Okay, I know there are some people out there who do not give a rat's ass what I might have to say on the subject- they are going to hate Bella Swan, and they are going to hate the whole Twilight franchise, and I'd have a better chance of convincing them that the sun rises in the west than I would of changing their minds. This entry is not for them. This entry is for the people who look at me askance and say, "Jenny O, you are an intelligent woman and a reasonably vocal feminist- how could you possibly enjoy the Twilight books and their milquetoast heroine, Bella Swan?"
When I first read Twilight, I enjoyed the hell out of it. And I enjoyed the hell out of it because it took me back to when I was seventeen, and love was life-or-death dramatic. I remember when relationships were all-consuming like that, and while I am relieved I'm no longer subject to such (you could not pay me enough to be a teenager again), that doesn't mean I can't enjoy an occasional trip down memory lane. So in terms of good ol' fashioned entertainment, Twilight did its job. Good on you, Stephenie Meyer.
Because I'd enjoyed the first book I went ahead and got the second, and the third, and eventually the fourth, when it came out. Now I had some issues of my own with those books (a different entry entirely), but Bella Swan being anti-feminist was not one of them. In fact, the first time I encountered that charge, I was baffled- had the person read the books? (answer: probably not) Because here is the thing about Bella- all she wants is to be equal to her chosen mate.
That's right, Bella just wants equality. In a world full of monsters and supermen, she does not want to settle for being the fragile little human who must be protected- she wants to be a monstrous superman, too, thereby be able to protect those she loves. How, exactly, is that anti-feminist?
And then there are the people who rant that Twilight is all anti-choice, because Bella chooses to carry a fetus to term that is killing her. Wait, let me say that last part again, with some added emphasis: Bella chooses to carry a fetus to term that is killing her. Please explain to me how that is anti-choice? A woman making her own decision about her body? A woman saying to the people around her, "I don't care what you think is best for me, I am making the choice that I think is right." Too often, I think, people get caught up in this idea that "pro-choice" means, "Making the choice I would make". Same thing applies to feminism- some people act like, "Feminism is making the choices I would make," and they look down on those women who don't. Hence we have women who are ashamed to admit that they don't want to "have it all"- they want to be stay-at-home moms and housewives and not go in to an office every day- or at all.
And I cry BS on that. You shouldn't have to feel like you're not a feminist because what you want doesn't match what certain members of society are telling you should want.
I recently read an article talking about how when they interviewed girls who'd read Twilight and asked them what they admired about Bella Swan, they rattled off a list of positive traits that aren't actually mentioned in the books. Which says to me that Stephenie Meyer achieved her goal of making a heroine you could put yourself into, up to and including strengths and weaknesses. So I have to ask, if I read those books and came away believing that Bella Swan is a decided feminist, and other people come away thinking she's not... well, is there any sort of commentary there on what sort of baggage we're bringing to our respective readings?