The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Gratuitous Violence Against Women or Shining a Light on the Problem We Want to Ignore?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is ostensibly a murder mystery.  Despite its 600+ page length and its detours into Swedish political intrigue, it’s much more than that and readers from teens to grandmas are taking it to the pool this summer.  For those who haven’t read the book (or seen the movie!), I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that one of the themes running through the book is sexual violence against women.

The author, the late Stieg Larsson, didn’t hold anything back in his descriptions about what was done to women throughout the book, including one of the main characters, Lisbeth Salander.

Some say it’s too much.  But as someone who’s been the victim of domestic violence, and as we continue to see stories on cable news about real life women like Stephany Flores and Yeardley Love who have died at the hands of their abusers, I think that giving readers around the world a look at this type of violence without sugar-coating it is a way that we can move forward with reducing violent acts against women.

That’s what I’m writing about over at my weekly Speaker of the House column.

What do you think? Are graphic descriptions of violence against women just a gratuitous way to sell books or is it time to stare it in the face and not not turn away?

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2 Responses to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Gratuitous Violence Against Women or Shining a Light on the Problem We Want to Ignore?”

  1. deborahlquinn Says:

    I think that bc we see Lisbeth’s reactions to what happened to her, and her family, that the violence in Larsson’s books isn’t the same kind of prurient violence we see in movies like “Saw” or in bad thrillers. Larsson is also developing a character, whose reactions to the world around her are shaped by what’s happened to her: we see cause and effect, action and consequence: Lisbeth (it seems to me) would rather NOT be the person she is (wait till book 2!) but it’s the hand she’s been dealt, and so she…deals. Big Time. I hope for all our sake that what Larsson depicts is heightened for “dramatic effect,” but alas, the stories in the news suggest otherwise–at least in his books, the victim turns the tables and survives. Sorry – can’t say more or I’ll give away all that happens!

  2. Erika Whiteway Says:

    I am getting the book today, but I don’t think it will alter my opinion that men are aroused by sexual violence, it is an acceptable and entertaining part of global culture. No where on earth is there a society that does not openly, politically, culrurally sanction violence against women. When I can read news, watch news, watch criminal justice programs such Law&Order SUV that mimic real police-work, but with the always-sexy stereotype of the female cop to pump-up the appeal. The victims in these kinds of shows–”Dominick Dunne”, “I Survived”, “Who The %&%# Did I Marry?” and even Suzie Orman–the list goes on–are almost always female. In real life, these kinds of victims (myself included) have little recourse and support when it comes to prosecuting personal crimes like rape, fraud and outright theft of a woman’s entire existence via the systematized legal exclusion of women’s rights, not just in non-Western countries, but here in America, where women have ONE Constitutional right: the right to vote. Until women have equality, until we are free to act in full accordance with our desires, needs and intentions; until we are not reduced to bimbos, laundry-doing Moms and self-effacing, child-like good-girls, the depiction of violence against women is merely reinforces their status as powerless victims. The plethora of violence and negative depictions of women in the media often make me feel attacked, as if it were a form of abuse. If we pass the ERA ever, I may reconsider my opinion.


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