11. “Choice: What Feminism isn’t, and what Bella doesn’t have.”
"But feminism is about choice, and Bella gets to make her own choices!"
This is an argument that I’ve heard not just from fangirls but from the Great Smeyer herself, and while it seems compelling at first glance, the fact is that it’s just as bad an argument as many of the others I’ve addressed over this series.
First, let’s talk about feminism. What is it exactly? Well, in a word it’s equality. If I were to expand that definition, I would say that feminism is about the right be treated and judged the same as those of the XY persuasion, to have the same opportunities, and to have the right of freedom of will the same as any man.
So, it’s not so much about choice as it is the equal right to “choose,” if choice is the end object. For example, if men can choose to remain a bachelor or to be promiscuous without judgment, so too should women be allowed that choice with the same repercussions (or lack thereof) as in men’s case.
So, let’s bring this back ‘round to Twilight. What choices does Bella make? Let’s sample three of her decisions throughout the series.
1. She chooses to follow James’ instructions at the end of Twilight If you’re arguing for Bella as a strong female character who is feminist because she is “allowed” to make her own choices, this is one bad example. Why? Because this choice was a bad one. It revealed Bella as stupid and incapable and led to Edward needing to swoop in to save her. Why? Because she, the weak and silly woman, was too dumb to see through James’ unoriginal scheme and to her detriment made a bad choice because of that. This doesn’t prove that Bella is strong, or that she’s a feminist just because she made a choice. In fiction, the existence of the decision is not so important as the results of that decision themselves and how those results affect the perception of the decision-maker. Here, Bella’s decision forces her into the weak damsel in distress figure yet again, thus propelling the charges of sexism and anti-feminism even further.
2. She ignores Edward’s mandates against visiting Jacob and La Push. This one is a bit tricky. On the surface, it seems like an empowered decision. If you push deeper, however, more unsettling truths emerge. For example, why does she stay with Edward despite his abusive actions? Why does she submit to his attempts to control her behavior the rest of the time? Then, if you turn to the action itself (and forgive me but I don’t have a copy of the book on hand), Bella says something to the effect of ‘I know I won’t get away with this’ or ‘I know Edward’s not going to be happy’ (or something like that), acknowledging his role as an authoritative and dominant partner. She doesn’t like his behavior. She doesn’t appreciate his attempts to control her, yet she exhibits no sense of strength or empowerment and Meyer treats the event like Bella’s “breaking a rule” (Edward’s rule) rather than having the right to do as she pleases. Not only that, but when his actions finally do irritate her—after she realizes that he removed her engine—she doesn’t dump him or bitch at him or say, “fuck off, I’ll do what I want” - instead, she leaves her window open. Even though Edward imposed his will on her and upset her with his abusive and controlling act, she doesn’t respond. She doesn’t get angry. All in all, she thinks of herself as powerless and acts powerless. The choices of an empowered female? I think not.
3. Her “choice” to become a vampire. Throughout the series, this was the one thing that simultaneously irked me and made me glad for her character. On the one hand, I was annoyed that she wanted to give up her humanity, her future, and her friends and family. The fact that she had zero ambition other than gluing herself to Edward’s side for the rest of eternity bugged me. On the other hand, I was glad that she’d made a choice and stuck by it even in the face of Edward’s obvious disapproval and anger over her decision. In books 1-3, Bella did intend to become a vampire. But there are three problems with that. 1) Her becoming a vampire was contingent upon Edward’s agreement (Edward’s choice), 2) it took the Vulturi’s decision and the Vulturi’s timeline to make Edward agree, not hers, and 3) becoming a vampire was never within her power to begin with. It was an illusion of choice, not actual choice. However, Breaking Dawn completely destroyed whatever tenuous thread of empowerment existed. She didn’t get to choose to become a vampire—she was unconscious. She was dying, a broken and bleeding husk. Edward decided when the time was right. Edward chose to make her a vampire. Bella didn’t have any choice in the matter at all, from beginning to end. Becoming a vampire was completely out of her control and even if it weren’t, even if Edward was going to abide by her wishes and make her a vampire in some special candlelit room… that was taken away from her. That illusion of her “choice” was irrelevant in the end because it was Edward who made the decision.
So, what “choices” does Bella make? 1. The “choice” to nearly get herself killed due to her monumental stupidity. 2. The “choice” to submit to abuse, even though it’s emotionally damaging. 3. The “choice” that didn’t actually give her a choice.
2. Beauty (and omg, sparkles!) I’ve ranted on about this elsewhere, but for the sake of covering my bases I’ll do it again. Why do vampires suddenly become Greek gods/goddesses upon transformation? Fans like to say that their beauty makes them attractive to their prey, making it easier for them to catch wee, sparkle-struck Homo sapiens. There are two problems with this, namely that the text contradicts that theory and that even if it were in the text, it makes no sense scientifically.
What does the text say?
Much fuss is made over the vampires’ inhuman beauty, yet Bella is the only idiot actually ATTRACTED to it. Edward says several times how other humans are instinctively afraid and wary of the vampires ON SIGHT; so how does that make any sense whatsoever with the theory that their beauty is a secondary adaptation for hunting? Answer: it doesn’t.
What does evolutionary theory say?
Refresher course for those of who have forgotten: evolution (and if you don’t believe in the humans-and-apes-have-a-common-ancestor theory, remember that evolution is happening every day in bacterial populations—MRSA is the product of evolution [the bacteria which had mutated to be resistant to penicillin and other antibiotics reproduced to create MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant forms of bacteria] so it’s okay to believe in natural selection) works on the principle of natural selection. Basically, natural selection is the idea that on average, the strongest, most-adapted organism will survive (and therefore procreate) and the weakest, least-adapted organism will not (and therefore its gene set is nullified). Evolution is based on reproduction; a lot of biologists argue that reproduction is the overarching biological need in all organisms and that all behavior works to that end.
What does this have to do with meyerpires and how pretty they are?
1. Vampires are already pretty much indestructible as well as the prefect predator for their prey; they are infinitely stronger, faster, smarter. Thus, the following questions must be asked: a. How could beauty have evolved as an adaptation when hardly ANY of them die (meaning that even an ugly vampire would be able to feed and survive), and even if they DID… b. THEY DON’T REPRODUCE. Vampires are not BORN; the only possibility for genetic diversity (reproduction & genetic recombination) is completely NULL thanks to the fact that females are infertile (more on the males later).
“But making a new vampire IS reproduction”
No, it isn’t. In Meyer-land, humans become full vampires rather than half-vampires when turned. This means that there is no sexual reproduction happening because, as we know, sexual reproduction requires two separate sets of DNA (and in the vamping process, the human’s DNA would theoretically combine with the vampire’s to make themselves a half-vampire… this doesn’t happen.). If it was asexual reproduction, like mitosis, then the newly-turned vampire would be an identical copy of its maker, but again this obviously isn’t the case. The only possibility then is that Meyer’s version of vampirism is more like an STD than anything—that is, a virus or bacterial infection that happens to transform its host into a sparkly, scintillating, stunning monster.
So what does this prove, exactly?
Simple: that the vampires’ beauty makes no sense and serves no purpose other than to Mary Sue-ify and Gary Stu-ify the Cullens (and of course Bella).