Gender Norms in the Twilight Series

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Just collecting the discussions… Rebecca Hayes-Smith had the following complaint about Meyer’s Twilight series…

“Among tween girls and their moms, these books have achieved tremendous popularity. On the one hand, I understand it. The books are entertaining (I read all four in a little over a week), and the romantic vampire story is somewhat beautiful and mysterious.” (p.78)

“What nags me is how, as a sociologist, I find it difficult to ignore the underlying message of gender conformity in Meyer’s books. As a society we have multiple ways to communicate how men and women should act in order to be happy. These messages play an important role in the marginalization of women and girls, and Twilight reinforces these messages in several ways: through traditional notions of femininity and masculinity, and intersecting stereotypes of race, class, and gender. / Throughout the series, women are weak, passive, and in need of protection, while men are strong and violent.” (p.78)

“[Bella’s] insecurity is what makes her easy to identify with, but how can we change women’s (and society’s) views without challenging the romanticization of victimhood?” (p.78)

“In the real world, most female victimization occurs between intimate partners, and this theme is prevalent in Twilight. When Bella has “sex” with Edward (if that’s what you can call it), she walks away from the event literally injured…. The expression of dangerous love-making in other vampire-themed novels is likely similar, but at least in those, the vampires are considered evil.” (p.79) [I thought this last point an interesting one, the ethical  thread of which is also in the following statement….] “In the end, Edward maintains his masculinity by acting aggressively even in a situation that is supposed to be about intimacy and love. The subtle message is that as long as you’re in love or at home, violence is not objectionable.” (p.79)

“Yes, these are novels: should feminists and scholars lighten up? These books might simply be innocent entertainment, or potentially harmful to young women. Plenty of research describes how people construct their social reality depending on the cultural messages around them. This is especially important when considering the sheer volume of media images young people now constantly absorb (both actively and passively). It occurs at all ages, but is especially important among teenagers who are navigating the in-between years of not quite being an adult, yet not a kid anymore. My concern is that the most popular young adult books of the last few years are repeating stereotypes sociologists have been debunking for decades.” (p.79)

Ref: Rebecca Hayes-Smith (2011) ‘Gender Norms in the Twilight Series’ Contexts 2011 10: 78

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