My First Feminist Role Model
Please welcome Vianey back for a great piece on how representation matters for My First Fandom Week.
When I started reading a book about a bespectacled orphan boy who finds out he’s a wizard and attends a school of magic, I never expected to find myself within its pages.
And yet there I was, represented by an overachieving schoolgirl with perfectionist tendencies and long brown hair so frizzy it crackled with electricity. She adhered to the rules, took her work seriously, and had trouble making friends. She was strong in her convictions and fiercely loyal. She even had a weird name and was discriminated against for her background. For me, meeting Hermione Granger was like looking into a mirror and making a best friend at the same time.
As a child, I never thought it would be possible for me to find a character I could relate to. Yearning for a narrative featuring an intelligent, complex girl as more than just a romantic interest seemed absurd. In fact, I remember feeling ashamed for wishing for such a silly thing because I somehow internalized that any stories featuring a female lead were lacking in quality and depth. My young mind simply knew that boys were the heroic main characters and girls were the pretty ones that liked to talk about dresses and shopping. Fortunately, Hermione Granger showed me how wrong I was (as she is wont to do).
Hermione taught me to be courageously authentic. When she was shunned for earning another perfect score or bullied for coming from a non-magical family, she never tried to change or hide who she was. Instead, she stood up for herself and others. Upon learning of the plight of Hogwarts’ elves, she created an organization advocating for their ethical treatment while other people—including some of her friends—thought she was being ridiculous. And in the end, when she realized she could not help Harry fight Voldemort from within Hogwarts, she abandoned her studies and risked her life to defeat a great evil. Equipped with endless reason, bravery, compassion, and an intense sense of self, she helped save the world.
Finding a character with whom I could identify, who shared so many of my values and who made me feel less alone was incredibly validating and comforting for me. I am so grateful to have been exposed to someone like Hermione at such an impressionable age. She empowered me to remain true to myself, especially through adolescence and young adulthood, when it is sometimes simpler to compromise one’s beliefs in order to fit in. In a way, she became my first feminist icon before I ever understood what feminism meant.
It’s now been years since I’ve read the books, and in that time I’ve also come to love a variety of amazing female characters from different fandoms. But Hermione has been with me since I was 11, and I suspect she will continue to be a part of me for many years to come.