Friday, August 22, 2008

Vampire Romances: Today's Girly Rebellion?

Leonard Sax, author of Why Gender Matters and Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men, opines in the Washington Post about the fascination with Stephenie Meyers' bestselling novels. Sax argues that this widespread teen girl fixation on Bella's fate underscores the failure of our generation to change what is basic:
For more than three decades, political correctness has required that educators and parents pretend that gender doesn't really matter. The results of that policy are upon us: a growing cohort of young men who spend many hours each week playing video games and looking at pornography online, while their sisters and friends dream of gentle werewolves who are content to cuddle with them and dazzling vampires who will protect them from danger. In other words, ignoring gender differences is contributing to a growing gender divide.
His description of the symptoms in youth culture may be accurate, but is their cause an expression of gender differences (as he argues) or simply this generation's rebellion against an adult agenda? I'm also wondering about the reaction to the books among teens with roots in other cultures, especially those relatively untouched by Western-style feminism. How do Muslim girls, for example, respond to Meyer's trilogy?

Photo courtesy of aldinegirl12 via Creative Commons

5 comments:

Pooja said...

Great, thought-provoking post. However, I somewhat disagree with this implication that some cultures (i.e. Islam) are untouched by feminism. I believe they are probably untouched by Western, middle-class "Feminism" (which doesn't mean they aren't feminists in their own right).

Mitali Perkins said...

YES! I will amend the post and add in the word "Western." Thanks, Pooja.

Mordena said...

Anyone who imagines that educators and parents "pretend that gender doesn't really matter" clearly does not have a child in the public school system -- or in the world, for that matter. If anything, I'd say the gender divide is drilled into our brains from birth, more strongly than ever. Any child who isn't a pink Disney princess girl or a sports-obsessed boy is a misfit.

gail said...

Our local paper picked up that essay. I read it as being old-fashioned anti-feminism. The use of the words "indoctrination" and "political correctness" are always tipoffs. He's using the popular response to Twilight to support some agenda of his own relating to the validity of sex role stereotyping.

I agree with Mordena. Anyone who thinks that parents and educators have been pretending that gender doesn't matter for the last three decades hasn't been out of his house for the last three decades.

Mitali Perkins said...

Would these books be as popular in another time or place?

I have a strong gut reaction to the male dominance in twilight and other YA novels. I think it's related to my culture of origin's history when it comes to gender.

Would I have had the same aversion to that theme as a teenager? I think so. I was definitely drawn to fiction that featured strong female characters because I rejected the devaluation of girls.

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