Fifty Shades of Grey Feminism – A Philosophical Approach

The Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy

Everyone’s talking about the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy. It is the story of a sexy, but controlling entrepreneur by the name of Christian Grey and his relationship with recent college graduate Anastasia Steel. I have actually read the trilogy, initially not realising the basis of the content! I felt the need to know what everyone was going on about. I wasn’t too shocked by the BDSM content. The first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, in my opinion, was poorly written. I felt the need to continue reading the following two books to simply try to understand Christian Greys mind, and because I felt sorry for Ana.

But from a philosophical perspective, I wanted to explore the apparent ‘Fifty Shades of Grey feminism’. When the film was released on Valentines day 2015 (I haven’t watched it yet) it spurred a lot of contravercial views. Why was the film the subject of so much feminist criticism? What is feminism? Is it wrong to generalise – are there are lots of ‘feminisms’?

Fifty Shades of Grey Feminism

What is Feminism?

Feminism is essentially a branch of philosophy in which women advocate for equal rights or gender equality. Feminists argue that women should have the same opportunities as men within society, politics and career.  Sometimes, feminism can be referring to an organisation or an active ‘body’ of campaigners who are pro-women’s rights. Feminism has been embraced by many celebrities of the 20th Century including pop star Beyonce and actress Emma Watson.

However, as philosophers, it is important to be aware of the limitations and criticisms of feminism. Feminism itself is a ‘Western’ construct. Therefore there are problems with applying feminism across cultures. In addition, we have to be aware of the diversity within feminism. Although we can suggest feminist approaches, philosophers recognise variations of feminism. ‘Feminisms’ include radical feminism, liberal feminism and socialist feminism. Feminism can also encompass other boundaries such as ‘race’ (black feminism) or ‘class’ (Marxist Feminism).

Fifty Shades of Grey Feminism

Is there such thing as a Fifty Shades of Grey Feminism? A feminist would approach the book extremely critically, due to the power and domination of Christian Grey in his relationship with Ana. The title ‘Fifty Shades’ implies the changeable nature of Christian’s personality from loving and playful to abusive and controlling. The relationship according to the book is abusive, as there are scenes of physical violence when Christian spanks Ana until she cries. There is also a scene that is arguably a ‘rape’ scene as Ana does not explicitly consent.

In addition to the physical abuse, there is also the emotional abuse implied in the relationship including stalking and constant emails or texts.  In fact, Christian Grey controls everything that Ana does, from what she eats to where she works – something that feminists would have a big problem with.

Feminists may also criticise the way that women’s biological differences are over-emphasised in the way that Christian enforces hormonal contraceptives onto Ana and has sex with her while she is on her period. The way that Christian reacts when he finds out that Ana is pregnant is less than favourable.

Reactions from feminists and non feminists alike have been extremely critical of the movie, arguing that it is promoting abusive relationships and allowing BDSM to be seen as an excuse for abuse.  There has even been a $50 not 50 Shades campaign which has encourages women to donate $50 to victims of abuse instead of going to see the film.

In Favour of Fifty Shades of Grey

Sexual liberation means that women today have the freedom of speech and freedom to decide what to watch. Women are becoming more open about their sexual relationships. But Ana was an adult who could have opted out of the relationhship in its early stages. It can be argued that if you have a problem with BDSM or mild abuse within a relationship, the answer is simple – don’t go to see 50 Shades of Grey!

Arguments Against Fifty Shades of Grey Feminism

From a philosophical perspective, can there really be a Fifty Shades of Grey Feminism? Critiques of the movie and trilogy appear to fit into the ‘liberal feminist’ category – they want women and men to be equal on a social footing (career and relationships). But an economic inequality may still exist.

There are also developments since the feminist movement including anti-feminism (people who are against feminism because women are trying to become ‘more equal’ than men) and post feminism (second wave feminism arguing that feminism is no longer applicable in todays society).

What are your views on Fifty Shades of Grey feminism? How would a feminist approach the book or movie? Do you agree with feminist views or criticise them? Leave your comments on a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey Feminism’ below.

 

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