If I were ever to ban a book, it would probably be Twilight.
The books are full of harmful, anti-feminist ideas. The “perfect” Edward Cullen displays many traits of an abusive boyfriend. Bella has all the personality and personal strength of a wet noodle, and her story basically tells us that stalking is romantic, that we should fall apart when our boyfriends leave us, that growing older than 18 is icky, and that we should die before we abort our babies. And all of this is held up as a fantasy, as a dream relationship, to its teenage audience.
In my Most Hated Book Olympics, Twilight is definitely a serious contender.
But banning it — or any book — is only contributing to the problem.
I think liberals like myself typically associate banned books with the Christian Right in America, but a look at the books banned over the last 10 or 20 years (and the reasons behind them) paints a different story. Many books are banned for containing homosexuality or sexuality, but more liberal concerns also make many appearances. Books like Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird are banned for their use of (historically accurate and non-condoned) racist slurs. Twilight itself has been banned because of its (admittedly, in my opinion, harmful) religious perspective.
And banning these books is not justified on either side of political divide.
Firstly, of course, I never would ban Twilight, or any book, simply because I don’t like it. Like everyone else, I have no right to tell other people what to read, or to make assumptions about how they will react to the book or what they’ll carry away from it. Heck, I’ve read all four (well, three and a half… Breaking Dawn was too much even for my book-finishing determination), and even though I wanted to hurl the books against the wall at various points, I also kept reading, completely addicted, until 4am. On multiple days. They were the perfect relief for a stressed out college freshman. Who I am to judge anyone else or prevent them from having their own experience with these books?
But most importantly, books like Twilight do not exist in isolation. They provide a window into some of society’s subconscious beliefs, and they provide a starting point from which to open discussion. Twilight itself has sparked extensive debate, about relationships, about expectations, and about the messages our society gives to young girls and to women in general. In a society where we like to pretend that “sexism is over,” these discussions are desperately needed, and fiction (whether pro or anti-feminist) is one powerful way to get started.
Banning books that include racism, or sexism, or “harmful messages,” is nothing more than an attempt to shove a real problem in society under the rug instead of addressing it head on. It is the coward’s way, and it will only allow these problems to continue, bubbling out of discussion and out of sight.
Check out Banned Books Week.