Some call it mommy porn and others call it the ultimate guilty pleasure, but regardless, E.L. James’ “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy has made its mark on pop culture. Released in June of 2011, the novels have sold 40 million copies worldwide and the book rights have been sold in 37 countries.
But the Associated Students’ Women’s Center wants to take a step back and analyze the hype behind this trilogy that is being read around the world.
“A Feminist Response to 50 Shades of Grey,” is an event that will explore the different aspects and interpretations of James’ trilogy, said Kristy Hathaway, coordinator for the AS Women’s Center.
The event takes place from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7 in Academic West 204.
The event will consist of a panel of five speakers who have specialized perspectives on the subject matter, Hathaway said. The panel includes Jen Lois, a professor from Western’s Sociology department, who researches romance novels; a representative from Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services who will talk about sexual violence; Allena Gabosch from the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle who will discuss the book from the perspective of kink culture; and coordinators from the AS Sexual Awareness Center.
The idea for the event came to Hathaway while she was in South Africa this summer. Many of the people she was travelling with were reading “50 Shades of Grey,” and since she did not have a book with her, she decided to read it too.
Upon reading the novel, Hathaway found certain aspects of the book to be triggering for people who have experienced partner abuse or sexual violence.
“I thought that, since I’m working in the Women’s Center, something should be done about [the subject matter of the books],” Hathaway explained. “I thought that if I went to the other side of the world, I wouldn’t see ’50 Shades of Grey,’ but it was everywhere…everyone was talking about it in Africa.”
The series’ main protagonist is Anastasia, who is a 21-year-old college student at the beginning of the books, who has to interview a young and successful entrepreneur, 27-year-old Christian Grey, Hathaway said. The series is centered around them developing their relationship and about how he likes to be dominant, sexually, and likes her to be submissive. Anastasia is not into that at first, so the story surrounds them trying to make it work.
The event is not just about presenting a single opinion, it is more about opening the floor for discussion, said Anna Ulmer, assistant coordinator for creative planning at the AS Women’s Center. Media is a prevalent way to view a society and what people are exploring in society, she said.
“When I was a freshman and a sophomore, I loved going to the feminist-response events because even if you don’t consider yourself a feminist, [it’s] pop culture,” Hathaway said. “Everyone’s heard about the book, it’s an interesting thing to discuss, and I think it’s important to take a critical look at what we read, what we watch and what we listen to.”
This is the first panel in the three-part feminist response discussion panel.