Sunday, August 17, 2008

Washington Post Takes Another Bite At the Feminist Bookstore

I was settling down to read my Sunday dose of aggravation, also known as the Washington Post’s Outlook section. But just as I’m about to figuratively pat the Outlook editor John Pomfret on the back for a good line up this week I find this column by Leonard Sax called “'Twilight' Sinks Its Teeth Into Feminism.” Oh great, here we go again. Yet another Sunday Outlook author who is selected to tell us feminism doesn’t work -- this time its because women’s genetic code tells us we love baking cookies.

Leonard Sax is interested in discussing the Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, which despite being incredibly popular, I know nothing about it. So I can’t evaluate his summarization of the series and its passive female heroine. But I don’t need to be an expert on teen fiction to find the burning straw woman of Sax’s argument. Which is “hey you feminists, despite all your indoctrination, girls still want to read about passive victims and boys still want to watch porn and play video games. So take that!”

Here’s the key passages:
Yet on some level, it seems that children may know human nature better than grown-ups do.
We really should just make children tenured faculty until they grow up and their education ruins their unspoiled nature.
Consider: The fascination that romance holds for many girls is not a mere social construct; it derives from something deeper.
Boys however do not ever care about romance. That’s why they never understand why all those video games and Star Wars have “rescue the princess” as plot points. Or why Harry Potter had a girlfriend. And feminists truly believe that little girls shouldn’t even know what a romantic fairytale is until they’ve gone through an intensive Womyn’s Studies program in college.
In my research on youth and gender issues, I have found that despite all the indoctrination they've received to the contrary, most of the hundreds of teenage girls I have interviewed in the United States, Australia and New Zealand nevertheless believe that human nature is gendered to the core.
Because, as we’ve shown, if kids believe something, then it is demonstrable fact. Also did you know that candy makes a good lunch?
They are hungry for books that reflect that sensibility. Three decades of adults pretending that gender doesn't matter haven't created a generation of feminists who don't need men;
Feminists, when we say “we want equality” what we really mean is “you are no different from men, in fact you don’t even need men. In fact, we actually hate men.”
they have instead created a horde of girls who adore the traditional male and female roles and relationships in the "Twilight" saga.
Because no other vampire series has ever been popular, ever. And no other book is also popular amongst teens.
Likewise, ignoring gender differences hasn't created a generation of boys who muse about their feelings while they work on their scrapbooks.
Damn it! That means the feminist movement has failed! I mean if little boys aren’t playing with dolls then what else could feminists ever possibly want to achieve?
Instead, a growing number of boys in this country spend much of their free time absorbed in the masculine mayhem of video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Halo or surfing the Internet for pornography.
Yeah, I wondered why at the NOW national conference the panel on "How to Separate Men From Their Video Games and Porn" was so poorly attended. I guess every video game out there (and porno) is just more proof that our national goal of emasculation isn’t working. Why! Why must we always fight these losing battles against HUMAN NATURE instead of trying to achieve tangible successes like getting equal pay for equal work and getting access to contraception? I’m sure glad we never tried to go after sexual harassment in the workplace either, because god knows it’s just in men’s nature to be assholes and you can’t change that either.
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.
So starting back in 1978, little girls who were told “you can’t be anything you want to be,” really should have been told “but really all you want is to be the princess rescued by the cuddly teddy bear.” I can see now why that section I was taught in primary school called “WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU ARE A BOY OR A GIRL” was invented. To beat out of me any inherent genetic ideas I had about loving teddy bears and unicorns, and Princess Leia in an iron bikini. Little girls who want to be the hero of their own fiction? Sorry, it’s just in your HUMAN NATURE to have limited fantasies. Oh and stop bothering the boys for a turn on the Nintendo Wii, you know video games are only for boys.

--Crossposted at NewsCat


Habladora said...

Great take-down of an idiotic argument, NewsCat. There seems to be a popular formula for getting published in the Outlook section:
1. Redefine feminism
2. Invent some conspiracy and attribute it to feminism without any evidence - here that there was some elementary course designed to teach kids that boys should hate their wieners, or something.
3. Don't present any data - only hearsay "All the underage girls I talk to about romance say..." (Sax, stay away from my kids, you creep.)
4. End by ignoring how much better the world actually is for women now that they can do things like vote and divorce abusive husbands.

Maggie said...

I'm sick to death of the Twilight-is-feminist or Twilight-is-anti-feminist articles. Why do we have to allow pop culture to define serious gender issues? Maybe we should look at, oh, I don't know, how people actually live their lives instead of what they read on an airplane.

As for me, I'm not reading it. Ever. (As a lapsed Mormon, reading something by a Mormon housewife is guaranteed to annoy me to no end.)

Girls like the book because there's a girl who has two hot guys who both want her. I think it's pretty simple, a tried and true standard. While the book spouts some pretty un-feminist ideas, reading it doesn't mean endorsing it.

Habladora said...

The point to Sax, I think, has little to nothing to do with the Twilight series - the books are simply being used as a prop in his gender-essentialist promo piece. I do think, though, that pop culture is important - we get a lot of our ideas about how the world works/should work from the images we're exposed to, and those ingrained notions can be hard to overcome.