Nikki Gemmell – why she hated 50 Shades Of Grey

This is a direct copy of Nikki Gemmell’s column in the Weekend Australian (14 March 2015). It is just brilliant. Please read. (PS I haven’t seen the movie, nor read the book and have no intention of doing either.)

Why Fifty Shades of Grey made my skin crawl

nikkkiHATED it. The film of Fifty Shades of Grey. Because it is a romanticisation — a glorification — of the controlling man.

And, like the in-built gaydar, many women have a control-dar that pinpoints the controlling man and all his dismissive, belittling, esteem-battering behaviour — and run a mile from it. Because no woman deserves that. But, of course, a lot of us put up with it.

The controlling man comes in many forms. He’s Christian Grey from Fifty Shades, demanding his particular form of sex that’s all about violence, demand, pain and power; not to mention selling his lover’s treasured car without telling her. He’s the GP who cuts me off mid sentence, repeatedly, because he’s not interested in what I have to say about my own body or my child’s; he knows best. He’s the friend’s husband who will not let her go out for dinner with the girls because she has to stay at home and be with him. He’s the imam decreeing a woman’s head and face be covered in public, and her education limited to ignorance. He’s the boyfriend who never answers your calls, addling you with indifference then demanding you appear right here, right now, in clothes to his liking. He’s Oscar Pistorius. Charles Saatchi.

“You know what happened to me?” said Rosie Batty. “Greg had finally lost control of me, and to make me suffer, and the final act of control — which was the most hideous form of violence — was to kill my son.” Her courageous voice has given us a fresh insight into what it’s like in the web of the controlling and insecure man. The tools of their repulsive trade are manipulation, isolation, psychological battering; the wallop again and again of emotional, intellectual and physical abuse. The constant aim is to assert their authority and superiority when they’re often, deeply, inferior. He’s Gerard Baden-Clay, who murdered his wife in Brisbane. He’s Arthur Freeman, who tossed his four-year-old daughter off Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge. He’s Simon Gittany, who threw his fiancee off his inner Sydney balcony.

“My wife is my property.” That’s how Bertolt Brecht summed up the message of Shakespeare’s Othello. No, she isn’t. She never is. She’s not in any way less than a man. If they perceive us as unequal, the propensity is there to control us; keep us in line. A woman never says, “A man is my property.” We often ask, “Why did the woman stay with that monster?” Yet we don’t ask, “Why did he inflict his inhumane violence on her in the first place?” Who says that’s acceptable? It never is. The onus should be on him, not her. I’m sick of excuses being made for angry, vulnerable, unhinged, threatening, uncentred, wounded masculinity. Like it’s someone else’s fault. Society’s. The victim’s.

Christian Grey is a different version of the many versions of controlling man. He sold Anastasia’s car, wanting to take away all that was individual and particular about her, wanting to change her, transform her into the image he wanted of her. The sex was ugly. Penetration looked like it hurt. There was an absence of tenderness. He did not ask his virginal lover at any time, “What do you want? What would give you pleasure? Tell me what you’d like.”

Nigella Lawson said that her husband, Charles Saatchi, had subjected her to “intimate terrorism”. It’s a phrase that could describe a lot of the controlling man’s abusive behaviour, in all its varied forms. We need to tell our daughters to beware of the controlling man. To avoid him if at all possible, call him out; and to pull up our sons if they demonstrate that kind of behaviour. It’s unacceptable, on a deeply human, empathetic level. The controlling man should not be normalised. He’s offensive to women; to what it means to be human. His repulsive, deeply selfish modus operandi should not be made to appear romantic. Which is why Fifty Shades of Grey made my skin crawl.

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