I just wonder, why is Lily’s whole character arc about who she ends up with?
People say Harry Potter is nothing like Twilight; but I can’t help but make the connection here. The whole fandom is always discussiing back and forth whether Snape is Bad for Lily or James Potter is Good for her, but what about what Lily wants?
Who are Lily’s friends? Her whole character arc follows her defending her friend Severus from pureblood, rich bully-boys, who can’t see further than their own house-pride; until one day that friend turns around and calls her a racial slur. Somehow, this leads to her then deciding to date the rich, privileged boy who spearheaded the bullying of her friend.
Brilliant, intelligent muggleborn Lily Evans, who herself, if Hermione 20 years on is anything to go by, would have faced prejudice her whole time through school, decides to go out with someone she knows is a bully, and who’s bullied, along with his friends, half-blood Snape, often for his appearance? I don’t think so. What motive would she have for it, spite? Revenge?
I’m not defending Snape’s actions, I just wish Lily could have graduated Hogwarts condemning both Snape and James Potter for their rudeness and immaturity, maybe patched things up with her sister and parents (who we also never hear about, or Hermione’s for that matter, despite the books promoting the ideology that Muggles-and-wizards-aren’t-so-different) and got a job herself or left the country, rather than swiftly getting married, changing her name to become part of the Pureblood elite, joining a paramilitary group, getting pregnant during a civil war (and sticking around to have the baby!) and dying by the age of 21.
I’m going to try answering this paragraph to paragraph because you bring up a lot of points I’ve thought about myself several times. The problem with Lily’s character isn’t that her arc revolves around Jily/Snily (which it seems to, but actually doesn’t), but that she’s so minor and we see so little of her, being dead before the series starts and all, that it’s hard to judge her character.
Firstly, the fandom has Lily-related issues. I loathe that she’s almost always discussed in terms of her relation to James and Snape, and never as a character in herself, but that’s gotten better over the years and people have started appreciating that Lily is a person, and not a piece of meat; a person fully capable of making her own decision. It’s beyond me why the badassness that is Lily Evans isn’t more discussed though, but the HP fandom is nothing like the Twilight fandom.
Lily’s friends, I guess, weren’t important to the plot, and therefore weren’t mentioned. What we do know is that she was popular and had a lot of girlfriends (the girls she sat by the lake with in Snape’s Worst Memory). I think her defending Snape showed her strength of character — that she was unafraid of standing up to the “rich bully-boys”, as you put it. She had principles, and she stuck to them, even if it meant going up in front of a crowd. She didn’t fall into James’s arms having left Snape’s: the former had a lot of growing up to do, and when he did, only then did they get together. Sue her for crushing on him before; we can hardly help who we fall for. But she still stuck by her principles, and still disapproved of James hexing Snape even after they got together (as told by Sirius and Remus in OotP). I think this says a lot about her character. She really knows her mind, and it changes for no one.
Again, James deflated his head and stopped hexing people for the fun of it (which I think is the exact quote Sirius uses in OotP). Snape isn’t a thing to be pitied; I think it’s valid, judging from SWM, to think that Snape was bullied by James, but you have to remember that they had a rivalry, and Snape never missed a chance to hex James (again, Sirius in OotP). I think this is slightly less than bullying, but that’s debatable. Why does Lily’s life choices — her choice in partner, specifically — have to even involve Snape? Why can’t people believe that she made her choice because it was her choice, her feelings? Is it so hard to believe that maybe she fell in love with James and wanted to be his wife? I think it’s misogynistic to think that a woman can’t make such a choice, and if she does, it’s out of vengeance for a man who’s no longer in her life. What I’m trying to say, and I think I’m getting it across poorly here, is that not everything is about Snape, you know. Maybe this was about her.
Feminism is about choice, empowering women to make their own decisions and such, and that’s exactly what Lily Evans did, which makes her so perfect. Why should she have to walk away from her soulmate for what he did as a teenager? You’re a teenager for like six seven eight years of your life, and an adult for like fifty sixty years, it would be ludicrous to choose your life partner based on some stuff he did when he was in school. The whole patching things up with Petunia — it takes two. We know that Lily did want to make things better, like when the whole dinner with James, Petunia and Vernon went badly and James promised her he’d make it up? That sounds like Lily wanted things to be okay between them. And Lily being upset about not being bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding? Also sounds like she wanted to patch things up. And Lily inviting Petunia to her wedding (which she didn’t show up to)? It’s not like she didn’t try. But there are some things you have to let go of: for Lily, Snape was one, and Petunia was the other, and it must’ve taken a lot of courage to do both, as Petunia seemed to have carried Lily through as a child, and Snape when she joined the wizarding world.
I don’t think fandom should dictate what Lily should and shouldn’t have done. That’s not feminism, that’s sexism. The fact that she got married and had a child and died to save this child shows her strength of character and that she was, seemingly, a family-oriented person, which is perfectly okay for women. And if you’re not the kind of person who goes for stay-at-home mums or whatever, she joined a paramilitary group! She actively fought in the war and, ultimately, it was her sacrifice that ended the FWW which is pretty kickass to me.
I feel like whatever Lily chose to do with her life, people would always find something to complain about it, e.g. you suggest she should’ve/could’ve left the country and got a job, but if she did that, it would probably be seen as cowardly. I don’t know why this is a point of discussion, really, because there wouldn’t be a Harry Potter without her.
tl;dr: Lily Evans made her own choices independent of the men in her life, and that’s what makes her character strong.