Welcome, welcome. This post has been a long time coming! It was almost an entire year ago that I first started to ponder how the beloved Harry Potter series would’ve turned out if the main character had been born with different baby-making parts. The concept sparked some lively debate between me, Junior Hubs, and my bestie, so I figured I owed the blogging community our collective two cents. Plus, as I’ve just reread the entire series for the first time in years, I figured now was the perfect time to start talking about it. Also, January is my birth month, and as part of my new and improved blogging style, I must write at least one Fan Girl (read: my favorite books) post within the month. Considering that the HP series was basically my entire literary world from elementary school to high school, it seemed ridiculously appropriate as this year’s Fan Girl post.
I do want to throw out the following disclaimers:
- I have way more questions than answers. I didn’t sit down in a library for weeks at a time, researching Harry Potter theories. I just spent a few hours of a workday scribbling in my journal, going “I wonder if…” So I apologize for any instance where I bring up a question and don’t follow it with a remedy. Along those lines, there are a plethora of holes in my theory. As I began attempting to solidify my theorizing, I realized that all my changes were mostly based on characters and relationships as opposed to plot-propelling events. So there will be a lot of instances where I follow my thought with “But this would present problems for [enter plot event] because [enter reason].” This is because I feel as though I have a better grasp on how author J.K. Rowling writes characters over how she writes events, so I am uncomfortable (and unqualified) attempting to figure out solutions to plot issues.
- While I may switch some genders around, I’m keeping everyone’s sexuality as is. This is partly because adding that aspect would make this a REALLY LONG post (as opposed to just a pretty long post) and partly because I don’t want to accidentally say something offensive and upset mi amigos in the LGBT community. But maybe I can convince J.H. to blog about his theory that magic (in the series) is a metaphor for being gay! It’s certainly an interesting (and very short) one.
- I refused to name the main character of my theorizing “Harriet” because that seems cheap, so going forward I will just say Girl Harry, G.H. for short. References to the current incarnation of Harry may be Rowling’s Harry, R.H. for short, or just Harry.
One last thing to discuss before I begin: the organization of this post. The way I see it, there are three spheres of influence affected by making Harry Potter a girl— Family, Hogwarts Life, and Villains. As I was developing the thoughts that will comprise this post, they organically fell into these spheres. Therefore, as we go from point to point, they won’t be in chronological order by way of development within the series; meaning I may bring up something from a later book before addressing a point relating to earlier events. I hope that makes sense! There’s also a point that lies outside all three of these spheres; I’ll save that one for last.
Is everyone on board? I hope so because this plane is ready to take off.
Point One: The level of importance regarding Girl Harry’s family of birth
It’s quite clear from go that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is his father’s son. Apart from his mother’s eyes, Harry is by all accounts a James reincarnate. With everyone pointing this out, it was a given that Harry would lean into connecting with the memory of his dearly departed dad. Readers of the series may notice that Harry is rarely bothered by the fact that no one ever compares him to his mother; aside from the brief glimpse of her abilities that we get from Professor Slughorn in Half-Blood Prince, no one really even talks about Lily. So I had to ask myself: How would Girl Harry feel about her parents? Would James be the focus of her contemplation, as he is with R.H., or would Lily have been pulled into the spotlight? I think it can be argued either way, predicated on a later point that I will make on the Dursleys and whether their influence would make Girl Harry more masculine or feminine (though I don’t 100 percent support the idea that there are inherently masculine or feminine qualities). Regardless of who G.H. naturally gravitated toward, I think she would place more value on Lily’s sacrificial spell of protection than R.H. ever did. It’s not like Harry ever sat down and thought “Man, that protection from my mom that’s kept me alive all these years is the real deal.” When you take into consideration that most material connections to James and Lily Potter once belonged to James (the Marauder’s Map and his Invisibility Cloak), it seems safe to assume that Girl Harry would spend a bit more time considering Lily’s spell as it is the only connection to her mother and literally the embodiment of love for one’s child.
Keeping a tangential focus on Lily, I next considered how Petunia Dursley would treat a female Harry. I preface this by saying that I never approved of Rowling’s insistence on making the Dursleys as unlikeable as possible. I think there was a way for Harry to prefer life as a wizard without making him so miserable in the Muggle world. But I also don’t want to completely mess with the essence of the books, so I have an as-it-stands sub-point and an alternate-reality sub-point. As it stands, Petunia would be markedly meaner than her current characterization. The reason for this is obvious: no matter whom Girl Harry resembled, Petunia would see her as Lily and treat her accordingly. Notice how Petunia’s husband Vernon is usually the one punishing Harry, physically and mentally. If she had a niece instead of a nephew, I think Petunia would be in charge of doling out punishments—partially because she would be acting on her preexisting rage and partially because I doubt Vernon is so messed up that he’d manhandle a girl. In an alternate reality, I think Petunia would be a bit more complex than she currently is. The small part of her that regretted never patching things up with her only sister would be a little more apparent, manifesting as fleeting moments of redemptive behavior toward Girl Harry. I’m not talking anything crazy like hugging her or something. I’m thinking more subtle, like anonymously leaving a book about puberty on Girl Harry’s bed as she starts nearing the age where pimples and periods are imminent or coming back from a department store with a semi-flattering hair clip under the guise that she was tired of Girl Harry’s unruly hair. Plus—and this goes along with the as-is Dursleys’ need to come off as proper—someone would have to discuss with G.H. how girls can attract the “wrong sort of attention” because I doubt Petunia would be a fan of her niece having a “slutty” reputation. As another little wrinkle, I like to imagine that Petunia secretly wanted a daughter and therefore would have a hard time not showing it, perhaps while she was alone with Girl Harry. This isn’t to say Petunia would worship Dudley any less; I just think she wouldn’t be able to hide her curiosity over how having a daughter might’ve gone.
Random follow-up: Would Girl Harry still wear Dudley’s hand-me-downs? Talk about awkward.
Point Two: What to do with the revolving door of surrogate fathers
Naturally, thinking about Petunia’s feelings toward a female Harry got me thinking about how the attitudes of the collection of surrogate fathers might change. This is based on my assumption that Rowling would keep the father figure theme as opposed to replacing it with a cast of leading ladies (for which I have no theories other than turn all the dudes into female friends of Lily’s). Besides, I wouldn’t want to turn James into the new Lily in terms of connecting with their child, so keeping his friends as major players in Girl Harry’s life would be important. As I stated earlier, people pretty much treat Harry like James 2.0, so the relationship with Harry, Remus Lupin, and Sirius Black has always been more of a friendship than a fathers-and-son dynamic. I suppose Rowling was using Dumbledore for this, but I digress. Instead of seeing Girl Harry as a smaller James, Sirius and Remus would see their best friend’s only daughter, and more than likely they would take on the identities of slightly overprotective fathers. I’m mainly talking about Remus here, as he’s gone on record to oppose Sirius’s more cavalier attitude toward Harry. But Sirius would also have to be a bit pulled back, considering he’s the one Lily and James handpicked to watch over their child if anything happened to them in the first place. We’ve seen Sirius’s protective side—in Goblet of Fire, he rushes back to England when Harry tells him about his scar acting up and is ready to risk it all for him in Order of the Phoenix—so it’s not a total stretch to imagine he could pull it off on a more permanent scale. I’d still want to keep the playfulness of their relationship though, easily achieved if G.H. acts the way R.H. does (read: like James, in popular opinion). This would simply add an afterthought on Sirius’s part: “Should I really have let James’s only daughter do that?”
The relationship between Girl Harry and Dumbledore would likely be the exact same with a small addendum. We all know that Dumbledore’s deepest regret is the circumstance surrounding his sister’s death, so I imagine he would take a slightly more redemptive approach to watching over Girl Harry. This would have to be achieved mostly in subtext because I don’t think Dumbledore would actively pull G.H. out of harm’s way if it would adversely affect their cause against Voldemort; he’d just really want to. The way to showcase this would be in Snape’s dying memory of the conversation wherein Dumbledore reveals the prophecy’s full meaning to him. As that scene stands, Snape is way more emotional about it than Dumbledore, but I think recapping the knowledge that he has to lose yet another young girl under his care would cause our dear professor to get a little choked up.
Speaking of prophecies…
Point Three: Neville Longbottom’s connection to the Chosen One prophecy
This point serves as a good segue between the Family and Hogwarts Life stages, the latter being where I placed the changes to friendship dynamics and the former being the first stage to be affected by the prophecy.
The obvious question is Does Neville have to be a girl too? If we’re keeping the whole “someone else could’ve fulfilled the prophecy” thing (which I’ve always found to be a little flimsy), then I say yes, Neville has to be a girl. Simply put, I don’t think Voldemort would’ve picked Girl Harry as the child who’d fulfill the prophecy if he had a boy option. This isn’t to say that Voldemort is sexist; we all know he’s equal opportunity when it comes to playing the Avada Kedavra card. It just seems like he’d gravitate toward the male child because deep, deep, deep down in the part of his brain where he’s just a barbecue sauce-covered baby, he’d connect the female child to his witch mother, the parent towards whom he holds less animosity, and go for the one with a penis. But that may be giving Voldy too much credit. So I guess I say yes because saying no would bring up too many questions of sexism—if Voldemort picked the girl, then he’s wants-to-destroy-women sexist; if he picked the boy, then he’s doesn’t-believe-women-are-capable-of-power sexist. Not to mention there would be people who’d be all up in arms about boy Neville partially fulfilling the prophecy in the Battle of Hogwarts (“That just goes to prove that Rowling thinks women need men even a little bit to do something,” etc.). I’d rather just avoid all that by having Neville be a girl too, which allows us to keep the “it’s because Harry was a half-blood like Voldemort, etc.” reasoning for how the Chosen One came to be.
Point Four: What to do with Ron and Hermione
This was without a doubt the hardest aspect of the Harry Potter series to alter. I still have no answers. In fact, this is deserving of its own post because of all the pros and cons I scribbled out. So, direct yourself to the second half of this theory to read my thoughts on what I consider to be the three possibilities when it comes to Girl Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s relationship within the story.
Point Five: The Ginny of it all
This was probably the second hardest thing to consider within the construct of this theory. But that’s only if you’re dead-set on having Harry (of either gender) end up with someone related to his Ron-type best friend, while the Ron-type ends up with the Hermione-type, ensuring that they’re all one big family who’s always together. If that’s the case, then either Ginny needs to be made a boy (cursing Mrs. Weasley with all boys, ugh!) or G.H. has to end up with one of Ron’s other brothers. Now, what I think would be interesting is replacing Charlie—whose character’s existence is not at all crucial to the story—with a fraternal twin for Ron. That way, regardless of what gender Ron is, there could be a boy Weasley for Girl Harry to get to know on a personal level. That way, the storyline from Chamber of Secrets isn’t hindered because Ginny’s awe over G.H. could be rewritten as want of a female role model she isn’t related to, and saving Ginny from the Chamber could endear G.H. in the eyes of Ron’s twin (as opposed to cementing the infatuation Ginny has with Rowling’s Harry). So that could work out all right.
If you are like me, though, and think it’s just a little bit much that Harry ends up with Ron’s sister (I mean, I like it, but I see how it’s cheesy), then I suggest doing away with the relationship in its entirety. Girl Harry can just get a good friendship out of saving Ginny (and then there’d be two girls running the Gryffindor Quidditch team) and be available for romantic entanglements outside her friends’ family.
I’m finding myself entirely against the Cho Chang pair up, so as far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t need a consideration in this theory. There is a handful of existing characters that would work as an interesting pairing for Girl Harry. Flying in the face of my earlier statements about making Neville a girl too, I think he and G.H. would be adorable together. I also think it’d be interesting to go out-of-house for romantic interests and give her a boyfriend from Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw (NO, I wouldn’t ship her and Draco…entirely).
MAN, this is a lot of text… You’ve earned yourself a picture of my mom and sister’s dog. Her name is LSP (as in Lumpy Space Princess).
Point Six: How non-Slytherins might feel about Girl Harry
One of the things that I find infuriating about the series is how quickly the student body will turn on Harry. Despite being their savior/Chosen One, a role he didn’t even ask for, most Hogwarts students are quick to point the finger at the slightest indication of trouble. In Chamber of Secrets, everyone thinks he’s the heir of Slytherin, bent on cleansing the school of its Muggle-borns. In Goblet of Fire, everyone thinks he’s a fame-hungry douchebag who purposefully entered the Triwizard Tournament. In Order of the Phoenix, despite all evidence to the contrary, he’s suddenly a dirty liar who wants to scare people into thinking Voldemort’s back. The kid cannot catch a damn break, and I can’t imagine it would be any different with Girl Harry. In fact, I think it would be worse. She would be painted as either a girl prone to hysterics who doesn’t need to be taken seriously or a girl who will do anything to get attention.
It’s also not hard to imagine that a lot of this shade would be thrown by the other young ladies of Hogwarts. Note how they are so quick to shun Hermione and Luna, a pair of girls who don’t really conform to the groupthink exhibited by their peers; imagine how they’d feel about a girl who’s been touted as special since she was in diapers. Much like how Snape accuses Harry of acting as pompous as James did (on occasion), the ladies of Hogwarts might read any action Girl Harry takes as her thinking she’s better than them/being the B kind of witch. This may sound a bit sexist, but I’m merely going off the not-great light that (young) girls are portrayed in the series as it stands. So, I don’t think male readers would have to worry about an influx of lady characters in response to having a heroine instead of a hero; G.H. would probably have the same gender proportions in her group of friends as Rowling’s Harry.
Point Seven: Girl Harry vs. that Malfoy douchebag
For reasons that I don’t necessarily understand myself, I’m leaving Draco Malfoy’s gender alone. If pressed, I’d say that it presents an interesting problem for Draco because he can’t physically hurt a girl as much as he can a boy (think about it; at most, he’s cursed Hermione with bigger teeth). So how would he handle a main rivalry with a female?
Herein lies one of the more annoyingly stereotypical points to my Harry-as-girl theory, for which I copiously apologize in advance.
I’m not so loony as to think that G.H. and Draco would ever hook up; give me a little credit, guys! But I don’t think it’s going too far to say that part of Draco’s issue with G.H. would be his confusing feelings toward her. I mean, this school is crawling with pubescent teenagers! Avoiding the “who’s hot at Hogwarts” talk would’ve been impossible—hence characters like Cedric Diggory, Viktor Krum, and Fleur Delacour. As for the whole Slytherin-Gryffindor thing, the original series already addresses that. On the train to Hogwarts in Half-Blood Prince, Harry overhears Pansy Parkinson making fun of Blaise Zabini (possibly the only black guy in Slytherin?!) for finding Ginny attractive, and he doesn’t deny it. He just says that he’d never seriously consider dating a “blood traitor” like her. So I use that to defend my thought that Draco would be a little bit attracted to Girl Harry. Clearly he wouldn’t do anything about it, and she’d never even be aware of it (because R.H. barely notices signals from the opposite sex) nor would she be attracted to him. So what does it hurt?
What it reaps is a more prominent enemy in Pansy. She’s obsessed with Draco, though I’m not sure if they ever truly date at any point in the series. Even if Draco never outright admitted to thinking Girl Harry was attractive, Pansy would take offense any time she was brought up and spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get her out of the picture. This would be a good move because it’s only when Bellatrix shows up that readers are even introduced to the idea that female villains can be the more messed-up ones, and increasing Pansy’s stage time seems like a foundation for that. So we may lose the more physical violence from Draco, but we could easily gain it back through Miss Parkinson.
Point Eight: Girl Harry vs. Snape
This is the last point in my Hogwarts Life sphere of influence and the perfect segue between it and the Villains sphere.
Snape—arguably the most misunderstood character in the entire series. The big reveal with him in Deathly Hallows is probably one of the greatest moments in the books (and, dare I say, in children’s literature?), and it’s as easily achieved with Girl Harry as it is with Rowling’s Harry. In fact, I think it’d reap even more benefits.
What bothers me so much about the current manifestation of the Potter-Snape rivalry is how the latter apparently feels no remorse about hating a child. He’s almost 40 and his biggest enemy is a teenage boy? That’s embarrassing, and he should feel bad about that. I get that it’s because he’s seeing James when he looks at Harry, but would that be the case with Girl Harry? Even if she looked more like James, just the fact that G.H. was a girl would cause Snape to envision Lily a lot more frequently. This would obviously be accomplished more easily if she just looked like Lily, though. Either way, I think Snape would have a harder time straight-up hating G.H., and this feels more satisfactory to me. If G.H. is never 100 percent sure that she can trust Snape, it adds more tension to the story than just “any time Snape is seen, it can be assumed that he’s a jerk and/or up to no good.” It’d be a twist on the whole “will they/won’t they” dynamic of romantic comedies (but in a not creepy way). If we see Snape actively struggling to stay mean, or even if we just see him looking at G.H. with hard-to-interpret expressions, it makes the ending to his story more poignant. I’m always one for poignancy!
Point Nine: The nature of Death Eaters faced with a young female adversary
We’ve reached the last point in my influential spheres discussion of Harry Potter-as-a-girl. As I’ve already kinda touched on Voldemort earlier with the Chosen One section, I’m mostly focusing on Death Eaters here.
This was probably the third most difficult thing to think about because it starts to play with the boundaries of what fits into children’s literature. I’ve had multiple discussions about whether the HP series is children’s lit despite the gravity of the last three books (I maintain that it is), but regardless of what you think, you can’t deny that there are certain things that are noticeably avoided within the narrative. As just an example: you never hear Harry and Ron complain about how Hermione must obviously be on her period in moments when she’s super down their throats. But that example isn’t totally random because it brings me to my point!
Sex/sexuality is almost completely avoided in the HP series as it stands, and if Harry were a girl, I envision the Death Eaters using sexual intimidation as a fear tactic. Think about how messed up they are as a group; it’s not hard to imagine this being a weapon in their arsenal. The biggest culprit would obviously be Bellatrix. Toward the end of the first Deathly Hallows film, you can’t deny that there’s a whiff of sexual violence when Bellatrix is laying on top of a whimpering Hermione, the action being taken unclear until later (when you see what was carved into Hermione’s arm). Pair that with the fact that Bellatrix is just crazed and has that “I will put you in the ground with whatever I’ve got” essence about her, and I’m surprised she didn’t already try to put terrifying moves on Harry. She’s like any of those women who are famous for sleeping with people and then murdering them, only Bellatrix is an even worse person.
But seeing as how this is a children’s series, I’m taking that off the table. Without that, I feel there’d be no difference in the way that the Death Eaters treat Girl Harry. I guess they’d be a little more sexist, considering the D.E. crew is mostly comprised of “gentlemen.” So there’d be a lot of “weak little girl” cracks at G.H.’s expense (probably from Lucius almost exclusively) and a lot more dead mom jokes. I don’t think anyone can accuse the Death Eaters of being extremely creative when it comes to taunts, and having had all that experience with Draco, I don’t think it would phase G.H. one bit. Not any more so than it does with R.H., anyway.
And now the true finale of this discussion: How would Girl Harry feel about Girl Harry?
Perhaps I’m being extremely sexist and/or saying this simply because I’m a girl and would like to believe this is how I would behave, but I don’t think Girl Harry would complain nearly as much as Rowling’s Harry does. This isn’t to say she’d never complain because, honestly, look at how terrible a life the series’ titular character has been given. Gandhi would’ve gone on a hunger strike in protest! However, I don’t think G.H. would complain in the same way as her male counterpart.
If you noticed, R.H. complains a lot about “not asking for” the life that he’s been handed and the whole Chosen One thing. This is usually following people blaming him for things or assuming that he likes the attention that comes with being The Boy Who Lived. It’s understandable to a point, but after a while, it gets infuriating. Suck it up and deal, dude! You’ve got bigger problems. In my imagination, G.H. wouldn’t complain about that kind of thing. Sure, she’d be pissed off while it was all happening and probably complain about how people are idiots (because hello), but I think she’d catch on a lot earlier that she’s got a literal life-or-death mission that takes precedence over juvenile BS. Again, maybe that’s just me wanting it to be that way. It just seems like we ladies like to complain about superficial things when there isn’t anything real to complain about, but the second something important shows up, it takes our focus and we don’t stop to breathe until it’s been handled. That’s a thing, right? Maybe, maybe not; at the very least, it’s what I’d like to see!
And is it just me, or it kind of ridiculous that Harry complained as much as he did about people being mean to him? Having lived with the Dursleys for most of his life, he should be immune to harsh words/taunts. That’s like the only useful life lesson he would have learned from them! Sure, Malfoy is kind of a jerk, but 1) is he really any more creative than Dudley? and 2) AT LEAST YOU DON’T LIVE IN A CLOSET UNDER THE STAIRS ANYMORE! As the husband of the almighty Queen Bey once rapped, “Get that dirt off your shoulder.” I think G.H. would take this to heart (that and the lesson that “ladies is pimps too, so go on, brush your shoulders off”) and therefore be a bit tougher as a result. Now, lady taunts would probably still sting simply because that’s not what she’s used to. However, considering the main topics of lady taunts (slut-shaming, not being skinny, being weird, being too smart, etc.) and the fact that hardly any of them would apply to G.H., I’d say that would be a near non-issue.
Given the fact that most of the people Harry interacted with as a child were dudes, I wonder how much of a tomboy Girl Harry would be. Again, I try not to subscribe to the idea of masculine vs. feminine characteristics because that seems horribly outdated, but I can’t imagine she would’ve grown up being super into make-up and ballet and whatever else is supposed to be very feminine. As I mentioned earlier, someone would have needed to explain to her how girls work, but I can’t imagine Petunia showing her how to wear make-up or flattering clothing, etc. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing that G.H. wouldn’t be the average picture of femininity, but have you ever noticed that few female leads (in this kind of story) are what you’d call typically feminine? What’s that about? Is there a middle ground? It certainly exists in the real world; there’s no need to choose. But the reason I bring up this point is because I think it would lend itself toward the collection of surrogate fathers (told you I had a follow-up point for that). If she were more of a tomboy, she might not crave a surrogate mom in the same way that R.H. never seems to be searching for one. Sure, you’ve got Mrs. Weasley stepping up to the plate, but Harry always seems more embarrassed by her doting than secretly happy that it’s happening.
Speaking of a lack of maternal input, but slapping the tomboy theory in the face, I wonder if Girl Harry would turn around and be more maternal toward others in response. I feel like it’s not hard to imagine that someone who was never cared for in life might want to take care of others, just to make sure no one else suffers a similar fate. However, that may seem like it’s pushing a typical idea of femininity on readers, and I wouldn’t want to do that either. I just think it’s a natural progression for a character. For instance, using myself as an example, I don’t expect people to take care of me (much like Harry of any manifestation would come not to expect it), but I enjoy taking care of people. This isn’t to say I wasn’t taken care of as a child; I was just raised to value the ability to take care of myself. It’s also one of those things where giving is better than receiving; given all the attention G.H. would receive for being The Girl Who Lived, it stands to reason that she’d want to deflect it. If you read my Ron and Hermione post before finishing this one, the following is for you: I maintain that one of G.H.’s close friends would keep a “maternal” eye on her simply because (speaking from experience) there is always that one person who will force the caretaker to take care of themselves. If you didn’t read that post yet…that’ll make even more sense after you do (considering it wasn’t a hard statement to follow in the first place).
So that’s my Harry Potter-as-a-girl theory! It’s rife with inconsistencies and non-answers, but I still think it’s interesting to talk about. Besides, most literary theories are pulled out of the asses of those who write them. The only ones who truly know what a book meant or was trying to do are the writers, and sometimes they aren’t attempting to do anything other than write a good book (and sometimes not even that). I hope you had fun, and please feel free to leave your thoughts regarding this or any other interesting twist that can be applied to the Harry Potter series.