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50 Shades of Empowerment

June 1, 2012

Like the rest of the world, I just finished reading the Fifty Shades trilogy. I loved it.

I am a mom, a former English teacher, a conservative, a lover of great classical literature, and grammar police enforcer, yet I really really LOVED these books. So much so that they’ve earned a sacred spot on my Favorite Book Series list.

I loved them for the sheer entertainment value they offer. It’s not Pulitzer Prize winning writing. It’s not earth-shattering plot or social commentary. These books are just great entertainment.

I can laugh at myself as friends tease me for reading them. I can chuckle with some of my book club girls who cringe at such a low-brow title pick. But I challenge the critics who are demonizing these books as examples of chauvinism and degradation of women.

I am a strong woman and a feminist. Being a feminist means simply that I believe in the equality of the sexes. It doesn’t mean men are the enemy. It doesn’t mean that I can’t embrace my love of pink and green and get a kick out of seeing my daughter dress up as a princess. It means that I want to see women treated as equals with the same rights and opportunities as men. Even as a feminist, I think these books are fantastic. They’re entertaining, not degrading. If anything, these are books of female empowerment.

As women, it’s in our nature to nurture and care for others. Nurturing is NOT a submissive trait, though. In the Fifty Shades and the Twilight novels, whose similarities have been widely compared, the character in power is the Anastasia Steele or Bella Swain. Without them, their domineering men fall apart at the seams. With his heroine in full-on nurture mode, each man blooms into a downright swoon-worthy character.

The women in these novels are strong and bold. They don’t obey. They don’t listen. They speak out of turn. They can hold their own. Without them, the men each become a heinous brooding vampire and a dark, twisted head case.

These women are perfect examples of what feminism is truly about. Female empowerment. The right to talk back, the strength to forge ahead into these dark relationships without losing themselves, the ability to bring their men to their knees (and not just in the bedroom), and the power to CHOOSE for themselves how they want to live their lives. They don’t bow to their men’s wishes; they make their own decisions.

And, especially in Fifty Shades, they can also choose when to step back and enjoy not being in control.

I recently read another blog post from a husband’s point of view on these books called 50 Shades of Porn. Yeah, I suppose they’re that, too. But what I agreed with most by this blog author was that these books are the greatest source of escapism around. I laughed and agreed that I loved having my copies on my little brown booze bag, a.k.a. my Kindle. I read them while I sat in the line of cars that arrive a half hour early before school lets out because it’s the only way to get a parking space. I escaped.

I hold that these books are stories of empowerment, but definitely agree that they are a great way to escape, too. It’s honestly a really nice escape to swoon over a man who wants control. As strong women, we have that choice, too. To relinquish control and let someone else make all the decisions. That is very sexy.

After all, as moms, we are in control of all of the short (and tall) people in our houses. We control the scheduling, the carpools, the shopping, the menu planning, the house keeping, the family calendar, the gift buying, the activities, and everything in between. Being responsible for all decision-making can be downright exhausting. It’s a wonderful fantasy to imagine someone else being in charge for a while.

If you’ve been hearing all about these books, but weren’t sure if they were worth the read, go for it. They’re for both light and serious readers, men and women alike. Allow yourself to get past the shock value and get to know the characters. Maybe you’ll get to meet your own inner goddess as a result.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2012 1:33 PM

    ” In the Fifty Shades and the Twilight novels, whose similarities have been widely compared…”

    There’s a reason for that, you know. Fifty Shades literally started out as Edward/Bella fanfic.

    Like it or don’t (I haven’t gotten past their second meeting, but so far, I don’t), but I can’t wrap my brain around the idea that “signing a contract giving another person control over your life” is at all “empowering.” The argument here seems to be, “As a woman, my greatest power is my power to choose to give up all my power.” Which, when stated in such terms, sounds manifestly silly.

    • June 1, 2012 1:36 PM

      “Fair point well made,” Bryce, but you’ll get it if you keep reading. Stick with it. I’d love to hear from you again after you finish the whole series.

  2. ashleyinnc permalink
    June 2, 2012 11:05 AM

    You certainly have me intrigued with this post. Honestly, far more interested to read them than ANY other review, etc. has done so far, so well done my friend. However, I am wondering if they may be lost on me as I never read Twilight either.

    • June 2, 2012 11:28 AM

      No, you definitely do not have to have read Twilight to “get” these books. (But you SHOULD!) I really think you’ll like them, even if you hate them. 😉

  3. Lina permalink
    June 12, 2012 11:37 PM

    I loved it! Didnt think I’d get into it because the reviews I recieved were all about the detailed sex scenes. But like you said if you kept reading there is in fact a beautiful yet frustrating and crazy as love story.

    Christian and Ana. Total opposites. Both have self esteem issues. And both have never been in love.
    I really enjoyed reading their journey to self discovery and true love.
    I had a lot of moments and I did have teary moments too (cant think of anyone that didnt!).

    And I totally agree it is an escapism. Who doesnt want to be showered with gifts and be fussed about all the time?
    Like you said, women spend most of their time looking after their families. So to read about a man who wants to care and protect you, give you the world, who wants to be the centre of your universe and who would spend $100,000 to dance with you….. …… its a dream women would love to be apart of.

    Thanks to Ana I have woken up my inner goddess! 😉

  4. Lala permalink
    October 29, 2012 12:10 AM

    Well said! Thank you for posting this. Its so frustrating that people are bashing the books. Its an escape from reality. Just like movies I don’t take them as life lessons. Just sit back relax and enjoy the time away from your day to day routine. I feel like all those who over think it need to unruffle their panties and maybe stop taking everything so seriously. Its exhausting. And for all those who have taken the time to write countless bad reviews even to the point of counting how many times she says something. Use your time to go write your own book. E.L. James success is nothing to your little measly reviews.

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