A feminist group will protest the Fifty Shades of Grey movie premiere in Madison this week, joining an international chorus of voices criticizing the film's BDSM storyline for perpetuating violence against women.
Radical Alliance of Women, a Melbourne, Australia-based direct action group, is organizing Fifty Shades demonstrations in Scotland, England, Australia and across the United States, says Thistle Pettersen, a local activist and organizer of the Madison protest.
"I think most feminists agree that this movie is harmful to women who have experienced sexual abuse in their relationships and harmful to women in general," she says.
Pettersen and other demonstrators are gathering at Marcus Point Cinema, 7825 Big Sky Drive, at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 12. They're planning to bring signs with pro-women slogans and will hand out homemade valentines to moviegoers with messages "that promote women taking care of themselves, loving themselves, and not falling for the Christian Greys of the world," says Pettersen, referring to one of the film's main characters. She's also circulating a Change.org petition to pull Fifty Shades from cinemas.
"Feminists are not prudes," Pettersen says. "And it's not that feminists are anti-sex. They're just anti-violence being part of sex."
A social networking campaign is under way as well, with anti-domestic violence advocates using the hashtags #50DollarsNot50Shades and #50ShadesIsAbuse. They're calling on people to boycott the movie and donate the money that would be spent on tickets and popcorn to domestic violence shelters.
"Hollywood doesn't need your money," the group's Facebook page says. "Abused women do."
The highly anticipated movie is an adaptation of the popular Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James, which has sold more than 100 million copies since being published in 2011. Originally written as Twilight fan fiction, the series tells the story of a young, virginal college student who is seduced by a wealthy, successful, sadomasochistic businessman.
And alternative sex experts say Fifty Shades provides an incomplete representation of BDSM -- a practice that is based on consent and that commonly places women in the dominant role and men in the submissive.
But for Pettersen and her group of protesters, the very idea of dominant and submissive roles in a relationship is unhealthy.
"We need to learn how to make it sexy for us to have an equal exchange," she says.