On the weekend that Fifty Shades of Grey opened and earned $94.4 million in the U.S. and $266 million worldwide, Onebillionrising.org. – an initiative to combat violence against women — also held fundraising events around the world.
I posted a link on the Stilettos@Sixty Facebook page inviting my readers to support Onebillionrising.org. There are 3 billion women in the world- a third of them — one billion– have either been raped or beaten. One billion.
Facebook sent the message to 53 people. No one clicked LIKE.
On that same afternoon, I shared a Bette Midler quote. Over a 140 clicked like – 10 people commented – 805 saw it.
When I joined the #WomensLives Initiative, I did it because I want to increase awareness and media attention on serious women’s issues.
But what do you do when people aren’t interested in the message? For the mainstream media and an individual blogger, there is the risk of readers having a “there she goes again” reaction. A few too many “there she goes again” and your readers disappear.
About ten years ago, a radio station started in the Twin Cities devoted to women’s issues. In the early days, they too tackled serious women’s issues. Turned out the women didn’t want to listen to that. Today, the station is billed as “Everything Entertainment” with their home page on this particular day featuring stories about Cindy Crawford’s unretouched photo, what stars wore on the SNL 40th Anniversary red carpet, and a video called #mytalkMANuary – a tribute video to their 2015 Manuary contestants.
Not exactly heady stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
What I don’t understand is the either or-ness of all this. Why can’t someone still enjoy seeing the unretouched photo of Cindy Crawford and her husband’s lovely Valentine Tweet, AND also express concern over the issue of rape and abuse. Do they really have to be mutually exclusive?
When Fifty Shades of Grey was first published, I bought the book, downloaded it to my Kindle, and then never read it. I bought it without really knowing what it was about. I knew it was a romance novel and at the time, I just knew everyone was talking about it. Before I got around to reading it, I learned the subject matter, became uncomfortable, and decided against the read.
It’s not as though I don’t read Romance. I’m a fan. True, I didn’t become
a fan until I got a Kindle, and no one could see what book I was reading. I was a bit of a snob about the genre. Embarrassed for a long time that I enjoyed it. But now I own it. Romance novels are my guilty pleasure.
I’m not sure what it says about a society that seems to be drawn to a book and movie about BDSM. I’m not sure my opinion matters. Clearly people want to read about it. Clearly people are hoping to watch it. There is an important message there.
Of my close friends, only a handful have read Fifty Shades of Grey. None liked it. The writing, they said, was deplorable. But more telling was my friend Lynn’s assessment. She was up for reading fun, sexy romp. Instead, she said, “It felt like I was reading about a woman being abused.”
Which is pretty much what my reaction would be. I would find it nearly impossible not to personalize what I saw on the screen. And from what I’ve read, it would not feel sexy, it would feel abusive.
Proponents claim it is all about consent. I’m not sure. As another friend mused, “If a couple were participating in sexual extremes and it resulted in death, would the inflictor be charged with a crime? If you consented to having someone throw you off of a 10 story building and you died, would they have committed murder?”
Clearly one person’s idea of consensual activity is another person’s definition of abuse. That to me is why it is important to think about the one billion women worldwide who have been raped or beaten.
My fantasy is that all this hoopla about Fifty Shades of Grey can be beneficial for issues that onebillionrising.org cares about. As Emma Green reports in her in-depth analysis of the book in The Atlantic , Fifty Shades of Grey created conversation about topics women would not normally talk about.
We found ourselves constantly talking about [the books],” said Maier, who has plans to attend three showings of the movie. “A lot of conversations were around the sex in it, because I think for both of us, it was the first time we had really read a book with that much sex, and that much kinky sex in particular. It was one of the only ways to really start a conversation like that—you don’t just talk to your friend and go, ‘Hey, what do you think about BDSM?’ But when you have a book, it really opens that door.
So I would like a conversation about Fifty Shades of Grey and those appalling statistics that one in three women will be raped or beaten sometime in their lifetime.
My opening salvo is, should we include Anastasia in those statistics?
“No,” I protest trying to kick him off. He stops. “If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.” Fifty Shades Of Grey, E.L. James