I was not prepared for the sexism in Twilight

Yowza! I was surprised by the rage Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight brought out of me. This was one of the most sexist novels I can ever remember reading, and I grew up on a steady diet of Sweet Valley High and VC Andrews.

This poorly-written dreck made me so annoyed and angry that I have a hard time not being completely condescending. I don’t think I’ve eye-rolled so much during a book since I read Nicholas Sparks’ shitty, shitty The Wedding.

Twilight tells the story of Bella, a seventeen-year-old Arizonan who moves to Forks, Washington to live with her dad after her mom marries a minor-league baseball player and moves to Florida. Bella’s not thrilled about the move until she meets Edward, a pale, beautiful boy who turns out to be a sparkly vampire.

Why this book is an international, best-selling phenomenon is beyond me. I can understand why the barely-pubescent crowd loves it. Because the relationship between Bella and Edward is the kind of cheesedog bullshit that teen girls think romance is — inevitable, all-consuming, and filled with unabashed proclamations of their love.

When I was thirteen I’d have probably thought of Edward as the height of romance, but through my 30something eyes I can see that he’s sexist and bordering on abusive. There are many times throughout the novel where Edward chastises Bella for being too alluring and irresistible. He tells her that if he can’t control himself (and it’s really, really hard to do so), that if something bad happens it will be her fault. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Plus, there’s the constant need to watch-over and protect her, and the fact that he continually tells her she can’t take care of herself. Of course, Bella doesn’t help herself at all and totally loses herself in Edward — doing everything he says and never standing up for herself. And, while we’re told Bella is a smart girl (she’s disappointed by the library’s book selection) we never see it.

Bah! It’s so bad.

Then there’s the writing which is awful and repetitive with the incredulous grins and the eyes. OH THE EYES. Christa already made a helpful list about the eyes. I would get into it, but, really the story is so awful and distasteful that the bad writing is just like frosting on the shitcake.

Before you get up in arms about why I even bothered with this book, it’s because my Rock & Roll Bookclub selected it. I am excited to discuss it. Hannah, the thirteen-year-old daughter of two of our members, loves the Twilight series with a passion. I am curious to see what she has to say about it and get her insight.

Website: I WIll Dare

I was the kind of girl who kept an obsessive list of statistics about her Sweet Valley High collection and would take great pride in being able to recite plot synopses for each one from memory. Really. Sadly, nobody ever asked me to recite them.

There are 35 comments for this article
  1. Karen at 10:44 am

    So true. I’m honestly afraid that the Twilight series will have warped a whole generation of girls into thinking the relationship between Edward and Bella is normal and fine. It’s not.

    • Andromeda at 4:27 pm

      I strongly agree and yet I don’t agree… I am thirteen, I agree with you because at middle school, my peers (the female ones) are a bit eager for a relationship like Bella and Edward…I didn’t read the books but I have seen one of the films and the message that is directed to us is: “Females are incapable of doing great things with out their boyfriends.”
      Bella tried to teach me that I am nothing without a man and as far as I am concerned I am far too ignorant to touch the novels, after reading novels that are very unrealistic, but the female protagonist give me the desire to be brave and witty like Hermione from Harry Potter even though the main character is a boy
      J.k. Rowling has some real feminism messages.

  2. Alysha Scott at 11:48 pm

    I totally agree with you and the first commenter…
    What a bunch of crap.
    I also wonder, and this is beside the point too, if the sexist/degrading subjects within rap lyrics will have some affect on future generations… my little sister is ten and knew the lyrics to “Smack That”. sick.

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  4. Meg at 9:57 am

    (SPOILERS) Your right! I mean, I also don’t understand why every guy in Twilight has to be perfect and they all seem to smell great! WTF??? Why does Edward smell like a sweet factory??? Vampires are suppose to be scary… Anyway, I don’t like the way Bella always describes herself as being ugly and then describes Edward as a beautiful, liquid topez eyed, pale , sparkling (yea… SPARKLY), 108 year old vampire. The fact that he is 108 or whatever and he ends up having sex with a 18 year old girl is sick! Then at the age of 18 she is pregnant. Yea, what a great role-model. Here you go and have unprotected sex with a 108 year old man, get pregnant while your suppose to be going to collage and waste the rest of your life staying at home being a stay at home mother to a freak baby. Yea… every girls dream! That’s a powerful message.Then to make the story even more twisted and wrong, Jacob Black the werewolve and one of the most annoying people in the books imprints with Bella’s baby! And Bella let’s them get together when they get older. Ewwwww!!! I actually physically wanted to die by that point. What kind of vampire book has lines like “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb.”… or “You are my life now…” or even scarier, “I watch you while you sleep.” If I just found out that freaky veggie vamp was watching me sleep I’d grab the knife from the kichen drawer.

    Yea, so I know what you mean it’s sexist, freaky, boring, sick and horribly written. Sorry, I wrote a lot. I have strong views on this. :)

    • Andromeda at 4:37 pm

      Thank you…honestly I very much want to live the life of Hermione Granger not Bella…I don’t know her last name.

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  6. Nika at 12:19 pm

    FINALLY!And you are so,so right.
    I read the first book because pretty much everyone was talking about it and I wanted to see what the big deal was.And now,I’m even more confused.Not to mention very, very horrified.
    Much as I hate to admit it(being one myself) you are very right about most teenage girls.I go to an all girls school :( and have personally never seen the appeal in romance-without-good-plot-or-characters nor specifically Twilight(I think it’s the only book that I have ever had to physically FORCE myself to finish because there was only page after page of junk.I kept hoping they’d all drop dead.)

  7. Bec at 6:20 am

    OMFGGGG this is 100% true, I agree. I am studying primary education at university and in my literacy and language subject, I have to discuss literature on forums. Someone had the hide to include Twilight as good literature for kids who hate reading. You should read my reply :) the sexism made me sick.

  8. Hannah at 11:49 am

    I am one of the biggest Twilight haters you shall ever find. I can’t believe that children as young as five read this, especially the last one. I read it first when I was 11, just over a year ago, loved it for a bit, re-read it then decided ‘Hang on a miniute… This is crap… I could write better!’ Everywhere at school, there’s the girls who LOVE twilight, whereas I’m known for my hate of it. It disgusts me to find girls actually think there are vampires in it. I just hope that something strange happens to the Twilight books and they all BURN.

  9. Vi at 6:30 pm

    This is America, Meyers can publish what ever she wants. Its up to the general public to understand the hidden meanings and see the messages behind it. Twilight is sexist beyond comparison, an Edward Bella relationship in real life equals to DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!

  10. Vi at 6:33 pm

    Also, the book was horribly simple, which is sad if that sort of simple lit is what people like reading. It had great ideas, but it was something that would blended in on FanFiction.net. It didnt deserve the franchise and obsession.

  11. rc at 5:09 pm

    if you dont like them then dont read it and let the people who like it be happy with it and if it is so famouse then its because its a good book or how do you explain about a billion fans? it must be you people who are wrong

    • tiffany at 12:19 pm

      @rc,
      this book was crap, and if you cant see it, you have no right to comment on an intelligent conversation. keep your crap and let other people have their opinions. people only like it because they are too simple to see the reality of it all.

    • Andromeda at 4:33 pm

      I didn’t, my view is based on the films because I do not have the time to read a book that justifys sexism, thank you very much.

  12. banter at 7:26 pm

    I love fanfiction, that is why I enjoyed the book (guilty pleasure, was really addictive). However, I think it’s really dangerous the message Stephanie Meyer is putting out there. I’m one hundred percent sure there will be girls out there thinking this is the way they should behave around a stupid boy so that he will fall head over heels, happy ever after ..blah blah blah, CRAP.

    If I hadn’t had any Real Relationships before I read this book, I would definitely be thinking I should act the way Bella is acting.

    Teenage girls have enough insecurities as it is, to be prettier than pretty, skinny, flawless, with big breasts yet with no REAL substance. There is enough pressure out there for females, but this is NOT the way anyone should treat themselves when they are in a relationship. This like the 1800’s meets the 21st century….shameful.

    Women are gaining their independence but there is still a lot more to be done.

    “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” ~Roseanne Barr

  13. banter at 7:32 pm

    Also! (sorry for rant) It’s a girl who knows she’s gorgeous and worthwhile who gets all the guys. Not the one who is mostly likely to stick her head in the oven.

  14. slg at 11:17 pm

    If you want something with a lead heroine with a lot more substance and self-respect, read Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.

  15. Kari at 2:37 pm

    Twilight isn’t sexist, it’s human-ist. Edward has to protect Bella because she’s a soap bubble and he’s immortal as long as he keeps his head and doesn’t get run down by a pack of dogs.

    I’m 44. When I read Twilight I thought it was okay. Then I talked about it with a 15-yr-old girl who loved it and I really started to get it.

    One point that’s rarely mentioned: it’s true that Edward carries Bella from one place to another etc., but check out Bella’s relationships with her parents. She essentially parents both of them. I think this is a really appealing independence fantasy for young readers (and the most avid Twilight fans seem to be in the age 12-15 range).

    I’ve read all the books & I’m a fan. Edward’s exactly like the Black in the Walter Farley books–he’s the fastest wild horse until Bella tames him by just being her own ordinary, appealing self.

    IMHO, the books are not badly written. I think all the Twi-rage comes from their popularity. Yeah, they’re immensely popular. But no book is supposed to be EVERY book. Girls who love Twilight will read other books too.

    • Lily at 7:32 am

      @Kari,

      “check out Bella’s relationships with her parents. She essentially parents both of them.”

      Bella doesn’t parent Charlie at all. He’s fully capable of tending to himself. Bella merely cooks and cleans for him because that is what a woman is supposed to do (according to Meyer). Bella’s mother is portrayed as a twit – but that may very well be Bella’s opinion of a woman who can live without a man.

      “Twilight isn’t sexist, it’s human-ist.”

      All of the female characters in Twilight are portrayed as weaker and less important than the male characters, whether human, vampire, or werewolf. The one female werewolf (can’t remember the name) is the only one who is infertile, making her unappealing. The female vampires are likewise weak – in fact, most of them have unreliable and inconsistent powers whereas the male vampires’ powers work perfectly whenever needed.

      I really don’t see how people can try to defend the blatant sexism in the Twilight “saga”.

      • Jenny at 10:45 pm

        I am so glad you wrote this because I was actually just discussing it with my family. A few things I don’t like about the series that you named, but I’d like to add onto it. There’s a scene in the first book where Bella is dragged across a parking lot by Edward and he basically throws her into his car. I don’t care if he’s a vampire or Godzilla, I would beat him for doing that. Also, you’re right about the female powers. Alice’s power had the potential to be amazing and strong, but it’s not. Rosalie doesn’t have any special powers and neither does Esme. Jane is like a dog that has to be ordered to attack. I think Meyer has issues when it comes to her own gender.

  16. Janny at 4:05 pm

    RC – the reason the book is so popular is because little kids (ages 5-15) are not exactly very intelligent or mature. The fact that they eat this poorly written drivel up merely attests to that. And the fact that they fail to notice the blatant woman-hating sexism inherent in the series attests to the shockingly low self-esteem and self-worth young girls today have.

    • Niquel at 4:57 pm

      I’m sixteen and I kind of find that comment offensive (gasp! – what a shocker!). It is true that many people my age ARE incredibly immature, but all that just comes with age. No need to stereotype. I don’t think Stephanie Meyer was trying to make some kind of statement with her novel. However, I do think the sexism is so drilled into the minds of society that books like these are just the result.

      Check it out, both the relavent men in this book are a described as handsome with a dark side. All the women are weak and helpless. Bella’s an unconfident outcast. Holy cow–the stereotypes. The whole book is a stereotype, and sexism is a stereotype. She’s a poor writer and she can’t come up with an original idea. The sexism just comes out with all the rest of the unorginal things in this novel.

  17. Jess at 9:10 am

    I don’t see these books as sexist or giving teens the wrong idea of what a relationship is supposed to be like.

    What I see is an outcast girl – whether that is real or perceived since she seems to make friends easily but is shy around people – who falls in love with a guy that is crazy about her for who she is and not some made up version of what a girl should be.

    Meyers took what every teen girl/guy thinks they go through during those years and added the element of vampires to it in order to give it a slightly less than human angle.

    If you take this book at superficial value then you are missing the point, in my opinion. Bella and Edward wait until they are married for sex – even though it is difficult for both of them not. He is protective and loving towards her at a time when she feels unloved and unprotected by her parents and he accepts her for who she is.

    Just my humble opinion. :)

  18. miarose cook at 11:59 pm

    alright, well i hate twilight. i think it was not badly written but it dose have some hidden message to young women that make it nerve wracking and is not write for young women.
    ive seen girls go into rages over this, ive been bulled for not likeing it.
    and for not likeing the movies. really i think its the movies that ruined the book, i am a huge romantic. but the bad acting of the movie characters protrayed the book characters badly. and i hope this book looses its fame SOOn. really you should all try ” the hunger games” its a good addictive book. without sexism!

  19. Cherry at 7:47 am

    I agree, I absolutely hated twilight. I went through a whole page crossing out grammar and spelling errors just so it’d make sense!

  20. IWONDER??? at 1:34 pm

    i have not read the books as the film is hella boring, edward always looks as if he just shit himself and bella looks as if shes about to puke. from what ive heard about it stephenie meyer is a crap author and i still dont understand how she thought that edward could get bella pregnant when he is dead…i repeat DEAD!

  21. Sunshiny at 7:15 am

    I can see why teens and many adult women love the series. Do you remember how perfect The Brady Bunch TV show was? How all the daughters were beautiful with long flaxin hair and the boys are all handsome, and the parents were a beautiful-looking couple. They even had a maid and a cute little dog who never used the bathroom in the house?

    Well, Twilight is like that. It’s perfection. Everything is perfect. There is no pain in these stories, only beauty & wish fulfillment to be had here.

    I Googled “Twilight & Teen Depression” once out of curiosity (a while ago) and found only one site under that and there were comments from females confessing to feeling depressed after reading the books. One 14 year old (or 13. I don’t remember) said she “cannot be around or look at anything Twi-light related anymore”. She said she “had to go into therapy” because of her obsession with it.

    Another girl of 12 said she kept reading Twilight book 1 over and over (over 100 times) because she was “trying to make it [become] real”.

    And other one I remember vividly was by a 51 year old woman who said she “used to be secretly jealous of Bella” & said she jealous because “Why was everything so easy for Bella”.

    They cannot separate fantasy from reality. I had no idea it was this bad, that females were this unhappy (not all but way too many). ONE MORE THING: I’ve come across SO many reviews of the book written by people who keep saying “I’m not much of a reader” or “I’ll be honest & say I really don’t read” or “My brother/sister never read before Twilight & now they do”.

    I think Twilight is at such a low reading level that even foreign people can understand it. The novel’s success is an indictment of how many people struggle with reading in this country. Many people simply “cannot” read & understand what they are reading. I had no idea how many people struggled with reading. Did you? If you don’t believe me go the Amazon’s review section for Stephenie Meyer’s book The Host & see how many people claim they don’t usually read.

    Or claim they don’t usually like Science Fiction. They liked “hers” because she dumbed it down to “he said/she said”. And the books are THICK to make these people with reading problems feel like they are smart when reading such thick books.

    Last thing: The so-called “poorly written” factor. A lot of people are into writing Fan fiction these days online, reading it, and rating it. Twilight reads like Fanfic so why would readers complain about the writing when they write the same way?

  22. Drei at 12:52 am

    For some reason whenever someone says “Who’s the biggest Twilight hater here?” all eyes in the room would focus on me. It’s probably because they think I’m the only one in the classroom who criticizes the series with a passion. After some half-cooked analysis of my thoughts, though, I have come to the realization that it is not the series I hate, it’s how most of the Twilight readers I know react to it. They defiantly say it’s the best, they fail to engage in ‘healthy’ arguments regarding their fandom, and most of the time they end up bashing other series. I could go on and on but it might take longer than necessary, and besides some of my sentiments are already up there (and more coherently written, I must add). So, all I want to say is, Open your eyes! The world of literature is vast, don’t fail to discover other treasures.

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