Holly Madison

You Say ‘Witch’ Like It’s a Bad Thing

It’s hard to believe the final Harry Potter book came out almost nine years ago. I still find myself revisiting well-thumbed copies to read my favorite chapters for the umpteenth time and cannot wait for my daughter to fall in love with Rowling’s magical world as much I did. As a mother of a little girl, I am always looking for books with strong female characters who can inspire my daughter. Arguably, the Harry Potter series does not appear very feminist on the surface. We have a male protagonist who has a male mentor and a male archnemesis – where, you ask, are the empowered ladies? Well, everywhere. From the first book to the last, the strongest and smartest characters have been the women.

Rowling’s quirky little world with its flying keys, crying plants, and talking hats may be seemingly different from ours on the surface, but is plagued with threats and social injustices not unlike those we experience in our own. She masterfully interweaves prevailing issues like racism, sexism, elitism, animal cruelty and even terrorism as we join Harry and the gang in their journey to rid the wizarding world of these problems one Death Eater at a time.

One of the book’s leading female protagonists, Hermione Granger, the bushy-haired, buck-toothed, know-it-all, is the reason why the Boy Who Lived lived as long as he did. Regularly referred to as the brightest witch of her age, we watched the eleven year old nerdy girl grow up to be a powerful, self-aware woman who strongly fought for the causes she believed in. Some argue that, through Hermione, Rowling sends the message that girls must pick beauty over brain. Over the course of the series, however, we come to see that Hermione teaches young girls and boys one thing and one thing only – to be unapologetically yourself.

Then, of course, there is Professor McGonagall – the one even Dumbledore feared. Powerful, compassionate, and firm on her beliefs, Professor McGonagall is a character who truly stays with you throughout the magical series. Throughout the series, this strong feline isn’t afraid to look evil in the face and stand up for what’s right – regardless of how big or little the situation is.

On the other hand, Ginny Weasley proves that you don’t have to be strict like McGonagall or studious like Hermione to be considered strong. An excellent athlete, great at duelling, and a Hogwarts hottie, the girl who steals Harry’s heart shows us repeatedly that she is more that just a pretty face. Her skills in Quidditch rivals that of Harry’s and Rowling later reveals Ginny pursues a career in professional Quidditch, playing for the all-female team, Holyhead Harpies. It is not uncommon for men and women to play Quidditch together – a set-up so causally accepted by Wizarding community that the Muggle reader almost forgets it’s not the norm in our world.

Rowling doesn’t forget the mothers. Molly Weasley, always seen either cooking or fussing over her kids, duels and defeats the menacing Bellatrix Lestrange. Lily Potter, despite being absent from Harry’s life, is fondly remembered by everyone who knew her as beautiful, intelligent and brave – and not in that order. While Lily Potter’s selfless sacrifice saves Harry’s life, sixteen years later, another mother, Narcissa Malfoy, fearlessly lies to Voldemort to save him once again.

There are all kinds of women and all kinds of strength. Even Bellatrix, for all her evil deeds, was a woman of power and a woman who loved very deeply, in her own twisted way. In the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling introduces us to women who are brave and loving, and most importantly, women who make a choice – a choice to be exactly who they want to be. I think that’s a message children need to hear. Always.


Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Shirlene January 26, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    A beautiful insight Holly. You are an amazing writer. Rock on. 💖💕

    • Reply Holly Madison February 12, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      Thank you! You too!

  • Reply Mary January 26, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    My dearest Holly Madison,
    I have a truer and deeper respect for you after reading this in depth analysis regarding female empowerment. I must admit, I didn’t read into Harry Potter at this level. It certainly allows me a new perspective. I love seeing it from your POV. You’re like a true, flesh n’ blood Disney Princess…. Inside and Out. Thank you.

    • Reply Holly Madison February 12, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      Thank you 🙂

  • Reply Emily January 26, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    Damn, girl!

    You express my own thoughts on strong female role models in literature beautifully. I’m a longtime Harry Potter fan, not to mention an Emma-Watson-as-feminist fan, but that’s another post.

    I had read your book, Down the Rabbit Hole, and loved it, but wasn’t sure if the strength of your writing would translate outside of your own life experience. Motherhood has been good to you and gifted you with an additional layer of depth and character. Thank you for leading your readers to make choices that are authentic.

    • Reply Holly Madison February 12, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      Thanks so much! I hope to encourage young girls to be proud of who they are!

  • Reply patti weiss January 27, 2016 at 3:39 am

    Dear Holly , I am a child psychologist and also have been a performer in Vegas and in films as a violinist. So I love Harry Potter and your blog was great. It is so important to encourage young girls to use their intelligence. I also just read your book for the third time and recommend it to some clients as a great roadmap to success in spite if very tough struggles. Thank you very much for the blig and of coyrse the book. Best Dr. Patti Weiss

    • Reply Holly Madison February 12, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply Samantha February 15, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Nothing in this world compares to the magic that is JK Rowling and her empowerment of not only women, but salient issues such as the ones you mentioned. This article is well written, and shows depth of the subject matter. Brava!

    P.S. We should totally meet up for butter beer the next time you’re at Hogsmeade. LOL

  • Reply Kathy D September 16, 2016 at 3:34 am

    Ms. Madison,

    I just read your book, and thought I would share my Goodreads review with you (if you don’t mind). It’s literally the only form of social media in which I participate. I hope you like it. I’m adding it to this particular post as it’s my favorite of those I’ve read so far.

    “Well, I figured this would be a nice, light, late-summer read after finishing Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and it was. But it was, as they say, so much more.

    The two works are actually quite complementary: Wollstonecraft was an 18th-Century woman with 21st-Century ideas, and Ms. Madison is a 21st-Century woman facing 18th-Century attitudes about women. Each struggled to develop her own identity separate from a man, yet each was able to do so and also find an equal partner and the love of her life. Both women inspired me just as much as they sometimes made me want to say, “Open your eyes! He’s totally using you!”

    Not being a TV watcher or social media follower, I was pretty unfamiliar with Ms. Madison. I think I once read something about her Girls Next Door TV show while getting a pedi (because those waiting areas never have Discover magazine, do they?). But after reading this book, I’m going to add the next to my “to read” list and I’ve also been checking out her online presence. She’s a Harry Potter fan who’s written a blog post about the positive female role models in JKR’s series. And I thought I couldn’t love her any more! She’s my new hero, right up there with Justice Sotomayor.”

    PS: I had that exact same Marilyn paper doll book, too — but I was in college when I bought it! I’m old enough to be your babysitter. 🙂

  • Leave a Reply