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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

July 28, 2010

I read the first book of the Millennium series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, in two days. Four hundred and forty-six pages in two days, and I read it on my computer. Sorry eyes! Goddamn. During the first fifty to a hundred pages, I couldn’t quite grasp what all the fuss was about. Financial intrigue equals boring in my mind, but once the story had been laid down it was one hell of a ride.

For those of you not familiar with the story, let me just tell you a bit about one of its main characters: Lisbeth Salander. A tiny sprite of a girl with short black hair and several piercings and tattoos. She’s had a hard knocks sort of life and most of the people she encounters describe her a twenty-five year old anorexic who is borderline retarded. Turns out she doesn’t have an eating disorder and she’s smart as a whip.

The Millenium series (although I haven’t read the two sequels yet) features a lot of violence against women. Each part of the first book was prefaced with a statistic on rape and violence against women in Sweden. Lisbeth, the main female protagonist is raped in the first book and although the scene is pretty horrible, I really like how she handles herself afterwards. I’m not saying every rape survivor should turn around and take revenge on her attacker (real life violence just ain’t my thing), but there’s something to be said about a women who takes things into her own hands and doesn’t cast herself in the role of a victim.

Yes, rape is a horrible thing. Yes, abuse is a hard thing to get over. Yes, it all pretty much sucks balls, but you’re not gonna do anyone any favors by staying home and feeding your trauma. The sex-positive website for teens, Scarleteen, has a great point when they say that “the opposite of rape is not sex, but no rape”. Think about that for a second. Personally, I think the fact that Lisbeth’s character engages in consensual sexual activity after having been raped without associating sex with her previous trauma is a clear example of what “the opposite of rape is not sex, but no rape” means.

Another thing about the book that really struck me is the representation of the “other”. Lisbeth is portrayed as someone who is alienated by society. To some degree she casts herself in that role, with good reason, but ultimately EVERYONE judges her character based on her physicality and no one gives her the respect that she deserves, which is to say the basic respect that everyone deserves.

It got me thinking about the mistrust that some people show to those who stand outside of the norm. I wondered if people who are fundamentaly against a group of people for x reason aren’t simply filled with contempt because they themselves have tried to fit in by pouring themselves into the mould society has prescribed for them. The logic being that they have sacrificed x and y and thus deserves a better standing in society than people who simply act as themselves. It’s as if the sacrifices they have made to fit in have filled them with resentment fueled by their own belief of self-entitlement due to the fact that they follow the rules. They have made the sacrifices and the “other” has not, so they should be the ones to reap the rewards and everyone else should be cast out. Does that makes sense, I think it does, what are your thoughts?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2010 11:58 am

    Hey Olga!

    I just linked to this post on another blog:

    http://www.marksimpson.com/blog/2010/07/25/does-salon-live-in-the-same-six-peced-world-as-everyone-else/comment-page-2/#comment-7280

    In my comment I said I thought you’d been informed a bit by some of my writing here. I am dead chuffed that you have read my work so insightfully and applied it to an actual proper literary book! I am especially chuffed that it was my piece critiquing ‘rape culture’ that this reminds me of in the first section. Because I got so much shit from feminists for writing that. It was one of the factors in making me decide to distance myself from the dogma of feminism.

    Anyway the blog I have linked to is really ace. It is by Mark Simpson who mainly writes on masculinity and gay identities and popular culture. His work has influenced my thinking a lot lately. I told him about cuntlove and he was interested.

    So I am spreading the love, whether it be cuntlove or cocklove or anything else love that doesn’t identify with those particular symbols! XXQRG/Elly

  2. August 1, 2010 10:35 pm

    Yes, I was definitely influenced by what I was reading at the time, which happens to have been your blog and this book, as well as some of the things we discussed in your comments section. Since the post was more about the book and less of a comment on your blog post, I didn’t think to link to it (oups, sorry).

    As for the dogma of feminism, I’m well aware that some people who identify as feminists would probably disagree with me on a whole bunch of things: prostitution and porn, just to name two subjects that come to mind. Nevertheless, I can still call myself a feminist , because at the core I think that anyone who supports other people’s rights (not just woman) can fit themselves into the definition of what it means to be a feminist. That to me is what is important.

    Thanks for the link love and the, huh, spreading of the aforementioned love.

  3. August 2, 2010 2:35 am

    That’s cool that you didn’t link to me. I get a bit tired of blogs that constantly include embedded links every five seconds to acknowledge the source of their idea/argument. We all are informed by what we read and who we talk to and the process is much more organic than always including a list of ‘citations’. I am glad you linked to Scarleteen though, as their ‘Opposite of Rape’ concept is very important and it’s a good informative site on sexuality/sexual health. I’d better read this novel now!

  4. August 2, 2010 2:54 am

    I really like Scarleteen, they are a great site in terms of sex education and not just for teens.

    It is an organic process, this sharing of ideas, that’s what I love about blogging.

  5. August 2, 2010 2:56 am

    Haha, now, I’m actually reading a book that Bidisha recommended when she wrote about Twilight and its “insufferable” heroine.

  6. August 2, 2010 3:51 am

    I really wanted to counteract some of the horrendous ways in which Twilight was written about by feminists, including Bidisha and the lovely Lindy West from The Stranger, who called her article on Eclipse ‘Hola, Virgins, Wassup’? But I have never seen an episode or read a page of the series so I just couldn’t bring myself to try!

  7. August 2, 2010 4:02 am

    I suppose it would be rather hard to do so if you’ve never read the books or seen any of the movies. Neither have strong artistic merit, but I found them enjoyable for what they are: crack for your brain in vampire genre form. I read Bidisha’s take on Sex and the City 2 (which I haven’t seen) and although, from what I hear, that movie has taken a lot of flack from feminists as well, she did defend it in a round about way. Ultimately I’m never comfortable with the examples she comes up with to prove her point, even when they are valid. It’s strange. A little too much “argh at the patriarchy” that just doesn’t sit right with me, but that I can definitely understand, since I have been faced with certain situations that have made me feel the frustration that fuels that sort of dialogue. I’m just not a hater by nature though…even though I can be quite contrary at times, or so I’m told. : p

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