Monday, June 03, 2013

Confessions of a Book Worm #2

The problem with "that's misogynistic" in relation to books. Oh yeah. I'm going there.
See, I read somewhere quite some time ago that it was funny how, in the Victorian Era, when Jane Austen was writing, the girls in the books were portrayed as strong, independent women who knew what they wanted, and didn't let any man tell them what to do. Yes, they fell in love and married, but they didn't marry simply because it was what society expected them to do. And while it might be argued that really, Austen, the Bronte sisters and other women writers of the time were simply trying to out across the message that marriage wasn't all bad, we do have to recognise that very few women actually behaved like that at the time.
Even more ridiculous, this person thought, was the fact that, today, when women have, supposedly, gained equality to men (don't get me started on that supposedly. I could go on for days), the heroines in the books are Bella Swans, and Anna Steeles, who are only happy to let the man dictate their every move - the latter in a more... ahem, extreme way. This person believed that such books were a step back in the feminism fight, and were a disgrace to the world.
And this is where the problem lies. I'll be honest: I read Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Even more honestly: I liked them. The epitome of honesty: I would never, ever consent to a relationship like that. It's not for me. However, my main problem with Fifty critics is that they seem to be making a stink of the fact that the book is a Twilight fanfic, and must, therefore, be crap by default (since we're sharing, I'll admit to having been a Twilight fan. When I was 12. We grow up. When you're twelve, a perfect boy sounds... well, perfect. Today, if I met Edward, I'd likely kill him within the hour). Then they go on to call it "porn". I'm not very clear on what counts as porn in book terms. I only ever thought of porn in terms of movies before, so who the hell knows. Maybe it is. And guys buy those movies by the droves, don't deny it. So what's the problem about Fifty being porn, if that's what you want to call it? It might be because it became famous, and porn is usually considered something that should be kept hush-hush. But the main reason, as far as I can see, is that women are reading porn. God forbid! Women might be masturbating while reading Fifty Shades of Grey! The horror!
Yeah. Because, as a person who read all 3 books, I can safely say there are hot moments, even for a non-BDSM inclined person like myself. The thing is, there is also a solid character development, and interesting, if predictable, plot line. It's not just sex sex and more sex. So the comments about how Fifty is anti-feminist? Well. What exactly do people see in the book that is misogynistic? The fact that the man is the dom, and the woman is the sub? Just because a book about a dom woman and a sub man hasn't been written (or maybe it has - it's just not famous), doesn't mean it doesn't happen just as much as the situation presented in Fifty. In fact, if people had taken the time to read Fifty, they would know that in fact, there is such a relationship mentioned in the books. It's not in the forefront, but it is mentioned and acknowledged.
But if you hate Fifty on principle, let's look at other literary pieces. Richelle Mead's Dark Swan series have a really strong, independent and kick-ass heroine, Eugenie Markham. She kills the shit that gives you nightmares. She is badass. Feminist, right? Well. What if I told you she was in to bondage with her boyfriend? Does that instantly make her anti-feminist? NO. It makes her a well-rounded character, who likes things kinky in the boudoir. Nothing wrong with that. And there is no way in hell Mead can be called a misogynist.
Another example, and one which makes me even more incensed than the Fifty debacle: Harry Potter. I have seen and heard countless people say "it's misogynist, because the women are always secondary characters". Let me just point out that the series might be called 'Harry Potter', and Potter might be the Chosen One, but he would have died at the age of eleven without ever even knowing that it was Quirrell if not for Hermione. Ginny Weasley is the most powerful wizard in the entire Weasley family. Minerva McGonagall almost single-handedly decides to stand up against Voldemort in Deathly Hallows, and gives instructions to all other teachers about what to do. Molly Weasley kills Bellatrix. And Bellatrix herself probably kills more people than even Voldemort does. Personally, I'd be more scared if I met Bellatrix in a dark alley than I would be if I met Voldemort. Luna Lovegood is eccentric, but uncannily clever. Umbridge nearly destroys Hogwarts. I could go on. On the flip side, Ron is clumsy, Harry is dependent on Hermione, Fudge was too scared to face Dumbledore, so he sent Umbridge, who wasn't scared. The one thing the Weasleys wanted more than anything was a girl daughter.
So why, exactly, is it so easy for us to just turn and say "it's misogynist"? If you want a real example of misogyny, you should read Euripirdes' Medea. Misogyny is telling women they can't read a book because they might get aroused reading it. Misogyny isn't writing a book whose main character is a guy; it's treating the female characters as if they were not important simply because they're female. Misogyny is making women believe that wanting what they want and liking what they like - be it bondage, BDSM, vanilla, or becoming a nun - is wrong because they have to conform to men's expectations because they are the "fragile sex". Misogyny is demeaning women because they don't have a penis.
Misogyny does still happen, yes, but not half as much, at least in literature, as most people would have us believe.

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