What Impact Has Harry Potter Had On Your Life?

Back in 2007, there was a trend of videos on YouTube called “What Impact Has Harry Potter Had on Your Life” that inspired responses from many others whose lives had been changed drastically by those seven books about a boy wizard.

You might be wondering what this has to do with activism, or feminism, self-love, any of the other topics I normally write about—but stick with me, I have a point.

Last weekend a close friend of mine and I went to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour. It was amazing. It was—magical. Totally worth all the money I dropped on wands and notebooks in the gift shop.

Harry Potter meant a lot to 4th grader me. 4th grader me who felt like weirdo kid who had trouble making new friends, who didn’t know what to do with her messy hair, who hated her body—even back then. So I really related to Harry Potter, who also didn’t seem to fit in at school before he rescued by his Hogwarts letter. Harry Potter taught me that there could be a better world out there if you look for it.

Although the world I found in activism isn’t a magical in the sense that there’s spells and wands (well, you bet I own a Hermione Granger wand) but it’s magical in a different way in the sense that I’ve found a little family within the social justice community.

But back when I was 10, 12, 15, etc. I needed the magical world of Harry Potter. Harry Potter was introduced to me by my childhood best friend. It connected me to a YouTube community like Five Awesome Girls and Vlogbrothers which helped me survive my middle school years. Watching cool people doing charity work and talking about books online shaped who I wanted to become as an adult. I wouldn’t be who I am at twenty without Harry Potter—that is not an exaggeration.

I went to book releases, movie premieres, and sought out bookstores with Harry Potter merchandise. The series made me feel proud to be a nerdy little kid who likes books and being good at school. Watching Hermione Granger—a main female character that doesn’t fall into a trope meant a lot to me. Her big, bushy hair, lack of hatred for her body, and the fact that her entire existence wasn’t devoted to looking for a boyfriend refuted all the other messages I was getting from problematic media.

Also the fact that JK Rowling belongs to an exclusive club of successful female authors whose work is known for something “other category” I’ve wanted to become a writer ever since.

I disconnected with the HP fandom when I was sixteen and the person who bought me my first three books in the series stopped being part of my life under very sad circumstances. The Harry Potter world brought me pain after that—I wish it didn’t, but it did.

With time, I got back into it. I re-watched all the movies when I was happy and when I was sad. I listened to the books on tape whenever I couldn’t sleep.

That’s why doing on the WB tour and exploring places in Oxford and exploring places where the movies were filmed was so important to me.

That’s why I’m also grateful for the current community that I’ve found now within the activist community. I think there’s a reason why a lot of YouTubers I used to watch that make videos about Harry Potter now make videos about feminism and social justice initiatives. We were all looking for a magical, better world back then to escape from the hard parts with HP—and now we’re trying to create a magical, more welcoming world.

*I thought I’d kick of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week with a light post about Harry Potter and social justice but be on the look out for more posts this coming week!

Thanks for everything HP.


Thoughts From (Feminist) Places: The Imperial War Museum’s “A Women’s War” Exhibit

Have ya’ll seen watched John and Hank Green’s YouTube channel called Vlogbrothers? It’s been a favourite (look at me using British spelling) of mine since I was in middle school and John Green only had one book out. One of my favourite parts of the channel was the Thoughts from Places series. Just like it sounds, John or Hank would go somewhere and then share what they noticed and learned.

In an effort to combine by love of exploring and learning things, I’m going to be doing the same thing while I’m abroad—but with a feminist twist (the internet loves the feminist take on things, right?)

The Imperial War Museum’s exhibit featuring Lee Miller’s photography based in London, UK, highlighted the experience of World War II from the eyes of women. It’s been interesting to learn about World War II in the UK and in a space where the war actually took place. The war happened in the backyards of the people of London—this exhibit showcased the damage, and the impact it had on women’s lives.

When it comes to war, we oftentimes focus on the men who fight and forget about the women who did the dirty work back home or who fought themselves. We forget the working-class women who worked round the clock in dangerous conditions.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, but the exhibit also depicted class differences and showed how the war greatly impacted working-class women over upper-class women. For example, one image showed two women posing in hats. Hats were eventually taxed to save materials for the war effort, so only certain women could afford them. These images were positioned next to women working in factories manufacturing weapons for the war. Other images so trauma, destroyed homes, and damage from working in unsafe conditions. It effectively captured the complexity of the time and the varying impact it had on different kinds of women.

The exhibit also exemplified the ways in which women’s social roles were changing because of the war. They transitioned from being unable to work outside the home to making up the majority of workforce. The war facilitated more interactions between men and women that weren’t as socially accepted before. It changed norms in a sense.

At the same time, I noticed that some gender norms were still reinforced and the way these women were portrayed in the display both challenged and conformed to them. What I mean is, women were still responsible for taking on the housework and familiar responsibilities (in addition to working). Most of their work was also more of the grunt work for the war which they weren’t always given credit for—which is why I appreciate that this exhibit highlighted that experience. Women were put in action roles, operating radios, serving as nurses, caring for children, and standing among damage. They were both impacted by and strong participants in the war—they weren’t side characters.

The display also worked against the male gaze because it was done by women and showcased only women. The photographs enabled the public to see the war from the eyes of women—literally. Some of the photos wouldn’t have been taken otherwise. We were able to see the women’s washroom and other intimate moments of these women’s lives that we couldn’t have seen otherwise.

I also appreciated the way female sexuality was embraced and captured. Several images depicted women as sexual beings in a way that wasn’t objectifying, but a protest of the constraints on women at the time. The fact that naked women were shown also showed changing social perceptions about women. In one image, a woman named Lee Miller depicted herself half-naked with her arms pinned up behind her, representing the way in which women are pinned down by both war, their sexuality, and the surrounding culture.

This exhibit captured women’s experience and role in World War II in a unique, dynamic way that I strongly recommend. I can’t wait to discover more spaces that highlights the voices and lives of women throughout London and beyond.

The Value of Not Knowing Anything

Hello beautiful people. I’m back and writing to you on a couch in my new apartment…in London. Did I say I was moving to London for a little bit to study abroad? Well, I moved to London for a couple months to study abroad.

Here’s a pretty picture to make up for my absence:


Although my transition to this big city where I never know which side of the street to walk on hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be, I’ve been away the activist community I’ve been a part of at home and I haven’t been participating in the same events or in the same spaces that always gave me ideas and content.

Even though I am unbelievably lucky to do so—moving here, leaving behind my friends, family, and comfort, without a place to live, was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. There were many times when I thought I wouldn’t even go. I had projects and communities I didn’t want to leave behind.

I’m working to build that community here and I’m starting to feel more at home. Every now and again, it’s good to switch things up, start new projects, and join new organizations. I’m excited for this even though it’s nerve wracking.

This semester I’ll be working in local politics which is entirely different to the non-profit and organizing world that I’m used to.

In my last post, I told myself that the theme of 2016 was to be unapologetic—I’m sticking to that and that theme is carrying over into my study abroad experience. In my last post, I wrote that I’m going to demand more from the people and relationships in my life, but I’m also going to demand more from myself.

I want to put myself outside of where I feel comfortable, to be in spaces where I feel out of place so then I have to work harder to figure out how to fit there.

This has caused me to have to have to watch, learn, and pay attention. For example, at my political internship, I know almost nothing about British politics or working in local government. So I have to watch people, see what they’re saying and doing, and look things up.

This is relatively new for me. I’m used to doing hands on work and completing self-directed projects. Now I’m shadowing people and watching what they do. I like getting a different perspective, it’s helping me slow down, not take on a million things at once, and ask questions.

There’s definitely value in learning from other people and not placing pressure on yourself to feel like you have to know everything already.

For those of you back home starting a new semester this week, I urge you to set some goals like this for yourself. Put yourself in a space where know nothing. That way, you have to learn something new.

It’s refreshing. Much of activism is community-based and requires collaboration and learning from one another. So this learning is valuable.

I really appreciate these lessons I’m getting while I’m away from my activist community back home in the states.

On a similar note, I’m currently working on a semi-secret new project. Once again, I don’t know anything. Still, I’m weirdly enjoying figuring it out, messing up, taking breaks, and trying again. I’m also not entirely on my own. I have a mentors who I talk things out with and turn to for guidance.

I like not knowing anything, being out of my comfort zone, having to sit down and figure it out, and learn from others.

It’s not real, rewarding work if you don’t have to put in some effort.

Well, before I get to rambley and like an annoying motivational speaker, I think I’ll end this here.

Go learn some new things,