Monday, 2 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Feminism

Daytime telly is a vice of mine. Currently in-between jobs, I have fallen into the trap of a lack of routine and my days are now filled with job applications, going to the gym and composing tweets about wanting to steal Holly Willoughby’s wardrobe. Still, whilst most daytime telly is mundane and brainless (read: Jeremy Kyle), I am clearly interested in anything that promotes debate. Today’s dose of This Morning featured a debate on popular erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, with Samantha Brick arguing that the book should be regarded the same way as most pornography- (ie: keeping it stocked on the top shelf rather than next to the latest biopic featuring Peppa Pig.) Erotic writer Emily Dubberley took an opposing argument, stating how many women have been enticed by the trilogy since its launch and basically brandishing it as a bit of fun.
Admittedly, I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey and therefore cannot really comment on the book itself. The plot is fairly original it would seem- a virgin graduate embarking upon an affair with a manipulative billionaire who has a penchant for bondage, domination and sadism. So far, so creepy.  As someone who composed a dissertation chapter on violence in Angela Carter’s modern fairytales, it sounds to be almost like a re-telling of her version of The Bloody Chamber with some light pornography for good measure. Perhaps this is just my inner Literature student eager to analyse and I should shut up and get on the Erotic- lit bandwagon. Still, I am increasingly put off in reading the book- be it from excerpts, the ongoing comparison to fantasy series Twilight, or the warnings from friends of the apparently appalling writing. Still, rather than a potentially damaging sex manual, Fifty Shades of Grey sounds to me like a light-hearted and fun way to spend a rainy afternoon. Surely women (or men) reading this book will be aware that it is a fantasy? Surely they will know that they still have the choice to mould and shape their own sexuality rather than be dictated to by fiction? Surely they are simply not that ignorant? Oh, but Samantha Brick doesn’t think so.
‘Degrading to women’ was the phrase that Brick used carelessly in her argument, perhaps unaware that she was making a very bold statement indeed. I scoffed into my cornflakes in disbelief. This is the woman that declared just a few months ago that ‘women hate me because I’m beautiful.’ In a double page spread in the Daily Mail, she harped on about her ‘perfect features’ and how her friends had dropped her ‘in fear that their husbands fancied me.’ Her article was a poisonous and arrogant rant about how what she considered to be her own pleasing appearance had an awful effect on her life- leaving her with no friends and jealous women at every corner. As I have said before, the ‘sisterhood’ she talks about is non-existent in her world. In fact, by labeling every woman in England as unattractive and jealous, she has degraded women more than Fifty Shades of Grey ever could. 
Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey and agree with Samantha Brick's argument? Do you think erotic fiction empowers or degrades women?