A Feminist’s Guide To Curing Yourself of Twilight-Mania

Sarah Seltzer

Too attached to Edward Cullen for your feminist sensibilities? Just in time for Thanksgiving, here's an unorthodox guide to kicking the Twilight habit.

Too attached to Edward Cullen for
your feminist sensibilities? Just in time for Thanksgiving, here’s an
unorthodox guide to kicking the Twilight habit.

You know Twilight‘s central tension
embraces abstinence (from biting as well as other carnal pleasures), and its
romantic relationship is frighteningly stalker-like. You understand
intellectually that its female protagonist doesn’t have much of a personality
to speak of, and that she’s way too willing to sacrifice everything for her
undead boyfriend, including: her life, her relationship with her befuddled
parents who can’t figure out their daughter’s long absences and broken bones,
and her irritating "normal"  friends (Non-supernatural people.
Ew.) You recognize with your head that The
Twilight Saga
is as un-feminist as it gets.

But maybe you still like it. A lot. Maybe it reminds you of being a teenager
and wishing someone would single you out as special, or feeling like everything
in your life was a Big Deal of epic proportions. Maybe turning Twilight‘s pages at a frantic pace
reminded you that reading books can be like eating cotton candy–sweet, fluffy,
addictive and pleasantly substance-free.

That was certainly the case for me. Even as I made furious notes for a screed
about the series’ retrograde overtones, I simultaneously felt transported back
to reading paperback mysteries late at night with the bathroom door open for
light until my head hurt. I credit the series for reigniting that childhood passion,
reminding me that reading can be just as compulsive and joyously perverse as
other media.

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There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something that’s bad for you once in a
while. But perhaps you wish you could enjoy the Twilight novels and films with a wee bit more ironic distance.
Maybe reading a list of the book’s weird anti-feminist properties isn’t enough
to give you that distance. It may take more than a little thoughtful analysis
to rip those shiny, back, door-stopper-length novels from your clutch.

That’s why I offer a four step guide to extricating yourself, your adolescent
friends, or any other Sparkly Vampire-besotted readers in your life, from the
grips of Twilight-mania.

1-Talk to someone who thinks Edward
Cullen is actually, non-problematically, an ideal man.

To achieve this goal, you likely just need to point at a random woman under
the age of 40, but it may take a little searching. When you hear a real, live
person say with wide eyes that she wishes her partner were more like Edward,
you will begin to feel the Twilight
ties loosen. Sure, you’ve enjoyed the "Romeo and Juliet/Heathcliff and
Cathy go to high school" quality of the books. But you wouldn’t actually
want to date Romeo or Heathcliff. And you don’t want to be in the same category
with someone who genuinely wishes strange men snuck into her room and watched
her sleep, sternly forbid her from doing things he didn’t like, or caused you
to ignore everyone else in your life.

If you know in your heart that Edward shouldn’t be real, then meeting one of
these super-fans is a great first step towards a cure.

2- Watch the Edward vs. Buffy video.
Then watch it again.

But what if you are one of those fans, secretly or proudly? What if you know
you shouldn‘t love Edward but you
dream of his chiseled marble body clutching yours in a cold death grip–err, a
loving embrace? Then this video, which was widely circulated throughout the
feminist blogosphere, may do the trick. It’s a mash-up between Edward and Buffy
clips that’s wonderfully seamless. It’s also very feminist minded, as it’s creator Jonathan
McIntosh noted
. As Buffy
spunkily tells Edward off and then resorts to violence to pry his pouting
presence off of her, the mash-up reveals two truths: firstly, how creepy
Edward’s behavior is throughout the story, and two, how utterly passive Bella
is. But perhaps more than both these visceral realities about Twilight is the contrast between the
sharp, smart, tongue-in-cheek attitude of Buffy and the overly serious,
plodding quality of Twilight. If its moral implications aren’t troubling, then
perhaps aesthetic ones will be. This is seriously wooden stuff.

3-Read the Sookie Stackhouse, Anita Blake or Anne Rice novels.

Speaking of aesthetic implications, it may be time to graduate to a more
action-packed vampire series, one that features lots of biting, sex, and
supernatural mayhem. Many of these series carry some of the same appeal as
Twilight–Sookie and Anita Blake are both lusted after by numerous non-human
creatures and Sookie, like Bella, feels different and isolated until her
contact with the undead begins. But these epics are so jam-packed with death,
explicit romance, and drama, that they make the Twilight series seem as staid and boring as, well, it is.

For me, the Sookie Stackhouse novels, recommended by a feminist friend who had
ravenously read Twilight after I lent
her the books, were a near-total cure. Compared to Sookie, a sassy heroine who
bites her undead lovers right back after they bite her, stakes and shoots her
rivals when they threaten her life, and still has time to go to the tanning
salon, Bella seemed unbelievably drippy. And these other Vamp-loving authors
make one realize that romance isn’t the only thing Stephenie Meyer is afraid to
bring to a satisfying conclusion. After reading a series that features massive
battles between vampires, Weretigers, Werewolves, shape-shifters,
fundamentalist human terrorists and sadistic faeries, the limp or off-screen
action scenes and confrontations in the Twilight
novels seem incredibly lame.

As for the appropriateness of these other series compared to Twilight, they are more explicit, yes.
But they only illustrate what is heavily, breathily suggested throughout every
moment of the Twilight books.

4. Read, or re-read Breaking Dawn–or just think about it for a while–and then
discover the fan’s revolt:

So you’ve read Sookie and followed Lestat and you still have a yen for Twilight? Have you really looked closely
at the last book? With its really rabidly anti-choice plot (Bella refuses to
abort the demon baby that is literally killing her), its incredibly creepy
resolution to the Bella-Jacob romance (Jacob "imprints"–falls in future-love
with, Bella’s newborn daughter, thus neatly explaining his attraction to Bella
herself), and its complete failure of a climax (no one fights after two huge
armies are mustered), Breaking Dawn
dashes all hopes that turning Bella into a vampire would provide redemption for
the lackluster character.

But feminists weren’t the only ones upset by the book. What’s been overshadowed by the wild frenzy
of reporting on Twilight-mania is
that many of the series’ original fans were not pleased at all with
Breaking Dawn
. They felt that Meyer had broken the rules of
her own canon and written a  cutesy ending. Over 2,000 of them signed a
petition complaining about the installment, and many encouraged each other to return
the books to stores in protest. Just watch a sample youtube video, google
"Breaking Dawn fail" or read the first few entries in the book’s Urban Dictionary page to see what I mean.

The young people who revolted against this book are the original Twilight fans, the ones who read the
series based on word of mouth, who loved Edward Cullen before they knew who
Robert Pattinson was.  If Stephenie Meyer herself, with no outside help,
managed to tarnish the series’s luster for these folks, then you have no

These steps completed, you should now be able to laugh at your former love of Twilight. even as you step out the door
to see New Moon at theaters. Still
love the series? Well, don’t lose sleep. Your senators may be actually
betraying feminism–you’re just indulging in some literary junk food.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

Commentary Economic Justice

The Gender Wage Gap Is Not Women’s Fault, and Here’s the Report That Proves It

Kathleen Geier

The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work.

A new report confirms what millions of women already know: that women’s choices are not to blame for the gender wage gap. Instead, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the progressive think tank that issued the report, say that women’s unequal pay is driven by “discrimination, social norms, and other factors beyond women’s control.”

This finding—that the gender pay gap is caused by structural factors rather than women’s occupational choices—is surprisingly controversial. Indeed, in my years as a journalist covering women’s economic issues, the subject that has been most frustrating for me to write about has been the gender gap. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked as a consultant for EPI, though not on this particular report.) No other economic topic I’ve covered has been more widely misunderstood, or has been so outrageously distorted by misrepresentations, half-truths, and lies.

That’s because, for decades, conservatives have energetically promoted the myth that the gender pay gap does not exist. They’ve done such a bang-up job of it that denying the reality of the gap, like denying the reality of global warming, has become an article of faith on the right. Conservative think tanks like the Independent Women’s Forum and the American Enterprise Institute and right-wing writers at outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Breitbart, and the Daily Caller have denounced the gender pay gap as “a lie,” “not the real story,” “a fairy tale,” “a statistical delusion,” and “the myth that won’t die.” Sadly, it is not only right-wing propagandists who are gender wage gap denialists. Far more moderate types like Slate’s Hanna Rosin and the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson have also claimed that the gender wage gap statistic is misleading and exaggerates disparities in earnings.

According to the most recent figures available from the Census Bureau, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes only 79 cents, a statistic that has barely budged in a decade. And that’s just the gap for women overall; for most women of color, it’s considerably larger. Black women earn only 61 percent of what non-Hispanic white men make, and Latinas earn only 55 percent as much. In a recent survey, U.S. women identified the pay gap as their biggest workplace concern. Yet gender wage gap denialists of a variety of political stripes contend that gender gap statistic—which measures the difference in median annual earnings between men and women who work full-time, year-round—is inaccurate because it does not compare the pay of men and women doing the same work. They argue that when researchers control for traits like experience, type of work, education, and the like, the gender gap evaporates like breath on a window. In short, the denialists frame the gender pay gap as the product not of sexist discrimination, but of women’s freely made choices.

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The EPI study’s co-author, economist Elise Gould, said in an interview with Rewire that she and her colleagues realized the need for the new report when an earlier paper generated controversy on social media. That study had uncovered an “unadjusted”—meaning that it did not control for differences in workplace and personal characteristics—$4 an hour gender wage gap among recent college graduates. Gould said she found this pay disparity “astounding”: “You’re looking at two groups of people, men and women, with virtually the same amount of experience, and yet their wages are so different.” But critics on Twitter, she said, claimed that the wage gap simply reflected the fact that women were choosing lower-paid jobs. “So we wanted to take out this one idea of occupational choice and look at that,” Gould said.

Gould and her co-author Jessica Schieder highlight two important findings in their EPI report. One is that, even within occupations, and even after controlling for observable factors such as education and work experience, the gender wage gap remains stubbornly persistent. As Gould told me, “If you take a man and a woman sitting side by side in a cubicle, doing the same exact job with the same amount of experience and the same amount of education, on average, the man is still going to be paid more than the woman.”

The EPI report cites the work of Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, who looked at the relative weight in the overall wage gap of gender-based pay differences within occupations versus those between occupations. She found that while gender pay disparities between different occupations explain 32 percent of the gap, pay differences within the same occupation account for far more—68 percent, or more than twice as much. In other words, even if we saw equal numbers of men and women in every profession, two-thirds of the gender wage gap would still remain.

And yes, female-dominated professions pay less, but the reasons why are difficult to untangle. It’s a chicken-and-egg phenomenon, the EPI report explains, raising the question: Are women disproportionately nudged into low-status, low-wage occupations, or do these occupations pay low wages simply because it is women who are doing the work?

Historically, “women’s work” has always paid poorly. As scholars such as Paula England have shown, occupations that involve care work, for example, are associated with a wage penalty, even after controlling for other factors. But it’s not only care work that is systematically devalued. So, too, is work in other fields where women workers are a majority—even professions that were not initially dominated by women. The EPI study notes that when more women became park rangers, for example, overall pay in that occupation declined. Conversely, as computer programming became increasingly male-dominated, wages in that sector began to soar.

The second major point that Gould and Schieder emphasize is that a woman’s occupational choice does not occur in a vacuum. It is powerfully shaped by forces like discrimination and social norms. “By the time a woman earns her first dollar, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, parental expectations, hiring practices, and widespread norms and expectations about work/family balance,” Gould told Rewire. One study cited by Gould and Schieder found that in states where traditional attitudes about gender are more prevalent, girls tend to score higher in reading and lower in math, relative to boys. It’s one of many findings demonstrating that cultural attitudes wield a potent influence on women’s achievement. (Unfortunately, the EPI study does not address racism, xenophobia, or other types of bias that, like sexism, shape individuals’ work choices.)

Parental expectations also play a key role in shaping women’s occupational choices. Research reflected in the EPI study shows that parents are more likely to expect their sons to enter male-dominated science, technology, engineering, and math (often called STEM) fields, as opposed to their daughters. This expectation holds even when their daughters score just as well in math.

Another factor is the culture in male-dominated industries, which can be a huge turn-off to women, especially women of color. In one study of women working in science and technology, Latinas and Black women reported that they were often mistaken for janitors—something that none of the white women in the study had experienced. Another found that 52 percent of highly qualified women working in science and technology ended up leaving those fields, driven out by “hostile work environments and extreme job pressures.”

Among those pressures are excessively long hours, which make it difficult to balance careers with unpaid care work, for which women are disproportionately responsible. Goldin’s research, Gould said, shows that “in jobs that have more temporal flexibility instead of inflexibility and long hours, you do see a smaller gender wage gap.” Women pharmacists, for example, enjoy relatively high pay and a narrow wage gap, which Goldin has linked to flexible work schedules and a professional culture that enables work/life balance. By contrast, the gender pay gap is widest in highest-paying fields such as finance, which disproportionately reward those able to work brutally long hours and be on call 24/7.

Fortunately, remedies for the gender wage gap are at hand. Gould said that strong enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, greater wage transparency (which can be achieved through unions and collective bargaining), and more flexible workplace policies would all help to alleviate gender-based pay inequities. Additional solutions include raising the minimum wage, which would significantly boost the pay of the millions of women disproportionately concentrated in the low-wage sector, and enacting paid family leave, a policy that would be a boon for women struggling to combine work and family. All of these issues are looming increasingly large in our national politics.

But in order to advance these policies, it’s vital to debunk the right’s shameless, decades-long disinformation campaign about the gender gap. The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work. The right alleges that the official gender pay gap figure exaggerates the role of discrimination. But even statistics that adjust for occupation and other factors can, in the words of the EPI study, “radically understate the potential for gender discrimination to suppress women’s earnings.”

Contrary to conservatives’ claims, women did not choose to be paid consistently less than men for work that is every bit as valuable to society. But with the right set of policies, we can reverse the tide and bring about some measure of economic justice to the hard-working women of the United States.