Tuesday, July 03, 2012

In Defense of Readers Who Choose Fifty Shades

I was trawling through my Facebook news feed this morning and came upon a Fifty Shades of Grey naysayer. This happens to be someone who's close to someone else I'm close to. In other words, I respect this person and their relationship with someone close to me, so my intention here is not to be tacky or disrespectful, but the post simply got me thinking. Note: this was a male commentator.
Fifty Shades of Grey is about a real good looking guy who buys a woman all kinds of stuff, so in return he can sexually abuse her any time he wants? DEFINITELY not my cup of tea. Can't figure out who or WHY anyone would allow themselves to be treated that way, or WHY so many women are clamoring to read it?

A couple of things:
1. Anastasia is opposed to Christian buying her things.
2. She's also opposed to a full-on BDSM lifestyle.
3. Christian has to change his lifestyle to be with her. 

Those points aside, I did have some qualms with the Fifty Shades novels. Christian is too overprotective and controlling. The author makes a concerted effort to rationalize those behaviors with backstory. There were some things that, as a woman, I starkly disagreed with! However, I never felt that Ana and Christian were in an abusive relationship. There's that. 

So we've established that this blurb is factually, plotfully incorrect. But aside from that, there's an issue of implicating female readers that makes me uncomfortable. It's certainly not only this post, but a general attitude of chagrin and forced embarrassment when it comes to women's reading choices.

I'm sort of singing to the choir here, and Amanda from BookRiot already wrote an artful piece on this issue titled, "The Gender of Reading Shame."  I suppose my point in writing today's post is to add my voice to the chorus of "hell yeahs!" Women are so often made to "feel bad" about their reading choices. It's too romancey, too paranormal, too fluffy, too depressing, too anti-feminist, too butch. TOO THIS, TOO THAT. 

Amanda writes, "If women read 'unliterary' but stereotypically feminine genres, it’s deserving of a brown paper bag in the form of increased e-reader sales so you can read in public in peace." As opposed to the male reader who can read "unliterary" but stereotypically male genres and is left alone. 

It's always tough while dealing in stereotypes, but the bottom line is: women do often feel shamed for their reading because of their choice of genre, for following best seller lists, for engaging in a trend, etc. I'm almost certain I (we?) feel this more as a book blogger than someone who just reads for the hell of it and doesn't engage in the same level of immersion, discussion, and literary navel-gazing as I do (we?) on a daily basis. 

So what gives? I have absolutely no answers. Are women more impressionable? Are we more sensitive to naysayers? Are we imagining it? Is this the female reader's "glass ceiling?" Who imposes the shame? Females? Males? Is it a male-dominated society thang?

While I do feel this pressure and feel this imbalance in reading and judgement between genders I can't say that I'm going to care much when it comes to choosing books. Admittedly, I was embarrassed to admit to reading (and enjoying) Fifty Shades of Grey early on. BUT, I did. I said it. It is what it is. I won't NOT read from a particular genre or participate in a trend or buy a book because of shame.

In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, am a little more aware of it, I might just brazenly cover myself in romance novels and go sit in a public park. Hecklers beware. I'll shank you with my book light. 

Whatcha think?

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