My first exposure to Fifty Shades came when my oldest daughter (now 30) saw an interview with the author on the Today Show. She contacted me, gushing about how she just had to have these books. Any time one of my children says, “I want to read” it triggers the bibliophile parent gene, which forces me to act. I ran to my friend Amazon and ordered them. I had absolutely no idea what the books were about. “My baby wants to READ!” is all that I comprehended at the time. In a couple of days, a box arrived at my door, and my daughter received it, unopened.
Then, I started seeing articles and discussions referencing these books as poorly written garbage that glorifies abuse and misrepresents BDSM. That caused me to wonder what I’d just spent good money on, so I went to the net to investigate the reviews by those I consider peers and whose opinion I highly respect.
To my horror, I discovered that this was a terrible piece of Twilight fan fiction turned into 3 books. I read excerpts that made me weep for the future of humanity, given that this tripe was put on the NYT best-seller list! I encountered these rabid young fans who called this a “love story”. I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d bother to raise my boys to respect women and treat them well, if what these females want is a Christian Grey instead.
My daughter called me not long after she received the books, and told me that she and her husband had tried to read the first book together. They didn’t get far before they realized that this was NOT a love story, and it wasn’t erotic in the least.
The news came out that a movie was in the works, and now it’s out in theaters. The majority of reviews are saying the same things: this story a horribly constructed` tribute to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and to violence against women.
I’ve been approached by young ladies who believe that I should just keep my mouth shut. One even told me that because I haven’t read the books, I have no right to judge. Several have claimed that this is a love story. I have to wonder if they aren’t simply benefiting from never having been in an abusive relationship; and from the fruits of hard-won rights by those brave predecessors who refused to be silenced.
There used to be a cigarette ad targeting women that said, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Women in my country have made tremendous strides in achieving rights during the 20th century. By raising our collective voice in support of equality and respect, we were able to obtain the right to vote, the right to work outside the home, the right to an equal higher education, etc…
We still only make $.75 for every dollar a man makes doing the same work. In the southern U.S., there is a good-old-boy network in the judicial system which winks at men who abuse women and children. There are still laws on the books in several states which give a husband the right to beat his wife if she gets out of line. In a world where the ruling party of my country wants to legislate what I can wear, say, earn, and decide (for both myself and my body) I’m not about to be quiet. I’d be complicit if I did not say that the popularity of this work is a huge step backward.
Yes, it is fiction. The argument has been made that this is just a book. Clearly, E.L. James touched on something in our society that should be exposed. To think that this is erotica or that the protagonist of the story is anything other than the victim of abuse is a travesty. Clearly, there is much more work to be done in the world if this is seen by people as a love story, and/or as something about which they should fantasize. Sister feminists and advocates, roll up your sleeves. We still have a long way to go.