*Disclaimer: The following is based on how the characters are depicted in the Harry Potter book series, not in the movies.
Behind every great man is a brilliant women who’s responsible for the bulk of his success. The Harry Potter series is no exception to this, and Hermione Granger is absolutely that person for Harry. The Lucius Fox to his Batman, Hermione was the brains and ingenuity which kept Harry alive from the very first book in the series to the last. While her contributions faded to the background of Harry’s popularity and celebrity, it’s easily argued that, without Hermione, there would have been no victory, and no Harry Potter.
Readers meet Hermione Granger on the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where her presence immediately irritates attention-deprived brat, Ron Weasley, and we learn from that first interaction that Hermione is smart, talkative, and opinionated, traits which, though often lauded in men, are loathed in women. Like many girls who are praised for the intellect, but not their beauty, Hermione is confident in her academic abilities, but secretly insecure. This insecurity is the only reason I can possibly think of for why she not only put up with Ron’s horrible treatment of her, but even called him a friend for the duration of the series, and eventually married him.
Throughout the series, Hermione is steadfastly loyal to Harry and Ron (to a fault, where the latter is concerned), and in addition to being smart, Hermione tried her best to be a an honest person, a cheerleader for the underdog, and an advocate for the marginalized. This included a sincere, though misguided and ultimately failed attempt to liberate house elves (a group which included their acquaintance Dobby), aiding Hagrid in “civilizing” his younger half-brother, Grawp, and doing everything in between from saving Harry and Ron countless times to doing their homework for them. Hermione was a great friend to these boys, but readers almost never question, let alone bother to explore, why it was seen as so very normal that she would be doing so much physical and emotional labour to help these two, without even of fraction of it done for her in return. Hermione may have been smarter than Harry and Ron, but not smart enough to avoid being used.
Very rarely did Harry and Ron ever need a tutor, spell, potion, listening ear, emotional punching bag, or ride-or-die that Hermione failed to provide. But nearly everything we ever knew about Hermione was in relation to her interactions with them, and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermione makes the ultimate sacrifice of erasing her parents’ memories of her so that she can be there for friends whom we know without a shadow of doubt, and have come to expect, by that point, would be lost (and dead) without her.
Despite Hermione’s invaluable contributions to Harry’s success, and though clearly a proponent for girl power, the character also reinforced the misogynist viewpoints which dictate that helping a man be great is a woman’s most important role. While Harry often comes to Hermione with problems both magical and romantic, and she always gives solutions or sound advice, Hermione doesn’t have that in Harry. Or in anyone. Harry and Ron’s problems are the group’s problems, and Hermione’s to solve. Hermione’s problems are Hermione’s problems. As mentioned in my analysis of Ron, even though Harry is depicted as uncomfortable when Ron picks on Hermione and they bicker, and even though Ron consistently antagonizes these situations, Harry never comes to her defense and never chooses to put her first and come to her rescue, as Hermione has done for him time and time again. It is expected that Hermione will never benefit from these friendships as much as they will, and that’s a tragedy.
Hermione wasn’t without faults, however, and she wasn’t just the vital ingredient in Harry’s victories, she could often be a pain in the ass. The first time we get a glimpse of Hermione’s callous, dismissive, and borderline cruel side is in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Though the clear favourite of their Transfiguration teacher, Professor McGonagall, Hermione is faced with a subject she cannot master in Professor Trelawney’s Divination class and, rather than try harder or admit that this is a weak point for her, chooses instead to mock the entire subject as useless, using her professor’s mediocrity and the success of otherwise less intelligent students as a straw man to “prove” her point. Hermione’s consistent dismissal of Divination as a legitimate branch of magic, even Trelawney makes an accurate prophecy of Sirius Black’s return, and later, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, learning that it was Professor Trelawney who had predicted the attack of Lord Voldemort on Harry’s parents, made it clear that she was a person who was egotistically stubborn, and would literally rather face an army of dark wizards than ever admit that she was wrong.
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when readers are introduced to Luna Lovegood, Hermione not only dismisses Luna, but Harry as well, when they speak of thestrals, creatures whom only those who’ve seen death are able to see, and which are invisible to everyone else. Despite Luna, Harry, and even thoroughly honest Neville maintaining that they could see these creatures, Hermione dismissed these claims as “impossible”, an action which simultaneously dismissed the experiences which lead to them being able to see the creatures in the first place. In this book, and in interactions with Luna, who was an enormous source of both comfort and assistance to Harry, Hermione treated her as inferior. Whether it was because Luna looked and dressed oddly, because she believed in “crazy” conspiracies, or because of rumours about her (rumours which Hermione should have been the last person to give credence to), Hermione consistently underestimated Luna’s intellect, devalued her worth, and questioned her sanity. Essentially, Hermione treated Luna (and Lavender Brown, and Parvati Patil, and basically any girl whom she deemed herself intellectually superior to) little better than Ron treated her. In Luna’s case, it didn’t even matter to Hermione that she was an excellent student, in House Ravenclaw, which seeks out only the brightest, that she could do and see things that Hermione could not, and this exposed Hermione’s thinly-veiled insecurities and attachment to having all the answers as a defense mechanism.
In many ways, Hermione was the quintessential White/third wave feminist, who claims to want respect for all women, but would only give it to women who are smart (by her standards, of course), respectable, and not too pretty to make her feel inadequate. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when readers are introduced to Fleur Delacour, Hermione dismisses her intellect right off the bat, without even a single interaction with her, because how dare the girl be both beautiful and smart, right? In a glaring case of internalized misogyny, Hermione can only feel validated and worthy when she is tearing down or judging other women, which perfectly explains why she has no girlfriends. Hermione is every woman who only hangs around with men because, “Girls bring too much drama”, yet ignores the drama from the men in her life (*cough* Ron *cough*) and the fact that her callousness and pettiness, behaviour which she reserves for women only, ensures that no woman would ever want to be her friend.
Though I stand by the truth that Hermione is far too good for Ron, perhaps doing the emotional and physical labour as the wife of this fuckboy for the rest of her life is exactly the bed she made for trying to use other women and their supposed failings as a means to elevate herself and retain her position as “one of the guys”. Maybe the truth is, only in proving over and over again that she is good enough for a man who’s clearly not worthy of her does Hermione feel validated. Maybe, from the very beginning, she is one of many women who need to feel needed more than they need to be respected, and the “honour” of carrying Harry and Ron’s burdens alone was one that she didn’t want to share with another woman. The competitions that Hermione had in her head with other girls throughout the Harry Potter series probably kept Hermione from vital female friendships which could have brought some real joy to her life, but hey, at least Ron put a ring on it, right? I’m sure Hermione, like all other anti-woman women, sleeps well at night knowing that her position in this sad, misogynist life is undisturbed.