It’s Valentines weekend! And I have to tell you, it has not felt like a good week for a guy trying to raise two beautiful daughters…. Or a son, for that matter. We’ve got the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue making a huge step forward for woman’s rights by putting a “Plus-Size” model in their magazine. To the right is a picture of what “Plus-Sized” looks like. But really, no one has ever accused the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue of of being a force of good in the world when it comes to bettering the treatment of our daughters and wives and sisters and mothers…. So I suppose that’s not really TOO surprising. What is far more surprising is how so many women have bought into the idea that there is nothing wrong with celebrating the crap-fest that is the “50 Shades of Grey” phenomenon.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called “50 Shades of Skank” that detailed my thoughts about this. I talked about going to a strip club in college, and having the realization “I am so much better than this.” I compared it to eating at a Shoney’s and looking around at all the actual plus-sized people around you, and thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?” While talking about the movie coming out this weekend (based on the book that sold over 100 million copies!!), I have realized that the issue might not be as clear as I thought it was when I wrote that older post. I don’t have time to go into all of that complexity–I have to wake up early tomorrow–but I remain convinced that this book, this movie, and all the hype around it is just the lowest common denominator of our humanity, and it is a net loss for all of us.
The only thing keeping Christian Grey from being a complete horror story stalker is the fact that he is rich and good-looking. Imagine an unattractive man saying things like these to a woman:
“…if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday. He said it then and all I could concentrate on at the time was being his. All the warning signs were there. I was just too clueless and too enamored to notice.”
“I like the control it gives me, Anastasia. I want you to behave in a particular way, and if you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn to behave the way I desire. I enjoy punishing you…I need to control you.”
“If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.”
A lot of people have pointed out that the difference between a stalker and a suitor is often how attracted the person who is being pursued is to the one coming on to them…. SNL poked fun of this phenomenon years ago (Crap, it won’t embed. Oh well. Click and watch).
I don’t know if there’s anything I could say to change the minds of people who believe that stuff like this in harmless. I just believe it makes us less than what we were before we saw it. That’s really what porn does. It makes us all less–especially the variety that exploits and degrades. In my life, I have had plenty of experiences with pornography, and I can tell you that it never made me feel more enlightened or closer to God in any way. I think most of us deep down have an innate sense of the counterfeit-ness of porn, and the sense that we are diminished by it instead of being strengthened….
So here are 5 things to do instead of going to see “50 Shades” this weekend:
1) Watch this review of the movie. It is, in the reviewer’s words, “quite simply the worst movie I’ve ever seen.” Another telling quote from the review: “It’s domestic violence dressed up like erotica, and there’s one thing this movie IS NOT, it’s erotic.”
2) Talk to your kids about it. Here is an AMAZING article titled “Fifty Discussions to Combat Fifty Shades” written by Dina Alexander, MS. It isn’t enough to just decide we’re not going to see it–We have to talk to our kids about WHY it’s so messed up. She starts out with the question “How can a critically ridiculed book, with a weak plot and ridiculously pathetic characters make so much money? (If it is salacious and/or controversial and/or marketed accurately, anything can make money.)” And then she goes from there…. Every parent needs to read this article.
3) Watch this beautiful video about Real Women. And then let your kids watch it. It shows four women who agree to go through photoshopping into “cover girls.” It is inspiring and beautiful for all the right reasons. Here is a quote from it: “Once someone else has done your makeup, and someone else has done your hair, and someone has directed the way your body looks, and then taken your imperfections…. There’s not much left of who you really are.”
4) Make a donation to a Domestic Violence Shelter instead. There is a Facebook community called “50 Dollars Not 50 Shades.” They describe themselves as “a grassroots, women-led campaign, encouraging people to boycott the 50 Shades of Grey movie & give a donation to domestic violence shelter/agency. You should like them. And then, if you can, consider giving some money to some people who are actually trying to HELP women. I come from a family profoundly affected by domestic abuse. The people running these shelters need your money way more than the folks profiting off of 50 Shades….
5) Share this post. And share posts like it. Use the little bit of influence you have to try to make this world a little less messed up. Keep up the good work!
And as a post script, Happy Valentines Day to my beautiful wife. Thank you for being such a strong and loving and wise person in my life. Thank you for your perfect body that somehow managed to create and birth three perfect kids. Thank you for being able to smell bullshit from a mile away. Thank you for all of your complexity and opinions and stubbornness and humor. And thank you for being absolutely nothing like Anastasia Steele. I love you!
Excellent and eye-opening post. As a dad, I was recently reminded of exactly how fragile our young daughters are. Even though my girl is beautiful and smart and confident, I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to be a teenage girl in today’s society where ‘beauty’ is defined by corporations. Thank you for helping to keep the focus on what’s truly important.
Reblogged this on Gil Gonzalez and commented:
In a society where sex sells and superficiality is profitable, this is an excellent reminder of how we must focus on what is real.
I love this post, for SO many reasons.
Erotica is one thing, IMO (which i agree IS female porn, and a genre I don’t typically read but don’t judge others for reading). But this is not erotica. This is blantant abuse.
People try to defend it, saying it’s BDSM. It’s not, according to many people living that lifestyle (sex lifestyle?). It just saddens my heart that girls want their “Christian Grey” even more than it saddened me when I would hear girls pining for their “Edward Cullen.”
I ❤ this post. Thank you so much, especially for the link on Fifty Discussions. I'm raising two teenage daughters and any help is always appreciated. 🙂
The Fifty Shades of Grey teddy bear being advertised on NPR was the absolute last straw for me… Thank you so much for this post!
Thank you! I have honestly felt like I was living in some kind of bizarro world ever since the books came out and grew into this phenomenon. The storyline didn’t appeal to me so I had no desire to read them and even less so when another blogger posted excerpts from the first book that blew my mind with how ridiculous and poorly written they were. That was my first head scratching moment about their popularity and then the fan base just grew and grew until it became the monster that it is today. The fact that Christian Grey is now being compared to my favorite male literary character of all time, Jamie Fraser, makes my blood boil. Christian Grey could only hope to be 1/8 the man Jamie is!
It makes me sad as a single, 30-something female to think that I am surrounded by so many women who place so little value in who they are and what kind of man is worth their time that they would put this dysfunctional relationship at the top of their list of greatest love stories. And the more I see our society celebrate trash like this and reality tv (Ugh, the Kardashians!) the more convinced I become that intelligence, sophistication, and enlightenment are quickly becoming things of the past.
I agree! How depressing is it that so many women are CELEBRATING this book as if it were liberating? Women can enjoy and explore their sexuality, I do agree with that. I have no problem with the erotica genre, even if I usually prefer not to read those books… but c’mon. Let’s pick a book that does not propagate the idea that an abusive relationship is okay. This isn’t liberating women, it’s proving how many of us still think it’s okay to be controlled under the guise of love. The popularity of these books isn’t freeing us (as women), it’s just showing the world our chains.
If Christian Grey were unattractive and not rich, “Fifty Shades” would be classified under a completely different genre than erotica. I’ve read snippets of the books, and I simply can’t stomach it. Christian is intolerable, Ana is pitiful, the writing is piss poor, the sex scenes are ridiculous, immature, and humanly impossible, and the relationship between Christian and Ana is so obviously abusive that it should anger any creature of moderate intelligence.