Roni Loren just posted “Battling the Romance Novel Stigma”. It made me uncomfortable.
It’s best to read the whole thing, but if you’re short on time, here are the parts that rattled my comfort cage:
“…women often are embarrassed to admit it’s a romance or apologize in some way when they admit it.”
“Why are we made to feel that if we’re reading romance we’re something less than – less classy, less educated, less evolved? Or even worse, that something must be wrong with us because we can’t find a real man and instead look for them in books.”
I just hate the fact that those attitudes are real. I tried about six times to write a comment on her blog, and each time I flailed.
I’m not a romance reader. I read romance novels for about six months when I was a young teenager. I grew up on a farm in the back of beyond, so the tiny library in a town twenty miles away was my only source. Let’s just say that their selection was limited. After a couple dozen, even my thirteen-year-old mind identified the formula. I got bored. End of reading romance.
Not to mention the fact that there was no sex in them whatsoever. Boring. I started reading fine literature like Stand On It: A Novel by Stroker Ace instead. Which probably explains a lot.
Back to the point. I’ve always been a tomboy. If I have a choice between listening to somebody discuss relationships or cars, I’ll choose cars every time. I assumed that my discomfort with the romance genre was due to the fact that I’m not very girly in the first place.
But it bothers the hell out of me to think that women who do enjoy reading romance would feel embarrassed to admit it.
Why should they?
And yet… I was reading a novel at the airport. It was an urban fantasy, but the cover art showed a couple locked in a passionate embrace. And yeah, I kinda hid the cover.
Because… because… here’s where I start to struggle. Why would I be embarrassed? Because somebody might think I’m reading a romance. Okay, so what the hell is so bad about that?
Well, somebody might think I’m girly.
Which is bad, why?
I’m a child of the sixties. Back then, women were fighting for equality. A lot of women tried to act more like men in an effort to prove that we deserve equal respect. Maybe there’s some of that in there. Men don’t read romance novels. Ergo, reading romance novels is a sign of weakness.
Which, of course, is pure bullshit.
But it may be part of our collective psyche.
Why should we apologize for our gender? “Girly” is used as an epithet. You don’t see guys sheepishly hiding the covers of their books and mumbling, “Oh, I’m just reading some of that silly manly stuff.”
Now, I’m really wondering.
Is there a particular demographic that’s embarrassed about reading romance? Maybe my generation is still dealing with the last of those old attitudes. But what about our teenagers and twenty-somethings? Are they embarrassed to be girly? If they are, we as a society are doing something very wrong.
I guess I’m upset because I was getting complacent. We’ve come so far, both legally and socially, in my lifetime. I really thought we were getting there.
Somebody please help me out here. Is it only my generation that’s embarrassed to be girly (or only me)? Is it a sign that we’ve become too complacent and we’re actually losing ground on equality? Does it just mean that we’re not quite there yet?
Or am I making too much of this?