Why Fifty Shades of Grey is Demeaning to Women
It sometimes seems like the media feels that a woman who is in any way shy, insecure, or who has difficulty getting a date will eventually be faced with only one option: become the submissive in an unhealthy relationship. E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is certainly helping to make this unwritten rule the new normal. Ana Steele is a virgin, and for some reason she feels her only option is to start a relationship with Christian Grey. He’s handsome, he’s rich, and he’s very much interested in her….and that is apparently enough for her to ignore things like Grey asking her to sign a contract before they sleep together, Grey getting her involved in a relationship which includes Ana being on the receiving end of physical violence, Grey controlling every aspect of her life, even down to what kind of food she eats. In other words, we are all BDSM now. Man is the master, the woman is the submissive.
Can any self-respecting woman honestly think this is okay?
Place the Blame Where it Belongs
The only reason we have Fifty Shades of Grey is because we first had Twilight. E. L. James has freely admitted that her trilogy began as fan fiction of Twilight…and we all know there has been some justified criticism of the relationship between Bella and Edward Cullen! Bella Swan gets kicked around, ignored, and abused more than any other character in the Twilight Saga. It is HER life which becomes a shambles once she begins her relationship with Cullen. SHE is the one who has to make sacrifices (including dying!) in order to be with him. But she is glad to do it because she is “in love”. To quote the famous words printed in London’s The Independent: “Bella Swan lives to serve men and suffer”.
And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, we now have to introduce BDSM to it! Fifty Shades of Grey is basically a mass produced combination of Twilight and the 2002 movie Secretary. Secretary is about the dominant/submissive relationship between the emotionally unstable Lee Holloway and the successful E. Edward Grey. Guess who’s the bottom in this relationship?
Would these stories suddenly be better if they were rewritten with the man being the submissive? Of course not! I am simply pointing out a rather disgusting trait which seems to place women in abusive relationships.
I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute. – Rebecca West
And the Worst Part of it is….
Not only are Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, and the original story behind Secretary all written by women, but the majority of the readers of these works are all women! For some reason we are making a media sensation out of something that should be decried as physical if not sexual assault, and which should be condemned as sexist porn.
I honestly do not see how anyone can be a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey and be a supporter of women’s rights. How many people have enjoyed E.L. James’ work, and yet would criticize fairy tales for teaching women to feel they need a prince in order to feel complete? Admit it, girls: how many of you are fans of Fifty Shades of Grey, and yet would be quick to object (and justifiably so) to the suggestion that “Love, honor, and obey” be reinstated into the wife’s marriage vows?
So, if you’ve actually read this far, you are probably thinking something like “OK, egghead, what would you suggest as an alternative to reading Fifty Shades of Grey?”. This is not very easy to respond to. I am not going to be so Pollyanna as to suggest that you should give up reading Fifty Shades of Grey in favor of reading Jane Austen. I would suggest, however, that you read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. In this novel, the heroine is shy, young, unattractive, but suddenly has her life turned around when a mysterious older man, who is handsome and rich, unexpectedly proposes marriage to her. He takes her to his gothic estate where she slowly realizes there are dark secrets in his past – which oddly enough have NOTHING to do with whips and chains!
But this really is not the point. If you want to read Fifty Shades of Grey, that’s fine. But keep it to yourself! Whether the books are shrink-wrapped or not, they belong under the counter along with all the other porn. I do not appreciate going into my local Wal-Mart and finding copies of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy next to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. And I am most certainly NOT looking forward to the near future when I will go the theater to see a general release film and will end up being forced to watch even a short promo for the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey movie.
Daphne du Maurier's novel, originally published in 1938
© 2013 LastRoseofSummer2