The Female Vampire: A Model For Feminists?

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I was reading an article on Ms. Blog yesterday about the remake of the Swedish movie, “Let the Right One In.” I haven’t seen the new version, which is titled, “Let Me In,” so this is not going to be a comparison of the two or a review of the latter. What I want to write about is female vampires in general, and whether or not they are good models for feminists.

Certainly, female vampires are strong figures since they have the power of life and death over mortals. The fact that they are aggressive is itself a departure from the usual depiction of women as passive. They don’t sit and wait for male vampires to bring them their sustenance; they hunt and kill for themselves. The subtext, as with all vampires, is that their actions are motivated by sexuality as well as survival. In that, too, female vampires are seen as aggressive, which makes them seem somewhat unfeminine.

When women act on their sexual desires, they are seen as seductresses, not as healthy women seeking to satisfy a normal human urge. If you consider the female vampire, you can see how unnatural sexual autonomy seems to be for a woman. Female vampires are excused for being aggressive because that is their nature: their lust for blood makes them into sexual predators against their will. Mortal women have no such excuse.

The female vampire, like the witch, is suspect because she acts outside the accepted norms for women in our society. She is self-contained, she doesn’t rely on men, she goes out and gets what she wants no matter the consequences,  she  “forces” people to do things that are against their nature, and she is certainly not nurturing!

The only nurturing female vampire I can think of was the woman (Madeleine) in “Interview With The Vampire” who cared for Claudia, but she was nurturing before she was “turned” and in fact was willing to be made into a vampire in order to continue to take care of Claudia and provide her with maternal companionship. Claudia wasn’t trying to do her a favor; she was merely following her own selfish desires.

In the movie, “Let the Right One In,” Eli is protective of Oskar, but not exactly nurturing. She kills for him, and offers him companionship and a way out of his dreary life, but is she motivated by love? The implication is that she can’t really love Oskar if she is “saving” him in order to satisfy her own needs. Women are just not supposed to love that way; we are supposed to become martyrs when we love.

I think that some people view feminists in much the same way as they do female vampires: they are seen as selfish, too interested in sex, and non-nurturing. But the female vampire—and the feminist—challenges us to be more assertive about meeting our own needs, to be more intentional in our lives’ purpose, and to be self-sufficient. The problem is, when mortal women model that behavior, they are seen viewed as if they were blood-sucking vampires who drain the very life from men, children, families, and society.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a woman could be sexual and strong without being seen as some kind of mythological boogey-woman?

For an interesting gender analysis of “Let the Right One In” read this review, including the comments, on Feminist Review (now reincarnated as Elevate Difference).

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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