Tag: women

“Fifty Shades of Grey.” More Like Fifty Types of Denial.

I’ve received several questions via email about a new erotic trilogy called Fifty Shades of Grey, a story about a young college woman (and a virgin) who enters into a…

I’ve received several questions via email about a new erotic trilogy called Fifty Shades of Grey, a story about a young college woman (and a virgin) who enters into a contract with a businessman whereby he has total control of her life while she participates in a submissive sexual relationship with him. The book takes place in Seattle (my current hometown) and involves explicit descriptions of sexual encounters including bondage and S&M.

Apparently, it’s become quite a hit and women everywhere are devouring (no pun intended) the series, including women of faith.

Some quick thoughts–

  1. You are what you eat. Garbage in, garbage out. The concern here isn’t so much about sexual mores as it is with personal well being. Just as we are deeply affected by what we eat, whether it be overall health, clothing size, or mental well being, so we are affected by the images and ideas that we introduce to ourselves. Consuming a steady diet of media content that is, well, less than uplifting, takes its effect. [See the movie Idiocracy for more on this. It’s not kid-friendly and f-bombs (sic) make up half of the dialogue, but it makes a great point. Consider it WALL-E for adults.]
  2. It’s hard to tell from our contemporary culture, but sex is meant to be something deeply personal and intimate. When we allow ourselves to be shaped by outside images and ideas, especially deficient ones, we end up denying our own experience of sex. We take someone else’s ideas, a stranger in this case, and make them part of our experience surrounding sexual intimacy. But they belong to someone else. They’re not something discovered in an intimate, trusting, and exclusive relationship. They’re imposed upon from without.
  3. The brain is the most powerful sex organ. In other words, this is just porn for women, porn that is easily consumed now that e-readers abound and no one has to know what another person is reading. It’s not that people shouldn’t have sexual thoughts, but rather how those experiences should occur and how they can be used constructively. Just as regular porn isolates and disconnects the consumer from reality, particularly the reality of love, so do erotic novels disconnect its readers (largely women) from the reality of relationship and love, two things that one hopes might have something to do with each other.
  4. Escapism doesn’t work. The women enjoying Fifty Shades appear to be doing what most of us do when we enjoy media or read a book: taking a break from our busy (often troubled) lives and escaping into someone else’s story. That’s human nature and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, let’s face it, marriages and other relationships are under a lot of stress today. When we need to take a break from them, we need something that’s going to give us the strength to get back out there and work (fight?) for what we believe in. I’m not saying that our entertainment needs to be Pollyanna. But it should be constructive. Even in our escapes or breaks, we need to be able to experience something constructive. The last thing women need is to immerse themselves in a world where the heroine is abused, degraded, and not allowed to be her own person. Just because it’s “consensual” doesn’t mean it’s good for a woman.

It says a lot about our culture when so many women find their escape in an erotic novel in which there is clearly lacking a balance of power between the female and male protagonists, respectively. You’ve come a long way, baby, so far, in fact, that you’re further back than when you started. We used to call that denial.

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Wedding Dresses & Women. Or “How women dream of Prince Charming and wakeup in ‘The Hangover.'”

The wedding industry takes a regular beating for being over the top. But there are also good aspects to it. As a designer of high-end wedding dresses, Justina McCraffrey (full…

The wedding industry takes a regular beating for being over the top. But there are also good aspects to it.

As a designer of high-end wedding dresses, Justina McCraffrey (full disclosure – a  friend of mine) sees a lot of the inner workings of weddings.  Her work brings her closely in contact with the bride, as described in a recent piece for The Huffington Post. She gets a chance to watch the dress reveal to the bride the woman she once dreamed of becoming, a woman she forgot a long time ago when dreams of Prince Charming faded away to the reality that fuels movies like The Hangover.

Recently, my husband and I watched Horrible Bosses. Like the Hangover movies they belie a deep crisis in masculinity. Forget any idea of Prince Charming or even a somewhat competent man capable of taking care of himself and possibly thinking of someone else’s well being. (Knocked Up was a brilliant exception in this genre of movies.) A charitable take would be to say that these men missed out somewhere. They missed out on knowing how to be men – how to love someone else, how to be strong for someone else, and how to give themselves. They’re so void of any self possession that they will never be able to be very present for anyone else, especially a woman who’s learned how to take care of herself.

Justina writes about a very specific type of woman – the highly successful, competent, driven woman. She shows up to get something done; she’s there to buy a dress and cross it off her list. But the experience of the dress ends up being somewhat transformative. Justina describes a sort of self discovery that takes place:

It is the abandoned dream and vision of herself that was once forgotten somewhere between the divorce of her parents, high school exams, and her first broken heart. It is the internal struggle of regrets versus survival and that suddenly in the mirror a vision of herself looking like she is in love, and looking like she is vulnerable, and even giddy with joy makes her uncomfortable. It is a woman that she does not know. It is the woman she used to be, even as a little girl.

Sure, fairy tales and the Disney princess motif can be taken to excess; but the fact that children, especially girls, are drawn to them seems to suggest that there’s something good and pleasing in them. After all, is it so bad to teach a young girl that she can grow up to love a good man and be loved by him?

I’ll let Justina’s words conclude this post, but do read her entire article for yourself.

They [Women] are taught not to rely on others, especially men. Reality and dashed expectations have given them a somewhat hard edge.

My work isn’t just about making dresses, it’s about helping women reclaim their identity, and embrace the truth of who they are. It is showing these beautiful, dignified, and intelligent women through the silence of the gowns, that they should expect to be coveted, loved, and admired not just for what they do and whether they’re successful, but for living within the acceptance, truth, and beauty of who they are.

Part of the creative process for me is not just creating the dress, but watching the bride become who she is. There’s a transformation from the woman who entered the salon as a manager of sorts with a massive to-do list that included buying a dress, to the woman who sees herself as a bride, someone to love and be loved.

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Women, Catholics, & Conservatives

Last week, I wrote my regular column on three films this year that feature women leads, including The Mighty Macs, a G-rated feel-good sports movie that opened last weekend. I’m…

Last week, I wrote my regular column on three films this year that feature women leads, including The Mighty Macs, a G-rated feel-good sports movie that opened last weekend. I’m used to writing about controversy so I almost felt like I wasn’t doing my job by writing about something that would be so uncontroversial.

Silly me.

Turns out that this movie, at least according to some, is “contrary to Catholic teaching and as such [doesn’t] deserve our support.”

Strong words.

Lisa Wheeler [full disclosure – a friend of mine] gives good response in the comments. But I’m still troubled by the post and other comments.

The controversy largely centers on the role of women and the character of Coach Cathy Rush. It’s asserted that the “live your dream” message dovetails with a feminist agenda and it’s suggested that women have no place in the workforce.

First, these are conservative views, not Catholic. Some conservatives hold them. Some groups of Catholics do, too. Some Protestant Churches make them a matter of belief as do other religions. But they are not Catholic doctrine.

The Catholic Church has never taught that a woman’s sole role is to be married, have children, and stay out of the world. Most recently, in 2004, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith put forth that women have a role in every aspect of society:

In this perspective, one understands the irreplaceable role of women in all aspects of family and social life involving human relationships and caring for others. Here what John Paul II has termed the genius of women becomes very clear.19 It implies first of all that women be significantly and actively present in the family, “the primordial and, in a certain sense sovereign society”,20 since it is here above all that the features of a people take shape; it is here that its members acquire basic teachings. They learn to love inasmuch as they are unconditionally loved, they learn respect for others inasmuch as they are respected, they learn to know the face of God inasmuch as they receive a first revelation of it from a father and a mother full of attention in their regard. Whenever these fundamental experiences are lacking, society as a whole suffers violence and becomes in turn the progenitor of more violence. It means also that women should be present in the world of work and in the organization of society, and that women should have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the policies of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems. [Emphasis mine.]

The Church doesn’t say that only unmarried women, childless women, or women whose children are grown can have roles outside of the home. That’s what some conservatives and other religious groups say. Admittedly, some have even more stringent views of the role of women.

For all the Catholic inspired humor about Catholic guilt, rules, stern priests, and nuns that rap your knuckles, the Catholic Church actually does think that adult women and men can make decisions about how they lead their lives and arrange their families. Yes, the family must be a priority for a married couple; but there are so many ways for that to happen according to the gifts and needs of each couple.

So, getting back to The Mighty Macs and the role of Coach Cathy Rush, my first reaction upon reading the critique and the related comments was: “A pregnant woman can coach basketball.” The critique centers on the fact that Coach Rush got a job without consulting her husband. From there, apparently it necessarily follows that she must be eschewing family. One could infer that, but it doesn’t necessarily follow. Maybe she was not delaying a family. After all, it does take 9+months for a baby to be born. A woman can do a lot in that time, even coach a basketball team if she gets pregnant.

It’s ironic that some conservatives think that women shouldn’t be out in the work force, that somehow it’s too much for them. But nonetheless women should have the energy to stay home and manage a busy family and be pregnant. Sorry, but that takes a ton of work and if you don’t think women are up for hard work then they certainly don’t have a role in the family.

I also find it off putting that a group of Catholics would find something troubling in a woman pursuing her dream and yet they never caution against the dangers of a man pursuing his dreams. After all, a husband can be so caught up in pursuing his dreams of success that he neglects his wife and children. It’s not that uncommon…

And Catholics should be a little more facile when it comes to the word “feminism” and its derivatives. After all, John Paul II used it repeatedly, most notably in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, n. 99:

In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination”, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation. [Emphasis mine.]

In other words, “feminism” is not a dirty a word.

But back to the movie, it may not be perfect and no one has to like it even though I did. But don’t use the Catholic faith as a basis for not liking it and please don’t misattribute extremely conservative views on women to the Catholic Church.

Update, 12 p.m. 11/27/11. Just came across Jeremy Lott’s review of TMM which I think is very good. Go see the movie! C’mon you know you’re craving popcorn…

 

 

 

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When Consumerism And Motherhood Collide

It’s a brave new world. We’re so far down the slippery slope, we don’t remember when we started sliding. Seriously. Now, the right to choose means that women can not…

It’s a brave new world. We’re so far down the slippery slope, we don’t remember when we started sliding. Seriously.

Now, the right to choose means that women can not only choose the sex and even some of the genetic traits of their infant, but it also means that they can dispose of their “products” at will. Sounds like ancient Rome to me, only this time it’s the women with the power, not the men. Read more here.

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