The lamest dames in literature: 5 of the worst female role models

Remember 12, 13, 14-year-old you? Maybe you picked up Jane Eyre or Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice or Alice in Wonderland.

Unlike the leading ladies of those novels, the following protagonists lack the luster of self-confidence, fortitude and ambition of quality female role models.

So, prepare for some sass, as these fickle females fall beneath the lash of language.

1. Bella Swan (The Twilight Saga):

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

Oh yes, I’m sure you’ve all heard this one, but she’s still worth a mention.

Isabella, or “just Bella,” Swan, is the female narrator and protagonist of Stephanie Meyers’ The Twilight Saga. 

Bella allows her boyfriend, Edward Cullen, and best friend, Jacob Black, to physically and emotionally mistreat her, claiming that she must bring it upon herself.  Bella thinks nothing of being forcibly kissed, shoved, grabbed or told what to do.Instead of making her own choices, she lets the men in her life chose for her out of fear and submission.

In New Moon, the second book in the series, Edward breaks up with Bella and leaves town, making further contact impossible. Instead of taking a few days to grieve and then trying to move forward, Bella literally curls up in a ball and becomes lifeless—believing that there is no purpose to life without her boyfriend.

The majority of New Moon is incredibly painful to read just because most of it consists of Bella whining about missing Edward and his golden eyes and icy skin.

Really? Give me a break.

2. Anastasia Steele (The 50 Shades Trilogy):

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

According to author E.L. James this virginal English major has never been kissed. Apparently, she’s also never been drunk, and any English major knows there’s no way that can be true.

Miss Steele tumbles her way onto all fours the first time meeting Christian Grey. Later, she tumbles into the street—so desperately mesmerized by his handsome face. Soon after, she tumbles into his bed after signing a contract removing most of her human rights.

So, ladies, feel free to disregard this dame for anything more than an example of vapidly ignorant gold-digger. Steele’s only reasons for her affection towards Grey are his money and good looks. She excuses his actions even though he causes her fear and pain. She blames his faults on herself.

Mothers, Grandmothers and Daughters—don’t look up to this character regardless of how sexy they’ll make her in the movie. Push to educated each other and yourselves about sexual health and healthy relationships.

3 & 4. Estella/Miss Havisham (Great Expectations):

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In this Dickens novel, these two women are the epitome of mental illness. The elder, Ms. Havisham is still wearing her wedding dress from the day she was abandoned at the altar.

Not only does she continue to degrade her quality of life by allowing her house to fall into complete squalor, but she convinces adopted daughter, Estella, that her actions are acceptable.

By adopting and caring for Estella, Miss Havisham trains her to believe that males must be manipulated, controlled and emotionally destroyed. Havisham cares for and financially supports Estella, making sure the young girl is at the peak of physical and social beauty, only to make sure that she breaks every heart she comes in contact with.

Estella and her caretaker are both poor examples of healthy relationships between men and women. Havisham can’t deal with grief, and Estella has been trained as a man-crushing, hear-breaking robot since birth.

5. Catherine (Wuthering Heights):

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

Catherine and Heathcliff rival Romeo and Juliet for “Most tragic couple,” in the canon’s high-school yearbook. However, our tall, dark and conflicted hero is not the only poor example of mental and emotional health.

Not only does Catherine manipulate and torment Heathcliff through her relationship with Edgar Linton—dashing and affluent socialite—but she deprives him of closure.

Catherine’s girlhood romance with the adopted orphan is playfully aggressive and raw, reflecting the mutual passion between characters. However, as soon as she meets the Lintons she is drawn to Edgar’s promises of money and social status.

Instead of communicating with either partner or herself, Cathy marries Edgar because she knows she should, destroying Heathcliff emotionally.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

Later, while pregnant with Edgar’s baby, she starves herself and forces herself to become sick from malnutrition. Though she insists the sickness is a result of her emotional conflict between the two men, it becomes clear that most of her ailments have been manufactured to gain attention.

Even in her death Catherine leaves the two without closure, as she is buried directly between Edgar and Heathcliff. Though some may see this as a symbol, it still echoes Catherine’s extreme selfishness.

Catherine has no respect for anyone outside of herself, made apparent most by her lack of concern for her unborn child. Not only is she a horrible role model for readers, but her daughter reflects her mother’s self-absorbed disposition in her budding relationship with Hareton at the end of the text.

So, whether you’re reading, re-reading or watching the films, don’t emulate these ladies. Don’t model yourself after misogyny, selfishness, greed or bitterness. Challenge yourself to grow, to be better than these gossip girls.

Surround yourself with those you wish to be like—and honey, these chickies ain’t it.


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