James or Severus? Harry Potter, feminism and dating

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I’ve had moments in my life where I have basically been Lily Evans from Harry Potter (let me have this). Not only am I ginger (okay, it’s dyed, I’m desperate here), but I’ve also had two people who are very different ‘types’ want to date me, and like a classic millennial, I drew comparisons to James and Severus.

The ‘James Potter’ was popular and conventionally handsome, but narcissistic and slightly abusive towards others. He had a stable group of friends, was talented, ambitious, motivated, will likely have a stable career throughout his life, and will probably be a present father – but he shat on those beneath him.

Then there was ‘Severus Snape’. Not as attractive by society’s standards, he was a loner and an outsider. The bullying he suffered coupled with his anxiety and other struggles made him more ‘difficult’ to be with, and he didn’t really fit in anywhere. However, he was also talented, gentle and intelligent. We genuinely cared for each other, but nobody approved of him and everyone told me I could do better.

Spoiler alert: I chose neither, but that was only because I hated myself for leaning towards the popular guy. It was easier to not go through the constant torment and questioning. This easy route would have also brought me stability, commitment and a family. There’s something so compelling about being in public and people remarking on what a cute couple you are! So I did what any normal, well-adjusted woman would do: I ran the fuck away.

It’s silly to think that we all fit into these archetypal roles and, chances are, I wouldn’t have had a happy ending with either of these men, but this wasn’t the first time I realised that some choices were easier for me than others. When I became ‘woke’ (my favourite way of describing the realisation that we live in a patriarchal society), I could (and still can) feel the tug of what society wanted from me rivalling what I actually wanted. Unfortunately, the tug of society was so strong I could never be sure of my true feelings. Was my instinct to resist the tug a true one? Or was I rebelling for the sake of it?

“Oh, you’re a feminist now? Isn’t that just a new trend?” In the same way a family member once dismissed my black nail varnish in 2006, making me feel small and insignificant, other now dismiss my politics. Am I just rebelling for the sake of it? Well actually, a quick Google tells me that black nail polish originated in Ancient China, with some dynasties reserving black and red for royalty. And a decade later, I’m still wearing it.

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Feminism is not a trend. There have been documented cases of suffragettes’ husbands being unsupportive to such a degree that they would eventually end their marriages. It’s not a surprise that I’ve been told multiple times that no man would ever want to be with someone with my strong views, and “Is it really worth a life of loneliness?” But feminism has helped me to realise – why should I choose the James Potter version of society? While I’m not in a relationship, I’ve chosen to surround myself only with ‘Snapes’, and I’ve met some of the most wonderful, passionate, motivated, and remarkably non-abusive people. But of course, without a relationship, how do I know I’m even worth anything? When am I going to settle down? Will I ever have children? Where am I going if it’s not towards a wonderful, all-encompassing nuclear family?!

That’s the sort of battle I have within my mind, but these concerns are becoming more and more trivial to me as time goes on. It seems right to me that I should Snape my way through life, knowing that I’m strong enough to deal with the remarks and jokes and death threats about the type of person I am or my “hobbies”. However, the reason why I protest and I’m annoying and angry is because I don’t want it to have to be the ‘hard choice’ to do what you want. So many people live unfulfilling and frustrating lives because they’ve just gone with the status quo. I’m not saying that Lily and James were unfulfilled, I’m just saying that I wish James wasn’t the obvious choice.

Severus Snape was the first character in my little 15 year old life that showed me character development and a twist that literally changed my way of seeing the world. Everyone has their own story, we don’t know their motives and usually they’re trying to do what’s best for those around them. In fact, I ritually use the lesson of Snape (or ‘WWSD?’ for fun) when talking about politics, such as the refugee crisis or welfare state. My brain is like a pensieve, trying to sift through possible experiences in order to find empathy for everyone’s stories. We’re all fighting for something, after all, it’s just that some of us will step on others to get it (*cough* James Potter *cough* Western governments). My call to action is basically just to be more kind towards other people’s choices whether in regards to relationships (or lack thereof) or in the choices people make in trying to do what is best for their family (especially when they’re running from war, just saying). We should all consider Snape.

– Hannah Morrisson is a feminist activist for Fourth Wave: LFA and proud Ravenpuff. Follow her at: @0hlm.

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