In order to verify this I went to the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website and took a look at these fifteen criteria. Now you go read them.
In order to go further, I have to admit that I have read the Twilight series. I did it for my 7th graders. In undergrad I was an education major, and since all of my 7th graders were buzzing about Twilight, I wanted to understand what on earth they were going on about. I finished the series, because my friend’s daughter was super excited about the books. I felt I could give her better books to read if I understood the appeal.
Here’s the thing – the books aren’t just terrible, but they’re the kind of easy read that sticks in your brain. They’re candy. But from this piece of information I have to conclude that they aren’t just candy – but incredibly dangerous candy. Because the checklist checks out. It’s true. On all sides.
The books young women read have to stop setting the example that being abused by men is OK. Authors need to set out to not treat their characters this way, with particular regard to YA fiction. We are already raised in a society where it is hard to learn how to have a backbone. We already live in a society where saying “no” is not okay. We live in a society where the scene in which Jacob kisses Bella against her will gets her father to give him a high five. (and is meant to be funny).
Consent, care, and personal autonomy are all missing for women in this series. Yet it is always the woman’s fault. Every time I hear a young woman say that she wants to be like Bella Swann, or that she wants to have an Edward, I cringe. Because I would hope that they want a relationship free of harm.
It should not be considered “romantic that a man you barely know watches you sleep. It should not be considered “heartwarming” that in order to get her man back, Bella has to risk her life.
These are not the role models we need. We need women who stick up for themselves, women who find good partners, whether they be men or women. We certainly don’t need all fifteen criteria popping up in young adult fiction. Not in a world where domestic violence survivors are asked why they didn’t just run, or how they could “let” it happen to them.
Abuse is never romantic. Don’t let it seem that way. Give the young women in your lives books they can look up to, and books they can live by. Books that will teach them how to love, not how to submit.
Do you have a favorite positive role model for young women? Please share in the comments!