Tuesday, February 10, 2015

violence against women is not okay, but the movies tell me otherwise

50shades post

These days I seem to be frequently disappointed, appalled and confused by our culture. All at once.

I rarely watch the Grammy's. In fact it's probably been several years since I've tuned in. But this year, my husband and I watched it. I'm still not entirely sure why.

In the midst of an evening filled with rock music worship and debauchery, something in particular caught my attention. It was the testimony given by Brooke Axtell about an abusive relationship that she had been in. She gave a short account of her experience and then pleaded with the ladies watching, that if any of them are in similar situations, to please speak up and get help, get out, to instead seek the love they deserve. You can read the full transcript here. It's short and concise.

I had actually just walked out of the room (mostly because President Obama had come on my screen and I wasn't in the mood to hear what he had to say) but as I began to hear her speak it piqued my interest. The specific line that caught my attention was:

"After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me. I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain, and needed help."

As I listened further, I suddenly began asking myself if she was giving a description of the wildly popular book and getting-ready-to-be-released-movie- 50 Shades of Grey. (You can read why I chose not to read the book and also why I won't see the movie here).

And I in no way mean that to insult Brooke or anyone who has been in an abusive relationship.

I mean it to insult our crooked and warped and confused culture. I mean it to insult Hollywood.

I mean it to say, what are we doing? We've started campaign after campaign in an effort to end domestic violence and sexual assault and abuse. We seem to fervently care about the well-being of women, as we should. Football players have been suspended for hitting their wives and children. The President is making appearances on pop-award shows. Artists are writing songs and making commercials. Hashtags have been created and are being promoted. All in the name of ending violence against women. 

And yet, on Friday, February 13 (Valentine's Day weekend), millions of people will spend millions of dollars in support of a movie about a man who abuses a woman.

That literally is (spoiler alert!) the plot line of 50 Shades, if we are being honest.

And we see nothing wrong with this?!

Which is why I ask, what are we doing?? Are we so blind as to not see the inconsistency here? The schizophrenia of it all?

Did you know that in 2013, a social scientist did a study of 50 Shades of Grey using the CDC's standards of emotional abuse and sexual violence? And guess what she found: "The study found that nearly every interaction between Ana and Christian was emotionally abusive in nature, including stalking, intimidation, and isolation."

You mean to tell me that in the midst of multiple nation-wide campaigns meant to end domestic abuse, to bring awareness to assaults on college campuses (which include many many many cases of "date rape"), to encourage women to get out of violent relationships, we are at the same time encouraging women to go and spend their money on a movie that promotes those exact things?

I guess I keep asking questions because I have no idea how to actually give any answers to them.

I'm not sure that there is a logical explanation to all of this except to say this is the result of a culture that has no moral foundation, no grounding in truth. This is what happens when man is left to himself to determine what is good and what is wrong. We cannot decide!

"It's awful to hurt a women."

"But if it feels good then do it."

"But wait, don't do that, it's wrong!"

"But she said she doesn't mind so it's okay."

"But really she's being abused so it's not okay."

But now, I'm just thoroughly confused because none of it makes any sense. None at all.

{I also need to stop right here to note that this encouragement isn't just coming from books and movies, it's happening in real life at Planned Parenthood. In conversations with teenagers, counselors encourage them to engage in BDSM, abusive relationships.}

But back to Brooke's testimony. She went on to say:

"I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship... What bound me to him was my desire to heal him."

And again I was reminded of 50 Shades. Now, like I said, I haven't actually read the book but I do know that Ana desires to "heal" Christian. And I know that is all too often the case in abusive relationships. But we should not be encouraging women to stay with their abuser in an attempt to heal or restore them. We shouldn't be encouraging that in any way, shape or form. We should, instead of writing, reading, promoting and watching a story that ends with the abuser healed by the abused, be encouraging women to get help and we should be talking about what love truly is, just as Brooke pleads:

"Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame, or abuse. If you are in a relationship with someone who does not honor or respect you, I want you to know that you are worthy of love."

In 50 Shades, she stays by her man, her abuser, and he ends up healed. It ends happily ever after. It all ends up okay.

But that is nothing like what happens in real life.

In reality, women and children die. Or they end up emotionally and physically battered and scarred. They carry that with them their entire lives.

They don't heal, restore or fix the man (as if it's that simple) and live happily ever after.

50 Shades of Grey glorifies and glamorizes abusive relationships, plain and simple. It treats violence as completely acceptable fantasy. In fact, it encourages such behavior by ending "happily ever after." And yet real women are living through real abuse. Real women are experiencing real violence and mistreatment. Real women are afraid and don't know where to turn. Real women are in danger every single day.

What are we telling these women when we devour these books, when we spend by the millions to purchase movie tickets for such a movie?

I can't even begin to reconcile how inconsistent and disingenuous it is for our culture to condemn sexual assault and domestic violence all the while promoting abuse. As if because it's fantasy or fiction instead of real life it's a-ok. As if there is no connection between what we read and see and think about, and what we actually physically take part in. I'm appalled. And confused. And disappointed.

I assure you, what we read and spend our money on matters. If we truly cared about ending violence and abuse against women, we would shut these books and stay home from the movies this weekend. We would refuse to spend a single dime in support of our culture's schizophrenia. And we would encourage women to seek help and we would talk about what love really is.

Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;[

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,

but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.
 1 Corinthians 13:4-7