Good Omens

Living a genderqueer life

Month: February, 2013

House-elves and werewolves

My love and I began listening to Stephen Fry’s audiobook reading of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series last summer, and with an average rate of five chapters a week, we’re now halfway through the last book, Deathly Hallows. I’ve read and re-read the books maybe once every two years since they were first published, but the real magic of the series is that the story grows with the reader. The various facets and levels of the – at first glance simple, even naïve – story are so manifold that I believe I could go on reading the books indefinitely, and still find new points of view from which to look at them.

Listening to Stephen Fry’s aural painting of the familiar scenes, I’ve felt compelled to visit the dark underbelly of the magicking world in a kind of anti-patriarchal, queer feminist reading of the series. Not being forced to adhere to the simple survey of the actual events happening on the page, my thoughts have been on what is left unsaid, which things are taken to be so “natural” or so self-evident that they need not be explicated.

In previous re-readings, I’ve found myself partly mirrored in Harry, growing up quickly in a world difficult to understand, or Hermione, trying to solve all of life’s difficult situations with booklore, or any of the half a dozen “real”, in-depth characters of the series. This time, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nameless, unimportant “evil” characters that abound in the series – especially werewolves, living on the margins of the society, being able to pass as fully human at will, but ultimately lacking the motivation to do so. And I’ve thought about house-elves, willing slaves to a ruling class able but not compelled to show mercy to its invisible servants.

And I’ve thought about myself, genderqueer in a world of people and people, and about people I love, and how I would love to “contaminate” them with the same invisibility I experience every day – about, ultimately, preferring the company of people like me to that of those, even loved, that can never understand my “condition” fully. And of all the people living their whole lives happily, without ever questioning the systems of oppression that patriarchy forces on us, until change is forced down their throats like a potion of clear thinking, unasked and unwanted, when there’s a flaw in the plan and systems come crashing down.

Some thoughts on patriarchy

I read a long thread of comments of a (by Internet standards) old blog post I stumbled upon at Second Council House of Virgo, and because of my own interest in the topic, wrote a comment too. I’ll post the main parts of it here in case the blogger decides not to publish such a late comment, and I had to do a lot of thinking before writing, to get my thoughts in order.

[Patriarchy is], so I feel, harmful to people of all sexes and genders. Because patriarchy is harmful to every person living, it is in reinforcing stereotypes of “person” as oppressor and “person” as oppressed, that even this “radical feminism” of yours is in fact ridden by the system it tries to fight.

It seems to me that patriarchy (just as a matriarchy, or a “skolioarchy” would be) is harmful to “people”, “people”, “trans people”, “genderqueers” and everybody else, because it maintains that there are such homogenous groups to choose from. Patriarchy is a set of power relations according to which it is OK to define any one person by just one characteristic, inborn or otherwise.

What this means in practice is that because of patriarchy, children learn at a very young age what it is to be “a person”, “a person” – that there are certain normative characteristics for “each” category, and that if you qualify for one (of “the” two), you must fit the mould completely or be ridiculed and worse. Because of patriarchy, we learn to control our sayings, gender presentation, even thoughts, to fit the prescribed (yeah, medically too) box. And this leads to people doing not what they would like to or would be good at, but what they think they “should” be doing.

As you can see, the unhappiness (I like to call it oppression) patriarchy is causing, is not just for people, but in people of all genders.

And so, I would like to argue, feminism (despite having a name rooted in the historical pro-people’s rights movement) is a movement for everybody interested in social injustice. To be a feminist is to fight against oppression in its every form, because all oppression boils down to one thing: power, and who wields it. And so every person is oppressor and oppressed at the same time.