50 Shades of Nonsense

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. And I give absolutely no fucks.

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May 20, 2014

Oh, where to begin with this nonsense?

It’s a bunch of petty clickbait, that’s what it is. Shame on New Republic for publishing such a poorly done article about romance.  Shame on William Giraldi for writing it–he should really know better. Or does he? Looks to me like this kind of hatchet job might just be the only kind of criticism he knows how to do.

There’s so much wrong with the article that enumerating its sins would take entirely too much time.

So instead I’m going to ask that everyone go read this article about nuns and art over at The Toast. Because it’s awesome but it’s also pertinent.

Those nuns. Just couldn’t make good art because they’re women and you know how women are:

She didn’t write it.
She wrote it, but she shouldn’t have.
She wrote it, but look what she wrote about.
She wrote it, but “she” isn’t really an artist and “it” isn’t really serious, of the right genre–i.e., really art.
She wrote it, but she wrote only one of it.
She wrote it, but it’s only interesting/included in the canon for one, limited reason.
She wrote it, but there are very few of her.

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women’s Writing

Giraldi’s article is an absolute textbook example of the ways women’s writing is suppressed. The thing that struck me the most about the article, apart from the thoroughly insulting language used throughout it, was Giraldi’s flat refusal to use the name under with E.L. James publishes. In fact, he states that James is a “sacral” name (real interesting use of that word there, was sacred not fancy enough for you, big guy?) and refuses to use it and instead uses James’s legal name through out the article–right after he calls her a “charlatan amorist”.

Of all the crap in the article, this is the one that I find most upsetting. E.L. James publishes books under a pen name. When talking about that work, one should use the name under which it is published, even if her legal name is something else.  I don’t care that her legal name is public knowledge–it’s not the name she uses for her fiction.  Lots of public figures use stage or pen names because, you know, that’s the name they use for their work.  He’s doing this to put James in her place, to wrest a small bit of control over her public self away from her.

It’s appalling.  And I’m saying that as someone who doesn’t even like Fifty Shades of Grey!

Like or dislike the work all you like. Criticize the text–tear it to tiny little pieces with your rapier-like intellect. But leave your personal feelings about the author and their readership out of it. Otherwise, your article may end up telling us a whole lot more about who you are than about the text you think you’re criticizing.  As is the case here.

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