Sunday, June 24, 2012

on feminism and 50 Shades of Grey

Many of my contemporaries are enthralled with a relatively new book - 50 Shades of Grey.

Have you heard of it?  According to Wikipedia, 50 Shades of Grey is: Set largely in Seattle, it is the first instalment in a trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of BDSM.

(Oh yes, you read that correctly).

The book has received a ton of media attention, and among my group of friends, lots of praise and gossip and smirks and raised eyebrows.  Many of my "non reader" friends have scooped it up, in large part, I suspect, due to the salacious nature of the content.  I have not read the book, but I'll admit - I'd like to.  Due to it's popularity, it has a huge waiting list at the library.

While my friends have been universally positive about the book, many others haven't been so positive - including a variety of feminist groups.  Criticism ranges from saying that "women deserve better than 50 Shades of Grey" to another interesting critique I heard last weekend - "if a man hits you in the bedroom, what's to prevent him from abusing you in other parts of your life"?  While criticism ranges from content to sexuality to writing level, the fact is - the books are hot right now.

The spicy nature of the trilogy tends to overshadow the really important issues that the book raises, but they are there - feminism, and dominance vs. submission.  And some people seem to think that the two are mutually exclusive - that feminists can't choose to be submissive to anything or anyone, and that women who act submissive (sexually or not) are not feminists.

But of course I disagree - isn't that the point of feminism?  Choice?  The ability to choose a path, whether it be submission or dominance, working or staying at home, motherhood or career.  And perhaps more importantly - the ability to choose or not to choose, to be all of those things all at once?

When people declare that 50 Shades is a step backward for women, they are missing the point entirely. Feminism isn't the requirement to make certain "advanced" or "modern choices", but rather, the ability to make your choice.

2 comments:

  1. Completely agree about the choice thing, well said Kate!

    Also, I read all three 50 shades. The writing is terrible, however, I did finish them off in about two weeks, total guilty pleasure. I'll balance it off with some Bronte later this summer.

    Melissa

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  2. "isn't that the point of feminism? Choice? The ability to choose a path, whether it be submission or dominance, working or staying at home, motherhood or career. And perhaps more importantly - the ability to choose or not to choose, to be all of those things all at once?" - AMEN! Love it :)

    So happy I stumbled on your blog! Stop by and say hi sometime.
    www.dysfunctionaleverafter.com

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