Monday, May 24, 2010

Something More About Mary (Alternatively: The Damn Twilight Post)

Wow, it's been a while. Hannah's going really good, so I haven't had a second to turn away from it. I scrapped the fifty or so pages I had, and restarted, I'm already further along than I was when I restarted, so, yeah, busy. Also, I've taken to writing a couple posts at once, because there has been a lot going on with everybody these days, on a lot of different fronts, and it helps to cycle through and figure out what goes where and how to make everything fit together. Anyway, sorry for the huge delay, and thanks for another great month! Onward!

The Mary Sue post has apparently gotten me a lot of attention. Colour me surprised. Apparently I have excellent timing, since there's a lot of talk going on. That is awesome, because when I reached the "Mary Sue is bull" epiphany, I got a great big, "WTF" from even the most feminist of readers. There's been some really good discussion about Mary Sue, about why it is sexist, and why it isn't sexist, why it is useless bullying, and why it isn't. There's also been a whole lot of noise, and a whole lot of excuses for bad behavior, fem-hating, and why we need to be able to call out Mary Sue. And there have been some good constructive criticism on my post, and some really pointless noise on my post too. I'm not the kind of person to keep rehashing old arguments, but Twilight turns up a hell of a lot in these conversations. I assume because it's badly written, so very hard to defend. I feel like there's some confusion about my earlier post. And I'm being hassled by certain readers (I'm glaring, so you know) to write about it again. So. You will remember the post where I said I have issues with Twilight I'd rather not discuss? And of course, I mentioned in the Mary Sue post that I had issues with Twilight, but was going to stick to just talking about Mary-Sueisms, and not picking on Twilight? Well.

The time has come to pick on Twilight. And I didn't want to have to write this, not because of Twilight's popularity, or because I would have to admit that I read the entire series, mainly as background reading while planning The Damn Vampire Novel. Or even because I feel a bit petulant about this whole thing, and I don't like being petulant. I didn't want to write it because I am sick and tired of hardcore haters. No really, I am sick and tired of hardcore haters defending their hatred more than I'm sick and tired of hardcore fans defending their love. Admitting your disappointment in Twilight is opening the floodgates to a whole lot of fem-hate and a whole lot of "all ________ are _______" talk, and, while I am about to tear holes all through Twilight, there are some things I just don't want to hear anymore because it takes away from what is actually wrong with the series. And I believe I mentioned, I am a fan of constructive discussion.

A list, then, of things I am not blaming on Twilight.

1. Bella really is a Mary Sue. Yeah. I know. I don't care. Read if you need clarification on this point, and let me just say, Bella is not the problem. Okay? I will be clarifying that later.
2. Rob Pattinson is not that good looking. And hadn't even read the books before getting that role, so where you think he has anything to do with them I will never understand. He's also mentioned his own so-so appearance several times. Which is pretty much enough to make me like him, at least a little bit.
3. Teenage girls only read those books because "omg edward is so hot!!!!"/ Teenage girls are idiots and I'm tired of listening to them go on and on about Team Edward vs Team Jacob - Wow, ageism and sexism all wrapped up in a neat little package. Do I really need to tell you what's wrong with this one?
4. Bella is not good looking enough to get the attention that she gets. Again, I'll be going over this later, but seriously, what? Are you saying Kirsten Stewart, the actress who plays Bella in a series that was written before she was cast to play in it, hi, isn't good looking enough, or are you saying that because Meyer didn't spend pages and pages extolling on her beauty like she did with Edward, Bella can't possibly be that good looking? Or maybe you're just saying, "only Sues have more than one boy, and we hate them so nyeh."
5. Bella's parents don't punish her enough - Okay, that's not a character flaw. Meyer is not a good writer but, alternatively, Bella's parents are idiots. They married too young and have no responsibility for themselves, let alone their offspring. That's pretty established, whether because Meyer actually happened to put some thought into that one, or because it mirrors her own experiences. It happens in real life too. Look it up. Also, please remember, JKR has admitted the reason HP takes place at a boarding school is the lack of adult interference. Clearly, Meyer didn't have that out, and couldn't think of a better one. Which brings us back to yes, okay, the books are badly written!
6. I could write better than that/Meyer's not a real writer - Neither am I. Neither were a lot of first timers. Just because they did better than she did, doesn't make her any less real, nor any less a writer. I know, I'm mad this slipped through the slush pile too, but seriously? There's a lot we can hold her responsible for, but it's not her fault they published the damn thing, and this happened. Somebody, somewhere should have stopped her, and nobody did.
7. I have nothing against Twilight, I'm just tired of seeing it everywhere. Oh whine whine whine. This usually comes from one of those people who likes things that are unpopular on purpose. Liking something because it's unpopular, or trashing it because it's popular, is pretty much the same as liking something because it's popular. You're still being a disingenuous ass, you just get to do so with a smattering of hipster cred. Congrats. You hang on to that.
8. Meyer has ruined vampires forever - Uh. no. Meyer's publishers have ruined vampires for the moment. Because now they've let that through, publishing companies are hungry for more sparkly vampire stories, and Meyer is, for the moment at least, done. (You are free to cheer, I won't hold it against you.) And by the way, vampires have been going the way of the unicorn since Anne Rice. Get over it, or do like you keep insinuating you can, and write something better.
9. They sparkle. That's pathetic - Okay, from a practical standpoint, Meyer was just dealing with a plot hole. It was a stupid way to deal with a plot hole, but compared to the rest of the stupidity, it was positively brilliant, in that she actually went, "hmm, I'm going to have to deal with the whole, 'vampires burn up in the sun' thing." And then, y'know. Dealt with it. Stupidly, yes, but it still counts as a tiny inkling of foresight in the direction of people might not buy this. Also, before anyone brings it up, I get that stupid sparkly vampires is just shorthand for badly written vampire novel. Uh-huh. And you know what? Mary Sue is just shorthand for badly written female character by a female author. Only stupid sparkly vampires has morphed to mean Vampire book marketed at teenage girls, which is probably inherently bad due to subject matter and intended audience. Much in the same way that Mary Sue has morphed to mean there's a girl in that fic that someone just made up! Get her out! That's pathetic and obviously about you because only sexually frustrated hetero teenage girls write fanfic! 

There. If any of your complaints sound anything like that, you are as free to make them as I am to delete them from my comments because that is so not the point. Yes, I admit, I am also frustrated that the quality of adult or YA fairytales has gone down in a hurry, as I have previously mentioned. Which is why I am writing my own, and will publish it independently, since publishers seem intent on pushing this crap at us. I'm not defending it. I know it's badly written. I know it sucks. I know you're sick of it. I'm sick of it. What I am saying is the books have zero plot, and a whole lot of creepy sexist BS, and a huge following of kids who now believe the creepy sexist BS, and we ignore that because it's easier to just pick on Bella Swan. This is why Mary Sue is dangerous.

For people who still don't see Mary Sue as a misogynist tactic, let me lay it down for you. First off, you are wrong. I don't know how much clearer I can make it than to say we have a word designed to make girls who dare to believe that they are, or can be, smart, attractive, successful and impressive, feel immature and ridiculous. But I am damn sure going to try, because this is not ridiculous, it is not frivolous, it is important, and affects how women and girls view themselves and their experiences, as artists and as women, and it also affects how the artistic community views women. So here we go again.
What is wrong with Twilight, and why "Bella is a Mary Sue" is just adding to the problem.

Consider that even hardcore Twilight haters have almost nothing to say about Edward. Many times, Edward does not factor in at all. There's been talk about Edward being creepy and way beyond 'bad boy.' But it gets buried a lot of times in the "Bella's not that pretty. Why does everybody like her?" noise. So, let's just clarify. A bloodsucking monster who admits he has no soul, and every time he kisses his girlfriend, he has to fight the urge to kill her, gets more sympathy from readers than a teenage girl with low self-esteem who is used to not living up to the standards of beauty, and possibly doesn't understand that she's as appealing as she is? And what about Jacob? The perfect sweetest best friend in the world who has made it known to Bella that he's not okay with just being a friend, and is, in fact, only biding his time until she comes to her senses... Or has a child, who he can fall hopelessly in love with, and patiently wait til she is an acceptable age to have? (Which is made easier by the fact that she ages really really fast.) Because in his tribe, that's what you do. You wear women down with your affection! (There's probably some racial appropriation in there too, come to that. The whole thing gives me squickies, but like I said, I don't like to dissect marginalized groups that I'm not part of. Someone want to take over that side of the discussion for me?)  He gets no mentions whatsoever, and we have Bella, who can't decide whether to fall for the Nice Guy routine, or get the bad boy because she makes him a better person, which by the way, is the same tired plot line played out on highly rated TV shows all the time. This one bad character in a sea of bad character cliches gets canonized, called names. Well gee, where do you think that comes from? Not girl-hate, surely. Not sexism.

I want you to do something for me, before we start arguing. (Oh noes! More homework!) For just a second, replace the word Mary Sue, with the word "slut." I know, for all intents and purposes, it doesn't actually mean the same, but, humor me. So now, if in your head you're thinking, "Bella is a Mary Sue," you are now thinking, "Bella is a slut." If in your head, you're thinking, "But some characters are Mary Sues. It's okay to hate them." You are now thinking, "But some characters are sluts, it's okay to hate them!" If you're thinking, "Meyer writes Mary Sues and gets published, and that makes her a bad writer, because now everybody thinks they can write a Mary Sue and Mary Sue is bad!", you are now thinking... Well, you get the idea. It's not that I believe Mary Sue is synonymous with slut, or even that I believe that a lot of people do, (though you can see the corollary, can't you, between Bella Swan getting 'unwarranted' male attention, and how much people dislike her for it?) What I'm saying is, like with the word 'slut' we assume everybody knows what Mary Sue means, and that it means the same to everyone.

When you call someone a slut, you're saying, "you are having lots and lots and lots (and lots) of really, really, really inappropriate sex. I am not, therefore, I have a right to disapprove of you. You make my sex less meaningful and important." Except for the times you're just saying, "I don't like you. I don't like what you do or how you do it, or who you are, or that you don't hate you as much as I do. You need to hate yourself in order to make up for how awful you really are." Using that word means you get to make assumptions of how much and what kind of sex is bad. How those people dress, how they act, how they might redeem themselves, and why they need to. You make assumptions that either they are fundamentally broken, or they are just selfish and stupid and nobody needed to break them to make them into the horrible people they are. Most importantly, though, you make the assumption that healthy, normal people agree with you, that everybody knows, instinctively, how much sex is bad, that there are bad reasons for sex, and what those reasons are, and how to present yourself as the kind of person who is a slut, or the kind of person who is not. When you use that word, you claim your own rules as finite, and are free to assume, then, that everyone breaking them is doing so with full knowledge of the rules. Which makes them bad people. You forget that there is no way to tell the difference between the 'slut' you disapprove of based on her actually doing things you just don't like (which really isn't your damn business, but that's just a niggly little detail, isn't it?) or the 'slut' you just dislike, as a general rule. That doesn't matter, they need to fix their behavior to your standards, or at the very least, be appropriately shamed.

Allow me to perform a little translation: When you accuse someone of writing a Mary Sue, you subscribe to similar universalities. You assume that everyone feels the way about Mary Sue that you do, that is, a Mary Sue is universally bad, and everybody agrees with you as to what way and by what degree of bad it is. There are certainly things that all Mary Sues have in common, ie, they're all women or girls, they're written by women or girls, they're not well-written, and the assumption is, they are completely unnecessary and totally unrealistic. But the good ol' Mary Sue Litmus Test, in trying to rid the world of the horrors of unrealistically cool and unique female characters, has proven that it is pretty much impossible for Mary Sue to be a universal anything. Therefore, we should play it safe and avoid anything that makes our girls and women interesting, unique, memorable, strong, independent, and, in fact, necessary to the story. You forget that sometimes, Mary Sue doesn't mean 'badly written', and the only real, solid, all-across-the-board trait of a 'Mary-Sue' is that she is female, and so is her author. Sometimes, that's enough, in both original and fanfic, to make her unnecessary, to some readers. Why write a woman if you don't have to? What kind of person would do that? (A bad, bad person.) Which is sort of like what happens in real life, to girls and women everywhere. Except we're allowed to do it when discussing fiction, because those girls aren't real, and nobody's feelings get hurt, and we have to be allowed to hate them somewhere, in some abstract way, right? Except fem-hate is not abstract. It affects a lot of people in very real ways, from the amount of opportunities an actress is afforded, if she's willing to do a nude scene, and the backlash she deals with after the fact, to the amount of books sold by a YA author who dares use a female protagonist without having a boy in there for potential readers to 'identify' with, to the recent climb in the popularity of unisex baby names, as parents decide they want people to not judge their children by the name provided on a job or loan application. I'm not going to tell you what fandoms I hail from myself, (that would be overshare) but if I read one more RPF disclaimer that uses a real-life gf as an antagonist, (I really really like her, honest. *eyeroll*) or one more slash reader who apologizes for writing a heterosexual scene, I am going to go absolutely bats.

And yes, I did actually read that cute little disclaimer on the bottom, where it promises that sometimes, some things, you can get away with, maybe. I also noticed they were a lot less thorough on when, how, or why, it was okay to 'break the rules' than on when it wasn't. Or the clear tone of, "Okay, yeah, this happens, but you're probably a novice because talented people wouldn't write fan fiction at all, would they? And talented people wouldn't put their original fiction on the Internet, because they would be able to get paid for what they do, wouldn't they? So you should stick to the rules, you n00b." (-Side note, there's a post coming about why talented people might write fanfic, blogs, and online fiction, rather than risk the publishing process.)

Face it. Your fandom is not girl- or woman-friendly. My fandom is not girl- or woman-friendly. It is assumed that fandom is composed mainly of heterosexual young girls and young women, therefore, sexism goes unchecked. But, from the assumption that we're all teenage girls (and the ageism and sexism that go along with that), that we are only in it for the pretty, that the writers who write, say, slash, should be taken more seriously, given more cred, than the ones who write about icky girls, to the prevalence, even among slash writers, to lean towards relationship roles and portrayals that are staunchly heteronormative and incredibly sexist (genderswap* fics where a male character magically grows long hair over night, as if that is just as clear a marker of femininity as breasts and a vagina**, slash pairings where it's practically canon that one character takes on the 'feminine' roles and traits and the other the more 'masculine' with annoying consistency.) ...You know the fem-hate is there, and you know, in some small part, you subscribe to it. Even I'm guilty of rolling my eyes and thinking 'teenage girl' if something's spelled poorly, or if it's poorly written. Despite the fact that, as I have mentioned, at twenty-five, and with quite a few years of practice, I can't spell. Even I'm shocked to find a straight boy who writes fan fiction, despite the fact that I stumbled upon some of my nearest and dearest, both male and female, and every sexuality in the spectrum, in that way. I'm learning, and improving. I'm trying.

Back to Twilight, then. Twilight is very obviously very poorly written. I won't go as far as to say it has no plot, because if Meyer had stuck to one novel, and done that whole star-crossed lovers thing, and let it go, probably, I would be complaining much less than I am. I do know even the first novel was problematic. I'll get to that. I know Twilight reads like a Harlequin, but I'm not going to complain about that again, because you know what? A hell of a lot of Harlequin women have PhDs. That means they are not the stereotype of bored housewife you may see them as, nor are they necessarily bad writers. And there's nothing wrong with healthy escapism. That is not my kind of escapism, but really? Who am I to judge? I'm asexual, can you imagine what would happen if I tried to impose the goals I set for myself on other people? That would be utterly ridiculous.

What happened was Meyer didn't have enough plot for the characters and world she created. It happens to me, usually at about 4 in the morning, and 70 pages in I'll realize I like the characters way more than I like writing about them. Difference is, and I don't like to toot my own horn, but I usually realize that is the point at which we put the work down. (Usually. Not always. Oh, Jack.) Meyer didn't. In fact, she kept going for four whole books! It must be said, truthfully, she turns a pretty phrase. People will be using those books to create IM handles, MSN names, and Cafe Press products for at least the next five years. But her concept of plot progression and character growth is virtually nonexistent. Her characters are wooden and they are predictable and they are cliche, and they don't even follow the flimsy rules that she herself has created for the purpose of her own story. I can acknowledge the boldness in my previous statement, that is, Mary Sue is a myth. Because there are badly written female characters, yes. But a Mary Sue is a badly written female character that does not fit into the world she inhabits, and is, therefore, not necessary. Since all of Meyers characters are ridiculous and pathetic, it's really no surprise Bella is similarly two-dimensional. And yes, she is more talented and meant to be more interesting than all the others, and clearly, we are expected to keel over this girl and worship her the same way her author does. So in that sense, I suppose, it counts as Mary Sueism. But ask yourself, honestly, if the story would be that much improved if Bella was slightly more realistic? More than likely, we would look at Bella, amongst all these other flimsy characters, and still yell Mary-Sue, because if Bella was more realistic, she would stand out amongst all of the characters that aren't realistic! I'm not saying Bella Swan is not a problem. Bad writing is still bad writing. I am saying that Bella is not the problem. And the fact that so many people find it easier to shortcut their hatred of Twilight into their hatred of its female protagonist, well, that is the problem. It comes from years of burying female protagonists into this or that type or this or that role, because people will believe those types, those roles. It comes from young writers learning from an early age that girls don't like reading about girls, because all girls are naturally jealous and possessive, and boys need to read about boys, or they'll come out backwards. It comes from sexism. And it lends to the idea that if Bella were just a different kind of girl, or, hey, not a girl at all, the story would be that much better. And it just wouldn't. (Okay, well, honestly, a high school love story featuring gay vampires would be pretty awesome, but I really don't think Meyer could pull that off either, so you understand my point.)

Meyer clearly has issues with man/woman dynamics that I'm not even going to speculate on. I don't date, I have no interest in sex, so I don't know exactly what normal and healthy is. I just know that's not it. I was confused when someone first brought to my attention the inherent sexism within the book, because like I said, Bella cooking for her father because he's an irresponsible mopey asshole doesn't seem that far-fetched to me. Then I read book two. Wherein Bella tries to kill herself because her boyfriend breaks up with her, falls in with the ultimate Nice Guy, and becomes an irresponsible adrenaline junkie who alienates her friends because none of them are worth anything to her. Then she goes off and becomes a vampire, because her mother who she loves and has protected her whole life, now has a man to do that. There's a scene in the fourth book, where Bella marvels, "Maybe I just have no imagination. I couldn't imagine I would enjoy marriage, until I actually was married. I couldn't imagine I would want a child, until I was pregnant." At that point, I literally had to put the book down for several minutes and calm down, because the message was clearly that women need to be forced into a life of domesticated bliss, but once they're there, their women-hormones take over, and everything just turns out peachy, and you know what? If I hear about how I just need to find the right guy one more fucking time, I am just going to start screaming and not stop. That's at least three rage posts right there. And you're probably going to get stuck reading them, at some point.

There's an idea that teenagers are naturally stupid. Science supports this idea, by telling us that it is our ability to be rational that develops last, when puberty sets in. Socialization teaches us that women are helpless, women need guidance, that women want to be helpers, and nurturers, that they have no desire to express any kind of selfishness, up to and including leading our own lives, being responsible for our own sense of self rather than having someone decide what we should be and do, and finding peace and success on our own. Socialization is wrong, and scientific study is imperfect, and it doesn't matter. These two things band together to form the idea that teenage girls are stupid and simple, and will follow every whim that they get in their flighty little imperfect girl-heads. And because girls are emotional, a girl's feelings should be held in even less account than an adult woman's, because science says that teenagers can't be rational, and of course, feelings is a girl thing, ergo, a girl's feelings are irrational, and not worth anything, and not real, and she must be trained to understand the difference between herself and real people, and live within those boundaries, and be an adorable little stupid, until such time where she is required to be an adult, and thus, give all her time and attention to everyone besides herself. If she dares to be involved in her life for her own sake, she is selfish, and immature. So the self-indulgence of writing in a way that validates her existence, experience, and feelings, is obviously a mark of stupidity and immaturity. She must be mocked, until she grows up, and agrees to spend her life making others happy.

Some of you will remind me at this point, that a lot of things written for or by teenage girls are ridiculous. And there are a lot of ridiculous teenage girls. And you're right. But there is a machine at work here. I talked, before, about how part of ablism is convincing us to subscribe to the ideas that we are here to educate others about disability, inspire others to greatness or kindness, or teach others to value themselves more, by reminding them they are not yet as bad as they can be (because we are). They do this by making those roles the only ones we are ever visible in. If one of us should happen to break out of those roles, the people running the machine can use that to pat themselves on the back, to remind us, you, and themselves, that the machine is working. And we are the proof. So there are scores of people with disabilities who believe that they are not meant for anything special, they really do want to be treated like everyone else (because really, who'd want to be them, if they could be anyone else?), and that if someone is an ablist asshole, it really is because they don't know any better, and we really don't have anything better to do than teach. The same principle is at work here. Teenage girls are taught what they're supposed to have, what they're supposed to expect, what they're supposed to want, and how ridiculously important stupid vapid things are supposed to be. How they're not supposed to focus on 'real' things, and they're supposed to accept and understand that the things they do like, want, or find value in, are then, stupid and unimportant, by virtue of their nature. And that's okay! They can't help it! Science says we're not meant to be smart or important.

So, we learn to not trust how we feel about things, we learn to be easily manipulated and easily fooled, and learn how easily not being manipulated and fooled can pick you off from the herd and make you *gulp* Unlikeable. Likeable is what people want, but most especially a girl, who, in order to continually to be comfortable in her own skin, would have to find people to take responsibility for her, since it is Bad to do that for herself. When we see the same goddamn thing over and over, eventually, at some point, some reach the mistaken conclusion, "yeah, okay, it can't suck that bad, if it's everywhere." Because it is the only real option we have. Then stuff like this becomes popular, as it is meant to, and people go, "God, if teenage girls weren't so stupid we wouldn't have to put up with this!" Teenage girls are not stupid. Teenage girls are people who are treated a certain way based on their age, sex, and importance in society. Same as everybody else, but different, simply because, as a society, we decide that teenagers, particularly teenage girls have no real value, and their hierarchy is separate from the real world, since they only matter amongst each other. We pass that knowledge on to them, and they use it, even within their own safe space. Thus, we get things like Mary Sue, created to keep girls and women in a certain space and mind. We get jealousy, hatred and distrust of all things girl and woman. Of all things that suggest a power, strength, and originality, we are not supposed to have. That will not get us where we apparently want to be.

There are a lot of things wrong with Twilight. It glorifies a coercive relationship that is very clearly not between equals by a long shot. It underlines the idea that the formation of a young woman's identity lies not with her independence, or her decisions about her future, and how she copes with those responsibilities, but with, more specifically, her choices about boys and men, who she chooses to be with, and why, and how she handles herself while in a relationship, out of a relationship, or even looking for a relationship. The idea that she might not be looking for a relationship is seldom acknowledged, except as a character flaw or reaction to male influence. Incidentally, this happens both in fiction, and in real life. (Trust me, I know.)

One of the characters I actually liked in the series was Leah Clearwater, the lone she-wolf in Jacob's pack. She talks about her confusion as to why she is the only woman in the pack, her pain at being spurned by the man she loves, and having to acknowledge that he loves this other woman more than her, while forced to remain in her family unit, a constant witness to the betrayal, and constantly ostracized simply because she is female, and shouldn't be there. She talks openly about fear of infertility and being unlovable, but still has the strength to stand up to the (literal) alpha males in her life. I have to wonder if Meyer was trying to make some point about sexuality and certain kinds of girls, and their ability and right to attract mates, and to expect male affection. I don't like thinking it, but with everything else wrong with the series, it wouldn't surprise me.

The books describe sex as something where it's forgiven and expected that it will hurt, something that can be dangerous to your health and life, and something in which the rights to decisions should be given to the man. It describes marriage and babies as a forgone conclusion, and parents and friends as necessary only in the absence of your real connection, that is, with a man. It is repulsively racist towards people of First Nation descent, and casually talks about grooming young children for marriage, and the fact that all women are helpless in the face of any and all male affection. It makes stalking look romantic, cool detachment look heroic, and non-consensual acts, such as Jacob kissing Bella when she clearly doesn't want him to and has no real way to fight him off, look forgivable. The fact that this is being fed, with mass success, to a group of people trained to believe it's better to want what people tell you to want, is, yes, frightening. The fact that it is badly written, is, I can admit, insulting.

I probably forgot a whole lot of things that are wrong with the series, but the one thing I do know is this: Bella Swan is a badly written character in a series of badly written novels. That Meyer wrote a character that so embodies her own sexist ideology is certainly revolting, but hardly surprising. My distaste has more to do with the ideology than with who or what Meyer modeled her after. That Bella is used as a short-hand for everything that is wrong with those books, is, in itself, sexist. That we hate her because we can, because it makes sense that we would, is sexist. That we hate her because she appeals to teenage girls is sexist. That we hate her because we know she is modeled after Meyer is also sexist. With all the problems, that Bella is a Mary Sue is the most easily understood complaint, is simply a product of how natural, understandable, and forgivable, hatred, distrust, and disbelief of women and girls in the world of fiction really is. Which translates, with horrible ease, to how naturally understandable and forgivable it is to hate, distrust, and disbelieve women and girls outside of fiction, even, and sometimes especially, among other girls and women. It is a mark of sexism, however you excuse it.

And if you still don't understand that, I urge you to reexamine your prejudices, because you are, in all likelihood, sexist. I don't want to hear how Bella Swan is proof that you have the reasons and the right to hate female characters because they are probably 'Mary Sue'. That both the badly written character and the questionably talented author are female is not the problem. Meyer, as a woman, has every damn right to write a girl character, to the best of her ability, if she chooses to do so. Yes, even if her abilities are on the 'yikes' side of questionable. Writing a woman or girl because you are a woman or girl is not some kind of weakness. It does not, on its own, denote a lack of originality. We have the right to find value in our own experiences. Even if we're absolutely useless at expressing them in the medium we'd like, or those experiences are really very harmful, and lead to some serious backward thinking. Like you, Twilight haters, I don't feel Meyer's creation deserves the attention it gets. I wish young girls and young women were not exposed to this backward thinking. I believe it is dangerous and harmful. But unlike you, I will not be part of it. You cannot fight sexism with sexism. Bad writing, and the use of cliche, is not a girl thing.

*Genderswap fics, if we are to be accurate, should really be labeled sex-swap fics, as my dear love so kindly pointed out to me. Sex and gender are not the same thing.
**There are other female body parts, btw. Just a note. There are many parts to the vulva.

AN: I don't mean to disappear anyone who isn't a young girl or woman in fandom. I just wanted to address the fact that being a girl or a young woman is not deserving of the scorn it tends to generate. If anyone has another perspective on the sexism in zir fandom, I would love to hear it.

AN2: To Riley and Claire: I went there. Are we happy now?