“Whenever books are burned, men too are eventually burned.”
(attributed to Heinrich Heine, 1797-1856)
I have to admit I’ve not read current publishing success 50 Shades Of Grey, although I have read various reviews and comments, as well as extracts from the book itself. The general opinion seems to be that it’s badly written soft-porn, or more precisely something apparently called “mummy porn” (which sounds like something dubious indulged in by certain archaeologits and curators of museum Egyptology departments.)
But I digress – 50 Shades.. sounds crap, it probably is crap, so I’ll give it a miss, thanks. Some may get a kick out it, and good luck to them.
So I was a little suprised to see that a womens group from this very city have launched a campaign against the book, collecting copies of it with the intention of burning them all on Bonfire Night (November 5th).
Clare Phillipson, director of Wearside Women In Need, told local rag the Sunderland Echo that: “It’s absolutely disgusting. It normalises abuse, degrades women and encourages sexual violence.”
“With it being in the media so much many men and women have rushed out to buy it, and many have come to me and told me how distressed they are by what’s written. Passages in it are about women submitting to men, obeying their orders and violence being used in a sexual and erotic manner. It’s disgusting and sends out the wrong message.”
“I’ve come across people who have been confused by it, people who have been enraged by it and others that are bewildered. Some women come away thinking ‘is this how I should be behaving in the bedroom’ and ‘is there something wrong with me because I’m not’ and that’s not right.
“It sends out the idea that this kind of Mr Rochester character is a heroic romantic and masculine in his domination. Really he controls the powerless, unworldly girl who must submit to his temper. It is not how a relationship between a man and woman should be. In this day and age, books like this should not be written.They send out the wrong message and are in fact encouraging abuse, sexism and misogyny.”
I’m certain that WWIN do sterling work in their chosen field of domestic violence, but they’ve sure got a lot to learn about human psycholology – you could almost guarantee that a denouncement like that will intiate a stampede to the local bookshops by people who probably were only dimly aware of the book’s existence before – as one comment on the Echo’s website said: “Well done ladies, the book is selling like hot cakes in Asda this morning. I don’t see any if them ending up in your bin and I don’t see the fire brigade needing to worry about this bonfire. I doubt there’ll be enough heat to cook a sausage.”
It’s a strange situation –
– The offending book was written by a woman (a man might have made her do it, but I suspect not.)
– It seems to be primarily aimed at, and bought by, women and
– Its women protesting against it and threatening to burn it.
What worries me, though, is when people start dictating what other people should or should not be writing, publishing or reading, as well as making wildly generalized statements about the effect the said book will have on its readership. I’ve recently been doing a bit of background reading on the Jack the Ripper murders – not fiction like 50 Shades… but real women who suffered the ultimate abuse. But it hasn’t encouraged me to start behaving in a similar manner, nor all the other men – and women – who’ve read the same books. If it did, we’d be knee-deep in bodies and prostitution as an industry would just about be wiped out.
Some readers of 50 Shades… may find it disturbing, some may be turned on by it and good luck to them. The majority will probably say “God, why did I waste money on that piece of shit ?”
But really, you’ve got to let them find out for themselves.