Stieg Larsson was an outspoken feminist, and from his psyche was born one of the best feminist heroines of our time: Lisbeth Salander. Throughout the first three books of the Millenium series, we watched Lisbeth embark on her own personal and obsessive form of revenge, and we've cheered her on every step of the way. It's very rare to find female antiheroes in fiction across the media, but Lisbeth Salander fits the bill. A cold, uncompromising genius, she possesses those rare and awesome qualities that usually fit in with that male archetype of the mean but also incredibly effective antihero (think Gregory House, Sherlock Holmes, or even Batman). She's a feminist dream!
The question you may be asking now is this: Now that Salander has been passed on to someone else, does she still fit the bill? Luckily, after having read The Girl in the Spider's Web, I can confidently say that feminism still rules the Millenium series, and then some. Not only is Lisbeth Salander still the awesome avenging genius that we know and love, but she's also joined by a team of fascinating female characters that not only embody what it means to be strong, but also has no problem calling out misogyny in other people, and also themselves.
Want some examples before you jump in? I've compiled a list of the top feminist moments in The Girl in the Spider's Web. Don't worry, I'll go light on the spoilers, but as these moments are chronological, please be advised that as this round-up goes on a few details will be revealed. Check it out, and be prepared to say, "You go girl!" more than once. If these moments excite you, check out more in The Girl in the Spider's Web!
Gabriella Grane Calls Out Sexism In Her Workplace
Lisbeth Salander may be the feminist ideal, but that doesn't mean she's alone in this book. Enter Gabriella Grane, a counter-espionage analyst for the Swedish Security Police. She's young, attractive, and while the best person for the job, it seems as though she still can't shake unwanted male attention in the workplace. When one of her assignments sends her flowers, her boss blames her for it, Gabriella calls him out, saying "I now realize that I should blame myself when men indulge in such wildly wishful thinking that they see a sexual invitation in a simple smile." Tell it like it is, Gabriella!
Lisbeth Breaks The Fingers Of A Rapist Plastic Surgeon
Journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander have not spoken for some time at the start of The Girl in the Spider's Web, but that doesn't stop Blomkvist from searching for information as to what his favorite hacker might be up to. Told as a story about what Lisbeth has been up to, Blomkvist learns that Lisbeth has broken into the heavily guarded clinic of a plastic surgeon and broke his fingers, threatening him. Turns out, the surgeon had a history of sexually abuse towards his patients. This solidifies Lisbeth's character as not only a crusader for her own revenge, but also revenge for abused women everywhere.
Lisbeth Schools A College Professor About His Own Specialty
When one of the characters reminisces about meeting Lisbeth for the first time, he recalls the day she sat in on one of his classes at that Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Underwhelmed by her presence and believing her solely to be a strung out addict using his class room to nap, he calls her out on what she thinks of the complex mathematics she is teaching, and Lisbeth proceeds to destroy his expectations of her by giving him an icy, well thought out critique of his methods.
The Author Calls Out Misogyny Outright In The Text
For those concerned about whether or not David Lagercrantz would pick up the torch of feminism in the series that Stieg Larsson wrote a decade ago, you need not worry. Apart from having the female characters (and some of the male) discuss feminism outright, the author also discusses it in the narration, blaming the "collective misogyny within the force" when one of the female members of the Swedish Security Police is assigned merely to comfort a crying child in the face of the murders.
There Is A Positive Depiction Of A Single Mother
Detective Sergeant Sonja Modig is one of the police officers assigned to the murder that kicks off the main action of The Girl in the Spider's Web. Described as the single mother of a six year old son, that status is only mentioned once before falling into the background to focus instead on how well she does her job. Though subtle, the treatment of Sonja as a single mother and the subsequent "who cares?" normalizes single motherhood instead of presenting it as a source of conflict.
Lisbeth Destroys A Misogynist In Chess
When attempting to get information about the particularly shady murder of one of her associates, Lisbeth goes to a chess club to find one of the murdered man's former associates, sitting down to play him. The associate immediately discounts her based off of her punk look alone, and believes that not only is he going to beat her in chess, but that the defeat will be so great that Lisbeth would be willing to go home with him afterwards. Slowly but surely, she completely destroys him in the game, shocking him and proving once again that you can't judge a book by its cover.
Lisbeth Gets Credit Where It's Due
At the climax of the story, Lisbeth realizes that August Balder —the severely autistic son of the recently murdered Frans Balder— is being targeted due to his witnessing the murder, she rushes to his aid, finding him just in time to take a bullet for him and spirit him away to safety. When the police arrive to question witnesses, they ask about the man who rescued August, only to be immediately corrected by the witness. That's what happens when you assume, officer.
Erika Berger Calls Herself Out On Her Own Internalized Misogyny
When dealing with the mother of the autistic witness to his own father's murder, aging former actress Hanna Balder, Erika realizes that she never liked Hanna due to her overtly sexy film roles. Ashamed of her jealousy, she reminds herself that it's mostly her own internalized misogyny at play.
The "Big Bad" Is A Woman, And Refuses To Participate In The Sex Trade
This isn't to say that the leader of the shadowy group of cyber-terrorists behind the plot of The Girl in the Spider's Web is completely feminist solely because she's a woman, but it does show that even the worst people in the book can draw a line. The mysterious "Kira" uses her beauty and charm to seduce men to her cause, but also actively works to make the criminal organization she runs a better and safer place for women. This includes a refusal to work in human sex trafficking.