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Go straight to Heaven, Ms Brown

india Updated: Oct 06, 2012 22:38 IST

Sridevi is told in just-out ‘English Vinglish’ that “she wasn’t born just to make laddoos” while a smart lawyer like Hillary Clinton got into trouble in 1992 for a throwaway remark about not staying home to bake cookies, that’s how deep it goes.

To American women who didn’t access highbrow feminist literature, it was survival-driven Helen Gurley Brown, Editor, ‘Cosmopolitan’, and trail-blazing author of ‘Sex and the Single Girl’ (1962) who first voiced the unsentimental truth that women had inalienable rights and freedoms beyond being a service sector for the male establishment. Ms Brown died on August 16, barely a fortnight after amazon.com announced that the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy had sold 40 million copies. In Ms Brown’s time, ‘Cosmo’, though sharply criticised for its material girl worldview, was like a victorious paper boat on turbo against the strong tide of the male establishment’s ‘do-as-i-say, not-as-i-do’ attitude to women. So it’s creepy that ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, today’s ‘mommy-porn’ best-seller, celebrates women’s submission to BDSM -bondage-discipline-sadism-masochism.

Is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ just the basic British love of beltings, the risen ghost, of the by-men for-men underground Victorian porn-mag ‘The Pearl’? Or is it a kinky expression of existential feminine fatigue (vampire-inspired) given the insane rise in fundamentalism against women, assaults on girls in bars, date rapes and little respect even in a
supposedly modern workplace — where it’s ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ every day mentally, for many working women who pervert themselves and role-play just to get work done amidst vastly outnumbering, huge, fragile, hostile male egos?

Though honourable, gentlemanly exceptions certainly exist, everyone knows that not enough men are confident enough in their masculinity to respect women and give them their due. This high-maintenance male majority, does the problem come from the butt, with which they war their hero chairs? For it’s those who believe that identity comes from what’s between the ears that suffer the most in entrenched systems, usually women. Indian law is clearly ahead of society in this by a century.

Clinically viewed, doesn’t it seem that Helen Gurley Brown upheld the truth of reality, giving women the hard-nosed advice that it was okay, if they had the stomach for it, to do what they could to ‘have it all’ in a skewed system? But to porn-talk people about allowing BDSM to get/keep a relationship? Ouch, that’s epic betrayal, both of women and of the men who fought for women’s freedom and rights. It’s like neo-sati.

Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture