3.19.2012

thoughts on the narrow definition of feminism in literature: (AKA, in defense of Bella Swan)

Longest blog title ever.
So, recently something has been kicking around my head. And it is bugging me.

To begin, you need to know I am a feminist. I think women like Joan of Arc, Grace O'Malley, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and all the other strong defiant women throughout history who threw off the yoke of traditional womanhood and stood up for what they thought was right, are awesome. They inspire me enough to know why some women would want to burn their bras. (Though I don't want to. Such a waste of money. And bra-lessness is uncomfortable.)

However. I think feminism in our culture has become a little bit backwards, and that is what nags at me. I think the root of feminism is recognizing that women have the right to be whoever the heck they want.

Want to run a business/go into politics/become a soldier? Awesome! Do it.

Want to be a stay at home mom or wife or homemaker? Also equally awesome! Do it. That's what I would say.

Unfortunately, it seems like modern feminism downplays the choice to be traditionally feminine, and argues that to pursue a path like motherhood or marriage or falling in love is undesirable and unsuited to a truly modern women. To them I say: Bah humbug. (Actually, I'd rather say something else to them, but I am trying to use less curse words in my day-to-day vocabulary.)

Which brings me to my main point. For those of you who don't share my book-geekery obsession, I apologize if the following is just gobbledegook to you. I love Katniss Everdeen (of The Hunger Games). She is strong, brave, defiant, and fights violently for the things that matter to her. I love Hermione Granger (of Harry Potter). She is intelligent, sensible, determined and uses these skills to turn the tide of a magical war. These two heroines are regularly lauded as positive role models for women, because they personify the things that our current culture of feminism applauds: the ability to break through stereotypical 'feminine' barriers by being strong in a way, for centuries, only men were expected to be. I agree - they are great.

But you know what else? I love Bella Swan (of Twilight). She falls in love, unapologetically. I think that's brave, even though she becomes a hot mess when Edward leaves. She is quiet and awkward but doesn't try to change her personality and tastes in order to fit in with her peers. She knows precisely who she is and what she wants out of life, and I think that is strong. I don't think the fact that she wants to spend forever with the man she loves is a sign of weakness of character. I think it embodies precisely what the crux of feminism is:
A woman can and should be whoever and whatever she damn well pleases.

So when I see this:

... it makes me shake my head a bit. And mumble curse words. And blog until my annoyance goes away.

1 comment:

Carol Yuen said...

I never thought of it that way. Loved your insight!