There aren’t really any prejudices that are socially acceptable anymore. It’s not OK to discriminate against anyone because of their gender, race, religious and cultural beliefs, or sexual orientation, and that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. Yet so many people see nothing wrong with openly criticising an entire genre of fiction, or with side-eyeing that genre’s fans and asking why they don’t read something more worthy of their time. That’s right, I’m (still) talking about the romance novel stigma.
Why all the hate?
Romance novels have been accused of everything from being poorly written, formulaic dreck, to being anti-feminist and detrimental to healthy marriages. The New York Times condescended to romance novel readers under the guise of knowledgeable literary critique, and a Business Insider reporter tried to speak for all romance readers by asserting, “no one really reads romance novels for the plot. Instead, it’s all about skipping to the ‘good parts’, if you know what we’re saying.” Heck, even Hillary Clinton blamed romance novels for helping to create a culture of sexual harassment, saying, “The whole romance novel industry is about women being grabbed and thrown on a horse and ridden off into the distance."
Ignorance isn't bliss, it's just ignorant
Now, anyone who regularly reads the genre can tell you that The New York Times, Business Insider, and Hillary Clinton are full of crap with their statements and criticisms of romance novels. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to romance novels than sex, not all romance novels are comparable to Fifty Shades of Grey, and I haven’t read about a romance heroine being grabbed and thrown on a horse in any book printed after 1980 (sorry, ma’am, but you’re showing your age and ignorance on that one). But the truth doesn’t seem to stop anyone from speaking out against romance novels, now does it? We’ve refuted all this crap before, and yet we’re still being forced to talk about it today.
So, why is that? Why is it still OK for people to be disrespected based solely on what they read?
I’m sure that The New York Times, Business Insider, and Hillary Clinton are not aware of all the strong, positive female role models that exist in romance land these days. I’m sure they never heard about romances that flip gender stereotypes, such as Cecilia Grant’s A Lady Awakened, a historical romance in which the heroine uses the hero for sex, instead of vice versa. They probably never read Celia Aaron’s The Elder or Nora Roberts’ The Witness, both of which feature strong, capable, intelligent heroines who are able to maintain their careers and find love with men who treat them as equals and partners. And they certainly aren’t familiar with heroines like Harper Hall, Kate Daniels, and Sela Halstead—all of whom would most likely eviscerate any man who tried to grab them and throw them on a horse against their will. Because surely, anyone who had read these books wouldn’t openly admit to having such unfounded prejudice against the romance genre as a whole.
You keep doing you
Where do we go for here, you ask? Well, I can’t say that I know. We can keep defending the genre we love until we’re blue in the face, and critics who haven’t a clue what they’re talking about will most likely continue to spew fallacies and ignorance. I guess all we can do is keep reading what we love PROUDLY, and hope that one day, prejudice against romance novels will be as unacceptable as all other prejudices are.
What about y’all? Anything you’d like to add? Let’s discuss! We’d love to hear from you.