Wednesday, February 25, 2015

50 Shades of Feminism

by Bethany Maines

I’ve been thinking about feminism lately - what people think about women and what they think is "good" for women. Perhaps it’s because with the birth of my daughter I’m startled by how genderized every child’s toy has become. Or perhaps it’s the kerfluffle over Fifty Shades of Gray.  "She’s a poor role model! We decry the normalization of violence against women!  The women must be protected! Would you want that to be YOUR daughter??!!!! The end of the world is nigh!!" 

First of all – You are absolutely right.  That is a terrible book; Anastasia is a terrible role model and Christian Gray appears to be an abusive twerp. But... do you really think women so dumb that they can’t judge for themselves what should stay a fantasy on the screen and what should be their real relationship?  Probably not.

Second of all - No, I don’t want my daughter to be like the heroine in 50 Shades, but on the other hand, I’m also not worried about that… at all.  The storyline – a passive, naïve girl is seduced into a BDSM relationship by an older, more powerful man – only works if the girl is passive and naïve. I may be placing too much faith in my own parenting ability, but I’m fairly certain I can ensure that my daughter will be neither.

However, what no one seems to address in their critiques of the story is why readers find it romantic in the first place. Sure the sex scenes are titillating, but why does anyone find the idea of their romance viable in the first place?  Perhaps if people really wanted to protect women we would stop perpetuating the myth that the Snow White story-line of a girl waiting in sequestered purity for an “experienced” man is romantic. Or that stalking her and monitoring her phone calls and behavior are are romantic traits. But if we did that, then we would have to address the pervasive idea that all women who have sex are sluts and then we’d have to address the idea that, as a society, we police the bodies of women constantly. And who wants to think about those things?  Question our own latent misogyny? Hell no! Let’s just ban a movie – that’s so much easier.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, Tales from the City of Destiny and the forthcoming An UnseenCurrent.  You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. I was active in women's Iiberation groups in the early 1970s. I had no idea then how deep misogyny is around the world. It's very distressing. At the very least, I think it's safe to say the old double standard is alive and well. This is a tricky subject, and good for you in bringing this up. The horrid movie is a symptom, and I hate it has gone mainstream. Many young women will get suckered by its message, ones who aren't blessed with good parenting, who are adrift and seeking love in the wrong ways or places.

  2. Good one, thanks.


This is a comment awaiting moderation on the blog.