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The Fangirl

Long time geek, fangirl, mother, and reader. I've got a lot to say, you might not like it all, but it will be honest and hopefully helpful.

Why the "twilight teaches girls unhealthy relationship ideals" argument is actually pretty sexist.

[Copied this over from my tumblr, because it pretty much sums it up perfectly, for me.]



My response:


The last comment assumes that there aren’t monsters in the real world, when there are. While they don’t have fangs, they can hurt and kill young women all the same. 


While marrying a vampire isn’t attainable, marrying an abusive, possessive man who makes his violent nature the responsibility of his wife/girlfriend is absolutely attainable. The unhealthy aspects of Bella’s relationships with Edward, and Jacob, not to mention Sam’s relationships with Emily, had nothing to do with these men being supernatural creatures.


However, the way the violent and abusive nature of these men is framed as being out of their control because of their “supernatural” state is no different than how our culture teaches us human men are unable to control their own sexual and violent nature. 


How it shifts the blame and responsibility for managing these men’s behavior onto the women, is the same too. Where we have to watch how we dress and not get too drunk to avoid being raped. So too does Bella have to police her sexuality for fear of inciting Edward’s violent thirst for her blood.


Bella has to give in to Edwards demands to manage every aspect of her life and marry him in order to win his love. So too do women in abusive relationships have to give in to the needs/demands of their abusive partners. 


Bella’s own father not only doesn’t stand up for her, when Jacob kisses her against her will. He congratulates her attacker. Worse yet, Bella herself defends him to Edward. Similarly many people, even family members of victims, make excuses for rapist and abusers, even the victims themselves.


Emily must forgive and love the man who cut open her face and nearly killed her, because he couldn’t help himself.


because he couldn’t help himself.


That was one of the most blatant parallels to domestic violence I have ever seen in literature. [I’m not even going to go into how it perpetuates a lot of racist stereotypes about both Native American men and women.]


I agree that the argument shouldn’t be about young women not being smart enough to see the problematic nature of the relationships in these books. It should be about how the books normalizes and excuses the very real danger of these behaviors and types of relationships. 


The framing of these unhealthy relationships as healthy and happy isn’t actually all the different from distorted images of women’s bodies in magazines. It’s creating a fictitious happily ever after for relationships that in the real world would end in divorce, but more likely death. Like those altered images, it wouldn’t be a problem if Twilight was the only books/movies to perpetuate these lies, but they aren’t. They’re just the most visible, and because the books were written by, for and enjoyed by women, they’re an easy target.


The problem with the “twilight teaches girls unhealthy relationship ideals” argument is it that it is not all the different than Twilight’s own problematic treatment of relationships. 


It is putting all the responsibility for finding heathy of relationships and avoiding abuse on young girls, while ignoring the overwhelming amount of media targeting young men that are a hundred times more misogynistic and damaging than Twilight (media that young women are exposed to and affected by as well). 


Yet, girls need to be more realistic about relationships. Girls need to make sure to not date abusive boys. GIRLS NEED TO POLICE WHAT THEY READ AND WATCH?!?! WTF?


This argument doesn’t help young girls. It doesn’t teach them to better identify sexism in their entertainment and every day life, much-less empower them to fight against it. 


It’s a smoke screen for a sexist double standard that holds female readers/consumers more responsible for their choices in entertainment than men. 


If people really cared about young girls they would stop shaming them over what they like, and start working to give them less sexist media in general, or better yet empower them to make it for themselves.