Welcome, welcome, one and all, back to the nightmare tragedy that is this book.
Before we get started, I’ve got a link to share, courtesy of someone on Twitter who I’m so so sorry, I can’t remember your name. If you sent this to me, feel free to speak up in the comments and be like, “I SENT YOU THAT, YOU UNFEELING BITCH!”
In her article “Women, Know Your Place!”, writer Tracy Kuhn posits that criticism of E.L. James comes not from a place of rational thinking, but unbridled misogyny for misogyny’s sake:
Her books have turned everyone into a literary critic. Her readers (predominantly female) are called stupid or desperate. Her writing is picked apart, sentence by sentence. She’s torn apart on social media. It’s not bullying of course, it’s for our own good and it doesn’t count in this case because hey, most of us doing the attacking are women who are defending other women, so you can’t touch us. To do so would be to condone abuse, you animal!
Meanwhile we carry on going to see films and read books and watch television programmes that subliminally give out really damaging messages about women and use rape scenes again and again to move a plot forward, but again, who cares about those?
I’m sharing this article, this passage in particular, because it highlights a new resistance I’m seeing to criticism of media created and consumed by women. I’ve had a few vocal objectors on Twitter come to me with this very argument: how can you criticize Fifty Shades if you’re not criticizing everything else? Or if you’re consuming media that’s problematic in the first place? I find this attitude fairly comical; it’s like saying that you can’t know if you dislike broccoli until you’ve eaten every piece of broccoli ever grown. Or, you can’t say you dislike broccoli if you’re eating something that has broccoli in it, even if you pick it out and push it to the side.
All media is problematic and rife with anti-feminist messages, because all life is problematic and rife with anti-feminist messages. To suggest that E.L. James is being unfairly attacked simply because she wrote something women enjoy, and that her critics have no place in shaming her unless they somehow consume and dissect all media while at the same time shunning all media, leaves us with a catch-22 in which all criticism is effectively silenced in the name of haphazardly defined feminism.
This isn’t a new approach to silencing critics, and it came as no surprise to me that the last lines of the article read:
Have a look at yourselves before you make that next witty comment. And be nicer to each other.
Feminism Tip: your argument is fairly destroyed when you call upon other women to Be Nice, as the very concept of Be Nice is an ages old silencing technique brandished almost solely against women.
With that out of the way, onto the recap!