After watching the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed and listening to Nerdpocolypse’s episode What Dreams are MAID of?!, I am left with some lingering thoughts about our fascination with bound women or MAIDens (metaphorically and literally).
The documentary, which is streaming on Netflix, profiled the series of exploitation films made during the 60s, 70s, and early 80s in the Philippines “where stunt men came cheap, plot was obsolete and the make-up guy was packin' heat!” Legendary B movie producer Roger Corman produced countless films with images and plot elements that would end up on the cutting room floor today with the current ratings system where women were repeatedly raped, bound, caged, tortured, etc.
Ultimately, these women overcame this treatment and took the power (physical and sexual) into their own hands, transforming into gun touting, kung fu fighting topless women. FYI: This is how you talk about this kind of imagery in academic, feminist terms at dinner parties or yuppy gatherings.
A segment of Nerdpocolypse’s Episode 32, discusses the lingerie or nude maid service available in Lubbock, TX. While these women are not technically bound, they are placed in a subservient position. Still, the power is their own because they are being paid (for the cleaning of course).
And the theme of bondage continues: current best selling romance novels by EL James - Fifty Shades of Grey, Catwoman and her costume+whip, Wonder Woman with her wrist bands+lasso, Princess Leia with her chained slave costume, Star Trek’s Orion Slave Girls, and Maggie Gyllenhal in the film Secretary. Even in the upcoming Avengers film, a clip reveals Black Widow bound in a chair when she gets the call to report to Shield. She then quickly dispatches her captors, but unfortunately for some, she keeps all of her clothes on.
Spoiler Alert - Avengers
Of course, all of these examples walk a very fine line and when it is crossed, people react. Read the reviews of the romance novel on Barnes and Noble for Fifty Shades of Grey or examine reactions to Nicolas Cage’s film 8mm, and you can quickly tell how people’s opinions differ on this topic.
So who is in control? Who really has the power? Men or women? We women all know that men are confounded by our mystery. So perhaps they are trying to “harness” it so they can understand it. Throughout history and society, religions and cultures have sought to control us yet we are strangely still drawn to the idea of being contained having to fight our way out. Even the best seller and box office smash Hunger Games presents a strong female lead, Katniss, whose life is dependent on fighting to survive while still being symbolically bound to Peeta. Throughout the remaining novels, she internally struggles with this “bondage” that is forced and then later willingly accepted and embraced.
So when will women take the evolutionary leap forward and move past the allure of being bonded to men symbolically and literally? Or is it just too much fun or strangely liberating to give someone else the power and the steal it back for ourselves?