I say “romance” and someone says “blech.” I feel hurt. And mad. And then…defensive.
Over the years, I’ve come up with any number of responses to people when they give me heck. By now, I’ve narrowed my response down to one sentence, “I love romance novels because as a feminist with a women’s studies degree, I find the genre to be inherently pro-woman.” Now, THAT generates a great conversation! And, it’s true. The basic tenants of the genre – happy endings, healthy relationships and great sex are all pro-woman.
As a feminist I believe very strongly that healthy sexual relationships for women should be something we care about and promote! Now, a romance novel isn’t just gratuitous sex – it’s a finely crafted piece of literature with compelling, realistic characters, a unique and engaging story and detailed world building (at least, the ones I rep and the ones I read are).
And having a mouth-watering sexual relationship with one’s husband or partner should be an important women’s issue too. Sexual fulfillment is a part of sexual health, yes? There’s nothing about sex that isn’t political and our brave and luminous authors are tackling these very issues right under the noses of potential readers who would snub them for it?
But anyway (to circle back around), I think fiction, especially something like Romance fiction – which is ultimately about making decisions about not just relationships, but life and how to live it – has a huge potential to present alternatives. To showcase that there are different ways to live, that there are options and possibilities. That life is not closed.
I’m not saying romance as a genre always does this – but I think it can. It definitely has the potential to. And, at it’s best, I think it does.
Nora Roberts books are good examples of this. Her books aren’t about finding love – I mean, not only about that. Love is just one aspect. Nora Roberts’ heroines come from various backgrounds, they’ve had various experiences… a Nora Roberts book is about creating the cake…which would happen, icing or no. Her writing really advocates for women, and for female empowerment.
This is why mainstream feminism is a disaster of intersectionality. This is why it is often criticized for being only about the most powerful of its proponents: straight white women from the first world.