Saving Salander

So earlier today Spitfire had shared Melissa Silverstein’s Forbes Woman article about Lisbeth Salander (from The Girl With The dragon tattoo that also played with fire and kicked the hornet’s nest). Overall, “Lisbeth Salander, The Girl Who Started A Feminist Franchise,” is an interesting piece, but Silverstein gets a few things about Salander wrong and ultimately lost me a bit in her fog of malcontent.

“What is so fascinating is that a man imagined this heroine. One female friend is convinced that he could not have written the books without the help of a woman.”

This forever skeptical, defensive feminism gets under my skin. If a man couldn’t possibly write a complex woman without help than a woman couldn’t write an equally layered man without a little assistance.  Alls I’m saying is if a woman wrote this book and a man made a statement like that we’d be up in arms at the condescension.

Then there’s the line about the “ultimate anti-feminist deed.” A boob job. Really? So are women that adorn their bodies in any way shape or form committing sins against the whole of womankind? It’s such a lame point to latch on to–nobody really cares about it in the book, and I don’t know why so many care about it in reality. Isn’t a major tenet of feminism that nobody should be able to dictate what we do with our bodies? Um…that includes other ladies, ladies.

She did pose an interesting question though:

“Would we be as obsessed with the books and this character if a) Larsson were alive and b) if they were written by a woman? No. I am convinced that if the books had a female author they would be dismissed as “crazy chick” lit and not a political look at violence against women and its repercussions. Larsson was so serious about the issue that the literal translation of the title of his first book is Men Who Hate Women.”

I respectfully disagree. I like to think we would care about these books and this character whether or not Steig was alive or a woman. I know I would, because the heart of the story is about not putting up with shit and I think that’s something all people can relate to. We should be happy we got a unique character to take care of business–and that that character happens to be a woman.

Can’t we just appreciate that we have a Scarlett O’Hara for the 21st century? Oh, and Scarlett didn’t put up with shit…and she was a written by a woman…in 1936…and we all still care about her.

Fun fact: Larsson was known to have said he likened Lisbeth to a grown-up, dysfunctional, ADD-suffering Pippi Longstalking (also written by a woman–Astrid Lindgren). Several nods to Pippi and Lindgren can be found in the Millenium trilogy. See the nifty comparison did up by the NY Times last May.

I can easily think of more interesting questions to ask. Like why do female characters have to become uber-violent for the feminist media to take note? Silverstein calls out Aeon Flux and Lara Croft, but I’d like to add Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Bonnie Parker, Trinity, and even Hit-Girl to that list. Or let’s chat about Salander’s femininity–what do you think about the fact that Salander has the shape of a twelve year old boy? Personally, I’d rather discuss her moral code than her cup size, though.

What say you? Do you agree with Silverstein? Am I crazy? Why are we beating this character to death?

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6 thoughts on “Saving Salander

  1. Super_Mon says:

    I think this begs the question of “what is feminism anyway?” Anyone can write under the auspices of feminism, but to the best of my knowledge, current scholarship on gender it isn’t acrimonious, nor is it man-hating. Who cares if Salander gets a boob job? To me, these books were about a) not taking any shit, b) coming to terms with your history that includes horrific violence, and c) rediscovering or rebuilding your identity after violent act after violent act has nearly destroyed your life.

  2. Zrose25 says:

    I totes agree! Enough with the over analysis already! Can’t we all just enjoy a good read?

  3. Spitfire says:

    Full disclosure: i’ve only read the first book.
    book two will be read soon.

    I have to agree with J1 that you took issue with many of the same issues that I did. Silverstein is a bit of an alarmist, but I still think she raised a valid point that you touched on– that these books wouldn’t be as popular if they’d been written by a woman. It’s the same reason why J.K. Rowling androgynized her pen name in order to make more money. I’m sorry ladies: there is a glass ceiling whether you look at it or not.

    • Junkie1 says:

      Agreed. I only wish it was clarified by the alarmist media that this glass ceiling is imposed by the industry (that they belong to) and not the readers. Why should we, the masses, be vilified for “the man’s” dictatorship?

  4. Junkie1 says:

    Also, I’ve started to really dig the Salander/Scarlett comparison. They both personified their setting, they both dealt with men that hate/rape women, they had to face disgusting hate-filled rascists, they both have a mean glare, and they’re both fighters. Incidentally, they both also end up loving (and simultaneously resisting) the most unlikely men and taking care of their themselves (men be damned).

    Even Noomi Rapace and Vivien Leigh look really similar, and they are probably the same size, too (itty bitty).

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