The Negative Reader

Drinking Tea and Trashing Books

“I’m not anti-woman, I’m anti-human,” -Stephenie Meyer.

It’s time to address this.

The Anti-Human Thing

The biggest and most common criticism against Stephenie Meyer is that she’s sexist. I mean, there’s evidence everywhere. Bella does nothing but cook and clean for Charlie, who seems incapable of doing so for himself, she often has to be physically carried places because she’s so weak and accident prone that it’s sort of amazing that the girl has managed to survive as long as she has. Her only goal seems to be getting with Edward, and honestly once he’s gone, she just sort of curls up and tries to die of despair. She’s called herself a ‘moon without her planet’ in New Moon, and the narrative has no problem with this.

In addition, you have Emily who just seems to submit to an abusive relationship because ‘he loves her’, and Leah, who is demonized for daring to be a girl and interrupting the boy’s club of the werewolf pack and then is told she is not female enough because it’s heavily implied that she’s infertile.

However, Meyer constantly denies that she’s against women in particular. What people are seeing as an anti-human bias that happens to involve a woman. Now, taking out the fact that I don’t see how that’s any better, I actually think that she’s telling the truth. She is very anti human, however her hatred of humanity tends to take the form of using some of the most degrading stereotypes around men, women, Native Americans, blacks, and just about everyone else.

“Human in Distress”

One of Meyer’s biggest defenses that she makes time and time again, to the point where she literally wrote a book in order to prove to her critics that she wasn’t sexist, is that Bella was not a damsel in distress. Rather, she was a human in distress, completely outclassed by the supernatural world around her.

There is, in Meyer’s mind, nothing that Bella can do, surrounded by creatures that are faster, stronger, smarter and just generally better than her. The only thing that she, or anyone else with any intelligence, can do, is try to join them. If Bella was male, as demonstrated by Life and Death, there would be no difference. ‘He’ would still be blind, weak and completely helpless. And this is the way that Meyer likes it.

Her Vampires are Superior

Despite the many, many jokes about how sparkling vampires sound like fairies and how the Cullens couldn’t stand a chance against ‘real’ vampires, I’m going to point out an unfortunately truth.

The vampires of this world are terrifying.

Most of the time, vampires have the same weaknesses. They can’t be out in the sun, they can’t come into a place unless they’re invited, they have to sleep and recharge, holy items and certain herbs like garlic repel them, and as terrifying as these things are, humanity has at least some defense against them. Meyer, from the first, makes sure to strip humanity of every single one of these protections. Her vampires are obviously able to come into the house without being invited (or else Edward would have some difficulty in his favorite hobby), they don’t need to sleep (so there is never a time when they’re unaware of your approach), holy items do nothing, and neither does garlic. Their skin is impervious to just about all human weapons, other than flamethrowers. And, oh yes, we have those, but vampires are also super fast, super strong, and have unique powers of their own.

Essentially, only the threat of the Volturi is keeping us from being ruled over by them, rounded up into ‘human farms’ and summarily devoured.

What’s worse is that Meyer doesn’t see a problem in this. In her Correspondence 12, she mentions how seeing humans purely as food is “a hard viewpoint to resist—after all, vampires are physically and mentally superior to the nth degree. Their life spans measure in centuries and millenniums. Human lives are so short—sort of like fruit flies that only live a day in comparison. Humans die so easily, too, in their sleep, from tripping, from a tiny heart glitch, from a virus, from getting bumped a little too hard by a car. It’s sort of hard for an average vampire to take them seriously. They’re going to die soon anyway, right? (I know it might be difficult to step away from a human perspective and see it through their eyes. The question is, is it really wrong for them to see the world that way? Vampires are at the very pinnacle of the food chain. Should they feel bad about that? Or are they simply following the dictates of nature?)” (

This paragraph sums up the true and awful power that Meyer has given her vampires, and just how little she thinks of humans in comparison to them. I’ve mentioned how, in the past, that Meyer clearly doesn’t see anything wrong with vampires eating people. This is my proof. The world for a human in the Twilight universe is perfect for a Social Darwinist: a place where the strong thrive and the weak deserve their fate.

Weakness is Human

What’s more, weakness is something that is identified as belonging to humanity. Bella, when she is being stupid, is not being a ‘female’, no, everyone tells her just how human she’s being. Every mistake that she makes is because she’s human. Once she’s a vampire, Bella happily crows about how her human failings have vanished. The moment that Bella isn’t human anymore, she goes full Godmode Sue and starts eating mountain lions, having no trouble with her transformation, and talking about how stupid and slow and hideous humans are.

Not only that, but humans are reduced to nothing but their flaws.

The place where Meyer gets hit the hardest for being sexist or racist is here. Throughout the entire book, humanity is reduced to the bare stereotypes of what they are really like. All human men of mumbling, sex-obsessed Neanderthals whose affections are as shallow and fleeting as a puddle. They’re all obsessed with ‘manly’ things like sports, and are all sniffing around anything good looking.

All human women are shallow, vain harpies who think of nothing other than their own looks, and resent all other women for possibly being competition for men.

Charlie, despite the fact that he is an adult man who has been living alone for most of his adult life, is incapable of cooking, and, as the series progresses grows more and more like the distant, insensitive, yet authoritarian father that belongs in a badly written soup opera. Renee is the same. Despite the fact that this woman is an adult, and she should be able to handle herself, she’s treated as if she is little more than a toddler in the body of an adult. She can’t do taxes, organize her life, or much of anything without a man (or Bella) to do them for her.

The same holds true for Bella’s friends, or the people that she talks to during Breaking Dawn.

We never actually see a capable human being throughout the entire series. Bella is not supposed to be weak because she’s female, no, in Meyer’s mind, Bella is weak because she’s human.


Twilight is, at its heart, a wish fulfillment fantasy. A chance for young girls to essential have their cake and eat it too. They get to be the weak, delicate flower that a handsome, wealthy man who will stay that way forever dedicates himself to protecting, but she also gets to rise above her humanity, eventually eclipsing Edward, and every other vampire in power, and growing to protect all of them from being told what to do and what not to do.

For Bella, humanity is the trial that she has to overcome. It’s not the vampires, not really. She has to rise above her humanity, which we are to view as her slow, stupid, worthless nature, in order to become a vampire, where every pleasure is magnified, and all flaws (physical and then some) are removed. The vampires aren’t the trial, they’re the reward.

Does that mean it’s not sexist?

Now, I’m going to say that I’m always reluctant to use terms like ‘sexist’ or ‘racist’ easily. I believe that terms have power, and if they’re used too often, some of the punch is lost. It’s one of the reasons that I would not call Rowling’s Magical America racist. There are areas that are insensitive or show that she has the same in depth understanding of American issues as most Americans have of European ones, but I’m always hesitate to throw out major words.

That being said, Meyer’s work is sexist, but not for the reasons that she thinks. Meyer thought that the reason that people called her work sexist had to do with the damsel in distress thing, and she’s wrong. That trope can be used and worked. A female character needing help is not inherently bad. People sometimes need help. The problem is the mindset around her needing to be rescued. The first thing with Tyler’s van wasn’t a big deal. It was something that happened randomly, served the plot and worked to make her suspicious, but also to wonder if Edward wasn’t a bad person. However so many of Bella’s kidnappings weren’t about her. They were about Edward. Even Lois Lane was usually captured because she was usually gathering information to write a story that would expose the person who kidnapped her. Lois was a threat in her own right (unless it was the sixties but whatever). Bella isn’t. Bella is just there to get to Edward.

Another reason I’d call the series sexist has to do with Rosalie and Leah, who are both at some level blamed for the horrors that befell them. Rosalie was just so good looking that she was apparently asking for Royce to rape her (Meyer even states in one interview that he loved her in a way) and Leah should have just been happy that her fiancé’s entire personality was rewritten so that he could have babies with her beloved cousin, and is treated like a raging harpy and ostracized for being hurt and angry. Both are considered someone inferior to Bella because they can’t have children, and both are supposed to be viewed with little to no sympathy.

Alice is just a raging stereotype that I have little to no interest in discussing.

So, yes, the series is sexist, just not why Meyer thinks people object to it.

Fixing it

Meyer needs to actually look at her beloved superheroes. What made Superman such an important figure not how powerful he is. It was the fact that he loved humanity and seemed to see himself as human.

Unless you’re Frank Miller, what made Batman as popular as he is isn’t the fact that he’s a rich, hot angst muffin. It’s the fact that, despite having no powers, he was capable of going toe to toe with beings far more powerful than he was and winning.

Even if you’re writing a wish fulfillment, which is all that superheroes and heroines are, it is possible to show humanity in a positive light, even if the focus is on characters who aren’t human, and half of fixing it would be to make the mindset of the vampires less of what Meyer sketches out in Correspondence 12. Make it clear that the vampires who see humans as meat aren’t justified, acceptable or anything else. They’re wrong. Make the Cullen’s, rather than ‘struggling’ as Meyer puts it, to honestly reject it, which is one of the reasons why they live with people.

Make it so that characters like Charlie are capable in their own way, make Bella, even if she is weaker than her opponents, clever enough to at least stand.

Rather than seeing humanity as a weakness, or a state that needs to be transcended, show it, at least, as something to be defended.

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