The Social Exchange

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How the Twilight books hurt my soul, today in feminism, and some other news.

with 3 comments

Okay, so part of this roundup involves a strange little trip I recently took regarding Stephenie Myer’s Twilight series.

It started, as these things sometimes do, over at Feministing, in a kind-of roundup they like to call the Weekly Feminist Reader. In this post, there was a link to a post by Amanda Marcotte, in which she is understandably dissing Leonard Sax, a full-grown man inexplicably trying to use teen romance/pop fiction as a means to defend conservative male-female gender stereotypes.

From there, I read the comments (always a potential growth-experience, really), where I found a link to recaps of the Twilight series by [info]cleolinda (with whom I am a little bit in love).

And after reading the recaps through the last book, I have this to say about the Twilight series: What the hell?

So this book reaches heights of Mary Sue-ness that…well, I don’t really have anything to compare it to, it’s that bad. Bella, who is beautiful and scarred and whom everyone loves (and who is, well, not even that likable) meets Edward, broody, scarred, rich, stalkerish (and also not even that likable).

They fall in love (after customary teen drama and Edward treating Bella badly, you know, a lot). More teen drama,  blah blah, teen drama, abstinence before marriage nonsense, blah blah, love triangle, blah blah, cliche wedding, blah blah, the most disgusting woe-filled pregnancy ever, blah blah, excrutiatingly disgusting labor, blah blah, rapidly-aging cliched child, blah blah, battle, blah blah, Happily Ever After.

Several of the more troubling aspects of the books: first and foremost, the vague but still extremely disturbing acceptance of pedophilia (there are at least two examples of grown “werewolves” who fall in love with toddlers because they are destined to be soul mates). The fact that the heroin spends of her time not being the heroine (i.e., must be saved by Edward). And that despite an incredible painful and debilitating pregnancy (and an even more gruesome birth), the author manages to gloss over the difficulties and challenges of real teen motherhood (Bella is not yet 20, and uneducated). I could go on and on. And on.

In short: the series is terrible. It reinforces gender stereotypes (women don’t need to go to college once they’ve found a man, childbearing and motherhood is the sole purpose of a woman, women can be strong, but they shouldn’t really take care of themselves, etc), makes use of some really bad cliche dialogue, and is just all around ridiculous (Edward speaks fluent Portuguese? Really?).

Bad. VERY BAD.

—–

In the feminist world:

A really fascinating look at muslim women in comic books by Jehanzeb Dar: Female, Muslim, and Mutant: A Critique of Muslim Women in Comic Books, Part 1.

And although I don’t always agree with Jessica Hoffman (her discussions of race and racism in feminism sometimes smack of “See how enlightened I am! I can’t possible be racist!” and the squirrelly idea that a problem isn’t a problem until a white person blogs about it), she does do well in detailing how related issues in feminism might actually be *main* issues in feminism: Toward a Liberationist Feminism (Or, I Hope: Pro-Capitalist Feminism is an Oxymoron).

I discovered (through Salon.com) a blog by an anonymous woman soon to have an abortion: What to Expect When You’re Aborting. Now, this may need a trigger warning for those who are sensitive about this topic, but I think this is a needed, open, extremely honest (and yes, sometimes heart-wrenching) perspective about a topic that isn’t well understood. I highly recommended reading it, simply for real insight that hasn’t been pre-constructed to fit one belief or another.

In other news:

In a surprising turn, I bring an article by Liza Mundy that – despite being from Slate – manages to be sexist, racist, and mildly insulting in less than two pages. It’s supposed to be a piece on how Michelle Obama’s speech tonight at Democratic Convention will humanize her husband. Instead, Mundy says how Michelle’s comments often “deflate” her husband (instead of portraying him as a normal man rather than Super!Candidate Man), reinforces the idea that we should only define the potential first lady by the man she married, and CONTINUOUSLY mentions the long-held and very racist stereotype that it’s unusual for a black man to be “eloquent” – without using any means to refute it. I give Mundy an F for effort and execution.

In case you missed it: Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate. (Yeah, that guy. The one who said that Obama was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”) So here’s a discussion on whether this decision will help or hurt the campaign.

On the ongoing HPV vaccine debate: Why mothers don’t give their daughters the HPV vaccine.

Via AlterNet, an article discussing the economic situation in Iraq, and how it is affecting unemployment (experts estimate that almost half of adults in Iraq are unemployed).

For an update in the How To Be a Hypocrite Tutorial: Bill O’Reilly attacks the author of an Op-Ed piece in the Nation talking about the connection between right-wing hate speech and violence.

Lastly, via WireTap: How the presidential candidates plan to change the face of volunteering in America.(Disclosure: I found this article to be particularly interesting because I was an AmeriCorps volunteer myself.)

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Written by sfaile

August 25, 2008 at 1:47 pm

3 Responses

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  1. “Mundy says how Michelle’s comments often “deflate” her husband (instead of portraying him as a normal man rather than Super!Candidate Man), reinforces the idea that we should only define the potential first lady by the man she married”

    Ummm…Yes, that is the sole criteria by which we should judge a potential First Spouse (Post Hillary Nomenclature). They are not running for office; their spouses are. If Michelle wanted to be “measured” in other terms than her husband during the campaign she should have pushed for the VP slot.

    It’s not sexism. It’s separating a non-elected adjunct position from an elected one. If you remember a lot of the problem with Hillary as First Lady was that she overstepped the limited bounds of her role without being elected to office. She later when on to rectify that, for which I give her all due props.

    jonolan

    August 25, 2008 at 2:12 pm

  2. Hi Jonolan,

    Ummm…Yes, that is the sole criteria by which we should judge a potential First Spouse (Post Hillary Nomenclature).

    In the past, yes, I’d agree that that is how we’ve judged a potential First Lady, but I would argue that it is not beneficial to us, or the lady.

    They are not running for office; their spouses are.

    I’d agree with this point. However, despite the fact that they will not have a formal role in the presidency, they will have an informal one – as advisors, confidantes. For this reason I think it is important we know something about the woman; we don’t necessarily need to scrutinize her as we do her husband, but I want to know more about her than what we get in relation to Barak Obama.

    If Michelle wanted to be “measured” in other terms than her husband during the campaign she should have pushed for the VP slot.

    The issue has nothing to do about what Michelle wants – I can’t comment on that, and neither can anyone else. The question is: Does the identity of a candidate’s wife disappear simply because her husband is running for office? And the answer is no. She is the same woman during the campaign as she was before. We can’t define her simply as her husband’s wife, because it’s inaccurate and sexist.

    The problem with measuring Michelle Obama in terms of her husband is that we’re basically saying that she’s only worth something because she’s attached to him. Or, as you insinuated with the VP comment, running for office. And that, among other things, is sexist.

    If you remember a lot of the problem with Hillary as First Lady was that she overstepped the limited bounds of her role without being elected to office.

    This is a different issue than the one we’re debating (although you’re right in thinking its a related issue). However, I’d like to mention that we hold the potential first ladies to a strange dichotomy: we evaluate their persons (but only in fairly sexist terms, such as appearance, and hostess abilities) as if they hold vital importance to the campaign even while we expect them to have no influence on the position for which their husbands are running. We can’t have both, and yet we try to manage it anyway.

    In sum: I don’t think measuring Michelle Obama in terms of her husband is the best (or only) way to measure her. She’s an educated woman, a mother, a professional, and a wife, and she should be judged that way, good or bad. And we don’t measure her this way because of the outdated, sexist way we see the “position” of First Lady.

    sfaile

    August 25, 2008 at 2:56 pm

  3. “The problem with measuring Michelle Obama in terms of her husband is that we’re basically saying that she’s only worth something because she’s attached to him.”

    No. We’re saying that in the context of the campaign that is all that is relevant. The rest of it shouldn’t matter, if she keeps to the assigned role of First Lady. That should also mean that the rest is “off limits” for scrutiny and critique as well.

    During the specific context of the Obama’s bid for the White House it’s not sexist to judge Michelle Obama solely on the criteria she must meet as First Lady. This is especially true since we just almost had a First Gentleman in the form of Bill Clinton.

    “And we don’t measure her this way because of the outdated, sexist way we see the “position” of First Lady.

    If America accept that the First Spouse has a different role than what is and was traditional, then you’re absolutely correct. Of course that would mean greater scrutiny and critique of the potential First Spouses since couple will essentially be running on a “First Family” ticket at that point.

    jonolan

    August 25, 2008 at 4:23 pm


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