Let’s take advantage of the Record’s new effort to branch outside of our purple bubble to talk about something really important: Kristen Stewart. More specifically, Kristen Stewart’s love life. Even more specifically: her (semi)recently discovered infidelity on Robert Pattinson.
Seriously, let’s talk about it. I know how frivolous it sounds – how unworthy of the 15-minute Record break you give yourself as a reward for finishing a chapter of your history reading or half of your problem set. But give me a few of those minutes, because oftentimes it’s seemingly distant and disconnected events like this one that can make us most candidly reflect on ourselves.
The summary is this: Stewart (K.Stew) and Pattinson (R.Patz) started an adorable vampire romance in 2009 after working together on the Twilight saga. The world rejoiced, and they were down-to-earth, private and all those other things we both admire and get annoyed by in our celebrities. Then, this summer, K.Stew was caught having an affair with Rupert Sanders, her married director in Snow White and the Huntsman. And then the whole world (or at least the Twilight fans, which can seem like the whole world) took poor betrayed R.Patz’s side. They also, very creatively, dubbed Stewart a “trampire” for her actions (who knew Twilight fans were so witty?).
So yes, infidelity is bad. And let me preempt what you might be thinking by granting that, yes, in choosing a life of celebrity, Stewart has, to some extent, forfeited her privacy and the right to dictate her own image. But this isn’t about the morality of cheating or the morality of our idolatry of celebrities. It’s about the disturbing reality of a public movement condemning a woman on the basis of her sexuality. We’ve unfortunately come to expect this kind of intolerance and persecution from radical radio hosts and politicians (think Rush Limbaugh and the Sandra Fluke birth control fiasco), but it should be very concerning that such rhetoric can gain momentum among girls and young women – the target demographic of the Twilight franchise – directed against other women.
The rapid spread of the term “trampire” is a prime example of something the feminist community and its allies call “slut shaming.” The term encompasses anything that degrades a woman – criticizes, makes culpable, seeks to embarrass – for “overt” sexuality or markers thereof. This kind of act seeks to normalize the repression of female sexuality (in contrast with the celebration of male conquest). It’s based on an idea that there is a right and wrong way for a “lady” to behave: privately, publicly, inside a relationship or outside of one.
I can’t believe I even just typed the word “lady.” I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. It all seems so antiquated. And yet: I mentioned something earlier about self-reflection. So here’s the part where we suck up our pride – don’t worry, we’ll still be the No. 1 liberal arts college in the country and always, always better than Amherst – and admit that this phenomenon isn’t just part of the world of crazy celebrities and shallow consumer culture for caring about Stewart in the first place. It’s part of our world, too.
How does it happen on campus? Well, I know it’s a cliché at this point, but think of it in terms of the classic double standard about hooking up: When a guy adds a tally to his count, he’s awesome; the more sexual experiences a woman has, the less classy her reputation is. As smart, capable people, we can’t get stuck in the trap of thinking we are exempt from this! It happens literally every day. A girl is pronounced a “slut” because she’s dressed a certain way or because she’s had “too many” sexual partners or because of how’s she’s dancing at Goodrich. We call our entrymates out at Sunday brunch. We define others’ sexual experiences for them based on reputation. In the K.Stew example, one can’t help but notice that it’s the young, female starlet whose career is in jeopardy, not that of the older, more established husband, father and clear holder of the position of power in this particular dynamic. Just like it’s the female student at the College on whom a hookup reflects negatively, not the male.
I know there’s a stigma against feminism, and I don’t care to know how many eye-rolls this rant has engendered. This isn’t just a feminist issue; it’s something we all have a stake in. Using the language I’m talking about – the language of sluts and trampires – we’re not just risking offending someone if they happen to overhear us. We’re perpetuating the archaic idea that female sexuality is shameful. We’re pushing it back to fit into one neat little box. I know very few of us would say or even think this directly. But if you benefit from the expression of any woman’s sexuality – either as the one doing the expressing or as the one on the receiving end – and wouldn’t dream of devaluing said expression as it’s occurring, then you probably shouldn’t do it implicitly in any other scenario. And you should probably remove the word “trampire” from your vocabulary – if it was ever there in the first place.
Sophie Montgomery ’14 is an English major from Gaithersburg, Md. She lives in Fayerweather.