“Fifty Shades of Feminism”, by Lisa Appignanesi, Susie Orbach, Rachel Holmes


“Fifty Shades of Grey” by E L James is about the relationship of a student with a young entrepreneur and the plot evolves around the erotic part of the story and in particular it is about Mr Grey’s sadism. Despite the negative reviews for the literature part of the book, E L James trilogy is a great commercial success – “Fifty Shades of Grey” overtook Harry Potter series in sales in Great Britain – probably because of the erotic scenes. Master and slave relationships are a taboo and apparently a subject that excites the curiosity of many readers.

50 shades of feminismAs you may have already guessed, “Fifty Shades of Feminism”, borrows its title from the commercialy succesful “50 Shades of Grey”. But on the novel stars a woman-victim who becomes a sexual pawn, in “Fifty Shades of Feminism” we have fifty women who speak about Women’s Rights.

This is not the first time that two diametrically opposite books on these subjects, are published in the same time. “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects” by Mary Wollstonecraft was published in 1792, and this is considered to be the first book in Feminist Philosophy. By chance, at the same period – just a few years after the French Revolution, the books of Marquis de Sade were published in France. Sade gave his name to sadism, and his books could be considered as precursors of “50 Shades of Gray”.

The famous authors Lisa Appignanesi and Rachel Holmes, along with the psychotherapist and author Susie Orbach took up the responsibility of editing the book “Fifty Shades of Feminism”. The idea for this book was born when they were discussing about the commercial succes of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and how that book presents the woman position in society. A woman cannot be an object of desire or a subservient of passion. A woman must not be a victim. In “Fifty Shades of Feminism” you will find essays about Women’s Rights. Each essay, in two or three pages, gives a different point of view, a new breath to the Women’s Liberation Movement. They succeeded in doing that, asking the opinions of fifty (and few more) succesful women.

From a young barrister to a composer, to a gang-worker, to comedians, politicians, campaigners, academics, a psychoanalyst, poets, writers, theatre directors, actors, fighters, journalists, mothers, sisters, Dames and daughters, these are women who think, who do, and who inspire. They don’t pretend to be representative and nor does this volume. Luckily, there are more than fifty walks of life and more than fifty types of women.

Every one of these fifty women, analyse an issue of Feminism. The plethora of age, culture and origins of these women, reassures the pluralism of opinions. And this is not a book of theories or a manifesto. This is a book that tries to get some messages through with examples, taken from real life situations.

“Fifty Shades of Feminism” deals with social topics, politics, psychology and relationships. Some of the topics are the woman icon in Hollywood movies and theatrical plays, violence against women as promoted in pornography, domestic violence, woman’s position in a male dominated professional or social enviroment, “honor” crimes, as well as a series of social prejudices against women – even sometimes from a woman against a woman. You can find a story that took place in a neighborhood and another relating to Facebook.

This collection of essays is an excellent effort of the authors to speak to the world about Gender Equality in modern society with open eyes and an open mind. You will agree with some things, you ‘ll might disagree with some others. And of course we must emphasize that this is a book for men and women, feminists or not. The essays in “Fifty Shades of Feminism” are witty, on occassion written with warm feelings and at times with sarcasm or even anger, but every one of these essays have something to offer to anyone.

The book “Fifty Shades of Feminism” was published in english in March 2013 – you can read it as a Kindle ebook or as a hardcopy. Virago Publications, who have written their history in the struggle for Women’s Rights, wanted to celebrate with this book their forty years in the book industry.


The synopsis at the back of the book:

The antidote to the idea that being a woman is all about submitting to desire. There are many more shades than that and here are fifty women to explore them.
Fifty years after the publication of The Feminine Mystique, have women really exchanged purity and maternity to become desiring machines inspired only by variations of sex, shopping and masochism – all coloured a brilliant neuro-pink?

In the book you can find essays by:

Naomi Alderman, Tahmima Anam, Lisa Appignanesi, Joan Bakewell, Camila Batmanghelidjh, Bidisha, Lydia Cacho, Shami Chakrabarti, Jane Czyzselska, Sayantani DasGupta, Laura Dockrill, Lynne Featherstone, Carlene Firmin, Lennie Goodings, Linda Grant, Nathalie Handal, Natalie Haynes, Sharon Haywood, Lindsey Hilsum, Isabel Hilton, Rachel Holmes, Siri Hustvedt, Jude Kelly, Liz Kelly, Helena Kennedy QC, Kathy Lette, Kate Mosse, Susie Orbach, Alison Bechdel, Laurie Penny, Lisa Power, Nina Power, Alissa Quart, Diana Quick, Josie Rourke, Bee Rowlatt, Elif Shafak, Muneeza Shamsie, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Elaine Showalter, Gillian Slovo, Ahdaf Soueif, Martha Spurrier, Juliet Stevenson, Meera Syal, Shirley J. Thompson, Sandi Toksvig, Natasha Walter, Marilyn Waring, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Jeanette Winterson, Xīnrán και Alice Stride.