Women in Canadian politics are talking about Fifty Shades of Grey – but not because they’re looking forward to watching Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey together on the big screen when the film opens in theatres.
On Valentine’s Day eve, Laureen Harper took to Twitter to encourage Canadians to adopt cats at a special discount from the Windsor, Ont. Humane society, instead of taking in the BDSM flick.
— Laureen Harper (@LaureenHarper) February 13, 2015
A few hours later, Conservative MP Joy Smith released a strongly worded message, calling for a boycott of the film, saying it will surely “warp the minds of a new generation” the same way Pretty Woman – starring Julia Roberts as a sex worker who falls in love with a wealthy client, Richard Gere – did when it came out 25 years ago.
I spoke with Smith shortly after she hit send. She said that as a long-time fighter of human trafficking in Canada (she’s had two private members bills pass that have changed the Criminal Code’s human trafficking offences), she couldn’t remain silent on a film that she thinks is harmful to women’s rights.
“Here we have another movie that’s being touted as a romantic movie, when it certainly is not. It’s very violent and very abusive,” she says. “We have to say that abusing women is not okay in 2015. That’s not what we do. We’ve spent years trying to get through the glass ceiling, trying to get women respected and I don’t want to have an environment in this country in which it’s okay to abuse women–it’s not.”
When asked about the women who might willingly choose to engage in BDSM relationships, Smith was dismissive. “I would say they are very few and far between. And I know that even victims who are right in the middle of a relationship like that, will agree to it for a number of reasons.” Among these reasons: fear, pressure, and the thought that life could get worse if they said no. “Any person that submits to that kind of thing, or allows themselves to be abused or assaulted, there’s nothing good about that,” she added.
Earlier today, she phoned three women she says were victims of human trafficking, who told her they were horrified by the content in the book, which triggered their past experiences of abuse and control at the hands of men.
“50Shades is a horrible reminder of my own abusive relationship repackaged as a ‘lovestory’”-Surivor of SexualViolence #50dollarsnot50shades
— Joy Smith (@MPJoySmith) February 14, 2015
“As I’ve worked with victims who have been coerced and lured into forced sexual behaviors with strangers — I call it modern day slavery — I’m aware that what we see on TV can end up luring and hurting very young girls and boys,” Smith says.
During the past couple of hours, she’s received emails and Facebook messages of support, and hopes women across the country will follow her lead.
“It’s just not okay for women to be abused and we need to speak out when it happens, especially when it’s a movie [like this] being released on Valentine’s Day,” she says. “I wish it was a different movie — without all the bad stuff against women.”