Romance novels are feminist

Dangerous-Books-For-Girls-bigHere’s a book I’m putting on preorder: Dangerous Books for Girls by Maya Rodale. I did her survey last year when she was researching for the book, and I read the preview over the weekend. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s easy to see how women were stifled in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: for most women owning property, financial independence, a real education, and a voice in the political process were just not on the table. And while women’s status has changed dramatically for the better in Western society, we’re still Not. Quite. There.

It has been nearly a century since the Equal Rights Amendment was proposed and it hasn’t been ratified to the U.S. Constitution. Women still do not receive equal pay for equal work. We are still debating whether women can have control over their own bodies—but insurance will gladly cover all the Viagra a man wants. Our academic institutions and respectable media predominantly study and review literature by men—and they definitely don’t cover genre fiction, like romance. That’s just America. China has one child policies resulting in an overabundance of boys. In Afghanistan, families without sons encourage their daughters to live as boys (the practice of Bacha Posh), because it’s shameful to be a girl or to have a girl. Again and again we see women considered less—unless it’s in a romance novel.

Because of this high valuation of men and low valuation of women, we’re more comfortable talking about one, lone man instead of a genre that speaks to the hopes and dreams of millions of women.

This isn’t about bashing dudes. Romance readers love men. There are even men that love romance novels. Romance novels are all about two individuals meeting and loving and living as equals. It’s not even just about men and women and heterosexual relationships. Romance novels featuring LGBT characters are written and read and becoming increasingly popular. Romance novels are about two people discovering their best, true selves and finding a loving, egalitarian relationship.

But when the subject of romance novels comes up and we talk about Fabio, we are really talking about a cultural tendency to value dude stuff more than lady stuff. We are showing our fear of love and pleasure. And we are sidestepping a conversation about possibly the most revolutionary, feminist literature ever produced.

Take a look for yourselves. Fabulous stuff.


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