Twilight: Cloudy With A Chance of Rape Culture

Content Note: Rape Culture, Examples of Misogynistic Language

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 11, Edward and Bella will experience strong physical feelings for one another and will get to know each other better as they traverse a new daily routine. Meanwhile, Mike volunteers to be Bella's gym partner and expresses his disapproval of Edward. 

Twilight, Chapter 11: Complications

No one is perfect, least of all me.

And this is a difficult concept for me. Not because I think I'm perfect -- I know I'm far from it -- but because I've always been convinced, from a very young age, that I should be. Blame my parents, my upbringing, my society, or my genetic makeup, but more than one psychiatrist has correctly observed that I struggle with an overwhelming need to please people, that I have difficulty asserting boundaries, and that a very great deal of my anxiety stems from trying, and predictably failing, to be literally perfect.

One of the unexpected sources of anxiety for me in the wake of my moderate (and surprising) success as a feminist blogger-slash-author is that now I expect myself to be even more perfect because I don't want to hurt or disappoint anyone. And that puts me in a tricky position, because the main way that I communicate is through emoting, and that frequently begins with me sharing a time I was wrong, and the things I learned in the wake of that wrongyness. Since I can't change my emotive nature and since I don't want to give up blogging, I've decided to attempt to chuck the perfectionist tendencies and just embrace being perpetually wrong as a learning method. I hope you can all still like me despite my wrongyness.

Today, the particular thing I am wrong about is my initial-and-incorrect impulse to victim-blame Bella.

Bella heads to gym class after her first electricity-themed Biology class with Edward, only to find that today is badminton day (do they really teach badminton in schools? I missed that particular facet of gym, apparently) and her reputation as a one-woman wrecking crew has left her with few volunteers as partners. None of Edward's family attends gym with Bella, and her few girlfriends are either absent or reluctant to partner with her, which leaves her with the ubiquitous Mike.

   I walked into the gym, lightheaded and wobbly. I drifted to the locker room, changing in a trancelike state, only vaguely aware that there were other people surrounding me. Reality didn’t fully set in until I was handed a racket. It wasn’t heavy, yet it felt very unsafe in my hand. I could see a few of the other kids in class eyeing me furtively. Coach Clapp ordered us to pair up into teams.
   Mercifully, some vestiges of Mike’s chivalry still survived; he came to stand beside me.
   “Do you want to be a team?”
   “Thanks, Mike — you don’t have to do this, you know.” I grimaced apologetically.
   “Don’t worry, I’ll keep out of your way.” He grinned. Sometimes it was so easy to like Mike.

My first thought on reading this -- the wrong thought -- was some variation of Bella, what the hell are you doing? This is Mike. Mike who tried to pressure you into changing your travel plans so that you could accommodate him to the dance you hadn't actually asked him to. Mike who was all too eager to feel you up when you felt faint that time when Mr. Banner was stalking the aisles stabbing people's fingers for blood. Mike who was more interested in blaming you for being ill than he was in getting medical aid help for you. Mike who pointedly invited you -- and not Edward, whom he clearly considered a rival for your affections -- to a "group" outing, so that he could then spend the bulk of the outing making you uncomfortable with his unwelcome advances and unjustified jealously of Jacob Black. Mike who kept your friend Jessica on hold so that he could ask you out again and whom you had to tell very, very bluntly that you Were. Not. Interested.

So why the hell do you think it's a good idea to hang around with Mike? 

This is not a good thing for me to think. And if you'll stay with me for a moment, I'll explain why.

I'm not being unfair to Mike -- five minutes after gym class is over, Mike will aptly demonstrate just how thoroughly marinated he is in rape culture and male privilege by raking Bella over the coals for her choice of boyfriends. 

   “So,” he said as we walked off the court.
   “So what?”
   “You and Cullen, huh?” he asked, his tone rebellious. My previous feeling of affection disappeared.
   “That’s none of your business, Mike,” I warned, internally cursing Jessica straight to the fiery pits of Hades.
   “I don’t like it,” he muttered anyway.
   “You don’t have to,” I snapped.
   “He looks at you like . . . like you’re something to eat,” he continued, ignoring me.
   I choked back the hysteria that threatened to explode, but a small giggle managed to get out despite my efforts. He glowered at me. I waved and fled to the locker room.

For Mike to leap from would-be suitor to critiquing Bella's choice of boyfriends is highly inappropriate. Mike doesn't have the necessary maturity and distance to even begin to fairly evaluate Bella's choices for his own personal opinions, let alone to start sharing those opinions unprompted with Bella. Mike and Bella do not have anywhere near the kind of friendship where it is appropriate for him to start offering his opinions on her love life. If he knew something concrete and solid about Edward, it might be appropriate to volunteer that "look, I'm not trying to interfere with your life, but I think you should know that Edward was implicated in a suspicious death last year", but to just start in on how Edward "looks" at Bella (an extremely subjective subject, and one where Mike is apt to project his own feelings onto the situation; and yes, I realize this is a cutesy pun on Edward's vampire nature) is really Not Cool, Guy.

So my "why the hell are you hanging out with Mike" thought isn't unfair to Mike -- in fact it's spot on as a predictor of Mike's behavior. But that's the slippery slope of victim-blaming. When we start to treat rapists and rape culture enforcers as predictable and unchangeable, when we treat them as a natural force to be reckoned with, like rain or sleet or tornadoes or hurricanes, then we stop expecting more from them and we start expecting the impossible from their victims. Already I'm doing this with Bella: instead of blaming Mike for continuing to aggress against Bella, I'm blaming her for hanging out with him. I should know better, but that's how deeply rape culture embeds itself into our psyche.

An ugly truth is that Bella is easy to blame because she's easy to dislike. She's intensely negative in her thoughts and attitudes, and frequently against people who don't seem (to me) to deserve her ire. A good example is in her immediate reaction to Mike above: she's annoyed at Mike, but fiercely angry at Jessica. Why? The implication is that Jessica is the one who told Mike about Bella and Edward, but there's no evidence for this. Bella and Edward have been eating lunch together for multiple days now, and have been eye-flirting through multiple lunches and Biology classes. Angela was present when Edward took Bella to dinner in Port Angeles, Jessica was never cautioned by Bella to not tell anyone else about them dating, and Edward's entire family is very possibly aware of their relationship. The information that Bella and Edward are dating could have come to Mike from a number of sources, or Jessica could have told him under emotional duress -- we've already seen that Mike is not above bullying the women he talks to. And yet it's Jessica that Bella immediately blames for this situation, and not Mike.

Yet as strongly as I dislike Bella's internal bashing of Jessica, it strikes me that Bella is just doing what I was already doing: she's treating Mike's bad behavior as an expected constant and she's expecting the women in his life to moderate his behavior for him. So while I expect Bella to not hang out with Mike because it will "cause" more bad behavior (or, more accurately, "create an opportunity", as though Mike needs any help to create opportunities to harass a woman he sees multiple times every day), Bella in turn expects Jessica to not relay information to Mike because doing so will "cause" more bad behavior. In all these scenarios, Mike is treated as an unchanging force of nature, and the women around him are expected to take strong measures to protect themselves and others from the unstoppable force that is Mike.


Bella is seventeen years old, which is a very young age to have extensive experience with pushing back against male privilege and asserting one's own boundaries. She lives in a culture that strongly pressures girls to go along with other people's wishes and to not "make waves". She has grown up in a family environment where she has not been encouraged to assert personal boundaries or place her emotional needs above those of her parents. She has moved to a small town where all her potential friends, both male and female, are centered around the nexus of popular boy Mike. She has every reason to stay on Mike's good side: overtly shunning his friendship could lead to social estrangement and even violent repercussions (i.e., "city bitch thinks she's too good for us"). Mike has frequently demonstrated dangerous impulses; he has on numerous occasions applied social pressure to Bella, asserted his jealous possession of her person, and taken advantage of her physical incapacitation.

The fact that Mike sets off all my Schrodinger's Rapist alarm bells doesn't mean that Bella has a responsibility to avoid Mike. Indeed, as outlined above, I'm highly doubtful that she's been given the physical, social, and emotional tools which she would need in order to enforce a total estrangement policy against someone she is forced to see on a daily basis. Bella absolutely should not be condemned for trying to stay on Mike's good side in the face of all this pressure. When we fail to recognize that, we play into the hands of rape culture and we end up holding victims accountable for the actions of their own victimizers.

The only person to blame for Mike's actions is Mike. Mike makes a choice, every day, whether or not to victimize Bella and others like her. He is not a force of nature, or a puppet with no control over his actions. When Bella is in Biology class with him, he chooses whether or not to pressure her to change her plans to accommodate his desires. When Bella attends a group outing, he chooses whether or not to push her into accepting a seat in the van next to him so that he can lavish more unwanted attention on her. When Bella speaks to her friends, he decides whether or not to put on a display of angry jealousy as though Bella were his property that the other men are trying to infringe upon. When Bella is incapacitated, Mike chooses whether or not to put her needs before his urge to invade her personal boundaries. When Bella needs a gym partner, Mike makes a decision whether or not to confine his remarks to comfortable, friendly topics or to harangue Bella over her personal life decisions that are not Mike's business.

Mike chooses to do these things. Bella isn't responsible for Mike's actions. She's not responsible for "leading him on" or "providing him an opportunity". Mike is fully motivated and capable of making his own opportunities regardless of what Bella does, and there is little-to-nothing that Bella can do to stop him given their current situation. I know these things, but I still have to remind myself of them, over and over, to combat that internal ugh, what are you doing Bella voice. That scares me a little.

The siren call of victim-blaming is that if we do everything just right, if we're really smart and savvy and clever, then we can't be victims. If we play strong defense and maintain a good offense and deny access and All The Sports Metaphors, then we'll be safe from the victimizers. Or -- even if we can't ever truly be safe from the victimizers -- we can at least be safe from the second-victimization that comes when society blames us and the justice system fails us. If we're absolutely perfect all the time in our rape defenses, then we'll have gained a measure of safety.

Reality doesn't match the sales pitch. Everything that Bella does here makes perfect sense, given her circumstances. She has every conceivable reason to try to maintain a friendship with Mike. She has every conceivable pressure to keep her from effectively estranging Mike. Society absolutely would not back her up if she effectively and assertively estranged him here and now, simply based on all the bad behavior he has exhibited towards her in the past. That is how prevalent rape culture is: that so many people can look at Mike Newton and not see a budding sexual predator who consistently and deliberately crosses social boundaries in an attempt to assert power over Bella. Every time we've seen Mike on-page, he's crossed a major social boundary in an attempt to mark Bella as his. And yet this gets played up as nothing, as a sign of Bella's attractiveness, or as a point about sweet, nice, awkward high school boys (in contrast to Edward's brooding, violent maturity).

And the thing is, Mike might go his entire life without raping anyone. But even if he does, that doesn't make him or his actions harmless. He has consistently objectified Bella from her first day at school. His actions have made it abundantly clear to her that she is a sex object first and a person second. He has shown Bella on every occasion that his attraction to her is much, much more important than her personal comfort -- at every opportunity he has pushed the knowledge that he has pantsfeelings for her on her, again and again, rather than allow her to enjoy the company of her friends in peace without being pressured. Mike has systematically made Bella -- already not one to enjoy social outings -- feel harassed and unsafe when she is surrounded by other people, and her natural withdrawal into isolation isn't going to do her any favors when Edward leaves her and she sinks into an extended depression. Mike's attention, even if it never escalates to rape, isn't harmless. It is actively harmful.

I want to quote something I read this week on Captain Awkward. This is a comment by one elodieunderglass. I am quoting the comment in full, as elodieunderglass gives permission further in the comments for people to share the story as long as they share it respectfully and don't try to work out the identities of the people involved. I believe that every word in her comment is worth savoring, and I think it's relevant to the Mike situation in particular and rape culture in general.

Not surprisingly, I have a story? It’s pretty long, and I’m sorry. My husband, Doctor Glass, recently went on a weeklong workshop. The participants worked on teams, slept in a dormitory, shared meals and spent all day together. While there, Dr Glass acquired a strikingly beautiful female friend, who was absolutely luminous – like a fallen star or a revolutionary. She was also just about to enter university, making her very much younger than Dr Glass. They were on the same team, had much in common, and seemed to enjoy each other.

However, there was a twenty-something dude on the course who, according to Dr Glass, “made things awkward.” Immediately, he tried to make the workshop all about his pantsfeelings for Luminous Girl. Although he was on a different team, he was constantly buzzing around Dr Glass and Luminous Girl, getting in their way (which was dangerous and distracting, as they were doing physical labor) and trying to get her to talk to him, work with him, come over and look at his work, etc. In return she tried to ignore him, laughed him off politely, repeatedly referenced her desire to do her work, physically moved away whenever he got close to her, and stuck like glue to Dr Glass; saying NO in all those thousand little pleasant ways that women are trained to do. Awkward Dude tried to impress her with physical activity, but Dr Glass cut him off because he was being distracting. Confused and annoyed, Awkward stepped up his Game, trying to impress her with his intellectual cred, and it went down like a lead zeppelin, with Luminous and Dr Glass resuming their own work and conversations. So Awkward started loudly asking wasn’t Dr Glass married?!

At this, Awkward Dude attempted to kill Dr Glass with his laser-eyeballs at every turn, lurking and glaring and pining like a bad Snape impersonator. (Dr Glass wasn’t sure why he was suddenly the target of the resulting animosity, as he clearly had no romantic interest in Luminous, until I explained it to him: Dude had decided that the reason Luminous Girl was not sleeping with him was because she was the Possession of Another Male, and further, a Male who Already Had His Fair Share of Females; thus Dr Glass was the enemy for not shunning her and leaving a clear path for fellow males. “Oh,” said Dr Glass in sudden revelation, “That makes sense, I guess.”)

But the guy persisted – it wasn’t that Luminous didn’t like him! It was that she was clearly in thrall of my husband. The solution was to get her alone! So whenever they sat down to a lecture, Luminous, practically dragging Dr Glass by the arm, would move like lightning to position herself between him and a safe wall – with her lovely admirer circling them and glaring, loudly asking Dr Glass about his Wife Back Home. Awkward Dude implied that Dr Glass was creepy and odd for always hanging out with a girl half his age. Awkward Dude was annoyed that the course director, an older woman who should presumably know better, had assigned dorm space based on teams, so that Dr Glass and Luminous bunked in adjacent rooms (while he, Awkward Dude, was in the wing with the married couples!) because it was inappropriate and wrong to place a married man next to a teenaged female. On a particularly cold day, Dr Glass noticed that Luminous did not have warm clothing, and lent her an extra hoodie. It happened to have his name on it; Awkward Dude practically ignited, to the point where even the other people on the course were laughing awkwardly at him and saying “Uh, she’s… allowed to wear clothes?”

Luminous and Dr Glass both liked hiking, so one evening after dinner, they went out for a hike by themselves – not inviting the others in case Awkward Dude got wind of their plans. (“I mean, it sounds cruel, but I just hated him,” Dr Glass said.) It was after curfew when they walked back to their rooms,and the halls were completely dark; Dr Glass hung back to fill his water bottle. When he got to the rooms, at the end of the corridor, Luminous had been cornered by Awkward Dude. When Awkward spotted Dr Glass, he yelled at him about how inappropriate it was to go hiking alone with Luminous. Luminous seized the opportunity to flee to her room, locking the door. “I think it’s inappropriate to police her hiking,” Dr Glass said mildly and went to bed.

The next day was the last day of the course, and Dr Glass had had enough. Awkward Dude was “trying it on” in front of the whole group, making everyone uncomfortable. He had dragged Luminous into yet another unwanted conversation and Dr Glass called him out, in front of everybody, a deadly blow to Awkward’s pride. Awkward Dude tried to appeal to the group – he was only trying to be friendly – but Dr Glass had him up against the ropes, metaphorically, he’d broken the floodgates, and everyone began to laugh at Awkward instead: the old married couples, the other young men, and Luminous.

“I really feel bad about that, actually,” Dr Glass said. He hadn’t really wanted to humiliate the younger man in front of everybody, especially since his only crime had been really inept flirting. Was it really Dr Glass’s place to speak for Luminous? Perhaps he’d made a big deal out of nothing. But Dr Glass didn’t regret it. He just felt odd. He didn’t know why he’d been so savage over something so banal as Awkward’s favorite movie. He was pretty sure that he didn’t regard Luminous as a possession, or something to be protected. He’d just snapped.


Well, Dr Glass wanted to assume good intentions on everyone’s part. They’d all lived together, after all, eaten together, worked together. Emotions had run high. It would have been pretty terrible for the Dude if he’d been ostracized right at the beginning, just because he wasn’t very good at talking to girls. After all, he was there for the workshop. They all were.

“AAAAH,” I wound down, “But what Luminous? WHOSE WORKSHOP WAS RUINED BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T FEEL SAFE?! She couldn’t just relax and enjoy spending time with you/her other new friends/nature – she practically had to have a bathroom buddy! He didn’t even let her focus on the work she was PAYING MONEY to do! You did not cross a line! HE CROSSED THE FUCKING LINE!”

Dr Glass totally agreed. But he still felt oddly uncomfortable about it all, as if there was something there to regret, like he was missing a piece of the puzzle. And then I asked The Question. And after I asked The Question, his face changed. He looked sick. “I didn’t think of that.” After The Question, he wished he’d been more explicit – gone to the course director. Been there more for Luminous. The good intentions that he wanted to assume, the passes he was willing to give the other man, evaporated, completely. They had evaporated for me, halfway through the story.

When I tell this story to women, they spot The Question right away. The men don’t; they think that Dr Glass behaved like a gentleman, neither doing too much nor too little. They are feminist men, and good people. They have read “The Gift of Fear” and they talk about privilege and the patriarchy, and they don’t spot it.

The Question is this: Why Was Awkward Dude Waiting For Her In The Dark?

Earlier in the story we heard that his own room was far away from hers. It was dark, at the end of a dark hall. He was waiting there, after midnight, with the lights off. HE HAD BEEN WAITING FOR HER IN THE DARK AT THE END OF A DARK HALL AFTER CURFEW, HE KNEW SHE HAD GONE OUT AND HE WAS WAITING FOR HER TO COME BACK. He was angry when he realized that she wasn’t alone. And Luminous was afraid – bolting into her room. Locking the door. And the women go HOLY FUCK WHAT IS THAT as soon as they hear about the atmosphere, and the men just accept it as another anecdote of Awkward Dude’s awkwardness, you know? Because how rude/silly/inept to pester a woman about hiking with another man! While the women are going BAD INTENTIONS BAD INTENTIONS FUCK SHIT THAT WOULD NOT HAVE ENDED WELL. And then you point out The Question to the men, and wait a while, and they suddenly go OH. OH MY GOD. WHY WAS HE WAITING FOR HER IN THE DARK. THAT’S – THAT’S PRETTY FUCKING SKETCHY. Everything changes. Dude-sympathy is gone. They put on the Matrix-goggles and peer into the world that apparently only women see. Awkward cornered Luminous in the dark after curfew at the end of the hall when he thought she was alone and he had a lot of anger and when my husband showed up he read Luminous as afraid and she ran into her room and locked the door. That is the reality. The good intentions, they are not there. Perhaps Awkward would have said that they were, that we, in our paranoia, are seeing rape in every dark corner. Perhaps he was trying to apologize for his previous behavior, or lend her a book, or make sure that she got back safely from her hike… so he’d chosen to do so alone, in the dark, making her afraid. That was what had been bothering Dr Glass. He wasn’t wearing the Goggles of Feminine Intuition, but he picked up on the signals that something wasn’t right. Seeing the Question doesn’t make you paranoid – it means your instincts are working.

If you live in the world of women, it isn’t your duty to educate everybody, to hand-hold and explain, to pass out Matrix-goggles. It’s Situation Normal: All Fucked Up. But perhaps you, Letter Writers, have good men, men who just need to wear the goggles.

That’s not really what I think, but our society is fucked up. I’ll assume good intentions on their part. Maybe it will help.

The thing that frustrates me about this excellent story -- and it is an excellent one, well worth tattooing on everyone's brain -- is that it highlights how strongly we as a culture tend to personize men and otherize women. There's so much pressure to feel sorry for the man, to characterize him as inept, as silly, as buffoonish. Even people who recognize that his actions are making a woman feel unsafe, uncomfortable, and unhappy tend to downplay her feelings because we're socialized from birth -- by a thousand movies, books, and television shows -- to sympathize with the unlikely suitor who has set his sights on the beautiful girl.

Without meaning to sound flippant, I don't care whether or not Creepy Guy was a would-be rapist in this story. I didn't even catch The Question, truth be told, because I was too busy being distracted by another question that has been bothering me: Why do we persistently value and legitimize the feelings of men over women? Why do we allow men such total leeway to terrorize women under the guise that they have some kind of God Given Right to express their attraction to them? Why do we refuse to extend to women the right to be treated like people instead of like objects to be won over in a shitty romantic comedy? And what do we need to do to change this, to prioritize a woman's right to move and act and exist in public without being assumed to be a willing receptacle for "I Would Very Much Like To Fuck You" comment cards?

If the story above had ended at the hoodie story and hadn't progressed to the hiking story, I would still view Creepy Guy as a serious threat to women's safety. Because it's not enough to not be a rapist or an attempted rapist. It's not enough by a long shot. So much damage can be done to women long before we ever even get to rape. And these are the guys who do that damage -- the ones who aggressively and persistently cross social boundaries in order to convey the Very Important Fact that they have a boner for a woman in the room. And our larger society allows it when we -- even the progressive and feminist among us -- excuse it as ineptness, as cluelessness, as silliness. It's not silly; it's damaging. And I don't believe for a minute that these men can't behave better. I expect them to, and I think the rest of society should join me in my high expectations.

Or, as Esti says, with more clarity than I:

I’m not saying that Dr. Glass was specifically terrible in his reaction to the situation or anything, because my friend is also a really good dude and he has the same instinct. But at the point where he was still wanting to assume good intentions, Awkward had spent an entire week following Luminous around, ignoring her (and Dr. Glass) when they repeatedly told him to go away, publicly and aggressively criticizing her decision to spend time with another man, and making her feel so uncomfortable that she felt the need to physically block him from getting near her even in a room full of people. What on earth, short of actually being physically violent, was going to be enough to overcome the presumption of good intentions??

And this is why I actually think The Question is really beside the point. I mean, it’s often an “aha!” moment for dudes to have a concrete example of how they don’t even notice potential physical threats while women are really attuned to them. But at the same time, the idea that Awkward was maybe a physical threat is so totally not the point for me. If our standard for when someone has acted badly enough to be called out is “he did something that suggests he wanted to sexually assault this woman,” that is WAY TOO LOW A BAR for calling people out. From your description, it sounds like Luminous’ enjoyment of this workshop was seriously diminished (or maybe non-existent) because she spent the entire time being harassed by a guy who wanted to get into her pants. Even if that guy had good intentions, even if he never would have tried to assault her, even if he never made her feel physically unsafe, his behavior was unbelievably out of line and no one should feel bad for standing up to him.

This. So much this.

Back to Twilight. 

   Edward was waiting, leaning casually against the side of the gym, his breathtaking face untroubled now. As I walked to his side, I felt a peculiar sense of release.
   “Hi,” I breathed, smiling hugely.
   “Hello.” His answering smile was brilliant. “How was Gym?”
   My face fell a tiny bit. “Fine,” I lied.
   “Really?” He was unconvinced. His eyes shifted their focus slightly, looking over my shoulder and narrowing. I glanced behind me to see Mike’s back as he walked away.
   “What?” I demanded.
   His eyes slid back to mine, still tight. “Newton’s getting on my nerves.”

You will note this is a rare moment of agreement between me and Edward Cullen. But Mike Newton isn't getting on my nerves because he's a big love lorn puppy dog who just can't help his special feelings and doesn't have the good sense and social grace to not blurt out his headthoughts to Bella every time he sees her.

No, Mike Newton is getting on my nerves because he is leveraging male privilege and rape culture to consistently cause harm to Bella Swan. He has decided that his need to constantly convey his attraction to her has a higher priority than her right to feel safe and comfortable at school and at play. Mike Newton is a sexual predator, even if he never does anything worse than what he's done so far.

On the second day of badminton class:

   Gym passed quickly as I watched Mike’s one-man badminton show. He didn’t speak to me today, either in response to my vacant expression or because he was still angry about our squabble yesterday. Somewhere, in a corner of my mind, I felt bad about that.

Rape culture isn't just that I instinctively blame Bella for things that are not her fault. Rape culture is that Bella instinctively blames Bella for things that are not her fault. And this sucks so very, very much.


Ana Mardoll said...

And because Buffy creeps into everything lately, let me be the first to point out that "inappropriately polices a woman's romantic choices immediately after being turned down as a suitor" is pretty much what Xander has been doing to Buffy for the entirety of Season 2 so far. Which I didn't notice until after this post was already written.

Asha said...

The Luminous story was one that I read aloud to my mom as an example of rape culture. She hadn't heard the word before, but she understood the concept. She found the story unnerving. I'm still confused as to how she can be so feminist, yet so conservative at the same time.

Brin Bellway said...

Seeing the Question doesn’t make you paranoid – it means your instincts are working.

...I get the feeling I'm not expected to react to this with "Fuck you for telling me being less damaged by the patriarchy makes me the broken one."

(My encounters with Schrodinger's Rapist and similar topics generally take this form:

Feminist post: Right now we have good reason to be afraid of [insert thing here], but it shouldn't have to be this way!

Me: ...fuck, it never occurred to me to be afraid of that. Why do you have to have such good points?

Maybe it's worth the damage, but it is damaging.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Many of us live with a barrage of complaints that being concerned for our personal safety means:

1. We're living in irrational fear and letting our paranoia control our lives.
2. We're reverse sexists who think that all men are rapists waiting to happen.
3. We're vain enough to imagine that every man we meet wants to rape us.
4. We're hysterical and unable to accurately assess threat levels.
5. We're ableist and actively hurting non-neurotypical people who breach social convention.
6. We're just like racists who fear black men because ZOMG MUGGERS.
7. We're self-centered to not worry about 'bigger' problems.
8. We're cruel to not consider the feelings of the socially inept guy.

... and so forth.

I follow Rebecca Watson on Twitter. She STILL gets monthly aggro from strangers who tell her that she'll never be happy because she's not willing to take a chance and find happiness with strange men who approach her in elevators at night and ask her to come back to his hotel room for coffee. That was, what, two years ago? She's STILL being told that she's a stupid, irrational, paranoid, crazy, evil, ableist, racist bitch because she asserted a personal boundary and talked about threat levels and how some women individually assess them.

So while I agree that the language of elodie's comment (and it was a thread comment and not a blog post, and we don't always phrase ourselves perfectly in threads, self included) is imperfect, I don't think the take-away was meant to say that women who don't assess the guy in the story as a threat have failed at brokenness. Nor do I think it's meant to imply that women who do assess him as a threat are adequately broken. I think it was intended to be strong push-back against the cultural tide of opinions in the opposite direction.

Ana Mardoll said...

Or, to put it another way, I don't think it's fair to assume that elodie meant the opposite statement from what she actually said. (I believe that is called Denying the Antecedent.)

IF (see Question), THEN (Instincts = Working)

does not automatically imply

IF not(see Question), THEN not(Instincts = Working).

I think it's possible to say something affirming about people who notice X without secretly trying to insult people who do not notice X. And I say this as someone who, in this particular case, didn't notice X.

Ana Mardoll said...

(I'll also randomly note that this particular case of 'instincts' comes up a LOT in the blogosphere and is a major problem in some places. Usually in the form of "you shouldn't have banned/warned/been rude to that commenter! You don't KNOW he was being trolly! Sure, he broke out the misogynistic language eventually, but you had no way of KNOWING that he would!" where male allies tend to second-guess the shit-stirrer detectors of women bloggers who tend to have just a little more experience reading some of these signs given that they've lived the Troll Invasion a few more times and have a few more battle scars than they.

So, really, this whole issue is Very Fraught. Pointing out "you have less experience with Bad Thing than I do" is not, or shouldn't be imho, an insult, but I've seen that blog battle played out between male commenters and female moderators way too many times. I don't know how we solve or get around this -- I get that "trust me" is not an acceptable moderating technique for some readers, but neither do I think it's fair for us to demand that female bloggers continually be chipped away by low-level micro-aggression until a line is finally crossed such that everyone can agree.

See also this post: which is also timely topical to Schrodinger's Rapist:

In our e-mail exchange, former Shapely Prose blogger Sweet Machine told me that “the beginning of the end” of her career as a blogger was the moment blogging became unsustainable. I knew what she meant, but I’d always regarded it as one of her blog’s biggest successes.

Since its publication in October 2009, Schrodinger’s Rapist,” by Phaedra Starling, has become a part of feminist blog canon. Its explanations of street harassment, rape and doubt have been widely cited and echoed, and the phrase “Schrodinger’s Rapist” itself has become shorthand for threatening encounters. The post garnered 1,216 comments before Shapely Prose shut them off.

Those comments had to be moderated. And, as Sweet Machine puts it, the post “attracted so much positive attention from women that it drew incredible hostility from men.” Moderating comments began to take up the majority of her work time. When Sweet Machine’s mother died, one commenter said that she must have been ashamed of Sweet Machine’s weight–and signed off with “you fucking cunt.”

“Reading the mod queue started to feel like being slapped over and over by strangers,” she says. “The more successful [Shapely Prose] got, the more we got attacked.”

This is the game, for feminist bloggers: the more recognition you receive, the more dangerous the job becomes. Other writers may be able to nurture ambition, and pursue goals without ambivalence. Feminists, on the other hand, live with the fear of Schrodinger’s Promotion. Every step we take toward recognition might be the step that makes blogging itself an intolerable risk. I’ve spoken to other bloggers – one of them male – who have changed pseudonyms or deleted blogs once they got an unacceptably large readership, just to avoid it. Those who stay put have paid a high price.

And that slapping sensation isn't necessarily by the really "bad" trolls. Micro-aggressions add up, too. But when female bloggers assert themselves aggressively, we're told that we're being too strict, too harsh, too off-the-handle. I have never once, for example, banned someone without someone ELSE taking it to my inbox to question my decisions. On the one hand, I think it's important that no one be above criticism; on the other hand, there's a point where you as a blogger just want to walk away from it because it's so much simpler to just Not Deal With It.

Wow, that was a long aside.)

Naomi said...

I totally had badminton in high school gym.

I would've happily partnered Bella. I hated gym and did as little as possible, and my usual MO was to find someone else who didn't give a crap whether we won or lost against the other pairs, and then we'd "play badminton" in the sense that the other side would send the birdie over the net and we'd watch it fall.

My partners were always ALWAYS female. The boys all cared DEEPLY whether they won or lost at gym class badminton and got pissed off at me for not trying harder.

depizan said...

The thing is that some women or women-shaped people mostly get beaten over the head with "Why aren't you afraid of everything!?" (Wherein "everything" means "stranger rape".) I've been asked such things as how I dared to drive around with my windows rolled down (while living in Iowa, in the summer, and driving a car without A/C), how I dared to go to assorted parts of Omaha by myself, how I dared to work at a mall where someone had been raped years ago, how can I live in a garden level apartment by myself, and why don't I carry a weapon to protect myself in my apartment complex's parking lot.

This is not to deny that many women get the opposite and are told that reasonable concerns are paranoia, and so forth. It's to point out that this is another damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you're concerned about your safety, you're paranoid. If you're not, you're asking for it. You cannot win. You cannot do it right. Defenders of the patriarchy will pop up and tell you you're wrong no matter what choice you make.

And, sadly, for those of us who've mostly been whacked by the "asking for it" bat, feminist discussions of personal safety can sound uncomfortably similar. :(

Isator Levi said...

I'm sitting here now, trying to recall several instances with a friend from a college society I joined a year and a half ago, who I felt I had struck up a rapport with in that time where meeting new people was still a terrifying prospect.

I recall feeling a need to make sure I never acted too familiar with somebody I didn't know too well yet, and to not be intrusive. I... hope I was successful at that, even though I know there were occasions where I was thinking "am I going too far" and, even in the face of that uncertainty, not quite backing off.

But... I think I maintained an appropriate distance (by which I mean giving space where appropriate and initiating or receiving contact where the same, rather than trying to keep away at all times).

And hey, I introduced her to the printed form of The Moomins, and she started buying them for herself, so I can't have done too badly {heh}.

Steve Morrison said...

This is the game, for feminist bloggers: the more recognition you receive, the more dangerous the job becomes.Just four days ago, Jen McCreight (“Blag Hag”) had to indefinitely suspend her popular blog for just this reason; the stress level from all the trolling got to be too much for her. (I wish Disqus would let me post links here, so I could link you to her “Goodbye for now” post at Freethought Blogs.)

Ana Mardoll said...

True. Very true, and thank you for the point.

Disclaimer: I tend to fall on one side of the spectrum, and I hear so-so-so much (online and off) about how debilitatingly paranoid I clearly am for not wanting to do X, where X is any behavior that the other person feels I should accommodate in my personal threat level. (Emphasis on *personal* threat level, i.e., "correct for me but not necessarily so for anyone else".) So naturally my "push back" posts tend more towards "here is why I feel my fear is personally justified" because, well, it's something I have to keep saying in real life over and over again. (See Can't-Won't-Shouldn't post in general, really.)

I don't, honestly, know how to fix this. I obviously think there's value in "My Justified Fear" posts because I've written at least a couple this week alone (one about how much it pisses me off when people use stranger rape statistics to justify that therefore I should automatically trust all strangers by the power of math!). I absolutely agree with you and Brin, though, that women with different treat tolerances should not be shamed or victim blamed or criticized for not having "enough" fear (and OMGWTFBBQ, that is a very, very messed up culture concept).

I've always felt that the saying "if the post is not about you, don't make it about you" sounds dismissive, because Fed Ex arrows can creep into anything and just because the post wasn't intentionally about you doesn't mean it didn't imply something about you nonetheless. So I will say that this post was *intended* to be about Women Who Fear and why that fear is, in my opinion, allowed and justified as far as they are concerned, but was *not* intended to say anything at all about Women Who Don't Fear or that their lack of fear in a given situation therefore implies they are wrong, or broken, or incorrect. But I will also add to that statement of intent that my intent is not magic and I deeply apologize if I gave the impression that I was piling on women or implying that they are broken or in any way disrespecting their choices. I'm sorry.

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh my god, really? Was it because of the atheist conference sexual harassment blow-up? Shit! I'm really upset to hear that. :(

*goes to check Freethought*

depizan said...

The opposite concern sometimes keeps me from commenting on posts about fear. Just because I feel safe doing the things I do does not mean that everyone else should, or even that I am safe. The problem with trying to avoid rape is that the only thing that makes a situation safe or unsafe is the absence or presence of a rapist and there is no way for anyone but rapists to control that. Unfortunately.

Everyone should absolutely make their own decision about what feels safe or unsafe to them. And, hell, half the time when we feel unsafe for no apparent reason, it's because we're picking up on something subconsciously that our conscious mind hasn't noticed.

I'd say both posts about Women Who Fear and posts about Women Who Don't Fear are really important. Even if we'll sometimes make each other uncomfortable. Such is life.

Ana Mardoll said...

Well, and the FUN! thing is that many (most?) women get to experience BOTH!

You don't want to X? You are living in fear!!1!

And X and Y can be *anything*. I have yet to hear of a rape where SOMEONE didn't manage to blame the victim for failing to Do Z in order to be safe enough.

Ana Mardoll said...

And I think your point about the subconscious is interesting. Because I have a girlfriend -- and I need to write this post, really, but it hasn't happened yet -- who wrote me the other day and this exchange happened:

Nan: Ana, a guy wrote me an email and I think it's creepy, but then I think I'm just being paranoid.

Ana: If you think it's creepy, then it is creepy. You are not being paranoid.

Nan: OK, but will you read it anyway?

...time passes...

Ana: Here are the 8 million reasons why this email is Objectively Creepy.

I do think the subconscious can sometimes pick up on creepy vibes that we don't always consciously note. But then we're back to "does that mean that I have bad instincts if I don't notice them" and I do not want to say that because, no, I don't think that's what that means. Complicated. :(

Pqw said...

TW: sexual assault

If you don't have a frame of reference for what your creepy vibes could mean, and whenever you try talking about the subject of creepy vibes--other people, perhaps even family members--tell you that you are imagining things, or have shitty social skills and that's why no one likes you, or something like that, then ... you don't immediately realize you're being gaslighted, and the Problem Is Not You. Because, really, how could you realize that?

Once the full horror of cousin-the-rapist/torturer sunk in, and I started making really good progress at dealing with getting him out of my life permanently, Unfortunate Implications wrt everyone else in my family (including my parents!) who preferred to look the other way got impossible to ignore.

I actually had a persistent nightmare (when my trauma-onset PTSD was at its peak) that my cousin was sodomizing me in the middle of a family party--while I was screaming my head off!--but no one paid any attention.

I realized much later that the dream is a metaphor for WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED, and what KEPT happening, for the next 20 years. I kept calling Creepy on cousin and everyone else kept insisting I was mistaken, but besides, he's fun and interesting, and you're always crying or freaked out. So obviously, the solution is to stop inviting *you* (me, I mean) to family gatherings, because you're ruining everyone's good time.

My father-in-law is creepy in a non-sexual way. And I don't call him on it because I already know no one will back me up. But I have stopped going on visits to my in-laws.

Ana Mardoll said...

That's so horrible. I'm truly glad that you've disengaged yourself from that toxicity, though I'm sure that could not have been easy. :-(

Silver Adept said...

Also, I note that the Slacktiverse mods stopped participating in comment threads or posts of their own because they had attracted a significant following of bridge-dwellers who were intent on showing as much hate, misogyny, and personal threats against them as possible, even when they knew they would be caught by the spam trap. Even the "tame" examples were at least six shades well beyond the pale for minimally acceptable discourse.

This is why we can't have nice things, apparently, because they are consistently excellent posters and centers and the community is weakened by their non-participation. That said, we understand entirely why they withdrew.

On the matter of the OP, and on Mike Newton, assaulter-in-training, it's easy for us to forget that Isabella is compelled by law to be at the school (and likely to take gym) and that the Luminous Girl wanted/needed to be at the conference to derive the expected benefit from it. When Rape Culture insists, "well, she had a choice not to hang out with him", or, "she could have gone elsewhere", it deliberately narrows the focus to That Interaction, with no context allowed. In a vacuum, sure, someone can always go somewhere else to avoid the creeper, assuming no physical restraint or impediment, but in context, Bella can't go anywhere to avoid Mike, and as you mentioned, Bella may not be able to dismiss him with boundaries because there are real potential social or physical consequences to telling the ringleader to go frak off.

...and now that I look at my past from this perspective, I realize that I've been That Guy at least once in my life, and it shouldn't really be a surprise to me that things turned out the way they did when I was behaving like Mike Newton, even if only for a single interaction. Nothing quite like an old embarrassment turning out to be way worse than initially thought. Enlightenment can suck for self-esteem in the short-term.

I still would have hated him in high school, though. Not because he treats women in degrading manners and insists his feelings are more important than their safety, but because he reads like the kind of person for whom consequences would roll off. Which would only embolden him to do all sorts of other things, too. Back then, though, I probably would have positioned myself as a Nice Guy alternative to the obvious jerk. I'd like to believe I'm better now...

Smilodon said...

My teenage sister had a problem with a boy who would not get the hints - he'd realized that this was his last chance to go out with her before school ended, and he was turning up the inappropriate "jokes" to 11 in a desperate hope that this would help her see him as a potential boyfriend without him ever risking rejection. I told her how I'd deal with it - either with "jokes" back at him, or assertively telling him that he's making me uncomfortable and he needs to back off now. Being 17, and really shy, those weren't options. So she dealt with it by snapping one day, and yelling at him "That's not funny! I would never sleep with you. You're disgusting."

I was actually really proud of her.

At any age, but especially at Bella's age, I can see how standing up for yourself just makes you uncomfortable. And I don't blame girls for not doing it - my sister and I talked about it a few times before she had the courage (fueled by spontaneous anger) to actually say anything instead of just looking awkward and unhappy.

Mime_Paradox said...

Steve Morrison: (I wish Disqus would let me post links here, so I could link you to her “Goodbye for now” post at Freethought Blogs.)

Here you go.

The code is [a href="http://This is where the URL goes"]Here's what will actually show up[/a] Just replace the [] with <> and you're ready to go.

(Content Note: Misogyny, E-threats, The suckage of the legal system)

Coincidentally, the correlation between "increased prominence" and "increase in time spent dealing with misogynistic attacks" when it comes to female bloggers was highlighted recently to me in a post by Sue of DC Women Kicking Ass, in which she enumerated the various attacks by one particular, but in no way exceptional troll, who went on to make several threats. What's particularly insidious about it is that there's no legal recourse that's available to her (or others), as making use of them would entail revealing personal details about herself to her attacker. The account can be read here --warning: those content noted earlier definitively apply.

Maartje said...

We also played badminton in high school. And what's more, we got to play SINGLES if we wanted to! The entire court for yourself, so less of a chance to hit a teammate in the head with your racket, and with your opponent safely behind a net, so even if you accidentally let go of the racket while smashing the shuttle, they'd be relatively safe.

I imagined badminton would be the perfect Bella-safe sport, because the worst that could happen was that her opponent would die of old age while waiting for Bella to finally get a serve over the net.

Silver Adept said...

@Maartje -

If they play rally-score, they'd just move on to their next partnership soon after Bella has to serve.

Steve Morrison said...

Thanks! Unfortunately, HTML links just don’t work for me on Disqus, for reasons I’ve never been able to determine (I can link without trouble on e.g. Typepad, Slashdot, etc.) And I have other troubles on Disqus sites like Fred’s which have paged comment sections. Disqus is evil and hates me.

Makhno said...

Further note for those in Dr Glass's situation: if the guy is genuinely well-meaning and just awkward, he'll be GLAD to have it pointed out that he's coming across as creepy and threatening, so he can stop and avoid doing so in future. Gods know my younger self would have welcomed such a heads-up.

Trynn said...

I had to play Badminton in high school. I loved it! Well, this is not QUITE true: What I liked was being able to really get the birdie flying --and stay there. In fact, I would purposely pick "team mates" during singles who only cared about the same thing. The only rule was that you had to keep the birdie in the air. You could even use your hands... we could get a really good "game" going until the coach walked up and found out what we were doing.

Makhno, I'll keep that in mind the next time a guy creeps me out. I think in the last case it would've helped, as I'm honestly not sure the man was aware of how he was coming across, and he did back off once I started acting scared.

And yeah, I hate that --if I take precautions like calling someone to walk me home because I don't want to walk in the dark, I'm being paranoid. If I don't take said aforementioned precautions, I "deserve what I get." It's complete and utter bull.

Inquisitive Raven said...

I've that that at Fred's blog, the easiest way to put a link in a comment is to post the comment, then go back and edit it adding the appropriate html.

Silver Adept said...

@Makhno - mine, too, although he probably would have over-reacted and basically gone mute and anti-social, so that he wouldn't do it again, even accidentally, with a fair dose of self-castigation that this was an immutable character flaw. Would have made him insufferable until he got better. (And is totally a reaction that makes things worse instead of better...)

Elodieunderglass said...

Oh god, the Question! I've developed this reflexive flinch every time it comes up. Thanks for the interesting analysis, Ana.

I really appreciate finding your blog. Critical analysis of Little House? And Narnia? Ohmygodyesplease. <3

Ana Mardoll said...

Welcome, Elodie under glass! I love-love-love YOUR blog. (Just this week I'm seriously considering printing off the Blog Mirror. Because, yes, my mirrors need recalibration, LOL.)

I know that you crafted The Question for the specific narrative required by the overall Captain Awkward thread -- pretty much all real life stories must be framed for some narrative or other, lest they not sound like my Grandpa Joe rambling on about That One Time The Tire Seemed Flat But Wasn't -- and I also know now (from reading your blog) that people sharing it divorced from that original Captain Awkward context has been harmful to you in a number of ways, so I apologize if I harmed you further. If you ever need/want me to edit the text out of the post here, let me know and I will. (And you can always email me directly at

And I REALLY REALLY hope you hang around for the decons because that would be SO awesome. :D

chris the cynic said...

Mike: Do you want to be a team?
*More pause*
*the silence continues*
Mike: What are you doing?
Bella: I'm parsing every possible meaning of the word "want" in this context. Do I want to be on a badminton team? No. I'd rather be raising sheep in New Zealand. Given that that's not likely and I'll either be on a team or standing alone by myself until the teacher has to remedy the situation thus drawing even more attention to me, do I want to be on a team more than the alternative? Sure, why not?
Bella: If I am to be on a team, do I want to be on a team with you? No, not really. Given that you're the only person likely to be willing to be on a team with me of your own free will, would I rather be on a team with you than someone who was being forced? Maybe. I guess. Taking suffering on myself so that others do not have to us something I'm sort of used to at this point.
Bella: Does a willingness to endure being on a team with you, and the fallout that is sure to follow as surely as the night follows the day because you have shown a total lack of willingness to change and become a better character than your writer would have you, actually constitute "want"? Not sure.
Bella: Does the fact that I fully expect you to live down to my lowest expectations indicate that I've internalized the idea that men are unchanging forces of ick, or does it mean that I've gotten a feel for the kind of novel that I'm in? Not sure. I'll have to think on that more.
Mike: So that's a "yes" then?
Bella: If it isn't, it's close enough for badminton teams.
Mike: Don't worry, I'll keep out of your way.
Bella: I wish you would, but somehow I doubt that. I would be pleasantly surprised if you proved me wrong.


Mike: So,
Bella: Mike, that's an introduction. You're suppose to follow it with something.
Mike: You and Cullen, huh?
Bella: Me and Cullen what?
Mike: Uh...
Bella: If you want a proper answer, then ask a proper question.
Mike: You're in love?
Bella: Have you ever seen any sign of that emotion pass between us, even once?
Mike: Well... no. But you are dating right.
Bella: What business of yours would it be if that were true?
Mike: I don't like it.
Bella: You don't like the hypothetical possibility that I might be dating someone?
Mike: I just don't like it.
Bella: Any particular reason why?
Mike: He looks at you like . . . like you’re something to eat.
Bella: That probably has something to do with the fact that he's a vampire.
*Mike is left speachless*
*Bella walks to the locker room*


*Edward is waiting for Bella*

Edward: You're supposed to say hi.
Bella: I'm supposed to do a lot of things.
Edward: You're supposed to breathlessly say-
Bella: If I spend all my time breathless I'll get hypoxia.
Edward: *angry* How was Gym?
Bella: Fine.
Edward: Rea-
Bella: And that is all you ever need know.
*Edward does a thing with his eyes*
*Bella looks over her shoulder*
*Mike is walking away*
Bella: What?
Edward: Newton’s getting on my nerves.
Bella: And your nerves are the only ones that matter. Is that it?

Silver Adept said...

@chris - in both of those cases, it seems entirely in character for Mike and Edward to append "uppity B----" to the ends of their exchanges. Assertive Bella rebukes both men for demanding to know what she's thinking and trying to police her interactions with others. (Silv, you've found the Patriarchy. [/Mr. Holland]) It seems entirely in-character for both of them to respond negatively to her boundaries, and in a more vocal or forceful manner to match the pushback from Bella.

Ana Mardoll said...

BWAHAHAHA. I do love it, even if (as Silver Adept notes) Canon Bella doesn't live in a world where it would be safe to talk like that. But Snarky Bella is so, so awesome.

And, really, the Snarky Twilight is so valuable because it highlights in a few hundred words what it takes me several thousand to unpack. It's succinct and punchy and INCREDIBLE. "Here is rape culture. It is bad. Any questions?"


Marc Mielke said...

I think that in the telling of the story, people hearing it second-hand don't quite get a handle of the geography of the last, super-rapey bit. Ana needed to spell out exactly the guy's positioning because it depends on something mentioned early in the story. I probably do have a worse handling of blocking in writing than most people but I don't think it's that unusual just not to consider actors spatial relationships while reading a story.

Bit in the lecture was already uncomfortable, but it's in a public arena so the automatic assumption is that nothing could really go wrong.

Ana Mardoll said...

Bit in the lecture was already uncomfortable, but it's in a public arena so the automatic assumption is that nothing could really go wrong.

Though it should be noted that this is an assumption that people need to stop making.

There are survivor threads full of people who have been handled/molested/assaulted in public spaces -- buses in particular, but not limited to those -- and have felt unable or unsafe speaking up despite it being a public space. And some victims, particularly those with previous assaults in their past, can freeze up when assaulted and become physically unable to speak.

I'm very, very glad that Dr. Glass was willing and able to be a physical buffer in those public spaces.

MaryKaye said...

I did something recently that involved hanging out in the woods overnight with about a hundred strangers, mostly young men, in a situation where if I had screamed for help there very likely would have been no response even from people who heard me (because they would have assumed that I was play-acting being attacked by zombies).

One of the things I felt when doing this was a sort of anticipatory guilt, because I knew that if something did go wrong I would be blamed for it, as I had deliberately put myself in danger.

I chose to do it anyway because I am sick of limiting my activities in order to be "safer". It was something I really wanted to do (and was a whole lot of fun). And having more women participate in such events probably makes them safer. I know that the presence of many female staff members seemed to contribute to a no-harassment atmosphere at the event.

I wouldn't in any way criticize a woman who chose not to attend under the circumstances. We all have to set our risk levels where we're comfortable. But I am sick of people asserting that women have a responsibility to (a) be safer or (b) be less afraid or even (c) both at once.

Silver Adept said...

@Baeraad - I'd go looking through more of the Twilight posts before making an assumption that we analyze only by taking things at face value - there are several times where we have arguments about how much of author perspective is appropriate to include in trying to make sense of things. We're pretty versed in the Watsonian/Doylist divide and can use either at will.

While I'm picking nits and being grumpy, the authors last name is Meyer, without an S. (I usually see Toph's last name as Bei-Fong, but that one is usually a bit more interpretable.)

As to the substance of your post, it would work better with the idea that Isabella is writing this from a post-vampire perspective, where all the annoying humans that she had to deal with in her way to becoming a vampire are just there. We haven't seen much in the text that supports this idea, though. Bella feels a bit too much for emotions and people to just be castoffs or stepping stores on the way to perfection. The way you described the victim-blaming martyrdom fits in with the Depressed Bella theory as well as the Contemptuous Bella theory, and I think there's more support for Bella having a clinical depression than a very low opinion of everyone around her.

Also, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of Bella reducing everyone to their instincts as a defense against Rape Culture, usually because Boys Will Be Boys is a very common defense of that culture and the actions it condones (see also, Civilized Cullen vs. Animal Black). It reinforces the idea that Mike just can't help himself and that he should be accommodated instead of chastised. This is bad, whether from reading the text or trying to ascertain author intent.

Majromax said...

But as for you blaming Bella instead of Mike, I'm not sure if you should be so quick to assume that you have been infested with Rape Culture (though I expect we all are, to some extent, so it's not like I disagree entirely). By the rules of this story, Bella really is the only person with free will.

I'd beg to differ, in that I agree with Ana here. Whenever we hear a story from the victim's perspective such as this, the victim is by necessity the narrator of the story. It's no different that it's Twilight here compared with court testimony.

If we, as third parties, go along with our automatic instincts of "No, Bella, No!" without consideration, then there's little to stop us doing the same when it isn't just fiction. Even if -- here -- the impulse is harmless, I'd rather be reminded of all the Unfortunate Implications because that selfsame impulse translates all too well.

depizan said...

The thing is that some women or women-shaped people mostly get beaten over the head with "Why aren't you afraid of everything!?" (Wherein "everything" means "stranger rape".) I've been asked such things as how I dared to drive around with my windows rolled down (while living in Iowa, in the summer, and driving a car without A/C), how I dared to go to assorted parts of Omaha by myself, how I dared to work at a mall where someone had been raped years ago, how can I live in a garden level apartment by myself, and why don't I carry a weapon to protect myself in my apartment complex's parking lot.

This is not to deny that many women get the opposite and are told that reasonable concerns are paranoia, and so forth. It's to point out that this is another damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you're concerned about your safety, you're paranoid. If you're not, you're asking for it. You cannot win. You cannot do it right. Defenders of the patriarchy will pop up and tell you you're wrong no matter what choice you make.

And, sadly, for those of us who've mostly been whacked by the "asking for it" bat, feminist discussions of personal safety can sound uncomfortably similar. :(

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