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S.P.E.W.: Justice or Insanity?

Mere days after joining, I am debating my continued visitation of [info]hp_essays.  At first it looked like a brilliant place to read all kinds of well-thought-out analysis of various topics in the Harry Potter books, but the most recent post made me want to bash my head against a wall.  Reminding me once again why I never bothered to dabble in fandom before now.

I ignored it for a whole 24 hours, but it still bugs.  And because posting this entry will hopefully also purge from memory the discussion found elsewhere involving teacher/student 'ships (one of the unavoidable hazards in my quest to find regular fandom discussion, I guess)...I'll consider it killing two birds with one stone to pose you this question, prompted by the aforementioned community:

Are house elves unjustly used as slaves, or is Hermione just a touch off her rocker?

I always took it for granted that Hermione was a touch off her rocker when it came to this issue.  I mean, yes, some wizards (*glowers at Malfoys, Crouches*) treat them worse than any decent person would treat a dog or a horse, but the Hogwarts house elves?  Come on.  As Fred and George pointed out, they like working.  Hermione tries to fire back with something like "only because they don't know any better."  O-kay. 

Several times, they mention how insulted they are by the prospect of being paid, which seems perfectly reasonable to me.  I wish I could think of a better example, but for now the best thing I can liken this to is sex.  If you're a woman who simply enjoys sex without necessarily wanting a committed relationship, would you want men offering to pay you every time?

And further on the question of money, plenty of people get great satisfaction out of doing volunteer work.  Who's to say house elves don't consider it the same?  House elves might be born into it, but they seem quite happy to serve.  They cook and clean practically out of instinct, and they have lodging, food and security besides.  As far as I can tell, it's a fairly symbiotic relationship, and calling it slavery seems little more accurate than calling pet ownership slavery.  They might be obligated to remain there, but if they like it, are they really being kept against their will? 

For the most part, the wizards are happy, the elves are happy, everyone's happy with the system.  Why fix what isn't broken?  I don't necessarily think freedom is the key to universal happiness, anyway.  It just means you have no guaranteed security net to catch you if you fall on hard times.

Of course, my real opinion on the subject is...who reads these books and immediately starts pondering questions like this, anyway?

And now to distract you with something shiny and completely unrelated...reading list!  And movie list!   Finally decided they would be quicker and easier to update them online than in their usual handwritten form, with the added bonus of being publicly viewable.  Peruse and be euphoric. 

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