Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why I hated Men Who Hate Women

A little over two years ago, I checked out The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (original Swedish title: Men Who Hate Women) from the library. The beginning was promising but it wasn't long before I realized this was NOT a book for me. I wish I had known the original title before I decided to read it. Everybody has their certain thing(s) they can't handle in books (or movies). Apparently my thing that I can't handle in books is the horribly brutal sexual abuse of women. And The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was full of it. So I stopped reading it and tried to forget what I had read.

So I have to admit that I was shocked when this book became so HUGE. Everyone loved it, everyone raved about it. Everyone couldn't wait to read the next book, and then the next. In the meantime, I wondered if we were all talking about the same book. I was disturbed enough that there existed a person in the world (the author, a male) who could think up these horribly creative ways of demeaning women and take the time to write it all down in prose, on the published page. The fact that people around the world were eating it up like it was no big deal was even more disturbing to me.

Just because the men who do the horrible things to women are the bad guys, doesn't make it right, not to me. Just because sometimes the woman who is abused gets to take revenge on her attacker, doesn't make it right, either. And aside from the horrific abuse that takes place in this book, there is a systematic undercurrent of misogyny in the book that reveals itself in other ways. Like how the main character (a female. Horribly abused? Of course) hates her small breasts. Like how all the females in a 50-mile radius of the other main character (a man) just can't wait to sleep with him. And sure, he's nice to women, because he doesn't rape them, see? I guess. Maybe there are even more examples of all of the above; I don't know because I didn't finish reading the book.

I don't see how men can write books like this and get away with it - and sometimes get called pro-feminist to boot, because maybe somewhere in there, one of the women getting raped is a "strong female character."

Look, if you read this book and liked it, I'm not trying to judge you. Like I said, everyone has their thing that really gets to them, and this is mine. I am asking the wider question, though, of how male authors can write these horrible things about women, and about things that they make happen to women, in ways that specifically denigrate their womanhood, and nobody seems to make a fuss about it. I hear people complain about Edward watching Bella sleep (or whatever) every other day but you have a woman get brutally raped a couple of times during the course of a book and everybody is dying to read the sequel. What the heck?


Liz Johnson said...

I'm with you - I can't stomach reading stuff like this, especially since it's fictionalized violence. It's funny, swearing in a book doesn't even really phase me unless it's completely over the top, and sex doesn't bother me, but violence? I could barely make it through the Hunger Games. And sexual violence is an automatic veto for me when I'm picking a book.

JosephJ said...

Someone once criticized me for putting on blinders to reality when I shied away from educating myself on a stomach-churning non-fiction topic. My reasoning is that I don't need details of evil to know there is evil in the world. Details are important if I am in a position to combat the evil through activism or legislation, but I'd rather be involved with promoting general good than preventing specific evils. I find it unnecessary to parade heinous acts for the sake of an "education of what the real world is like," especially through fictional media.

On the other hand, I suppose there are many who will find some strange attraction to this book, perhaps through curiosity, familiarity with the topic of abuse, or in an attempt to come to grips with their own life experience. (For example, as an adoptive father, I am drawn to articles about adoption.)

Alanna said...

My father-in-law (who isn't Mormon, in case that's relevant to this story) read these and commented that they would be "too rough" for me. Having been an English major, my initial reaction was to read them just to prove to him that I could handle anything! But then I heard more about them and decided he was probably right. A friend of mine skimmed the bad parts, but I know myself well enough to know that I am not capable of skimming unless it's boring. So I chose not to put any of these books in my mind at all.

And reading posts like this make me glad I made that choice.

To respond to what you were actually saying, though, I can't imagine who finds this entertaining or why it's okay to come up with horrible brutal rape situations, even if it is the bad guys doing it. So I guess I just agree with you hands down. (All the outrage over the Hunger Games pales in comparison to these books, too, I think.)

Myrna said...

I too started but did not finish this book. I didn't even get far enough into it to realize it was as you describe it...I was just like "Ew..!" Life is too short to waste on a book like this when there are so many better books to read.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Thanks for the warning; I read a review that didn't mention any of the negatives you pointed out, so you saved me from a distasteful experience. I don't need /want that stuff in my brain.

Julee said...

Its just another means to desensitize humanity!

Katie said...

Yes, I was going to read this book, but luckily I heard the original name of the book and knew it wasn't for me. Another book that everyone just raved about, but was just full of awful things was "South of Broad" by Pat Conroy. Also "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See. It was just a sad story about a couple of girls that go through a lot of crappy stuff throughout their lives. And the only result was that they lived through it. The end. Hated it. Good writing, just awful subject matter.


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