19.2.15

Fifty Shades of Grey? It's just a film.

Whenever anyone asks what I think of the book Fifty Shades of Grey, I reply that it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Honestly it is. Perhaps this is because I didn’t read it a quest for great literature, searching a philosophical treatise or an ideological dissertation. I wanted to read clichéd, badly written, groin warming erotica and that’s exactly what the book delivered.

Despite enjoying it, I certainly didn’t expect it to be made into a film and if it were then I expected it would star niche celebrities with names such as Titty Hore and Don Doomee.

My female friends have descended in droves upon their nearest cinemas, afterwards treating themselves with sparkling wine and chocolate - they seem quite satisfied with what they’ve seen. I think I’ll wait for Netflix.

Nonetheless feminists and other activists have been fervent in their condemnation of the film. A quick hashtag search on Twitter will tell you that Fifty Shades of Grey depicts women as submissive, glorifies abuse and celebrates inequality in relationships.

I’m sure it does.

It's about a wealthy pervert who sexually dominates an innocent young woman.

Er yesss…

Still not worth flinching, an entire genre of women’s fiction is based upon the same scenario. So the film is about a young woman who is lured into the sordid world of DBSM with a frighteningly sexy older male.

Am I deliberately trivialising the film?

Of course I am.

Because it is trivial. Or rather, it should be trivial.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a book and a film. As with all books, it is as weak or powerful as we allow. All the fuss underscores the need to put the entertainment industry – especially the celebrity aspect – in its place. Films, music and television influence our daily lives, our personal tastes, our financial choices and even our politics. I suggest that the women who’ve enjoyed Fifty Shades are the ones who see the work for what it is – minor entertainment.

When rap music blared obscenities and violence in the 80s, we debated and discussed the consequences. When video games blared obscenities and violence in the 90s, we debated and discussed the consequences. When Miley Cyrus did something or other last year, we debated and discussed the consequences and the only outcome of our debates and discussions was that the entertainment industry made vile amounts of cash from the free publicity generated.

Currently, Fifty Shades is being talked about on Twitter, Facebook, TV - even Woman’s Hour on BBC 4. As a result, its makers are reeling in the profits. Moreover, the time and effort that is going to opposing it is perhaps the real profit. It’s opposition is making this film important, far more important than it actually is.

Fifty Shades is fantasy, judging from book and ticket sales - many women’s fantasies. We should limit its effects to the sphere of fiction and not try to look for deeper or more convoluted meaning.

We have granted the media – film and television especially, far more power than it should wield. Perhaps we accredit it with even more than it has in reality. When not enough black people are nominated for Oscars, pages upon pages are spent on berating an industry which most likely does not have any interest in black representation other than how much money it can make. When women land plum roles or are reported to make as much or more money than men we applaud and spend pages upon pages celebrating this so-called success. We insist on paying too much attention to a business that should not matter as much as it does. 

5.2.15

What Does a Feminist Look Like?


Last night I did feminist things.

I had the opportunity to see Gudrun Schyman, founder of a Sweden’s feminist party. It was an excellent event, out of the two hundred or so in the audience there were three men and two infants, women wore sensible uncombed hair, dark, baggy clothes and lace-up ankle boots with sensible winter treads.

Or is that how it seemed? Did we really look like a bra-burning mob about to raise clenched fists into the air and declare an end to patriarchy?

I suppose if one treks into the city centre to listen to a feminist party founder, whose main subject is feminism, at an event organised by a feminist group – then we can assume that she or he is a feminist – or is being paid to be there.

In that case feminists look a lot like ordinary people.

Looking back at our appearance, realistically, very few people in Finland wear bright colours in February. Finns, in general, dress casually, to the foreign eye, maybe too casually sometimes. Our boots were the boots that we wear for winter snow and ice and there were hints of lipstick, manicures and even bras. Many of us had made an effort about our appearance and some women could be described as trendy or hipster. If an uninformed stranger had walked into the auditorium, there would have been nothing about us (except perhaps the flags and banner) to tell her that this was a feminist meeting.

As much as I’d like it to be - feminism is not catching, indoctrination with feminist ideals does not lead to violence and some feminists do take baths and shave their underarm hair. So why then, when feminists are such seemingly ordinary people, are we still met with such disapproval and why must we repeatedly defend and justify what we are?