Archives for category: Feminism and Media

Friends, let’s discuss Thor 2, a movie which recently came out. Now, if you have not yet seen Thor 2, I suggest you don’t continue reading unless you are alright with plot spoilers -because I will be talking about the movie in detail, and it will ruin some plot points for you.

So, fair warning, if you have not seen Thor 2 and don’t want it spoiled -do not continue reading. Come back after you’ve seen it.

I suppose I am supposed to be happy over the fact that Thor 2 passes the Bechdel Test. I mean, the Bechdel Test is super important, and not many movies pass it anyway (at least, not in America.) But, yay, Thor 2 passes the Bechdel Test -huzzah for jumping over an already low bar.

I guess I should also be happy that there was no pointless and useless sexualization of women like there often is in movies about men. I should be happy that women were presented as being very strong and put-together and not-taking-anyone’s-shit.

But I’m not happy.

I am furious at Thor 2. I am so tired of getting excited over movies and then being so completely disappointed and disgusted. I am so tired of believing that a movie would actually be decent towards women even though it’s focused on one man.

They [the writers, the directors, who the fuck cares] put Frigga in the fridge.

[If you don’t know what I mean, take a look at the “women in refrigerators” website or the wikipedia link]

I am raging.

Frigga -the All-Mother, the only other person/god with high enough status to sit on the throne beside the All-Father, Odin, her husband -was killed in the movie by the villains.

“She’s just a casualty of war”, you say, “Someone has to die, her gender has nothing to do with it. You’re over-reacting.”

I would not be so angry if they had done the same to Loki.

They spent the entire movie lining up parallels between Loki and Frigga -they have the same magic, the same fighting style, even. Loki was Frigga’s favorite, or at least she doted on him. Loki loved Frigga -this can be seen by him “creating” an image of her to talk to in his cell and then by completely trashing it after he learns she is killed. Even Tom Hiddleston, in an interview [starting at 2:20], explained:

“Part of the back-story we created was that Frigga was really the most attentive to Loki when he was a child. And Odin didn’t really know how to connect. He connected much more with Thor. They were sort of cut from the same cloth. And Frigga and Loki had this kind of beautiful, sensitive, more artistic relationship. And it was actually her who taught him all his magic”

Meanwhile, shortly after Frigga is killed and we watch her funeral take place, Loki is “killed” in a very similar way. Frigga was stabbed with a longsword, and Loki is similarly impaled on a sword (or something sharp, but it really doesn’t matter).

At the end of the movie, we find out (SURPRISE SURPRISE) that Loki is still alive.

This is why I am furious.

Because Loki literally learned everything he knows from Frigga. Frigga is much older than Loki is -she [according to the movie] is his fucking adoptive mother -she raised him. AND YET HE IS “CLEVER” ENOUGH TO LIVE THROUGH GETTING STABBED WHILE SHE IS NOT. SHE HAS THE SAME MAGIC AS HIM IF NOT MORE OF IT AND SHE STILL DIES AND REMAINS DEAD.

I am done. I am so done.

Why are men in movies always able to come back to life, but women are not? Is it because women are just meant to bear life rather than actually live it? And then, once they are killed, they can help the men “get their revenge” through their man-angst?

So, no, I will not be happy that this movie passed the basic standards of what all movies should-be (the Bechdel test and the lack-of-female-sexualization) because they still relied on a trope. They still showed their sexism in the end. They killed arguably the most powerful woman in the entire movie in order to propel the men of the movie into anger and action, and that is unforgivable and disgusting.

And this sucks for so many reasons. It sucks because the movie was actually pretty good -it was partially predictable, but it did surprise me at some points. It sucks because I am going to be seen as over-reacting, and not many other people are going to be angry at this. But it sucks because I feel like I have been betrayed.

I don’t want to see movies that star male characters anymore. I don’t want to be this angry at things that aren’t even real. I don’t want to be a feminist anymore when I can’t even go see a movie with my boyfriend without becoming furious and shouting in the parking lot.

But I also don’t want to be seen as someone who’s life can be thrown away to further the plot/life of a man. I am not just a plot device. Frigga should not be reduced to just a plot device. She was important. We are important. And I’m just so tired of not being seen that way.

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Today I want to discuss the rapper Macklemore. Specifically, I want to talk about his song “Same Love.”

Now, when I first heard this song, I loved it. I thought it was brilliant and amazing and basically perfect in every way. It gave me chills. Parts of it still do.

Then I started seeing some critiques of it -very important critiques that I think need to be more talked about.

If you have never heard the song (where have you been?) you can listen to it here.

You can read the lyrics here.

The first critique that I have heard about this is that Macklemore (a.k.a. Ben Haggerty) is heterosexual. He is not gay, or queer, or bi, or any other form of a LGBTQ identity. This is not inherently problematic in and of itself, obviously.

The problem is that he has now become an icon for the LGBTQ activist movement because of this song.

Instead of listening to actual queer rappers (and there are plenty), people have instead decided that a heterosexual man can accurately rap about the difficulties of being gay even when he has never experienced those difficulties himself. As one article wrote, “Whether it is intentional or not, Macklemore has become the voice of a community to which he doesn’t belong in a genre that already has a queer presence waiting to be heard by mainstream audiences.”

There is also the issue (second critique) of his whiteness, because along with whiteness comes White Privilege. (Macklemore discusses his White Privilege in a song titled “White Privilege”.) The same article cited above talks about how Macklemore conflates LGBTQ rights with Black civil rights. He completely overlooks his White Privilege as well as his Heterosexual Privilege throughout the song.

For example, the first line of the second verse is “If I was gay, I would think that hip-hop hates me”. Hip hop specifically emerged from Black communities in New York as a response to White suppression and dominance. In this one line, Macklemore is attacking an entire genre of music -as well as the Black people who created and sustained it -for being homophobic.

He continues to critique hip hop (and Black people) with the line: “A culture founded from oppression, yet we don’t have acceptance for ’em”. This is even more problematic than the first line. It completely erases any queer person of color -especially queer rappers/singers of color -who are involved in LGBTQ activism, and it shoves more blame on people of color who are homophobic than White people who are homophobic. “This line of argument suggests that homophobia perpetrated by people of color is somehow worse because they should have known better as people who are also oppressed. Furthermore, when white people are homophobic, it is less condemnable because they don’t know what it is like.” (x)

Basically, this song is full of “microaggressions” against people of color (mostly Black people) as well as LGBTQ people. “What?” you say, “Same love doesn’t demean gay people -it’s all about equality!” The biggest microaggression against LGBTQ people is when Macklemore decided to drop the word “f*gg*t” in the second verse, even thought it is an extremely offensive and homophobic slur. That is not okay. It will never be okay.

Just because Macklemore is “standing up” for LGBTQ equality with the song “Same Love” does not mean that he can’t get things wrong and/or make mistakes. Just because he has a song called “White Privilege” doesn’t mean that he will always recognize it when it appears, or that it just suddenly disappeared when he wrote the song. No matter what, he is still a white heterosexual male and while that is not inherently bad, it is something that needs to be remembered when he’s rapping about hip hop and homophobia.

Upholding him and this song as an icon for the LGBTQ community activism is not okay. People who are actually LGBTQ rappers should be heard over him -people who have actually experienced homophobia or other types of cis-sexual/heteronormative aggressions. Again, you can find lists of them here.

I’m not saying that heterosexual people can’t talk about homophobia, or that white people can’t talk about racism. However, I am saying that when people with privilege talk about oppression that they do not experience themselves, they need to listen very intently when people talk who do experience that oppression. That is the only way we will learn -by listening, by reading, by talking with other people who are different from us and trying to recognize our own privilege.

There are parts of “Same Love” that are great -I love his critique of religion/religious institutions, and his mention of LGBTQ bullying and suicide. But this song is not without its problems, and people need to realize that.

People, it has been a bittersweet week in America.

First, the good news:

1.) A section of DOMA has been found unconstituational by the supreme court, which will allow gay and lesbian married couples to receive federal benefits like heterosexual couples. Prop 8 has also been overturned, so now California can recognize equal marriage.

2.) An extreme anti-abortion bill in Texas was successfully filibustered by primarily Senator Wendy Davis as well as many others (I would like to personally mention Senator Leticia Van De Putte, because she was amazing and should not be forgotten.) Honestly, this ended as a “people’s filibuster”, because protesters were screaming so loudly that the republican senators could not hear the roll and so could not sign the bill before midnight. This was a good victory.

And now, the bad news.

1.) Texas governor Rick Perry has called a special session, beginning on Monday July 1st, in order to attempt to pass the anti-abortion bill again. In my mind, there is less than a slim chance that this bill will not pass.

If this bill passes, it will prohibit abortions after 20 weeks from fertilization with no exceptions. (Meanwhile, having the age of the fetus be determined by fertilization rather than from the gestational age determined by the LMP (last menstrual period) actually makes the gestational age less than 20 weeks.) This bill will also require doctors that perform abortions have hospital privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. It would also require that the minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards for ambulatory surgical centers. This would effectively shut down almost all of the clinics in Texas which offer abortions, leaving only five in the entire state.

Let’s also be aware that the republican senators attempted to commit fraud in front of millions of people shortly after midnight passed by changing the time stamps on the official record. This has been screen-caped and passed around on social media networks, causing outrage.  Meanwhile, do you think anyone will be held accountable for this? Me neither.

2.) The supreme court has FUCKED UP twice this week. The first was when they declared that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) does not protect a Native father’s parental rights. This article sums it up so well that I will quote from it and hope that you read the whole thing:

Christy Maldonado gave birth to a baby in 2009 whose father, Dusten Brown, is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Because of self-determination, the Cherokee Nation decides who its citizens are—and because Dusten Brown is Cherokee, his baby, named Veronica, is Cherokee as well. Maldonado and Brown lost touch by the time the baby was born, and Brown was never informed of the baby’s birth. Maldonado decided to put the baby up for adoption, and a white couple named Melanie and Matt Capobianco took Veronica into pre-adoptive care.

Just to be clear, although the case is called Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, the Copabiancos never adopted Veronica. When Brown was served with Maldonado’s intention to place the baby up for adoption, he immediately fought the decision. A South Carolina court agreed that a non-custodial Native father was, indeed a father for the purpose of the case, under ICWA.

So what does ICWA do? The act was created because of incredibly high rates of white parents adopting Native children; in states like Minnesota, that have large Native populations, non-Natives raised 90 percent of Native babies and children put up for adoption. Those adoptions sever ties to Native tribes and communities, endangering the very existence of these tribes and nations. In short, if enough Native babies are adopted out, there will literally not be enough citizens to compose a nation. ICWA sought to stem that practice by creating a policy that keeps Native adoptees with their extended families, or within their tribes and nations. The policy speaks to the core point of tribal sovereignty: Native tribes and nations use it to determine their future, especially the right to keep their tribes and nations together.

But leave it to the Supreme Court to miss the point altogether this morning. The prevailing justices failed to honor tribal sovereignty in today’s ruling. In writing for the court’s majority, Justice Samuel Alito opened his delivery on the ruling with these words:

This case is about a little girl (Baby Girl) who is classified as an Indian because she is 1.2% (3/256) Cherokee.

What Alito (along with Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas and Breyer) is perhaps willfully missing is that the Cherokee Nation does not classify its citizens in that way. Baby Veronica is not a certain percentage Cherokee—she is Cherokee, as determined by her nation. The high court’s first sentence, based in the colonial practice of blood quantum instead of the way that citizenship is determined by the Cherokee Nation, illustrates that the justices made this case about race—in their mind—and not about tribal sovereignty in the law. By this flawed logic, the high court ruled that Baby Veronica is somehow not Native enough to be protected by ICWA.

So the Supreme Court fucked that one up. And if you think that’s big, just wait.

It also completely gutted the Voters Right Act of 1965. Basically, the supreme court has stated that we have changed as a country, and racism at the polls isn’t relevant. This decision will allow states (that were previously flagged in this act as needing federal approval for voting changes) to change any voting standards or voting districts without the approval of the Department of Justice.It took Texas two hours to declare that it was implementing a voter ID law and that it would be changing the voting districts to a plan that was already deemed by federal judges to be discriminatory to Texas minority voters.

There are already more states joining the bandwagon, and I’m sure this will continue.

So, honestly, readers, I feel like maybe I lied at the beginning of this post. This week has not been bittersweet. It has been horrifying with a few beams of light that will be shut out, or will be attempted to be shut out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that all marriages will receive benefits from the federal government, but the amount of racism, sexism, and discrimination that has been and will continue to be allowed is literally sickening.Readers, do not celebrate our victories too much. We are not done fighting yet. There is still too much to be done for people who are not being heard -for women, for people of color, for Native Americans, for trans* people, and so many others. Please do not forget them.

Please, stay angry. And if you’re not already, where the hell have you been?

I’m writing this to show you that no matter what, you cannot reason with anti-abortion people.

This is a conversation with my father, the original poster. I am the orange highlight.

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I hope everyone can read what this says. I’m too emotionally tired to type it out right now.

By the way, this is the article I referenced. Just fyi.

TRIGGER WARNING: rape, suggestion of murder, general offensiveness towards women.

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Just in case you cannot read the three images above, here is a transcript:

Original status: Dear fb friends, I wanna know your favv pickup line. Comment!

Female 1: Are you gay? No? Lets make out.

Male A: Gentlemen don’t use pickup lines, they devalue women…wait, was that a pickup line? JK, I meant what I said.

Male B: Does your leg hurt? Because you must be an angel fallen from the sky.

Female 2: Tu cheese bari hai mast mast

Female 3: Is that a mirror in your pants, cause I can see myself in them.

Male C: Allow me to release my basilisk into your chamber of secrets

Male D: I’m working on my abs

Male E: this will go alot smoother for both of us if you stop resisting

Male F: You must be my new boss because you just gave me a raise. (Most likely not gonna work & chappal for free. )

Female 2 again: on your comments it just looks like all these people are trying to hit on you lol

Male F again: ^ she’s to blame for this since she’s looking so preety… lol (see what I did there!)

Male G: i once picked up a girl by asking her if she was a lesbian. and then when she said no i told her my friend wanted to dance with her

Male G again: another time i told a girl my friend was a charity case and his make a wish was to dance with her lmao… it worked

Female 4: The word of the day is “legs” so let’s go back to my place and spread the word. (most pick up lines are for hook ups)

Female 5: it’s funny because earlier today [boyfriend] randomly came out or our room and said that pickup line to me lol. Now i know why lol

Male H: I have a 45 and a shovel I doubt anyone will miss u stop resisting

Male I:Guy: hey wanna go hook up?
Girl: sorry my bf is over there
Guy: my fish died wen I was 6
Girl: huh?
Guy: uh I thought we were telling each other stuff we don’t care about

Today, kids, we are going to talk about rape culture.

Rape culture is when “pick-up lines” that perpetuate graphic violence against women, disrespect a woman’s choices, and disregard her sexuality (or use it as a way to get with her) are all seen as “funny.”  Rape culture is being able to claim “it’s just a joke, stop taking it so seriously”. Rape culture is allowing these “pick-up lines” to go unchecked for what they really are: violent harassment against women and just plain old sexist.

Rape culture is any culture in which rape and sexual violence are normalized by methods such as the above status and its following comments.

Pick-up lines are not inherently bad. Some of the comments above are actually funny -personally, I like the Harry Potter reference, since that gives plenty of space for the person to say ‘no’. The “angel” one is also fairly common, as far as I know, and the mirror one isn’t that bad either.

I want to be clear: Not all of these lines can be used by solely by men to get women. However, due to the fact that the majority of the comments which perpetuate violence (rape, murder), disrespect choice (having a significant other), and use sexuality (being gay or not) were written by men, most of whom (if not all) are heterosexual. The first comment which uses sexual orientation to pick someone up was written by a female, but that leaves other comments which fall into one of the three categories above (and others which are just generally offensive) which were written by males (who are hypothetically using these pick-up lines to get women, or even just using them now to be ‘funny’ in this instance).

So let’s break this down.

1.) Generally offensive:

Male D: I’m working on my abs

Offensive because some people are not attracted to looks, but rather to intellect or charity or basically anything. Maybe a better pick-up line would be something more like ‘I have no sexually transmitted diseases/infections’. This is offensive because it just lacks any sort of intelligence needed for decent conversation.

Male F: You must be my new boss because you just gave me a raise. (Most likely not gonna work & chappal for free. )

This one is offensive because, seriously, it is already difficult enough for women to be in a position of power in the workplace (look up ‘glass ceiling’ and ‘glass escalator’ and then look up ‘female CEO vs male CEO’) and now this just mocks it. Awesome. I’m so glad that you are the type of guy who only supports women in positions of power if she is attractive enough to make your penis hard.

Male G again: another time i told a girl my friend was a charity case and his make a wish was to dance with her lmao… it worked

This… I just can’t.

2.) Using sexuality:

Female 1: Are you gay? No? Let’s make out.

Male G: i once picked up a girl by asking her if she was a lesbian. and then when she said no i told her my friend wanted to dance with her

Let me make this very clear: The fact that you are heterosexual and another person of the opposite sex is heterosexual DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU ARE ENTITLED TO MAKE OUT/SLEEP WITH/DATE/FUCK/KISS/OR BE WITH THEM IN ANY WAY. It is this type of thinking -that if a girl likes guys and you are a guy, therefore she must like you -leads to sexual harassment and rape. Thinking that you are entitled to ANYTHING when it comes to another person is simply wrong.

She owes you nothing.

It doesn’t matter if you bought her a drink.

It doesn’t matter if you are ‘such a nice guy’.

It doesn’t matter if she happens to be attracted to guys and you are one.

It doesn’t matter if she flirted a little or even a lot.

It doesn’t matter if she kissed you or if you gave her a ride home or if you helped her up the stairs or if she invited you in or if she gave you her number or if she wants to date you or if she marries you or if she did this or that or anything.

It doesn’t matter, because nothing you do entitles you to anything. She owes you nothing.

3.) Disrespect choice (having a significant other)

Male I:Guy: hey wanna go hook up?
Girl: sorry my bf is over there
Guy: my fish died wen I was 6
Girl: huh?
Guy: uh I thought we were telling each other stuff we don’t care about

This is something I really hate, and I’m sure many women have experienced it. You, a woman, are being hit on by some guy that you don’t care about and don’t want to be with. Regardless of whether you’ve told him no already and he ignored it, or if you’re just telling him no for the first time, we often fall back on the ‘I have a boyfriend’ card.

Because, apparently, in this society, a ‘no’ from a woman is irrelevant until it is noted that she is only saying ‘no’ to you because she is with another guy. That’s when most guys will back off, because of the respect for the other guy -not for the girl. Until, of course, the two break up, and then she’s free game again, right?!

No means no.

When you ask a girl, do you want to hook up, and she says ANYTHING THAT IS NOT YES, it is a no. She is a human fucking being, and she deserves your respect, regardless of whether or not it’s what you want.

4.) Perpetuate violence (rape, murder)

Male E: this will go alot smoother for both of us if you stop resisting
Male H: I have a 45 and a shovel I doubt anyone will miss u stop resisting

These, to me, are honestly the most terrifying. These more than any other comments perpetuate graphic violence against women. Despite the glaring incorrect grammar in both of these comments, they both mention resistance. From this one word alone, we can assume that the woman doesn’t want to be ‘picked up’, and the threat of rape is there.

The second one goes even further, because he chooses to mention that he has a gun and a shovel, which then threatens murder. Basically, if you don’t let me rape you, then I will rape you anyway and then kill you and bury you so that no one will know.

And I’m sure there are some of you who are out there right now saying ‘They were just joking, they would never say this to anyone if they REALLY wanted to pick them up’.

They aren’t ‘just’ jokes.

For those of you who do not click on the links I provide, I’ll sum this one up. This is research done by a college professor and graduate assistants which found that sexist humor creates a ‘safe space’ for people to become more tolerant to sexist attitudes and behavior. Sexist jokes lead to a toleration of hostile and discriminatory attitudes towards women and serve as a way to legitimize sexist actions.

These attitudes can then potentially be expressed by violent acts -like rape and murder.

So, no, nothing is ever ‘just a joke’. That is a piss-poor excuse for letting things like this go unexcused. These men are sexist and potentially violent towards women, and what’s terrifying is that in this culture of normalized violence, they (and other men like them) can and are getting away with it.

Before I even began this blog, a wonderful friend of mine (who actually was one of the first women to introduce me to the ideas of feminism) asked me to read and review 50 Shades of Grey. Let me note right now that this is just a themed-post, and I will most likely be writing three separate posts on each of the books individually. I will also be doing more in-depth posts on the topics below -orgasms, BDSM, consent, etc. -without having them be in-reference to the 50 Shades trilogy.

Also, SPOILER ALERT, if anyone cares.

Now, if you have not heard of this series of books, consider yourself lucky. This is a trilogy which was based off of (badly written) Twilight fanfiction. Edward and Bella became Christian and Ana. Wonderful.

Fanfiction aside, this series has hit the national bestseller list and has become extremely popular in America. I do have a few theories as to why this has happened, but we will get to those at the end of this post.

First, let’s talk about the actual content/themes of the trilogy.

For those who have not read it, the plot of the book is this: Ana (short for Anastasia) is a soon-to-be college graduate who has to work for money, but is never really left wanting because of her rich roommate Katherine (or, rather, her roommate Katherine who has rich parents.)

While doing a favor for Katherine, Ana meets Christian Grey, a CEO billionaire (understatement) with “exotic tastes” in basically everything, but specifically in sex. Christian Grey considers himself a ‘Dominant’ in a BDSM-type of relationship -this means that, in this relationship, he would be the one completely in charge of his Submissive partner during a scene that they both agree on beforehand. The relationship can last for longer than a single scene, but it is all organized heavily around lines of consent and rules (including safe-words.) Generally, that is how the trilogy begins.

Now, in this book series, author E. L. James gets a few things wrong on a variety of levels. We will start small.

Biology

Ana is, of course, a virgin when she meets Christian. He changes that by page 117 of Grey. I quote, “…I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity.” (emphasis mine.)

This idea (of a ‘ripped virginity’, or ‘popping the cherry’) is a common cultural myth. The hymen -what is seen as the woman’s virginity -is a thin and elastic membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening (there are instances where it covers the entire opening, and then surgery is needed.)

Watch this video, it’s much more elaborate and helpful!

This one sentence, with him ‘ripping her virginity’ sets the tone for their entire relationship -one that is based on violence. Even moreso, in the very next sentence, it says that he (Christian) looks triumphant. Ana is seen as a conquest, as something that he conquered by taking her virginity” as if the hymen leaves the woman after the first vaginal intercourse. She is no longer a person in this moment, she is just another one of the many women he’s been on top of. A victory.

This concept is masked by Ana’s pleasure. After the pain of her ‘ripped virginity’, she finds that sex is nice. This is true! Horray for one thing that’s right! But, James goes off the realistic track again by having Ana orgasm every single time she and Christian have sex.

No. Just… no.

I’m sorry, this just does not happen. Female orgasm just does not occur as often as male orgasm. In the majority of cases, women will not orgasm the first time they have sex, or even the second, or even the third. It takes a while -both in the sense of time during sex (women need just slightly more time on average), and in the other sense of experience. Plainly put, Ana is too inexperienced and Christian is too quick to guarantee Ana an orgasm during her first time, or really any of the times at all. There is also rarely enough clitoral stimulation involved for her to climax during their sexual encounters.

But, because Ana does experience orgasm every single time they have sex (and even in her dreams too), it can place shame on real women who read this series who don’t have orgasms when they have sex. It is not healthy or realistic to expect orgasm during the first few times, or even every single time. There are ways/methods for a woman to achieve orgasm, but this idea that it should just automatically happen during sex is just wrong.

Nothing is wrong with you if you do not orgasm when you have sex. Seriously. It’s harmful to yourself and to your relationship with your partner if you start to think this way. If you are not achieving an orgasm at all when you have sex, then talk to your partner and try to see what you can do differently, but don’t blame yourself or them. Please.

Psychology

Throughout the entire series, E. L. James makes use of the subconscious. She does this by referencing it on over fifty pages in the first book alone (51, 62, 63, 67, 75, 94, 95, 99, 126, 127, 128, 135, 145, 159, 164, 176, 199, 216, 240, 241, 242, 243, 245, 251, 252, 259, 260/1, 262, 273, 277, 285, 287, 309, 315, 334, 338, 345, 360, 368, 374, 382, 383, 391, 413, 420, 432, 434, 435, 445, 478, 482, 484, 485, 502, 507, 511.)

Ana and her subconscious interact with each other consistently throughout the book. Ana views her subconscious as some kind of stern older woman with horn-rimmed glasses that disapproves of sexual relationships of any kind and is extremely condescending towards Ana for her decisions in regards to Christian. Basically, the definition/image of an ice-bitch prude.

This is constantly contrasted with Ana’s “inner goddess,” which is apparently the part of Ana that wants to be controlled and fucked by a man. She is often ‘celebrating’ the sexual encounters between Ana and Christian by doing the salsa or yoga. Or by tearing off her clothes. (Unfortunately, I did not mark the page numbers down for the references to the inner goddess, because I foolishly thought it would not occur that often. Rest assured, I am positive the inner goddess is mentioned at least as many times as the subconscious.)

Both of these ideas are problematic.

First of all, E. L. James is completely misusing the concept of the subconscious. By its definition, the subconscious cannot be consciously accessed. The fact that Ana’s subconscious shoots her scathing remarks every 10-15 pages is completely ridiculous and oxymoronic. This is literally just bad writing. That’s it.

Moving on to the ‘inner goddess’ –this idea is redundant. James used “artistic license” on this one. Instead of allowing Ana’s ‘inner goddess’ to be the source of a strong female identity, taking shit from no one, James makes her the very thing which revels in being fucked and played with. While sex and pleasure are a part of female identity, they are not the only part, and this ‘goddess’ is not the source of a strong identity for Ana at all.

Character

On that note, let’s talk about how Ana barely has ANY IDENTITY AT ALL. She is the cookie-cutter female protagonist of modern culture. Her only flaw is that she is clumsy (which, I’m going to add, is not a flaw, because it is used in writing like this to make the character helpless and endearing to the audience and other characters as well.) In regards to character traits, we can see that she is somewhat sarcastic (witty), kind, charming, and she tries to be independent.

In regards to her physical characteristics, let’s discuss how E. L. James has perpetuated the ideals of feminine beauty throughout this entire series. Starting on the first page of the first book, Bella Ana states that her eyes are “too big” for her face.

This is written as though it is a bad thing, when in reality (in this culture) it is not. Women are constantly infantilized by this culture, and having big eyes is one way that happens. Meaning that Ana’s one physical “flaw” that she notes is not a flaw at all.

She complains that she has always been “too skinny” (Grey, 51) when, again, in this culture there is no such thing. People have died from being “too skinny” and it is still not enough. Ana ‘forgets’ to eat meals for days (Grey, 217, 312; it gets worse in the next book[s] ) and basically just does not take care of herself at the most basic level –eating.

So, for some reason, Ana believes that she is not pretty when by all cultural standards she is beautiful. Christian comments multiple times that she has beautiful skin, so we can assume she doesn’t have acne. She is thin, she has big eyes, her height can be average or so (I don’t recall it being mentioned, honestly.) Under these criteria, though, Ana could be a model. And yet E. L. James has decided to portray her as thinking she is unattractive.

This is just ridiculous. All of this adds to a horribly stereotypical female character that impossibly (by her wit and charm and mystery, and clumsiness) attracts a billionaire CEO. By having Ana fit into the thin, culturally attractive body and not recognize her beauty along with having a rich and powerful man fall in love with her, James perpetuates a stereotype about females which teaches that if a woman is fat, or if a woman recognizes her beauty, no one will fall for her, ever.

The problem is that Ana could easily be overweight. It would literally change nothing about the plot. Instead, though, James chose to perpetuate the harmful standards of female beauty that permeate the culture in every form of media possible. Instead of putting forth a message which promotes a healthy body image, or even (god forbid) sending out a message which says that a woman can still be beautiful even if she’s overweight –James makes her female character “too skinny” and ‘forgetful’ when it comes to meals.

BDSM

BDSM stands for bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism and masochism (S&M). In BDSM relationships, informed consent is essential. A relationship can last for as long as a single scene or much longer, but throughout all of it, there is a deep need for consent -both as informed consent before the scene begins or as consent throughout the scene by the use or non-use of safe-words.

Seriously, though, I cannot emphasize enough how important informed consent is in these relationships.

In 50 Shades, Christian Grey is a Dominant, meaning that he is the one who is doing things (tying up, inflicting pain/pleasure, exercising control over, etc) to a Submissive, who is receiving these things. The entire plot of the first book is that he wants Ana to be his submissive.

However, the way that this is pursued in this book is extremely problematic. James did get a few things right -written consent is fine, and Christian uses written consent for his submissives in the form of a written contract which can be edited and discussed and then signed. It is also noted twice (Grey, 187, 216) that the contract is not legally binding.

However, that’s about as far as it gets for ‘rightness’. In the book, Christian gives Ana the contract and then tells her to do her own research for the things that are mentioned in it -things like suspension, caning, and many different types of bondage -and basically lets it go at that.

Now, we have already established that Ana is extremely inexperienced at sex, and has literally zero experience with any sort of ‘kinky’ sex. Basically, he has given her this contract in the hopes that she would sign it even though he cannot actually prove that her consent was informed. She has no idea what any of these things are or what they could mean or how he could do them.

He literally tells her, on page 256 of 50 Shades of Grey, “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into” in regards to their “arrangement”. He knows that she doesn’t know what their relationship will actually be like, and yet he does close to nothing to fix that. Sure, he edits the contract a little bit and allows her some more freedom, but he does not actually do anything to make her consent informed. He actually does close to everything to make her consent forced, however (Grey, 224, 226, 240, 245, 252, 261), and that continues on into the other books as well.

In BDSM relationships, informed consent is everything because it draws the line between BDSM and actual crimes -like assault, sexual assault, and rape. And (SPOILER ALERT, SERIOUSLY) ANA NEVER SIGNS THE CONTRACT. She NEVER gives her written consent, which was the agreed-upon method, meaning that ANY TIME HE LAYS A HAND ON HER (i.e. spanking), IT IS ABUSE.

The Christian-Ana relationship is not BDSM, it is ABUSIVE. Christian is extremely controlling throughout the entire series, and even when Kate points it out to Ana (Grey, 351, 381), it is ignored.

This video talks more about the nature of a BDSM relationship and problems with the book.

THEMES

This brings us to the basic theme of the trilogy, which is that if you love your partner “enough”, then you can fix them. You can change them from their sadistic and abusive nature, and make them love you back in a way that doesn’t cause you pain/harm.

This is ridiculous and harmful. This is basically challenging victims to stay with their abusers because they (the victims) should be able to “fix” them. That is literally the entire trilogy. That is the major theme. Stay with your abuser, and eventually, they will love you enough so they won’t hurt you anymore, and you will love them enough so that even if they joke about hurting you, it won’t bother you because they don’t really mean it anymore.

I hope I don’t have to explain how harmful this can be.

CONCLUSIONS

I mentioned before that I had an idea as to why these books hit the bestseller list. There are a few ideas:

1.) At first, I thought it was just about the sex. Sex sells, right? It makes sense.

2.) It could also be because people want to think that they can change people. That they can “fix” people who are broken. That if they just stay long enough, love truly enough, work hard enough, then the other person will be magically repaired and they will live happily ever after.

3.) But, over-all, I think that it’s because we want this. We want someone who is impossibly rich and attractive and sexually-efficient to fall in love with us and give us all of the things that we can’t afford on our own with minimum-wage jobs (or even other types of jobs, but still.) We want to never worry about money -about if we have enough to pay the rent, or enough to go out to dinner, or enough to keep paying back loans. We want to be able to take random personal-helicopter flights to see the sunrise, and to live in million-dollar mansions, and to buy that front-of-the-line brand new car that everyone is jealous of. We want to orgasm every time we have sex, and we want to have sex with someone who is attractive to everyone and anyone who meets him/her. And that is the point of these books, to make us realize that we want this and to think that maybe it’s possible.

I think that we all want the easy way, the rich way, this way, because we think it will make us happy, because that is what this culture teaches us. And that is what this book teaches us. And they are both wrong.

References:

Acuna, Kirsten. “By the Numbers: The ’50 Shades of Grey’ Phenomenon.” Business Insider. June 27, 2012. http://www.businessinsider.com/by-the-numbers-the-50-shades-of-grey-phenomenon-2012-6?op=1

Boog, Jason. “The Lost History of Fifty Shades of Grey.” Galley Cat. November 21, 2012. http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/fifty-shades-of-grey-wayback-machine_b49124

Edrefferal.com. http://edreferral.com/Celebrities_who_died_or_have_Eating_Disorders.htm

“Female Orgasm.” Brown University: Health Education. http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/sexual_health/sexuality/female_orgasm.php

Green, Laci. “50 Shades of WTF” and “You Can’t POP You’re Cherry! (Hymen 101)” youtube.com

James, E. L. Fifty Shades of Grey. Australia: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, 2011.

James, E. L. Fifty Shades Darker. Australia: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, 2011.

James, E. L. Fifty Shades Freed. Australia: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, 2011.

“Killing Us Softly: It Begins with Barbie.” Comm 101. August 5, 2011. http://introtomedia.edublogs.org/2011/08/05/killing-us-softly-it-begins-with-barbie%E2%80%A6/

Klausner, Julie. “Don’t Fear the Dowager: A Valentine to Maturity.” Jezebel. June 10, 2011. http://jezebel.com/5810735/dont-fear-the-dowager-a-valentine-to-maturity

Park, Madison. “Actress: I got compliments for looking emaciated.” The Chart: CNN Health. July 26, 2011. http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/26/actress-sounds-off-on-body-image-extremes/