50 Shades of Empowerment
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.