Hillary Clinton Is the Hermione of Politics
“Honestly, am I the only person who’s ever bothered to read The United States: A History?”
Though the Harry Potter series will always hold a special place in my heart, I’ll readily admit that I couldn’t always relate to the characters. As a teen, I had a particularly hard time with Hermione. Sure, she has her moments of vulnerability, but she sticks to her convictions no matter the cost, and typically, she’s unafraid of how others perceive her. This was a concept so unfamiliar to me that I resented this fictional girl with unruly hair and wild ambition and encyclopedic knowledge of just about everything. It’s embarrassing to think back on this, now that I understand Hermione deserves both admiration and emulation. And as I watched my Twitter timeline overflow with commentary the night Hillary Clinton gave her nomination acceptance speech, I shared in the collective excitement of all the real-life Hermiones I know and follow (including Twitter luminary, librarian, podcaster, and Bossy Dame Margaret Willison).
Each time someone made me feel embarrassed for making an effort, each time they made me feel small, they were prepping me to cast THIS vote.
— Margaret H. Willison (@MrsFridayNext) July 29, 2016
The very real prospect of a female president is inspiring to anyone who’s ever been told, explicitly or implicitly, to know their place. And Clinton’s enthusiasm for and devotion to learning, education, and human rights make her even more appealing. Still, since she first came into the public eye, both how she expresses enthusiasm and her tendency to rise above her pre-assigned station have been subject to critique. These aren’t the only traits of Clinton’s that commentators, Twitter eggs, and political opponents pick apart, and even the staunchest Democrat can admit that she’s said and done things that gave them pause. Still, the most common critiques tend to have the same subtext: she shouldn’t be this outspoken/assertive/(insert loaded adjective here) because that’s not what a woman is supposed to be. Clinton consistently challenges and disproves that notion. Sound familiar?
It’s worth noting that I’m not encouraging anyone to equate Hillary Clinton with a fictional character. In her essay “What’s with the ‘dadification’ of Tim Kaine?” Jaya Saxena describes the fandom-esque adoration of VP candidate Kaine and other prominent figures as “resulting in a lot of all-or-nothing rhetoric. It’s not enough to just support a candidate, now you have to be part of their fandom. Hillary Clinton is #squadgoals, Joe Biden is a meme, and Barack Obama is bae.” This is certainly a valid critique; indulging in The Onion’s portrayal of Biden as America’s fun-loving uncle is one thing, but believing that the man who’s been second in command of our country since January 2009 is all ice cream cones and Midwestern charm is quite another.
But the women making the Hermione comparison—Willison and others like her—are clever, insightful people, the sort of contributors to online discourse that are worth seeking out. They’re not looking at Clinton as a character; they’re commending Clinton for her character. The language of the personal attacks we see on Clinton could, and should, be used positively. Yes, she’s outspoken, and yes, she’s assertive. But so are countless prominent leaders throughout history, real or imagined.
Hermione’s name is not the one on the book jacket, but she’s still a hero in her own right. Without Hermione, Harry would be mired in crisis after crisis; such as it is, Harry comes to rely on Hermione’s resourcefulness, quick thinking, and bravery to get out of at least one life-threatening situation per book. (Remember how Hermione was still the one who figured out where the basilisk was in the second book even though she was literally unconscious? That’s incredible. That’s Hermione.) And yet, people still underestimate Hermione and express shock, and sometimes disbelief, when she does something extraordinary. (I say again: sound familiar?) Proving that a woman can be extraordinary regardless of upbringing, appearance, and stature is one of the things she does best.
I’m world-weary enough to know that it’s easy for people to dismiss Clinton’s worthiness of the presidency. But I’m also optimistic enough to think that her admirable qualities shine brightly enough for her to move back into the White House next year. It’s what the Hermiones across America want. It’s what I, a self-identifying Gryffindor but more of a Weasley than a Granger, want. Here’s hoping it’s what the majority of the voting public wants.
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Christy Admiraal lives in Manhattan, where she works as a copywriter and editor. She enjoys comedy podcasts, graphic t-shirts, inserting her cats’ names into popular song lyrics, and tweeting an excessive amount @AdmiralChristy.
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