#FeministFriday No. 7

The subject of this week’s #FeministFriday will probably come as no surprise to most of you, considering the volume of similar articles I’ve seen floating around the bloggersphere in the last week or so:

Don’t see “50 Shades of Grey” for Valentine’s Day. Don’t see “50 Shades of Grey” as a joke. Don’t see “50 Shades of Grey”.

I’ve seen more articles pop up from different corners of the Internet about this than any other singular pop culture event or social justice issue. They’re all protesting 50 Shades, all for different reasons, all for different agendas.

One of the most common protests I’ve seen is simply due to the lewd and pornographic nature of the story and the apparent immorality of S&M. The story itself is quite pornographic, and it does contain a lot of elements of BDSM — though there is something to be said about a sex positive movie in which the female protagonist doesn’t end up dead.

Personally, I think whatever consensual, legal activities people get up to in private is their business, and really doesn’t concern the rest of the world. This includes the BDSM lifestyle.

Unfortunately, 50 Shades is a complete misrepresentation of an actual BDSM relationship. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve seen this point stressed repeatedly. A healthy BDSM relationship places great importance on mutual trust, consent, and proper aftercare. The Christian-Ana version forgoes all those things, and adds insult to literal injury by insinuating that the only way someone could actually enjoy BDSM is because they’ve suffered past trauma in their tragic back-story.

Essentially, 50 Shades does as well of a job accurately depicting the BDSM lifestyle as The Big Bang Theory does geek culture. After all, why would E L James bother doing actual research when she can bore readers with lengthy passages of the vaguely-described and wholly uninteresting main character’s “inner goddess” dancing a merengue and the Dance of Seven Veils?

The writing itself is atrocious, and the acting in the trailer looks wooden at best (and passionless at worst). The press tours with the lead actors have revealed a Robert Pattinson level of self-loathing for their career choices, as well as painfully forced interviews where heavy sighs accompany most of their answers. There’s been a lot of comparison to Twilight, both because of their mutual terribleness and because 50 Shades was originally (unsurprisingly) a smutty Twilight fan-fiction.

The press hype, terrible source material, and wide-spread dissatisfaction with the movie’s existence led to a superb observation from my favorite child actor turned excellent human being and anti-50 Shades advocate, Mara Wilson:

marawilson

Bad acting and worse writing aside, I really have no problem with a story about two adults doing adult things (though I do prefer when they don’t completely misrepresent a subculture). However, I do have a big problem with romanticizing a physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive relationship and normalizing it into a pop culture icon. 50 Shades of Grey isn’t terrible because it has graphic depictions of sex or even because it has graphic depictions of sex with handcuffs; it’s terrible because Christian Grey is a manipulative and abusive waste of printer ink, and he’s being marketed to young women as the perfect relationship.

I’m calling 50 Shades of Nope on that bullshit.

Some of you may recall that my #FeministFriday from two weeks ago was about abusive relationships. Reading down the list of warning signs of abuse is like reading a character description for Christian Grey, and it’s sickening.

Christian is described as a dark hero – brooding, mysterious, exceptionally handsome, and impossibly rich. He’s stubborn and set in his ways, but he changes because of his love for Ana.

This is an incredibly dangerous precedent to set in the minds of impressionable young women. He’s not a tortured soul that will prosper into goodness with the help of unconditional love; he’s a violent psychopath.

Just a few frightening characteristics displayed by Christian Grey towards Anastasia Steele include:

  • Stalking
  • Possessive Tendencies
  • Intimidation
  • Manipulation
  • Extreme Mood Swings
  • Kidnapping
  • Controlling Behavior
  • Threatening Language
  • Refusing to Communicate
  • Guilt Tripping
  • Forcefulness
  • Constantly Demanding Attention
  • Isolation
  • Coercion
  • Public Humiliation
  • Disregard for her Feelings and Wishes
  • Physical Assault
  • Sexual Assault

And all of those things happen in the first ten or so chapters, before Ana ever agrees to enter into a relationship with him.

Is this really the goal to which our relationships should aspire? He stalks me because he cares, he threatens me because he loves me, he hits me because he had a crappy childhood, and I stay with him because (spoilers!) I get a diamond and a house and a baby out of the deal.

This cannot be the standard because not only does it send the message that it’s normal for abuse to occur, it tells the victim that there’s something wrong with them if they don’t like it.

Don’t see 50 Shades of Grey for Valentine’s Day. Don’t celebrate a romantic day with your loved one by supporting intimate partner violence.

Don’t see 50 Shades of Grey as a joke. If you just want to laugh at how terrible it is with your friends, be socially responsible and find a pirated copy online.

Don’t see 50 Shades of Grey. Take your $8.50 (or more) and donate it to a women’s shelter or sexual assault center or to an organization like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Use the two hours of your life that you didn’t waste at the movie theater to attend volunteer advocate training so you can help victims of abuse and assault.

At the very, very least find yourself something smutty that doesn’t glorify abuse and doesn’t read like a literary catastrophe.

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week!

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