Why Feminists Despise “50 Shades of Grey”
While I was waiting in line to see “Kingsman: The Secret Service” last night, a huge line of moviegoers waited nearby in a separate area of the theater. 95% of these moviegoers were women. The other 5% were boyfriends. I would guess that 65% of these women were in their 30s and 40s — though a surprising percentage was also young women (college age, maybe even some older teenagers).
They, as you might have guessed, were there to see “50 Shades of Grey.”
As I walked into “Kingsman,” which was right across the hall from “50 Shades,” I overheard one of the young “50 Shades” fans, probably in her 20s, say, word-for-word, with gleeful delight, “I haven’t been this excited about a movie since ‘Twilight!'”
I will be honest: in that moment, I was very tempted to turn around, go straight home, pack my bags, have my US citizenship revoked, and move to a remote hut in the middle of the Outback in Australia. (I love Australia, by the way.)
What’s fascinating is that, in the case of “50 Shades,” we have a rare moment in our acidic culture of political feuding where (some) radical liberal feminists and conservative Christians actually agree on an issue. They are allies.
And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen Christians join with feminists.
When I was in college at a public university in California, I joined about 20-30 Christians from the campus Christian club, and we participated with feminists in the Take Back the Night march through Isla Vista. It wasn’t some aggressive, outlandish display of radical feminists burning bras — that stereotype that people have. It was women who had been deeply wounded by sexual abuse gathering together to boldly share their testimonies in public and offer mutual support — often in tears.
I was in tears too, listening to all the heartbreaking tales of rape and abuse. The Christians on campus were huge supporters of that Take Back the Night event, I’m proud to say.
And now, once again, Christians and even radical feminists are agreeing on something. Yes, there are feminists who despise “50 Shades.”
(Though, to be clear, I am not saying that all radical feminists would happily stand side-by-side with Christians in a picket line. Some radical feminists harbor a hatred of the Bible and are convinced that all Christian men are the devil incarnate.)
There’s this headline from a Daily Mail article: “Fifty Shades of Abuse: Protesters demonstrate outside UK premiere claiming explicit film glamorizes domestic violence.”
A sub-header from the same article: “Feminist demonstrators say the movie ‘romanticizes’ abusive relationships.”
Or how about this one — “Christian Grey is a rapist” — the words from a feminist’s picketing sign (pictured in the Daily Mail article, as are the other protestor quotes below).
Another protestor’s sign — a sign that was used to picket the film’s premier in London: “Christian: Predator NOT Protector.”
Another one: “Fifty Shades is giving the dangerous impression that unwanted control, manipulation and stalking are forms of love.”
Another: “‘Fifty Shades is…telling survivors that what happened to us is really just “romance.”‘
The Daily Mail reporter interviewed the organizer of the protests, Natalie Collins, who said this, which gives you a little more nuanced view of the protestors. Christians would definitely side with them against the film’s romanticizing of abuse and manipulation, but not so much with their acceptance of BDSM:
‘We are not against BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism), it is the other issues in the books and films which we say glamorize domestic violence.
‘I have spoken to people who have said that he (Christian Grey) was abused as a child and that is why he is the way he is.
‘It is also very dangerous to suggest that people abuse because of their childhood and that women can fix broken men with enough love.’
According to the Daily Mail interview, Ms. Collins also said that she, after reading all three books, was “deeply concerned about the amount of domestic violence that was being romanticized and celebrated…The thing that I would say to people who are reading the books, who are going to see it, is, if he wasn’t rich and very attractive, would this behavior be normal?”
And then there’s this opening zinger from USA Today:
Feminists, archbishops, movie critics and the American Family Association: Not your usual political or cultural coalition.
But they’ve been brought together by mutual loathing of the S&M adventures of Fifty Shades of Grey, the books that have sold gazillions of copies and the just-opened movie expected to sell gazillions of tickets.
One of those groups in the alliance even created a website: fiftyshadesisabuse.com. On their Facebook page, according to the USA Today article, they write: “Seriously, free speech is one thing, public viewing for a fee on the night prior to Valentine’s Day of sexual abuse by intimidation is NOT pro-woman, nor is it pro-family. Let’s get this removed and put in the garbage where it belongs.”
One of the other protestors in this alliance, Dawn Hawkins, the head of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, said this, as quoted in the USA Today article:
“(Fifty Shades) teaches that you can fix sexual violence if you’re just loving and obedient. It offers hope of a romantic and happily-ever-after ending,” she says. “Women grasped on to the glitz and glamor, the sound track, the handsome star, not thinking of what the deeper meanings are.”
Scholar William Giraldi, an academic elite whose article was published on the very liberal publication “New Republic” — and who I’m guessing (a very broad assumption, I admit) would criticize elements of conservative Christian culture as much as he would criticize “50 Shades” — wrote this about the book “50 Shades of Grey”:
Christian Grey, priapic and untamable, a roué for whom commitment is kryptonite, soon breaks beneath the loving gaze of Anastasia Steele, who on one page flaunts her freight of insecurities and her self-esteem starvation, her readiness to be dragooned, and on the next page is pleased to be assertive, bossy, modern. The books are fantastical precisely because they promise that venery leads to values, thrall to authority—because they are blithely convinced that both ways is the only way to have it. The trilogy’s assembly-line asininity is really a fomentation of the worst that can be believed about both sexes. Romance novels—parochial by definition, ecumenical in ambition—teach a scurvy lesson: enslavement to the passions is a ticket to happiness.
With a calm coolness, he dissects the way “50 Shades” is an assault to literature (besides teaching a “scurvy” lesson) and ends his article with this observation — something that I was witnessing at the movie theater last night as I watched mobs of women waiting in that long line for “50 Shades of Grey”:
“At least people are reading.” You’ve no doubt heard that before. But we don’t say of the diabetic obese, “At least people are eating.” Anyway, we can expect a resurgence of the Fifty Shades evangelism when the film version is released next year, when middle-class ladies everywhere tug their porcine beaus off the sofa and put them through another 90 minutes of torture.
And though the filmmakers, including the lead actors, defend the film because they say that the sex is all consensual, there’s a problem with that: the experience of watching a glamorous, cool, good looking couple consent (on a larger-than-life screen) to abusive manipulation and control issues in their relationship gives legitimacy and glamor to that mindset and subtly changes the way couples see their own relationships.
Just saying “it’s all consensual” doesn’t magically remove all the problems with “50 Shades of Grey.” And, as shocking as it is, that’s something that conservative Christians and radical liberal feminists are agreeing on.
I highly recommend this article by Kirsten Andersen at Life Site who, among other things, shows how “50 Shades” is, quite literally, a rewrite of “Twilight.” It also reveals something that no one else is talking about (that I’ve seen). Her article — called “The real reason why 50 Shades is so wildly popular. (HINT: It’s not the sex.)” — is an intriguing and helpful read.