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July 15-18, 2010
Orlando, Florida

Hermione "Cums" Undone: Fanfiction and the Recapitulation of Patriarchy
Shereen Siddiqui  

Media scholar Henry Jenkins refers to the active appropriation of texts (i.e. television shows, movies, books) by fan communities for their own pleasures as "textual poaching." One manifestation of textual poaching is the enormous body of fanfiction that has emerged in the wake of the Harry Potter series. A common theme in fanfic is the creation of non-canonical relationships. Writing fanfiction gives authors an opportunity to correct perceived shortcomings or sometimes simply to push boundaries. Some fans have expressed concern about sexism in the Harry Potter books, and many scholars have noted that Rowling perpetuates common gender stereotypes through her characters (Heilman, Dresang, Borah). At least ninety percent of fanfiction writers are women (Bacon-Smith). Do these female writers, then, give female characters more power than Rowling gives them? Through both textual and audience analysis, and drawing on feminist theory and Stuart Hall's encoding-decoding model, this study explores the common fanfic pairing of Hermione with rogue non-canonical characters, such as Harry's wizard-school nemesis, Draco Malfoy, or the sinister Potions professor, Severus Snape, to determine whether or not hegemonic patriarchal power is countered or supported. Fanfiction texts posted on fan websites were read and analyzed. In addition to the fanfiction itself, I read and analyzed author profiles, author story notes, and story reviews. Fanfic writers who contributed stories featuring relationships between Hermione/Snape (SS/HG) or Hermione/Draco (DM/HG) were contacted and asked if they would be willing to participate in an academic research project on fanfic writers. All of the respondents are female, and all of the fanfics analyzed were written by women. Most of the women reside in the United States, although several live in Europe. Their ages, though not always ascertained, range from approximately 18 to 45. The study revealed that fanfiction that pairs Hermione with Malfoy or Snape reproduces common cultural romantic scripts. Although fanfiction featuring Hermione with these non-canonical characters does not counter patriarchal hegemony, the female-dominated fan communities themselves may be viewed as resistive. Rowling's Hermione is largely isolated from other women and does not experience "a closely knit, supportive, same-gender community," generally associated with feminists and with witches (Dresang 231). However, a type of sisterhood exists for the fan writers in on-line communities. The on-line community created by Harry Potter fans, although not necessarily feminist, is a place where women can work through their problems and has the potential to unite women toward a common goal of resisting patriarchal hegemony.

Shereen Siddiqui is an instructor of Women's Studies and a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Studies at Florida Atlantic University. Her research interests include activism, feminist pedagogy, and Harry Potter.
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