Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Romance Novels - 21st Century Feminist Fiction

(Recently had a conversation with someone who had a very negative view of the Romance genre. This person also believes that feminism is nothing more than a gender-reversed misogyny, which is a very incorrect idea. Feminism is nothing of the sort. No wonder their view of Romance was so skewed.)

In the 21st Century, the genre of Romance is being reclassified as feminist fiction. Refs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  I say it's about time.

Here's why:

  1. Our Heroine is the center of the story. It is her story. It's about what her dreams are, her goals, her desires. What she wants is important. Very important.
  2. It's about respect. In the end, Our Heroine's choice are respected by Our Hero and others. She's not shamed or mocked for her pro-activity. In fact, she's often encouraged and when she's successful, she's lauded.
  3. It's okay for Our Heroine to have desires. She is not chastised or shunned for having yearnings in her heart (or other places). Let her heart flutter, let her loins burn, let her indulge in deep, passionate kisses. It's okay.
  4. Success happens. One of the main qualifiers of Romance is the HEA (Happily Ever After). But it's not just limited to her romantic love life. Our Heroine also experiences success in business, in social circles, in her art, her hobbies and her goals. She is shown that no matter what she sets out to achieve, women's success is possible and commonplace.
  5. Win-Win situation. See, Our Hero gets success as well. Like Our Heroine, he also gets love, respect, success and happiness. He earns the trust of  a woman, and that is a very big thing. Also, he's placed in an environment where it's safe for him to express himself, be emotional, admit weakness and not be ridiculed. Not enough men in real life get that luxury.

The world is a big, scary place full of problems that haven't been solved yet. Romance gives us a chance to escape that world and daydream about a better one of happiness and love and success. Feminism is about achieving those goals in real life and while we have a long way to go, at least the journey has started.

Go read a romance book or ten. You'll be glad you did.

Her Grace embraces idealism for its positive message.


Julie.M.Weathers said...

I love a good romance. Jude Devereaux was my favorite author for a long time. There are so many options for romances today with varying levels of heat and depth.

Wonderful observation.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

I never could abide the damsel in distress syndrome of days gone by. I must admit I am not a big romance reader, but I do love a strong female protagonist. And I did love the Outlander series which has romance elements much like you describe here. Maybe I'll pick up a few new romances. And anything you write.

Donnaeve said...

Ah, where would we be without romance??? The world would be a much smaller place - literally. :)

I was a huge Romance reader as you know (now) in my younger days. Have you heard of Kathleen E Woodiwiss? Read quite a few of her books back then. And then the Harlequins - no matter the writer, they had that special brand, and yes, they were usually the damsel in distress, but I was into that then.

The Romance genre probably has guidelines (ahem, rules?) for how stories should develop/evolve, i.e. if you want the story to fall into the Romance genre, you need to do a, b, and c. However, it's funny, just like with saying you're writing suspense, many stories have suspense to keep readers interested - even when it's not considered the "suspense," genre. Likewise, romantic elements are in most books. The story I'm writing now will have some in it. An interest between two people which will develop as the story goes along. High octane thrillers have it, mysteries, because love between people makes a story more interesting.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Despite many Romance anti-fans describing Romance plots as "formulaic", there only two criteria to label a novel as Romance:

1. The main plot must focus on the romance between Our Hero and Our Heroine (or M/M or F/F for the LGBT crowd).
2. The ending must be Happily Ever After (HEA).

Other than that, anything goes.

Yes, I have read Jude Deveraux and Kathleen E Woodiwiss and Catherine Coulter and Joanna Lindsey and... lots. As a teen I openly read SF and Fantasy, but Romance was my secret stash.

But when it comes to Romance, I absolutely love Georgette Heyer.