Speaking of heteronormativity and Harry Potter

I just noticed that while it’s common for witches to marry muggle men, wizards seldom or never marry muggle women.  Think about it:  Dean Thomas’s mother is a witch and his father is a muggle.  Andromeda Black (witch) marries Ted Tonks (muggle).  Voldemort’s mum (witch) marries handsome Tom Riddle Sr. (muggle).  Snape’s mum (witch) marries alcoholic white-trash fellow (muggle).  Hagrid’s mum (giantess) marries non-magical non-giant man.

Can anyone think of an instance where it runs the other way?  And, if not, am I forced to conclude that witches are somehow naturally more muggle-like, or, in a word, weaker?

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15 thoughts on “Speaking of heteronormativity and Harry Potter

  1. I cannot think of any counter examples, however, I must disagree that witches having a more natural affinity for muggles than wizards do would necessarily result in the conclusion that women are more muggle-like. Isn’t a reasonable alternative that witches are naturally more tolerant and accepting of differences between themselves and others.

    I suppose that this boils down to a question of “does being tolerant make you a weaker being?”, of which I believe the answer is an emphatic “no”.

  2. Miriam, let’s add power into the equation. When men marry inter-ethnically, they tend to marry “up” — by which I mean that they tend to (or tend to try to) marry someone from a more powerful, more culturally dominant ethnic group. Women tend, in distinction, to marry across or “down.” Thus black male marries white female more often than black female marries white male. Thus, as in esque’s example, Jewish male marries wasp female more often than Jewish female marries wasp male. Thus muggle male marries witch more often than muggle female marries wizard.

    That the examples from the real world hold somewhat less true than the example from HP is a good thing, but my argument is precisely that this is a small mark of JK’s heteronormativity. One could find more marks, if one looked.

  3. How do you explain the change in out-marriage rates of Asian Americans? In the 1970s, A-A men were more likely to marry out than A-A women. By the 1980s, that pattern had reversed.

    I think it is interesting that children are born only in wedlock. Wouldn’t the women in the less powerful group be more likely to bear children with fathers of the more powerful group? I am thinking of demigod progeny of Zeus and slave owners and their slaves.

  4. I had to giggle at this Thanks for the smile.

    On a more serious note, I think you are right. JK Rowling MUST be a sexist. Woman are NOT weaker… she just chose to portray us in a bad light through her heteronormativity! Unfortunately I have no idea what that means… and just pretending to know what I’m talking about.

  5. Angela Herself, I don’t think JK is sexist. More importantly, I think she can do no wrong. I worship the ground under her feet.

    That said, I think there are a lot of power structures, concepts of desire, etc. that she might have challenged and didn’t. For instance, we are presented three main examples of families with children — Dursleys, Malfoys, and Weasleys — and in all of them, bad and good, the mother is a stay at home mom. In fact I can’t think of one working mother in the series. That’s strange, isn’t it? For another instance, the erotic desire that is presented to us is always heterosexual. In the scene with the Veela at the beginning of Book IV the straightness becomes extreme, and, if you think about it, even a bit weird. The boys are ready to throw themselves to their deaths with consuming lust and the girls feel… exactly nothing. That’s not the way it works in real life.

    I’m just saying, though. You have to know I adore JK.

    Grace, very interesting about all the children being legitimate. Nice one. As to Asian Americans (or Asian Brits, like Cho Chang) I don’t know enough about the cultural dynamics involved to comment. But it could fit, if AA’s shifted in the 80s to a more culturally powerful position.

  6. I just reread Mrs Frisby and the Rats from NIMH last night. Mr Frisby, an escaped laboratory super mouse, married out, but there were no surviving female mice from NIMH. The former labrats did not marry out, but some remained bachelors.

    It was published in 1971. When I read it in the 1970s, I didn’t notice the sexual roles (boy rats build tunnels and attend town hall mtgs, girl rats decorate them and raise babies) until last night.

    If you look around in pop culture, AAs are ignored except that advertisers value the money we have to spend. That is a very narrow definition of power.

    I don’t think AAs shifted to a more culturally powerful position between the 1970s and the 1980s. But, AA women became the highest earning women in America in that timeframe. Before the 1970s, AA families had to choose which of their children they could send to college. They overwhelmingly chose sons. Those sons married out with women they met in college.

    College affordability rose in the 1970s, peaking in 1979. Many AA women married out to men they met in college, myself included. I am the 31st generation of a scholarly family, but my husband is the first generation of his family to attend college.

    I learned the most interesting tidbit in a sociology book about African American sexual relations. AfA enlisted men saw Asian warbrides as their chance to marry a college-educated woman. Several interview subjects indicated that they enlisted for social mobility and the GI bill. With a college educated wife, they could attend college while their wives worked and then enjoy the double professional income advantage. That is a big leap in one generation.

  7. Right. Other factors. There are also other factors in the cases I listed. I didn’t mean to be reductivist, only to highlight one element of a complex phenomenon.

    Miss Frisby too, eh? But it is such a good book (as I vaguely recall). What can we do?

  8. curious that the main motivator (it would appear) in exceptional cases to marrying out from the Western power perspective is lust.

    A power Male may marry down, risking stigmatization or whatnot, out of lust. Spellbound by exoticism etc.

    The chance of the subjugated female marrying up is bound with such luring and seduction.

    With intense bordering on awkward heterosexual tension in JK, it’s interesting we don’t find a representation of this exception.

  9. Okay oonae, I’m a few years late, but I REALLY needed to respond to this because you got two things COMPLETELY WRONG. First of all Dean Thomas actually IS an example of a wizard marrying a muggle woman, you got them mixed up. Mrs. Thomas is the muggle and her husband was a wizard. Second of all, Ted Tonks actually WAS a wizard, he was muggle-born but he was still a wizard. So there you have it, Dean Thomas is basically the only example that we know of, but at least it’s something. And I disagree with the statement that “wizards seldom or never marry muggle women”. For all we know, wizard/witch and muggle marriages might be very equal, we just don’t know about them only because the series focuses on specific wizards/witch characters that we have come to know and love (or hate), but it doesn’t represent the ENTIRE wizarding world.

  10. Hey Emie, you’re right. Even though I don’t buy your argument that there’s an entire wizarding world that we don’t know about (because there isn’t, much as I wish there was — there *is* only what she gave us), you are totally right about Ted and Dean. I still like the discussion, though, and the questions it raises. And it is true, isn’t it, that there is not one working mother in the whole series? This and other things make me think that there are some fairly traditional elements to the series, gender-wise — though maybe it doesn’t exactly work as I was claiming.

  11. Oh, no LOL!!! No, I didn’t mean in real life!!! Of course I know the wizarding world “doesn’t exist”! What I meant was, the wizarding world that JK Rowling *created* is SUPPOSE to be very big, full of millions of wizards/witches. HOWEVER, the only wizards/witches that we “personally” get to know, are the characters Rowling decided to focus on, and write about. So really, besides the wizards/witches that we actually “get to know”, who knows what all the other supposedly millions of wizards/witches do in their personal life.

    But you are right that it does seem like most of the mothers in the series don’t work. Mrs. Weasley doesn’t work, Mary Cattermole didn’t work (I don’t think she did anyway). None of the Hogwarts professor’s had any children, (that we know of). All of the women who actually did work were either unmarried, and/or they didn’t have children. It really makes you wonder, especially with the whole “gender essentialist” stereotypes that apparently when a woman has a baby, it’s “oh my god, I don’t wanna do anything else but look after my baby!!!!” They would quit their jobs, stop what their doing because once you become a mother, your just a robot. You can’t think of ANYTHING other than your precious newborn. And if you even think about doing anything else (hobbies, working, seeing friends) that doesn’t involve your child, your a “selfish ho-bag”. Sorry for going off, but this discussion really made me think about all that. Pretty much every working mother doesn’t exist in Harry Potter, and it really makes you think about what that says about society.

    Another thing about this that I actually found interesting, and you might find it interesting too, and it’s what I just thought about was not only is the whole muggle men/witch women known relations dominate the series, but also; when it comes to muggle-borns and wizards/witches it seems to “reverse” the process. There seems to be more muggle-born women and pure/half-blood men than vice verse. The examples are: Reg and Mary Cattermole, James and Lily, Mr. Ollivander’s parents, Dumbledore’s parents, Ron and Hermione. Just like Dean Thomas, the ONLY example I can think of being the other way around is Ted and Andromeda Tonks. And it makes you think, why is that? Why is it that Rowling only wants us to personally know more about muggle men/witch and muggle-born women/pure or half-blood men together? As somebody else pointed out on here, that witches (women) are more “open-minded” about marrying different types of people more then men are; and also what you suggested the idea that men “marry up”. Maybe subconsciously that’s what Rowling was suggesting at with her heteronormativity; that “stereotypically” (and using the wizarding world as an example and reflection of real life) Wizard men are not as open-minded as witches, and if they HAVE to marry someone that’s not exactly pure or half-blood like themselves, then they’ll just settle for the next best thing. They won’t COMPLETELY go for muggles, as that is too beneath them, but if they happen to be muggle-born then I guess it’s okay. They may come from muggle families, but hey, at least they can do magic! To them, it’s better than nothing.

    Do you think that sounds about right? The series almost seems to suggest those things. Even if Rowling didn’t intend for it to be that way, to me, that’s the way it seemed.

  12. I think all of this is fascinating, and well researched. So the tendencies are: 1. muggle/muggle, 2. wizard/witch, 3. muggle-born witch/wizard, 4. witch-muggle. I actually don’t know what to do about this!

  13. Thanks, it is very fascinating. I should probably write an essay on it or something. It’s kind of given me an idea! lol. And I totally forgot about Hagrid! Yeah, his mother was a giantess and she “married” Hagrid’s normal-sized wizard father. Hmm, I guess since all the witches were being taken by the muggle men, muggle-born women were being taken by other wizards, and Mr. Hagrid didn’t want to settle for just a muggle woman, so he just went for Fridwulfa….

  14. Well, turns out there is FINALLY another character who is a half-blood by wizard father/muggle mother. Our very own and popular Remus Lupin himself. It was just revealed on Pottermore that Lupin’s father was Lyall Lupin, a pure-blood wizard who worked for the Ministry. And his mother was Hope Lupin (nee: Howell), a muggle woman who worked as a secretary at an insurance agency in Cardiff.

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