Today in wow, I did not see that coming, author Stephanie Meyer released a new version of Twilight, with the genders flipped. That’s right. This time the girl is going to be the vampire. Edward and Bella become Edythe and Beau.
On the one hand, I’ll give props to Meyer for doing the unexpected. However, she claims this is in order to prove that her wimpy heroine of the original Twilight series, Bella, isn’t a “damsel in distress,” but a “human in distress.”
But the power of Twilight wasn’t the writing, but rather how the story used powerful tropes in a new way, tropes of women’s helplessness and sacrifice, tropes of male sexuality as dangerous and violent, and–as we saw in the massive success of EL James’ fan fiction–tropes of domination and submission. I suspect that there are many equally misogynist tropes that are ready to be activated by a genderflip, such as the monstrosity of women’s bodies, women’s sexuality, and women’s reproduction. At the very moment when the House of Representatives voted to cut all federal Planned Parenthood funding, we are living in a time when women’s sexuality is already considered to be monstrous.
I am also curious if this is a one-off book, sort of I’ll show everyone who criticized the gender dynamics in my series! Or is Meyer committed to playing it out. Okay, we’re talking blood here. Will the girl vampire have a period? Will she get pregnant? Will she have a baby? Will her health insurance cover vampire birth control? Will she then have to deal with the challenges of being a vampire mom? Sure when it was Edward, he could go out vampiring while she stayed home with the baby, but what about when the genders are flipped?
And about that baby. What if, before they figure things out in their relationship, they get pregnant by mistake? Maybe I’ll write some fan fiction with vampire Edythe at the Planned Parenthood. And let some people scream in her face that she’s killing her baby. I’d love the scene where she goes all vampire on their asses. (Wow, I might really write that story.)
But if Meyer stops at one book, it will show that she’s not completely committed to the challenge of writing a love story where the female is the alpha. Because the greater challenges to greater equality or non-traditional roles in such a union show up over time. As a couple enters into marriage and parenthood institutions which are organized around male domination and women’s exploited labor, the forces of sexism intensify.
I’m also interested to see if the masses of Twilight readers will find it just as romantic that the male character must risk his very life to be with his love. Will there be a werewolf girl that Edythe has to battle for her man? Will that devolve into typical catfight dynamics? It’ll also be interesting to see if the fans respond to the dynamic of domination/submission in the book or if they are truly wedded to the idea of the woman being the submissive. And of course, it’ll be interesting to see if they make a movie. If they do, I wonder if they’ll use race in some shady way in the casting. It could either use white privilege to reinforce the female vampire’s power or have a vampire of color to feed into white fears of POC monstrosity. That would be truly unfortunate.
So Meyer says some things from Twilight have changed with a genderflip. I’ll be curious to see what changes. That is to say, I will be interested to hear the analysis of others who read the series. I didn’t read the original, and I won’t be reading this one. As I have said before: I’m a working mom who’s got a debut novel coming out next year, is on deadline for the second in the two-book deal, and is working on a collection of essays. Genderflip or no, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Only one problem…how do I explain it to my 5 year-old, when I won’t even let her have a Barbie?
My feminist parenting quandary is also revealed in Flavorwire.
The #NoHymenNoDiamond Guide to Marriage or The Seven Habits of Magical Thinking, Misogyny and MatrimonyPosted: September 28, 2015
There is an absurd twitter hashtag trending, #NoHymenNoDiamond along with #NoCherryDontMarry, as in “if a woman is not a virgin, she is damaged goods and no man should marry her.” Wow, 2015, you are a treasure trove of outdated moralistic surprises. Needless to say, there is also a backlash. This consists of important challenges to the values of the hashtag, as well as basic anatomy lessons.
Abstinence. How convenient that it should trend just as the House voted to defund Planned Parenthood…
Determined to do my part, I created…
The #NoHymenNoDiamond Guide to Marriage.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have the honor of being the Friday blogger for this year’s Debutante Ball, a group of women writers with debut novels coming out in 2016.
So this week, we’re talking about where we write, and my cluttered kitchen table just didn’t seem like much of a story. So I wrote about where I write about. Cuba. And how the end to the US economic blockade against Cuba is a wonderful victory for the Cuban people. And a big challenge for me, because the blockade was practically a character in my story. Read all about it…
So let me model what a principled MRA rant would sound like:
Fuck you, Western Society, for having me born in a hospital by an anesthetized mom from whom you ripped me away and isolated me, and then discouraged her from breastfeeding me.
Fuck you, Western Society, for telling me to be “a man” from the time I was a toddler. For shaming me for vulnerability. For denying me the human need of connection and closeness from the earliest times in my life.
Fuck you, Western Society, for setting up conditions where my dad was either gone, or working, or numbed out. And for drowning my mom in domestic (and/or wage-earning) tasks, that she couldn’t be present with me in the way either of us wanted.
Fuck you, Western Society, for showing me toxic models of masculinity in comics, cartoons, TV and movies that taught me to be silent, violent, and always in control.
Fuck you, Western Society, for teaching me to hate and feel ashamed of my body for not being manly enough as a young boy.
Fuck you, Western Society, for the systematic violence that you encourage among boys that I was targeted with and maybe even came to target others with.
Fuck you, Western Society, for instilling in me such a terror and fear of violence if I got close to other boys.
Fuck you, Western Society, for drilling it into me that the only form of connection I could have would be sexual and with a woman. For the internalized homophobia I felt if I was queer, and the sense of failure I had if I was hetero.
Fuck you, Western Society, for consistently training me to only believe that thin, white, blonde, conventionally attractive, big breasted women were valuable and that getting them in bed would redeem me.
Fuck you, Western Society, for exploiting me as a worker for corporations that serve only the most wealthy and as a soldier for your empire building that served those same interests.
Fuck you, Western Society, for isolating me and leading me to believe that I was the only man who ever felt afraid, sad, isolated, depressed, hurt, vulnerable, and for believing that these traits are female and that I should be ashamed of anything about me that was associated with being female.
Fuck you, Western Society, for teaching me that feminism and equality of the sexes wasn’t in my best interest. And denying me from knowing the truth that my freedom is intrinsically bound with the freedom of women.
Fuck you, Western Society, for teaching me to vent my rage and violence at how I’ve been systematically mistreated by your institutions onto women, queer and transgender folks.
Fuck you, Western Society, for convincing me that male privilege was worth the price of my humanity.
Thanks to all the men who are doing this work. As I’m on the run this morning, The Good Men Project comes to mind…
I can’t believe I missed everything that happened with Planned Parenthood, and the birth of the fabulous hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion this weekend. According to Raquel Reichard at Latina: “The hashtag, #ShoutYourAbortion, was started on Saturday by activists Lindy West and Amelia Bonow in response to the House of Representatives 241-187 vote to suspend federal funding for Planned Parenthood.” This is outrageous.
And I missed this fabulous moment of pro-choice activism basically because…I was parenting. Which was planned.
After I got the abortion in my 20s (at Planned Parenthood), I have become a mom in my 40s. And I have a very enviable situation (a good job I love, a caring partner w/ a good job, a lot of extended family, years of therapy to help me break intergenerational cycles of dysfunction, a personal support system and a passionate and fully developed creative life). And you know what? I still am overworked, underslept, undernurtured, and stressed.
Saturday, when this social media hashtag was going viral, I was at the swimming pool all day with my kid, enjoying myself, but functionally exiled from participation in public life. The rest of the weekend was family-oriented, and Monday was all about writing (and getting my car towed to the mechanic). Today, I was teaching til early afternoon, and here I am catching up.
As a working mom, I often miss great things on social media. Like today. Anyway, here are my late-to-the-party tweets on the topic.
Basically #BlackWomensLivesMatter beyond just being vessels for the next generation.
Special thanks to Sarah Weinman. When I went looking for a digital copy of this article on the internet, I found her post,”The Crime Lady #021,” where she referenced the article. I dug an old hard copy out of the files and, unfortunately, it still seems relevant in the battle for representation of people of color…over 20 years after the original article and 50 years after the first of these books came out.
Big thanks, also to The Armchair Detective journal for publishing it and Dr. Joyce Hope Scott who encouraged me to write it.