Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Hermione-vs-Stupid Girls: J.K. Rowling on the Thin Ideal

My middle school daughter loves Harry Potter, and she also enjoys reading J.K. Rowling’s musings on her website. When she read this one, she said, “Mom, you have to hear this!”

In this post, Rowling is talking about the fact that girls feel so much pressure to be thin. As a part of this pressure, comes the greatest insult, “You’re fat!” Rowling asks: why is being fat the worst thing you can be? Isn’t it worse to be unkind, selfish, disrespectful, and so on? I had this same conversation with one of my daughters not too long ago. Someone at school had called her fat, and she came home crying about it. I asked her this question, “So what if you were fat. If that’s the worse thing that someone can say about you, is that really that bad? Aren’t there a lot worse things that someone could call you?” I mean, if you are overweight, you can change your eating and exercise habits to become healthier. But if you’re self-centered, arrogant, shallow, cruel….that’s more difficult to change. That requires a serious change of heart, not just habits.

When I asked that, my daughter looked at me like I was crazy. She, at the age of 8, had so strongly bought into the idea that the worst thing one could be is fat, that she was astounded by my questioning it.I wondered, “Do boys feel this same way? Is ‘fat’ the worst insult they can receive too?” Or is this thin ideal so strongly directed only at girls? What is our society doing in telling our girls that their physical appearance is the most important part of who they are, to the exclusion of all else? Who cares if you’re smart, kind, caring, and the best friend anyone could have? If you don’t measure up in the looks department, sister, that’s the worst thing possible.

Rowling concludes her post with these words:

” (This is).. about what girls want to be, what they’re told they should be, and how they feel about who they are. I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. …..Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls.”

Nicely said, J.K. Rowling. I want my girls to be Hermiones too!

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4 comments on “Hermione-vs-Stupid Girls: J.K. Rowling on the Thin Ideal

  1. Azul
    February 5, 2011

    I agree with some of the words she wrote.
    But being read by millions of people, she should have been more careful.
    There are all kinds of people. Fat lazy people, fat hard working people. Thin empty headed people, thin smart people. Really, she shouldn’t promote stupid stereotypes. Yet, she does.
    I encourage J.K. Rowling to do a little research and tell me the personality of the majority of girls who suffer from anorexia. They are exactly like Hermione.

  2. Jennifer Jordan Kahla
    December 15, 2010

    You ask if boys feel the same way and I can answer that, YES. My 12 yr old is the stockiest of my 4 boys, which means he looks normal. About 2 yrs ago he started voicing concerns about the ‘inch he could pinch’ on his stomach. We don’t diet in our family-nor stress over our bodies, we strive to eat healthy and get some exercise, but even that is iffy. Unrealistic expectations for our bodies is unhealthy for both sexes and for all ages!

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      December 15, 2010

      Great example, thanks for sharing that! I agree with you. In fact, there’s new research that tells us that boys are beginning to feel pressured to achieve a muscular ideal, like the thin ideal for girls. Both are unhealthy for most body types.

  3. B Wade
    December 7, 2010

    I have always wanted to write a book entitled : FAT IS NOT THE ONLY UGLY

    Maybe one of you younger girls will be able to write about that concept with enough humor that the majority of the world can “hear” the message.

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