Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More Feminism, Role Models, and Why I Turned Out So Well

After researching and publishing my post on Disney Princesses last night, I got to thinking about other fictional role models that girls look up to, or wish to be.

One who gets a lot of flack in my mind is Bella Swan. This meek, insecure girl who has new clue about inner beauty and self worth is projecting her image to millions of girls (women and boys as well); and I'm just not sure it's the image I would want my teenage daughter receiving. If you haven't read the books, then you might not be getting the full picture of Bella, but even the books are a bit iffy with me.

Bella is having to essentially parent her mother, and deal with her strings of relationships, which in a polar opposite from my last post is reality. However, she is giving up too much of herself for the happiness of her mother, who should really just grow up and be a mother herself. In all her self-sacrificial glory, she moves to horrible, rainy Washington State (that she loathes) to live with her dad. While living with her dad, she does all of the housework and cooking, and again is taking care of her parent in a way that's just not kosher with me personally.

Then, her biggest failure of all comes when she meets a boy. Not just any boy, a boy who wants to literally suck the life out of her. Again, her self-sacrificial self does not see the warning signs, and is actually drawn to this boy, Edward (if you didn't know). Her self-preservation skills are terribly impaired, again, not the message I want sent to my (non-existent, hypothetical) daughter.

Throughout the four novels, Bella continually shows a lack of want to stay alive, quite the opposite in fact, she wants to become a undead, like Edward. She allows herself to be manipulated and controlled; and states in various ways that her life revolves around Edward and his love. Her life, which is in jeopardy many times, just ends when he's not around; and is at risk to whenever he is. It's a very slippery slope with those two. But honestly, what can you expect from a teenage couple whose ideals are based on late 19th and early 20th century values. She longs to be a Jane Austen character, and he could be one.

My next biggest issue with Bella, is that she's dying (no pun intended) to get married just so that she can have sex. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for a girl waiting until she's married to have sex, but let's not twist that notion into, getting married at 18 just to have sex. (I totally realize that she does love him, but again, many girls *think* they love boys, when they really don't.) Not to mention the fact that if she's the one chomping at the bit, and the boy is the one abstaining, that's not really teaching much of a lesson, because there aren't that many teenage boys on the boat for abstaining.

Then I was trying to come up with a fictional role model I would want my daughter looking up to. Possibly Rosalie, for all her fierceness, she has a pretty good head on her shoulders now that she's had nearly a century to learn from her human mistakes., I don't make enough money for my daughter to look up to Alice.

Which had me thinking of other supernatural fictional characters...How about Buffy? Her benefits include, ferocity, self-sufficient-ness, intelligence, and great work ethic. Her negatives include having sex in high school, with vampires. Guess you just can't win.

So, here I sit, having bashed a series that I've read multiple times. I read them through two or three times before I read a comical online commentary about how awful of a person Edward was. And then I went back and read it again. And then I saw the awfulness. He actually unhooked something in her car so that she couldn't leave. Makes me wish she would have just taken the police cruiser that Charlie offered. Does all of this mean I won't read the books anymore? No. Does it mean that I will ban them from my teenage daughters room? No, but I will follow it up with a feminist lesson in how girls and boys should work, and not how they do.

All of this stems from somewhere personal. When reading the books I knew exactly what that head over heels, first love felt like. I knew it well. I knew what it was like if it were the end of the world if you didn't get to see that boy. I was that girl, and it is NOT the life or the choices I would ever choose for my daughter. Not that I'll be making her choices, because that would be very anti-fem of me. However, I will tell her my story, and I will hope, pray, and probably cry and lose sleep hoping and crying that she will learn from my mistakes, and live her teenage years in a completely different way than I did.

How did I turn out so well? Maybe because I was an avid Buffy fan. Maybe because I knew how I wanted to be treated and wasn't putting up with any male chauvinist crap. Maybe it was simply because the boy I loved didn't feel the need to control me because I was so ridiculously in love with him.

On that note, here is an old blog I wrote while I was being very melancholic about love, and I do still think that some of those things stand, but maybe not all of them. Love is just a very difficult thing.

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Christian said...

very well said!

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