I got into an interesting discussion with my Romantic Relationships prof during break today, but first, a flashback to a Washington Post article from 2008. It was published shortly after the final Twilight book hit the shelves.
"Yet on some level, it seems that children may know human nature better than grown-ups do. Consider: The fascination that romance holds for many girls is not a mere social construct..."
Yes. Yes it is.
"...it derives from something deeper. 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..."
No. No it isn't. I don't care if thousands of uneducated, hormone-driven teenage girls tell you it is; it's still not gonna be.
And for the record, would someone like to point me in the direction of the big flashing sign that says, "GENDER IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION, YOU ARE WHO YOU WANT TO BE"? No? What do you mean it doesn't exist, and so this mythological indoctrination of anti-gendered ideals couldn't possibly exist either?
More to the point: If teenage girls haven't been subjected to social norms depicting more than two possibilities for gender, or told that gender doesn't actually exist, how could they ever believe otherwise?
"...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; they have instead created a horde of girls who adore the traditional male and female roles and relationships in the "Twilight" saga."They seek out books that reflect gender roles because we teach them from birth that women and men are opposites and can only function when divided into separate boxes. They adore these roles because our media tells them exactly what they need to look like, be like, and act like. People like to laugh when I tell them that our media is teaching young girls that they should grow up to be saved by men, and then I point out shit like Twilight. Throughout the entire series, Bella doesn't do a damn thing for herself. Meanwhile, Edward controls her, operantly conditions her be with him, renders her utterly dependent on him, and Meyer portrays this as love. Teenage girls think this is love.
Let me state this simply.
ABUSE IS NOT LOVE.
Taking advantage of someone due to an inbalance of power IS NOT LOVE.
Now to get to what my professor was saying: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer is the perfect reflection of the average teenage girl's romantic fantasy.
It's natural to obsess over a partner in a new relationship and part of the process. It's self-serving, because we constantly think about them, constantly want to be with them, which protects and promotes the relationship. This is fine, in and of itself. Where it becomes dangerous is when we combine this obsession with gender roles and effectively give the male-identified individual in the relationship more power than the female-identified individual.
We teach girls to obsess, to focus all their energy on being in a relationship. We. Teach. Them. We do this to them, we tell them that this is who they should be. And we tell them over and over and over again. Obsession might not be inherently negative, but when a girl/woman trades in her identity and free choice for a boy/man's and does so because society has been telling her she should since she could walk, we have a gender-based problem. Brushing it off the table by saying "Look here! Proof that this is what they want!" does nothing to address the issue.