Here's a recent tumblr post from writer Mette Ivie Harrison and my response:
We can’t attack Stephenie Meyer because she is rich.
We can’t attack Stephenie Meyer because her book and the woman herself have moved beyond the real and have become cultural icons.
What is wrong with girls having power to choose when they want to have sex?
What is wrong with subverting the romance novel alpha male trope into Edward?
What is wrong with reinventing the vampire?
Why don’t people see the extensive world-building in this book?
Is this really bad writing or simply an easy reading style?
Does everything have to be “LITERATURE”?
Are we really looking at the power dynamics in this book carefully enough?
So, it’s normal when every hot woman wants to have sex with the hero of a fantasy novel, but when two hot teen guys want to have sex with the teen heroine, then it’s Mary Sue fantasy?
Not having read the vampire tradition from Stoker’s Dracula does not mane that Meyer has nothing to say.
What teen girls like doesn’t matter to the rest of the world? It isn’t important?
Is it bad to have a final violent confrontation end with a woman’s compromise through words?
Abortion is one of the major issues of the day—what’s wrong with a book that talks about it deeply?
What happens in high school matters. Don’t say “high school” with a sneer, because every grown-up is aware that high school lives on in the business world and in adult social situations.
Anti-feminism is not necessary anti-women. There are different kinds of strong mothers, including mothers who stay at home.
Why do all the complaints about Twilight sound like echoes of Hawthorne’s complaint about “that damned mob of scribbling women”?
What is wrong with fiction that is love and family centered? Think about what they said about Jane Austen?
Look, I have plenty of problems with Twilight. And I don’t mind a fair discussion of those problems, in a situation in which the people speaking have all read the book and perhaps some other YA novels and some romance fiction to compare it to. People who are not reading simply to make fun, but out of love for these kinds of fiction. People who are willing to see things from differing points of view. But the disdain which is heaped on Twilight has become a kind of self-congratulatory, aren’t we all so smart that we don’t read stupid books like this, high school is so juvenile kind of anger against a woman who is successful that it becomes distasteful and rather nakedly pleading.
Anyone remember Nathaniel Hawthorne’s complaint about “that damned mob of scribbling women,” who, like Louisa May Alcott, wrote about family lives and sold like crazy while Hawthorne had to wait for a hundred years of white male college professors to validate his depiction of what should happen to women who think that they deserve more than marriage and socially acceptable sex? Stephenie Meyer has been given a scarlet letter, the letter “s” for success, and that supposedly allows all of us to throw stones and rotten fruit at her. I’m not saying you have to like this book. I AM saying that if you haven’t read it, you can shut up. And if you can’t think of a single nice thing to say about it, maybe you are going to have to wait, like Hawthorne, for your books to be assigned in lit classes in college.
I agree passionately with what Mette says here with just one tiny change. I don't believe Bella's choice to keep her baby is "anti-feminist." It was a choice. If the book showed Bella wanting to abort but being pressured into keeping her baby, I could see a problem (in fact all her loved ones are encouraging her to abort for her own sake, but she sticks to her guns). If the book showed multiple young women who all made the same choice as if it were the only correct choice for everyone, I could see a problem. But this is one woman who makes her own choice. Feminism advocates for women to have the opportunity to make choices and live their lives according to their best desires and full potential, not hindered by their gender. If feminism has changed and only advocates for women's right to make choices that always agree with me/you/the group/some ideology, then feminism won't work anymore.
I recently heard a writer speaking at a conference (a writer I respect, like, and who has had objectively admirable success). When asked by the audience to name a favorite book, he answered, "I'll tell you one I wish had never been written: Twilight." It was an unnecessary and petty comment, I thought, but what really troubled me was the audience's reaction: they applauded and cheered. I've encountered similar scenes dozens of times. By all means, don't like Twilight. Don't read it. Or read it and have intelligent conversations about why you don't like it. But I question why it's become okay to hate, mock, demean, ridicule this writer woman and her series that's loved by so many women.
One thing I like about tumblr is it's organized around the positive. You like a post. You reblog a post. You ignore the negative. This seems healthy to me. I think we're all happier when we define ourselves not by what we hate but by what we love.
I have so much more I could say about this, but I'll save it for another post because I have a feeling many of you will have comments on this one we'll want to talk about. Please remember, disagree with me or other commenters but keep it respectful! Name calling, angry rants, and hate-spewing are not welcome here.