Romance-shaming? Is this a thing? Do some book sellers and librarians look down on romance titles? Though I’ve never come across this phenomenon, I have no doubt it exists. Just “wiki” romance genre, and you’ll find the sub-heading “Critical Attention” that uses a portion of an article written by David Pollard:
“Romances are, in fact, subversive literature: They encourage women to be dissatisfied with inequality, and to set higher expectations for themselves, and they show them ways to achieve those expectations, largely by taming men and, in a way, usurping their power. Romances are arguably the only art form of any kind that portrays women as equal partners with men.”
Alone and out of context, this is a pretty harsh comment on a genre that in 2015 held an almost 20% market share for adult fiction for print books, a statistic that does not take into consideration the overlap into fantasy, suspense, etc. (to read more on this, click here).
[cue sound of screeching brakes]
Starting over now. I began writing this blog four days ago and have come to realize that, at this particular moment in time, there are more important topics about which to blog than romance shaming. Recent events DEMAND that anyone with a voice speak out.
As a writer, I have many opinions. Many, many opinions. Strong opinions. It is VERY difficult for me to not tweet or post about my personal views. But I don’t, because writing romance, for me at least, has always been about telling a story, entertaining the reader, and providing an escape from the rigors of quotidian life.
Many of my tweets take the form of haikus (#HiKu4U). When I write one that is slightly controversial, I highlight it in red, and I don’t tweet it. Today, I tweeted the following:
No advance warning///removes possibility///of giving consent.
#NoMeansNo is always implied
And then, I promptly deleted it. You see, as a new author, I’ve been advised to be careful about tweeting and posting about controversial topics. And then, I happened upon Colleen Halverson’s blog “Stopping the Show.” Wow. Just, wow.
Memories of college at The University of Michigan and going to the bar with my roommates flooded back to me. I recalled the night where a male student reached out with both hands and grabbed my breasts. He turned around and rejoined his buddies, laughing. It turned out that he had a running bet to see how many breasts he could squeeze in one night. At first, I was shocked, then a second later, so pissed! This was when cowboy shoes were in fashion, and mine had fancy metalwork on the toes. I kicked that jerk in his Achilles as hard as I could. He stopped laughing.
And this wasn’t even the worst incident. There were others, ranging from when I was 15 all the way to 20 years old. I just never put too much stock in them, nor did I allow them to make me afraid, because it wasn’t as if I had been actually raped. That debasement fell to one of my college friends at a frat party. I was with her when she saw him again one football Saturday after fearing for her safety for months as she crossed campus, going from one class to the next. That evening, he smiled at her like they were friends; she smashed a bottle over his head. My friend ended up in the emergency room with deep lacerations in her hand; he ended up getting kicked out of the bar for the night. One night. She never reported it to the police. The emergency room doctors did not include it in her chart. They stitched her up and sent her on her way; it was months later, after all.
Watching the news, and waiting for tonight’s debate, I look at my children. I have twin fourteen-year-old boys. And I have friends who have teenaged girls. I am so relieved to not have to worry as much as they do. There’s an old adage: with a son, parents worry about one penis; with a daughter, they worry about all the penises. Crude? Absolutely. But it is so true. And it is so wrong. To responsibly raise boys, I HAVE to care about my friends’ daughters. I have to worry about all of the penises.
I must do this to help break this Culture of Rape. I have to have honest and really awkward conversations with my boys. My husband and I must talk to them about respecting women. We have to discuss what is going on in the world, and how this craziness relates to our family and to them personally. If Trump’s leaked comments and the accusations against Clinton have done anything, they have made women and men speak up against a vicious cycle. This is not political. This is not controversial. This is reality, and tonight I will join the thousands of others and raise my voice. I hope you will join me and raise yours.
p.s. I have to add the link for David Pollard’s article: “The Romance Novel: Literature of Liberation” where he writes:
“So, brava, writers and readers of romances! You are a breath of innovation in a creatively moribund industry, and, despite the sneers, an important force in the liberation of women. Now if only someone could invent a subtle and engaging genre of literature we could use to educate men…”