In the wake of her father’s death, some very cruel people sent disturbing messages to zeldawilliams. I found out that she is trying to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital—a charity both her and her father have supported for a long time.
I thought maybe it would be a nice gesture if we could send some love her way and also help some kids in the process. I think that would be a fitting tribute and it might counter the internet awfulness she had to endure.
And I cross it everyday.
Okay, fellow white people. We need to talk.
Let me tell you a story: I was an angry punk teenager. Not violent, but I did a shitton of…
Happy Shark Week
I give you your king.
He’s a shark.
I feel like this was made for Hannah
As we wrap up this terrible week and weekend some final thoughts before I get my black ass back to work tomorrow to fight fictional demons instead of feeling powerless against the real ones —
Although he wasn’t by any means a close personal friend, the death of Robin Williams affected by greatly. Working with him and David Duchovny on the film House of D was a privilege and seeing how he treated everyone he encountered regardless of race, class, gender or orientation remains a hopeful reminder that genuine kindness and empathy does exist in the world. Whatever the ultimate reasons for his decision to take his own life I pray for him, his family and all who suffer from the unrelenting grasp of depression and substance abuse. By shining his light on us all for the period of time he did, I am 100% certain that Robin left this world a better place than he entered it with a legacy that will not soon be forgotten.
That said, if we spent even a fraction of the time given to the tributes about Robin and the late Lauren Bacall also remembering the lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford or Dante Parker (the 5 unarmed black men killed by police just in the past month) or honestly looked at the data about how often police shoot unarmed black men and women in this country we would all hang our collective heads in shame.
In the midst of thousands upon thousands of peaceful protesters who came out demanding answers and marching for justice with the powerful and heartbreaking refrain Hands Up. Don’t Shoot. the actions of a small few in Ferguson (many of whom were anarchists that intentionally came into the city to stir up trouble and perhaps a few others from the community who had simply reached their breaking point in the face of racial, economic and social injustice) gave the white power structure the cover to quickly change the narrative to one about the violence in the city (in reality almost entirely perpetrated by the militarized police rather than the demonstrators) instead of the murder of an unarmed teenager by a cop who “never meant for this to happen" (and don’t even get me started on that fuckery which should instead read "a cop who never meant to be held accountable").
In this way, a PROTEST became a RIOT. Images of demonstrators THROWING BACK tear gas canisters launched at them became stories of rioters throwing molotov cocktails AT THE POLICE (and yes I am aware of media reports showing that molotov cocktails were in fact used by protesters in some instances but not in the way that it was ultimately spun). And the police released incendiary and ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT information about Michael Brown that the media lapped up because it reinforced the all too familiar trope that “the violent black dude was a thug who got what he deserved”.
Black victims are regularly eyed with suspicion and contempt (and ultimately deemed responsible for what happened to them) while the media too often generates headlines that exhibit an air of disbelief at an alleged white killer’s supposed actions.
Even in our outrage at what happened at this week and the necessity for our voices to be heard so this story is not swept under the rug, we all know something like this will happen again. And again. And again.
Until each of us (black, white, brown, etc) demands accountability from our elected officials we will get the country we deserve. Tweeting is not enough. Feeling bad is not enough. Acting like we’re overreacting and it can’t really be that bad makes you an accessory after the fact (not to mention an asshole).
Which is why, as the GIF above shows, I’m giving America a down vote.
So how can we stop feeling powerless? What can we actually do?
Honestly, there are people much smarter than me who can do a better job of answering that question.
But trying to answer that question for myself is a large part of why I do what I do for a living. Because representation matters. Because being in control of our own stories empowers us to show a wide range of depictions of blackness and “otherness” (shockingly, not only do we not all LOOK ALIKE but we also don’t all THINK ALIKE) that are far more interesting than what we’ve been spoon fed in the past. I’m the first to admit that we’ve still got A LONG WAY TO GO and that’s where you all come in.
Although my engagement in fandom is embraced by some and side-eyed by others, these spaces of interaction may in fact play one of the most significant roles in the future of media and representation as we know it. At the very least it will create a future generation of professional storytellers (and social justice advocates) who were raised in the trenches of Live Journal, Tumblr, ao3 and other platforms currently in use or yet to be created.
I know this is your turf and even though there are times some of you wish I’d go away I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to interact with you here.
Together, we can make a difference.
I will admit it. I have read all three books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series.
I am not admitting this because I am ashamed of my sexual desires or even because I feel the need to rant and rave about the poor writing quality of these books. (And it is extremely poor. I set my Kindle to count how many times the word “gasp” is used in the third book and the total was more than 70). I am admitting this because I feel the need to share my opinions about what I consider to be the incredibly — and dangerously — abusive relationship portrayed in the books.
When I first heard about Fifty Shades of Grey and learned they began as Twilight fanfiction, I swore I would not read them. I have read all of the Twilight books and I did not enjoy them. I found the relationships between Edward and Bella and Bella and Jacob to be patronizing and emotionally abusive, and I also thought the writing was pedestrian at best and boring to read. Why would I devote the limited amount of time I have for reading for pleasure to a series like this?
But as the dialogue about Fifty Shades of Grey increased, both in the media and amongst my friends, my curiosity was piqued. I attended a talk titled “Fifty Shades of Grey - Bad for Women, Bad for Sex” and decided that I should see what all the fuss was about.
To quote the book, I gasped. I rolled my eyes. I even bit my lip a few times. But not for the reasons Anastasia, the protagonist, did. I did out of exasperation, boredom and disgust, but also out of fear. After reading this book series, I am deeply afraid that this type of relationship will be viewed as the romantic ideal for women. And I consider that to be extremely dangerous — much more so than anything that takes place between Christian and Anastasia in the Red Room of Pain.
Could the character of Anastasia Steele be any more of a stereotype? She is an introvert, has low self-esteem, has abandonment issues from her father, apparently has only one close friend who bullies her and even though she works in a hardware store, she doesn’t seem to possess any self-sufficiency aside from cooking for her roommate and herself. She seems to have no sexual identity until Christian Grey enters her life and requests that she become his Submissive in a sexual relationship.
In order to be Christian’s submissive, Anastasia is expected to sign a lengthy and detailed contract that, amongst other requirements, requires that she exercise four days a week with a trainer that Christian provides (and who will report to Christian on her progress), eat only from a list of foods Christian supplies her with, get eight hours of sleep a night and begin taking a form of birth control so Christian will not have to wear condoms. Anastasia negotiates a few terms of the contract with Christian (she only wants to work out three days a week, not four), but all of her negotiations are only within his framework — none of the terms are hers independently. Nothing in their relationship is hers as an independent.
The character of Christian Grey is a rich, superpowered businessman who was abused as a child. He is in therapy, and Anastasia frequently references his therapist, but based on how he treats Anastasia, he doesn’t seem to be making much progress. As Anastasia’s relationship with Christian progresses, his controlling tendencies affect her life more and more. When her friend takes portraits of her for his photography exhibit, Christian buys all of them, because he does not want anyone else looking at Anastasia. (They weren’t even in a relationship when he did this.) When she is hired as an assistant at a publishing company, he buys the company — to make sure she’s “safe” working there. When she goes out to a bar with her one friend, against his wishes, he flies from New York to Washington State that same night, just to express his anger — and exercise his control over her. When she does not immediately change her name at her office (in hopes of maintaining some professional autonomy, given that he bought the company she works at), he shows up, unannounced, at her office, in the middle of her workday, to pick a fight with her. When she asks why it is so important to him that she change her name, he says he wants everyone to know she is his.
Christian’s possession of Anastasia is the cause of much of my disgust and fear of the book’s influence on people and how they view romantic relationships. After they exchange their wedding vows, the first words he says to her are, “Finally, you’re mine.” The control he exercises over her does not reflect his love for her; it reflects his objectifying of her. Christian never views Anastasia as a person, let alone an independent woman. He wants her to obey him, and even though she refuses to include that in her wedding vows, it is exactly what she does. When her mother questions her choice to keep her wedding dress on rather than change before traveling for her honeymoon, she says, “Christian likes this dress, and I want to please him.” Her desire to try some of the “kinky fuckery” in his Red Room of Pain comes from wanting to demonstrate her love for him, not her own sexual desires.
Wanting to please Christian apparently includes subjecting herself to verbal and emotional abuse from him ‘til death do them part, because any time she tries to stand up to him — which isn’t often — he berates her, guilt trips her and beats her down verbally until she apologizes and submits to him. After she uses the “safe word” in the Red Room of Pain so he will stop, he bemoans his sad state of mind later, mentioning that his “wife fucking safe worded him.” He is not concerned with her well-being or why she felt the need to use the safe word. He only cares about how it affects him.
The question that I kept asking myself as I read the books was why Anastasia stayed with Christian, and the answer I found was that she has absolutely no sense of self worth. She only feels sexy when he says she is, and when he insults or patronizes her, she accepts what he says as the truth. One of the passages that disgusted me the most was when Anastasia was at a club with Christian, dancing and thinking to herself that she never felt sexy before she met him and that he had given her confidence in her body. Yes, being with a partner who frequently compliments you can increase your confidence, but Anastasia went from zero to one hundred thanks to Christian. None of that came from within herself. Because of his influence on her, nothing in her life came from herself — her job, her home, her way of life, or even her self-esteem.
The co-dependency between Anastasia and Christian is alarming to read and even more to contemplate. When she breaks up with him at the end of the first book, the second book finds her starving herself and wasting away to nothing until he contacts her again. When she thinks his helicopter has crashed in the second book, she thinks to herself that she can’t live without him. Their marriage only comes about because he is scared she will leave him, and when she asks what she can do to prove to him she isn’t going anywhere, he says she can marry him. Yes, origins of insecurity and desperation are a great start to a healthy marriage.
When Anastasia finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and shares the news with Christian, he rages at her, asking if she did it on purpose and storming out of the house, disappearing for hours. Even though Anastasia thinks to herself that the pregnancy happened too soon in their marriage, she never considers terminating it.
The themes of the novel — that love alone can make someone change, that abuse from a spouse is acceptable as long as he’s great in bed, that pregnancies should always be carried to term even if the parents are not ready to be parents, and the ridiculously antiquated, Victorian idea that the love of a pure virgin can save a wayward man from himself — are irrational, unbelievable and dangerous.
Our culture has seen a radical shift of ideals moving towards traditional gender roles and Fifty Shades of Grey is a shining example of that. Early marriage to one’s first sexual partner, having a baby even when saying neither of the partners is ready to be a parent, and submission to one’s husband as the head of the household are all aspects of life that feminists and progressive thinkers have worked to move beyond. Anastasia and Christian’s relationship is not romantic. It is abusive. The ways he tries to “keep her safe” are not masculine or sexy. They are stalking. Fearing one’s husband’s reaction to an unexpected pregnancy is not normal, because “boys will be boys.” It is sad and dangerous and should not happen in a healthy relationship.
Fifty Shades of Grey was one of the best-selling books of the year. Sex toy classes have been inspired by it, as have new types of cocktails. The film adaptation is already in the works. I sincerely hope that honest discussion will be had about the book and that the Christian Grey ideal of romance is not one that will be perpetuated throughout our culture. The best way that can happen is through open, honest dialogue that leads to healthy relationships of two equal partners. That, in my opinion, is sexier than anything that can happen in the Red Room of Pain.
Jesus, I knew this book (series?!) was bad but I didn’t know it was this bad.
Stop it! Stop. It.
[Image Description: Background is several triangles in a circle like a pie alternating from true red, scarlet and black. A robin is sitting on his perch looking to the right.
Top Text: “It’s a coupon,”
Bottom Text: “not a Constitutional right”]
Dear Valued Customer,
We are not allowed to keep extra coupons at the counter. When you don’t have the coupon with you, you are not entitled to receive a discount, especially if you don’t even know if you have a coupon at home and if the coupon would apply to what you’re buying. If you get home and find you do have a coupon, you will have to bring it back in for a cost adjustment, I cannot take your credit card particulars over the phone, it’s corporate policy. (Are you trying to get me fired?) No, I will not mail you a merchandise card for the amount you would have saved if you had had your coupon. (I really think you’re trying to get me fired.) No, you are not due any compensation for the extreme inconvenience you’ve suffered having to drive an extra 10 minutes each direction to get your cost adjustment. That coupon saved you $10; if your time and gasoline were worth more than that, you shouldn’t have come back.
Literally had this happen at work like three times today.