no! my pretty lady!" Note that while Harry's skin crawled, he did not attempt to struggle when he heard Fenrir assaulting Hermione. That job was reserved for the man who possesses her sexuality. That whole thing with Bellatrix the She-Devil torturing Hermione the Virgin while Ron the Knight cries her name stank equally of possession. Especially given the way her recovery was portrayed, basically with Ron protecting her like aargh why.

My point is that a lot of those scenes and comments were pretty gratuitous and reveal some kind of disturbing things about Rowling's psyche. There were a thousand little mentions of Hermione's vulnerable sexuality, from the men catcalling on Tottenham Court Road, to "counted as chivalrous that he was not asking Hermione to do it for him," to Ron insisting that Hermione sleep on the cushions and all the other instances I've mentioned in this leviathan post. The one that stand out most in my mind, FWIW, is seriously Harry having to pull Hermione away from Grawp. Note that none of these examples were at all relevant to any sort of larger story or point. They were just there, and they piss me off.

Another subtle little example of this that really got to me, by the way, was when they were at Bill and Fleur's house and even though the three had just been spending like MONTHS sleeping in the same room with no mention of any problems or issues, it seemed like a big deal was made of the fact that Hermione and Luna were sharing a room, like oh better protect their chastity. Not really a big offense in the scheme of things, but really.

And finally, Hermione's life as an adult. What was up with that epilogue? I mean, I know that the epilogue was pretty much bad news in every way, but was there even one single mention of Hermione's career? What did she decide to do? Healing? Did she do something big with SPEW? No, of course not, she got married and had children. Every woman's happy ending. That bugged me enough when it happened to Fleur (she was a Triwizard champion, and now what, she spends all her time making breakfast trays) but when it happened to Hermione it was even worse.

To be fair, it happened to all of them. Seems like to Rowling a happy ending seriously consists of marriage and children. It just makes me mad because in the Harry Potter universe, when a man and a woman get married, the woman stays home and now has no life outside her husband and children. (For your consideration: Petunia, Narcissa, Molly Weasley, Fleur, Tonks. Contrast with McGonagall, Umbridge, Bellatrix and Rita Skeeter, and also notice how all of the women in the first list are sympathetic even when not really nice, whereas the second list, with the exception of McGonagall, represent the most loathable characters in the series.)

So in summary: Hermione, though a likable character, has her independence, personality and sympathy consistently undermined by negative portrayals of her as a female, isolation from other women, and gratuitous disturbing scenes involving her sexuality.

*Okay, that's actually probably the Bible. So sue me.