The response to my Harry Potter pinup photoshoot has been completely overwhelming. At this point, the photos have reached over 300,000 people (and that's just the sources with view counters), and have been featured on POPSUGAR, Kotaku, and more. And although the vast majority of responses have been positive, which I am so grateful for, there has been a troubling subsection of responses specifically calling out the ages of these characters and accusing me of sexualizing minors.
This is an accusation I take very seriously, so I want to address it head-on.
I grew up with Harry Potter characters.
I read the first Harry Potter book when I was 11, just like Harry, and aged alongside him and the other characters each year as the books were released. For me, and many of my generation, the Harry Potter characters are our age. This is something I internalized from the books for seven formative years, and as such, in my mind and imagination, the characters have continued to age alongside me — when I think of Hermione, I think of her as 26, like me.
My intent in the photos was to replicate the poses and styles of the original pinup images, but adapted to reflect the personalities of the characters. The school uniforms are iconic to Harry Potter fans, and as an adult Potterhead, I frequently wear the uniform for Harry Potter themed events. Similarly, I chose props that I thought were representative of the characters overall (Hermione's activism with S.P.E.W., the diary that failed to defeat Ginny, the Quibbler, Luna's family's tabloid), not because I wanted to represent a moment in time, but because I wanted props to throwback to scenes we all remember and associate with those characters.
If pressed to come up with a canon circumstance for the photos being taken, my recommendation would've been something like a post-Hogwarts Witch Weekly charity calendar to raise money for Spattergroit research, but ultimately, I am not interested in piecing together excuses to pacify people. The bottom line is: I don't view the characters as children, and did not intentionally portray them as such.
Not everyone grew up with Harry Potter.
I recognize that for those who did not grow up with Harry Potter, there is a widespread perception of the Harry Potter books as children's literature. While the series certainly started that way, I am strongly of the opinion that it has come to be something very different from that for the Harry Potter generation. However, I can fully understand how someone who was an adult when the series came out, or didn't read it while it was being written, could have a default perception of the characters as being pre-teens.
That's completely valid. I understand why someone in this position may be disturbed by my images based on their perspective. All I can say to this is that I hope people can practice the good, empathetic habit of trying to see things from other perspectives before they assign blame.
The sexualization of the schoolgirl uniform is a problem.
This is something I thoroughly believe. The fetishization of the persona of the schoolgirl is one that simultaneously infantilizes women, sexualizes underage girls, and fetishizes the loss of a woman's agency but putting others (namely, men) in a position of authority over them.
I don't see my work as being a particularly egregious perpetuation of this, but I freely admit, in retrospect, that my work is certainly operating within an existing framework that is problematic. This is something that I didn't think of while conceptualizing this set, because the Harry Potter uniform is familiar enough to me that I have ceased to see it as a "schoolgirl uniform," but I realize that this is not true for everyone, and certainly doesn't mitigate the impact.
All of us have a responsibility to think critically, learn, and grow.
It is a top priority for me to be always open to critique and willing to reconsider my stance if I am presented with evidence that it should be reconsidered. I want to thank everyone who has given me thoughtful, positively-intentioned feedback on these photos. My initial reaction was to get defensive (a natural response, I think, to being accused of something that so thoroughly violates my moral code), and I took that frustration to friends whom I respect and trust and asked for their objective opinion on the issues. I also did my best to view my own work objectively and be open to recognizing where I have failed.
After all that, I have concluded that I stand by my work and am good with my conscience. I view these characters as adults and have done my best to portray them as such. And, re: schoolgirl uniform, since I don't blame other women for operating within the broken, misogynist system in which we are trapped, I feel comfortable holding myself to that same standard. This will certainly factor into the way I make decisions about future cosplays and future photoshoots, but I don't regret my Harry Potter pinup shoot.
Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive and kind during the last two days! Virality is weird and hard and emotional, and while I am so, so grateful for all the opportunities this photoshoot has afforded me, I also find it easy to get overwhelmed by a response like this. I am so appreciative of every single kind and supportive voice.
See ya around, internet. ♥