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Four years ago, a novel about a sparkly vampire and the girl who loves him took the world by storm.

It has been hailed as an achievement for feminism, a step forward, a new page in the fight. A female writer, a female protagonist, a female director for the eventual movie deal. This is what would make it click for young girls seeking a purpose and a fight.

The book, of course, was the first in the Twilight Saga.

When I tell people that I’m an English Lit major, most of them automatically say, “Ooo, have you read Twilight?”

Because I’m a nineteen-year-old girl, and all nineteen-year-old girls like the same things, 100% of the people who ask are not just shocked, but completely perplexed when I politely respond, “Yes, I read it. And I hated it.”

Usually, when a “WHY?!” is demanded after that exchange, I simply say I prefer wizards to vampires, but the truth is much more complicated. Twilight, and the acclaimed author,
Stephanie Meyer, are not exactly what they appear to be.

There are some things I don’t like about the Twilight Saga because I love reading (purple prose, dragging plot, clichéd dialogue). But I’ve found seven very good reasons why every feminist should not just hate Twilight, but run from it like the Ann Coulter of literature.

Reason 1- Bella is adored by everyone, especially her father, for whom she cooks and cleans for while he cleans his gun and drinks a beer.

Bella is hardly a realistic heroine. She’s not flawed, unless you count clumsiness, and everyone adores her, despite her rather obnoxious perfection.

To many people- and by “people”, I mean “men”- Bella is ideal. She’s polite, kind, quiet, cooks, and cleans. She’s like a beautiful 1950s housewife-robot without all those icky character flaws and unnecessary conversations! 

Let’s look at these stereotypes, too. Bella cooks, she cleans. Her father is a terrible cook who would rather watch sports while cleaning his gum and drinking a beer than help his daughter with a few chores. Early on in the series, Stephanie Meyer makes it pretty damn clear that Bella belongs in the kitchen.

Reason 2- Edward breaks into Bella’s home and watches her sleep before introducing himself even once.

 I’d like to reference Jessica Valenti for the six-millionth time in my life. In her fantastic book, “He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut,” Valenti discusses in one chapter how men are seen as romantic and women are seen as stalkers. I’ve seen this response to Edward’s behavior a number of time. What he does is just soooo romantic!

 Let’s pretend Bella followed Edward home. She waited outside his window until she was sure he was asleep before quietly sneaking in and watching him sleep. And keep in mind- they have yet to exchange any words. How would most people view her actions? Really freaking weird, right?

We should see Edward’s behavior the same way. Edward isn’t being romantic, he’s being creepy- really creepy. Glorifying this kind of behavior isn’t just ridiculous, it’s dangerous. We should be keeping girls safe- not teaching them that obsessive behavior is not just acceptable, but desired.

Reason 3- In book two, Bella falls apart when Edward leaves. She begins recovery when she starts spending time with Jacob.

This one is anti-feminism 101, folks. Bella needs a man in her life. She can’t function without one. It’s exactly that simple.

That will be the first message I teach my daughters. How about you?

Reason 4- Edward frequently dictates whom Bella may be friends with and encourages his family to spy on her and prevent her from disobeying his wishes.

Has anyone else ever read those terribly disheartening stories about girls with abusive boyfriends printed in every teen magazine ever created? They like to include lists of signs of potential abusive boyfriends to make sure we prevent these things.

One of the first things on the list? He tries to control every aspect of your life, including with whom you can be friends and with whom you can hang out.

But Edward just wants to protect her, girls say. He cares about her.

Oh, really? Well, let’s move on to Fact 5 before we finish this discussion.

Reason 5- Edward withholds sex in order to get what he wants. He succeeds.

All Edward wants is a wife.

All Bella wants is sex.

Contrary to what Edward believes, there’s nothing wrong with that. Bella is not some delicate flower that can be sullied or dirtied.

While it’s definitely debatable, I know a good many of us don’t see much merit in purity. Women and men should be respected and loved for their actions, but whether or not they’ve had sex. 

You see, Bella can make her own decisions. From when she has sex, to whom she hangs out with- Bella should have control over her life and her choices.

When she’s with Edward? He has the control. 

Reason 6- While Edward encourages Bella to have hopes and dreams, Bella would much rather cook and clean and care for their family, and whatever else vampire housewives do.  

And here is the real genius in Stephanie Meyer’s plan.

Most of us know Mrs. Meyer is a conservative Mormon who enjoys promoting abstinence in her spare time. Did you know she also promotes the idea that all women really want is to stay home and cook and clean?

In the Twilight Saga, Edward doesn’t push Bella to stay home with him and care for his every whim. He pushes her to do many things, but not that. No, he encourages her to get an education and have a life.

But Bella, Bella, is the one who wants nothing more than to stay home and care for their (eventual) daughter and her adoring husband.

Let me be perfectly clear here. There is nothing wrong with stay-at-home moms. There is nothing wrong with women who want to have families and to be the one to care for them. But there is something wrong when Bella doesn’t want to work outside the home, when Bella’s mother doesn’t work, when Esme doesn’t work, when literally none of the women in Twilight work outside of the home.

No, there is nothing wrong with wanting to care for your family. There is everything wrong with telling young girls that that is their only option. Meyer has said in interviews that feminism is about choice and that makes Twilight feminist literature. Meyer fails to realize that she has the control over her characters. She could have made Bella desire more in life than love, but she doesn’t. 

Finally…

 Reason 7- Edward truly loves Bella.

 Here is what we learn from Twilight.

 Women should want to cook and clean, and stay in the home, forsaking education for family.

 Women must expect men to invade their privacy and, what’s more, they must desire this.

 Women should accept that they are incapable of making even small decisions in their own lives and they must, instead, submit to the will of a man.

 Women must understand they are worthless without a man.

 Women must understand they are nothing without a man.

 Women must understand they will never with anything without a man.

 Women must believe these things are done out of love.

 If Reasons 1-6 don’t strike you as a big deal, Reason 7 should be a red alarm.

Stephanie Meyer claims her book promotes feminism because it all centers on Bella’s choices.  When I look at Twilight, I see a list of things I will never teach my children. I see a list of warning signs for unhealthy relationships. I see a detailed description of a severely sexist worldview. 

I love love. I think love is wonderful, but Twilight is not love, Twilight is not about healthy, equal relationships. Love is about equality. About partnerships. About trust. 

 When held up to the light, Twilight doesn’t sparkle. Not one bit.


So many people have asked me why I can’t just read a book to read it- why must I analyze it? 

I direct you to Moff’s Law. Read it.

www.racialicious.com/2009/12/21/and-we-shall-call-this-moffs-law/

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  • Charsi

    I haven’t read it, but what I heard about Bella’s character, being spineless, unviable without a patron, having no personality hardly counts as perfection. Real life characters like that are at best pitied, not adored.

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  • Blaze

    I wouldnt count her as a heroine….at all…..she more brat

  • http://www.facebook.com/Snodgie Susie Caroline

    I completely agree with this analysis. Bella is a bore; she has nothing else going on in her life except Edward, and to a lesser extent, Jacob. I actually found the series despicable for what it said about girls and women – that we are nothing more than vessels, waiting to be filled by the desires of men.

  • AG

    Theres a few content issues such as :

    1) Bella’s mother does work, as a kindergarten teacher.

    2) Esme, while not working outside the home, still dabbles in architectural design.

    3) There are actually a few characters that defy gender role/stereotypes. Rosalie, Edward’s adoptive sister, is seen as a materialistic barbie. While she is materialistic and shallow, she is also the best mechanic of the family and has degrees in aeronautical engineering and medicine.

    But, mostly, this is right on the money. Bella is simply a projection of Stephanie Meyer and her ideals. She creates a cutout character who is really a substitute for Meyer’s sexual-frustration driven fantasy. As characters, Bella, Edward and Jacob are altogether fairly detestable. The universe she’s created is interesting and immersive, the whole vampire world is fascinating, but the writing is god awful and the characters are so anti-progressive stereotypes it isn’t funny.

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  • akariseikatsu

    I’m currently in college for a Major in English and I focus mostly on Creative Writing. I have read all four Twilight books. I can’t stand them and I actually picked why Twilight should not be read by teenage girls as my argument speech in the Public Speaking class last summer. I’m glad that I truly am NOT the only person who sees the truth behind the sparkles of this series.

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  • http://twitter.com/MagicalJoy Joy

    I only read twenty pages of Twilight, and saw the first two movies just out of curiosity. The reasons this author listed above is why I strongly dislike this series of books.

  • Divya

    You are my new best friend :)

  • Jared

    I’m a male. Don’t know why I’m mentioning that. Anyways, good article. Couldn’t agree more. Few words missing here and there (?). Other than that, great article.

  • HisGirl

    What’s wrong with anti-feminism? Bella is a WOMAN. Personally, I think it’s a great series; finally a woman girls can look up to! She’s quiet, humble, hard-working, and she isn’t afraid of her weakness. Plus, Edward makes her wait to have sex until they are married! Personally, I think it is the best series to come out in ages. Bella will definitely be a role model for any daughters I might have!

    • furyof1000suns

      What’s wrong with anti-feminism? Really? Contrary to what is apparently popular belief, feminism isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t mean a woman can’t be quiet, humble, etc etc, and it doesn’t mean a woman can’t be a stay at home mom IF she wants to. Feminism is about it being a choice. Feminism is about how women are equals to men, how both men and women should be able to choose whether they want to stay at home with the kids or not, how we shouldn’t treat women as less then because of their gender. So when you say “what’s wrong with anti-feminism” what you’re really saying is “what’s wrong with sexism?” And apparently you have managed to read this entire article and completely miss the point. Bella is in an unhealthy relationship. If you tell your daughters that Bella is a role model, then you’re telling them that being in a relationship with a straight up STALKER is not only okay, but something to admire. I don’t know about you, but I would freak out if I woke up and saw a guy staring at me, and I would freak out if my boyfriend dictated who I could be friends with. This book is basically saying Edward is an unstable, over-controlling stalker, but he’s really pretty so it’s okay.

      • dsar

        Feminism is the promotion of female superiority and hatred of men, and many feminists attack stay at home mothers. So yes, it can be a very damaging aspect to a family, that has a feminist mother, that works all the time and doesn’t look after her children properly.

        • ReadsInTrees

          Feminism is just the belief that woman should be equal to and have the same rights and opportunities as men. I am a feminist, but I don’t hate men. I actually work in an all-male environment and I’m married to a man. Stop listening to right-wing nut jobs. If you’re a woman and you’re NOT a feminist, then you’re very badly informed.

        • Melissa Benko

          That isnt what feminism is. Yeah, there are nuts out there that want women to be greater than men, but the majority of us want to be treated equally.

      • Stephanie

        I am actually a supporter of sexism, so that argument is lost on me. I mean, really; the sexes are DIFFERENT, therefore men and women should be treated DIFFERENTLY.

        • Bernard Black

          Get back to the private sphere, woman! The internet is no place for a lady’s eyes, much less her mouth.

    • Melissa Benko

      That is the problem he “makes” her do things. I really hope you dont mean that you will have your daughters look up to Bella – they should want more out of love and life. Have them look to Hermione from the Harry Potter series if you must have them look to a female literature character.

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  • mellie

    Actually Bella’s mother does work. She is a kindergarten school teacher. Idiot.

  • dsar

    Are you seriously this butthurt over a book? How wierd, my sister read it and liked it and she thinks she is a liberal feminist. So it can’t be that bad.

    • ReadsInTrees

      It is really bad, and the worst part is that it’s marketed to impressionable teen girls who may easily make the mistake that the creepy, pedophile, stalker, abusive relationship in these books is what an actual loving relationship is supposed to look like.

  • Melissa Benko

    This article was pretty good…except that it leaves out that the book promotes Pedophilia!! Edward is 100 years old. Jacob imprints (and therefore expects to be eventually married to) a newborn baby!! GROSS!!

  • karleenamarx

    I haven’t read this article in nearly 2 years now, so I’m probably pretty late with the comments. I just wanted to thank you for writing this. I can say with complete honesty that this article is what lead me (though somewhat indirectly) to become a feminist, and eventually a women’s studies major–which I have just begun. This makes you among the single most influential people in my life, directing me toward the movement that has become my greatest passion. Never before have I felt such a purpose, such fulfillment in my life, not even in music, my second greatest passion. So thank you, for everything. I really do owe you.

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