A Rant Arguing That Bella Is Not Girly

Yesterday I saw this article from The Atlantic float by in my Twitter stream and had to click.  Why Do So Many Grown-Ups Hate Bella?   So I’m reading and reading and agreeing and then I get to this part:

Comparing Twilight and The Hunger Games, it’s easy to see why second-wave feminists, and adults in general, find a girly teen so much less attractive than a tomboyish one. Bella is, as the critics say, passive, hapless, and an utter mess. Not only is she physically inept, but she has no particular talents or even distinguishing characteristics other than her desperation for romance. Katniss sees everyone she loves die one by one and still manages to fight on. Bella’s boyfriend dumps her and she spends most of an entire book in a deep, infuriating depression. She wants wants WANTS sex, rides motorcycles and jumps off cliffs maybe for the adrenaline rush but also maybe just because the boy she’s interested in jumps off cliffs and rides motorcycles. She gets knocked up and refuses to abort. She won’t go to college. And she decides to become one of the living dead. She’s emotional, out-of-control, mopey, makes horrible decisions, and is generally the nightmare troubled teen: a girly girl who rides her aimlessness and hormones straight to damnation.

I’m sorry, hold the phone, what the EFF?  At what point ANYWHERE has being “girly” automatically meant passive, inept, clumsy, and ruled entirely by emotion?  Why is Bella being held up as an example of being “girly”?  I would not in any way characterize her as GIRLY other than the fact that she is, technically, a girl.

If this is what society in general considers “feminine” no WONDER there is all this woman-hate going on.

Holy CRAP.

Feminine does not mean WEAK.  It may mean a different expression of strength than the outright, in your face variety, but I challenge ANY MAN to live through some of the shit women have been forced to put up with for centuries.

Feminine does not automatically mean PASSIVE.  Sure, that was the role women were forced into for centuries, but that doesn’t mean that they ARE, in fact, passive.  It meant they had to be more subtle in their rebellion and learn how to get what they want through less direct means (show me a powerful man, and I’ll show you the strong woman who helped get him there).

Feminine does not mean clumsy.  If anything, clumsy is the anti feminine.  Feminine is supposed to be graceful and unhurried, like a ballerina (at least that’s the impression I’ve always had).

Feminine does not mean inept.  Ineptitude is not in any way, shape, or form, limited to those with XX chromosomes.  There are morons galore in both genders.

And this bullshit about women being entirely ruled by emotion is just another flavor of the anti-woman, anti-romance sentiment that is so prevalent in our society.  HAVING and ACKNOWLEDGING emotion does not make you weak and it does not make you stupid. And it’s not a symptom of running around with one’s hormones running amok.  Does anybody criticize men for running around thinking about sex like 30,000 times a day?  Excuse me, how much more PRODUCTIVE would they be without being ruled by that instinct?

And wanting romance and love and a relationship is not a weakness.  It takes freaking courage and STRENGTH to have a successful relationship.

Bella is not girly.

What I think of as girly or feminine is someone who is versed in social graces, who knows how to cut someone off at the knees with a smile and a bless-your-heart (something we excel at here in the south), who values family and relationships, understands the power of beauty and knows how to use it (for better or worse), and possibly who has an unhealthy love of pastels and shoes.

All my gripes with Bella have NOTHING to do with any of her alleged femininity.  I hate her as a character because she takes no action–she’s wholly passive, lets men dictate and run her life, and she’s just flat WEAK.  She takes no responsibility for her own life.  Plus she’s a whiner.  I cannot abide a whiner.

These are not the characteristics of WOMEN.  These are the characteristics of weak, annoying, people who are bad examples for readers everywhere.  There’s no gender attached to that.


21 thoughts on “A Rant Arguing That Bella Is Not Girly

  1. I have not read or watched any of the Twilight series or the Hunger Games so I have no votes on the primary subject but I agree !00% with your viewpoint that whining and passivity are not gender base and are not attractive qualities

  2. Goodness! I totally agree with you so rant on! Also, from the quote above (I suspect it contained the “A” word simply to get blog traffic)…it’s obvious whoever that is didn’t understand the book at all because some of that is just not true. But yes, at the base of it is the notion that people would like Katniss more because she’s a tomboy. I beg to differ too! It takes a woman’s resilience to be that strong in the face of all that adversity and to rise above it. Plenty of men have gone nuts over less, and ended up shooting their co-workers. To me, Katniss is truly feminine. Just because she wears pants and likes to shoot doesn’t make her un-feminine.

  3. Yeah, compare Katniss and Bella all you like, but don’t make it an argument about masculine traits vs. feminine. That is so beyond insulting. Also, vampire or not, I’d STILL bet on Katniss, her wits and her will, over a flick of Bella’s sparkly but indecisive and too often passive wrist. The notions that we can’t kick ass with a bow in our hair, that embroidery and swordplay are somehow mutually exclusive skills that can’t exist in a single individual–these are part of a bill of goods people of both genders have been trying to ram down our throats for, like, ever. Thanks for telling it like it is.

  4. Wow. I’ve never liked Twilight, but that wasn’t because I was appalled by Bella’s “girly”ness. You’re absolutely right, it’s beyond insulting and definitely makes me wonder if that is what our society truly thinks “girl” is. You are right to rant!

  5. Go girl power! 🙂 I love the paragraph where you describe your idea of girly or feminine. And you’re right…those of us in the south definitely know how to take care of business with a smile. I love frills and “girly” stuff. But I sleep with a Colt .357 under my bed and I’m not afraid to use it if I have to. My husband says he doesn’t know if he could shoot someone. If my family is threatened, you better believe I could shoot someone. So girly definitely doesn’t mean weak. Strong women do what needs to be done, even if it’s unpleasant.

    As far as Bella goes, she is definitely weak. And, you know, I’ve never thought of her as girly. If she was really strong, she would have stopped letting Edward tell her what to do and go for the man that loved her just the way she was…Jacob. LOL

  6. I agree 100% I never saw Bella as girly or even pirticularly feminane- and I did read all three books. Katniss is far more feminine IMHO.
    Have you ever seen Stage Beauty? It illistrats perfectly what you are talking about. It starts in the theater with men playing the female characters and how those men preceive women behave. Then we see how ‘powerless’ women get what they want and how they act in the roles Shakespear wrote for them. Great movie.

  7. Bella is NOT girly. She’s also the weakest character I’ve ever seen in my life and I loathe her on that alone. Grow a pair, girl. This is 2012 – you don’t need a man to tell you what to do and you don’t need a man to protect you. Get a freaking gun and learn to shoot. I’ll teach you how.

  8. *dons asbestos underware*

    I read this article yesterday. It triggered the same level of annoyance that the Ashley Judd article ranting about the “Patriarchy” did. So I looked into the author a bit.

    I’m pretty sure the author is gay. And yes, this is important to know. He runs a blog called “The Gay Utopia” and has many articles about homosexuality. So his opinions on femininity to me are the equivalent of a vegan’s opinion on a steakhouse. His opinions don’t reflect “society in general” but maybe “society in 5%.”

    Here’s where it ties into the whole Ashley Judd kerfuffle…

    Ashley Judd -is- an attractive woman. The “patriarchy” of people complaining how she looks puffy is almost exclusively comprised of women and gay men. Seriously, how many straight men do you know who read the gossip columns? And how many straight male gossip writers are there? Have you ever heard a straight guy ask if he thought “Phil” had some work done or suggest to someone that they needed to see a stylist about their hair? No? Any of you writers have an alpha-male who reads the gossip columns? Or do they roll their eyes at them?

    So please don’t jump on the whole “woman-hate” bandwagon. I’d argue most of the “women hatred” is internal strife.

    Speaking for my gender, Bella annoys us because she’s passive and boring. We still think Ashley Judd is pretty hot. Most of us would rather our mates spend an extra hour in bed with us than fret over their hair or makeup or whatever.

    And in the Twilight world, I’m totally “Team Alice!” Now there’s femininity… 🙂


  9. I also disagree that “refusing” to have an abortion is a sign of weakness or lack of femininity. To me, it’s the strongest thing she did. She had only one chance to have that child with the man she loved and it doesn’t make her weak to want to have it no matter the cost. AND she did it against the man’s wishes. She stood up for what she wanted in that instance. In that time, to me, she was a woman. She did something that required strength against opposition, and took courage. Why would “refusing to have an abortion” be anti-woman?

    And sorry, Jay, but you’re kinda against the grain. Men, in general, in the work place and many conservative places, either place women on a pedastal of near worship, where she’s only allowed to be frail and look the part and be “feminine” or if they do stand up for themselves, the attitude is called bitchy where a man is called assertive. If they are smart, especially if they’re smarter than their husband, they’re supposed to hide it, or feel guilty and let the man lead anyway. If a man doesn’t understand what she’s saying, she’s using “women’s logic” and is therefore dismissed.

    I’ve seen it in too many walks of life. Rich, poor, conservative, liberal etc. Also, the Ashley Judd thing? The gossip columns are dangerous to girls everywhere who believe that men must see them that way.

    Again, I’ll say you are *mostly* an exception. 😀 you’re one of my favorite men. But you are a rarity. I’ve been among people in every walks of life, from homelessness, poverty, and yes, the rich, although not Bill Gates rich, and too often, the stereotypes are even harder to get out of the richer you are.

    What if Obama’s wife stood up for herself, forcibly?? Most women would be applauding, but a huge outcry would go out among men for Obama to get his wife under control. Maybe I’m being unfair, but when President Clinton got caught cheating on his wife, WAY TOO MANY people patted him on the back saying way to go (although some said he was a disgrace, etc. it was about the lying and getting caught, not the betrayal to his wife. Again, I’ll exclude you from this crowd cuz you treat your family, including your wife, with respect.) I overheard remarks left and right that a man in power should be allowed to have a little if he wanted to and no one should stop him. What of his wife? And you can bet a hundred dollars a day, if she’d been caught cheating she would have been called worst than a liar.

    Sorry Kait LOL This is a subject that has frustrated me for a long time. I’m with the woman who said she likes girly stuff but sleeps with a gun. I have a knife handy only cuz I can’t afford the gun. I do sewing, crocheting, painting, etc. Also have been firefighter, Search and Rescue Worker, and EMT.

    I am a woman.

    1. Leona, you missed my point. It’s not about me or most men. In both of the cases I mentioned, the set of all men is being targeted for the misdoings of the subset which is least affected by the “gender war.” (Sets & subsets? Yes, I’m a math geek.) Now if the topic was the “casting couch” where a man in power was taking advantage of women looking for their big break, I’d agree wholeheartedly. Other than Kait shooting her rant at the wrong target, I agree completely with her sentiment.

      In other words, us guys often deserve *the glare* for what we do. But it’s unfair to slam us for things we’re not involved in. Most of my peers don’t know Bella from Katniss from Elodie. They should, especially know Elodie.

      If that is going to be the new standard, should men judge all women by the statements of radical lesbian feminists? Obviously no. But recognize there is plenty of misandry in the world too.

      This is why I like reading romance novels and stories with romantic elements, they provide a more positive view of -both- genders. I’m tired of seeing both genders portrayed so badly. And I’m even more tired of nearly every married relationship on TV being unhappy – unless things changed in the past few years, not one of the main characters in any of the 34 CSI shows was happily married.

      We all need to do what we can to lessen the divisions and anger here. I don’t want my kids entering the dating pool already cynical and bitter toward the opposite gender. And I don’t want their potential mates doing so either.

      So enough with the unfocused “Ready! FIRE!!! Aim!” blasts at the wrong target. Let’s instead team up and declare war on those who practice misogyny and misandry. Make them pay for treating each of us badly.


      P.S. For the record, TechWife is a better shot than I am. Hopefully TechGirl will soon be as well. 🙂

      1. For the record, I wasn’t firing at anyone in particular (beyond the author of the article). Certainly not “all men” or all any one group. I’ve seen this kind of attitude among women AND men, just like I’ve seen shitty, incorrect attitudes about romance and romance novels from both. I think one of the big problems with this argument (and with most arguments, come to think of it) is that everyone assumes that there is only ONE right answer, and they simplify and polarize EVERYTHING. I know plenty of women who consider themselves feminists who choose to be stay at home moms. Among a certain faction of feminists, they’re thought to be betraying the cause by making that choice. Which is totally moronic. Feminism, to my mind, is about finding the strength in women and in earning equal RESPECT no matter what we choose to do with our lives. The whole world would be a lot better place if everybody of both genders operated from a place of respecting others instead of tearing them down.

        1. Exactly. I think men and women should be allowed to do whatever it is that matches with their skill set. Stay at home moms and dads have the hardest job with the least pay and appreciation. I’m just tired of articles like the one she posted assuming a manner of feminism that has to be held up (like choosing NOT to have an abortion or choosing to stay home with the kids) and this is held up by men and women in our society.

          If you do x, your a feminist if you do y you’re not… I’m sick of the pigeon holing on both ends and that women can’t know x, or y, just because (like changing a tire) and that men can’t do x or y (like sew a button). They’re dangerous and demeaning. But so is going the other way (you’re somehow less if you can’t) I pray that smart women and stay at home dads are treated as equally well as people who maybe are not as smart or men who work for big bucks. Accept people as they are in terms of skill sets and help them be the best they can be and the whole world would be happier and there would be less problems in general cuz there’d be less anger and resentment on both sides.

        2. Word!

          TechWife is one of those feminists who has suffered accusations of “betraying the cause” for choosing to be a stay at home mom. Unluckily for them, she countered their accusations and left them quivering in a pool of their own broken rhetoric.

          My quibbles with your rant are the two shots that missed the author:
          “If this is what society in general…” – author’s premise validated & why I commented
          “I challenge ANY MAN to…” – challenge the author, not me or your hubs 🙂

          Other than those two lines, I completely agree with your post and your replies. If a woman finds fulfillment in what she does, more power to her. I’m near Randian in my beliefs of personal liberty and self-actualization.

          Thanks for the good conversation!


  10. Well she isn’t a tomboy in any way, but she’s neither or in between. Plain Jane is her name, her style is more skanky than boyish. And she’s pretty much ungirly, but isn’t tomboy at all. She’s a Plain Jane that needs to shower and tidy up her appearance.

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