In defence of the romance genre

I like to mock the romance genre as much as the next self-proclaimed feminist. All in good fun, of course, and I only mock the truly terrible ones (or, at least, the truly terrible parts of books from that genre).

However, it really just grinds my gears when I’m personally mocked for what I read, romance or otherwise. A little teasing is all in good fun (especially when the book I have in hand is legitimate shit, as has happened occasionally this year), but an aggressive persistence to debase my reading choices because they don’t fall in line with someone else’s isn’t fun. I don’t like feeling like I need to explain myself to other people, nor do I like putting on a face that says “yes, I agree with you, this is utter trash” when I don’t believe one word of what I’m saying, to avoid being the butt of a joke.

At any rate, in defence of the romance genre, because sometimes it does need someone to go to bat for it, it is actually the best-selling genre on the general whole — it beats out mysteries, crime fiction, science fiction, fantasy, the “classics,” auto/biographies, and the like. Its more popular writers, like Nora Roberts, for example, regularly hit number one on the New York Times best seller list. Numbers don’t lie.

It is my own personal belief that the genre gets mocked so much purely because it is so feminine, and directly marketed to a female audience. (Maybe I’m wrong here, but I don’t know many guys who would go into Chapters, pick up something with the title The Next Always — the book I’m currently reading, by the way — and proudly slap it down on the counter in front of the cashier.) Not to open up the whole big male vs. female debate, but you get mocked twenty times more for exhibiting female characteristics, or in this case enjoying female-oriented literature, than you do for any characteristics (or reading material) that are “masculine” in nature. And why? What is so wrong with liking, or being, feminine?

Well. I can answer that for you. Where men have been associated with intellect, reason, and critical thinking (over time, of course), women have been given associations to emotions, nurturing personalities, and family. Nothing wrong with that at all! Hell, I love being thought of as nurturing. (It’s not remotely true, but you can pretend all you like.) But, of course, that has translated to the incorrect belief that anything feminine, therefore, is lower in intellect. I.e. the entire romance genre. I beg to differ — that is not the case.

Any reading is good reading, because you will learn something every time, whether it’s a new word or finding out more about your own personal preferences. It has been suggested a couple of times that certain books I have read — the ones in question were romance, naturally — should be struck from my list purely because they are “trash.” No, I’m not going to strike them. No, just because they are feminine does not make them trash. Pick it up and read it before you make a snap judgment. And some will, unquestionably, be shit. But some are cute.

I will, loudly and proudly, declare that I love romance. I love romantic comedies, and I love romance books, as long as they aren’t horribly cheesy (and even when they are sometimes I can get past it). And, to be clear, just because my choices in reading are not in line with yours does not mean that I “only read trash.”

Please forgive the personal rant, but I felt that on behalf of all females (or, hey, the occasional male) who have been made fun of for their reading choice, it needed to be said. Er, written.

Anyway, I’m off to read my next “trash” book. (In reality I love it, and I think it’s adorable.) Oh, and since we’re talking about books (when are we not?), I am going to need more to make sure I get through the hundred. Is anyone willing to lend me some? All manners of trash accepted.

– Kelsey

(Oh, and for anyone who’s interested, here’s another interesting defence of romance.)

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5 thoughts on “In defence of the romance genre

  1. I have always teased my girlfriend about loving her romance novels, but the other day I bought her one from the used bookstore and I started to read it… and kind of like it.

  2. Hey Kelsey. This is one of those pieces that makes one go – ‘Oh yes that’s it.’ I’ve struggled with the gatekeepers, mainly agents who have said sneeringly: “Is this romance?” It’s, too, multi-genre. It’s, too, non-mainstream. We would have trouble placing this.” Why? Because I unashamedly write ‘romance’ into thrillers, historical and contemporary fiction. That is a great sin apparently and damned near literary heresy for a male heterosexual writer. Males who show feminine traits are not welcome. Males who like females as opposed to lust after them are not what’s wanted. And I’m afraid the romance genre is filled with these torn shirt, shaved chested, long haired bodice ripping male caricatures. One need only tour the romance genre on Amazon to have ones eyes assaulted by cheesy covers showing cringe making pap like this. I’ve never attempted to read this kind of stuff and am perplexed and I mean genuinely puzzled by the appeal of this Mills and Boone style boneless filleted bland mush. Oh maybe that’s it. There are huge numbers out there who do not want to taste what they consume. They don’t want depth and flavour and lasting earth moving revelations.
    OK I’ll stop ranting now. I get your point complete and largely agree. I do wish we had a new word do describe what I think you mean by romance. The stuff that makes me gag is what’s understood to be genre romance. We need a new genre perhaps. Romantic reality? True feeling. Non- macho-non-frilly love? Ideas here…..?
    Regards, davidrory.

    • Hi David,
      I appreciate you stopping by to comment, and am sorry I haven’t replied to you sooner!
      I hear you about male heterosexual romance writers; they’re an anomaly, and are looked upon as weird by the community.
      However, I don’t totally disagree with having romances depict styles of “falling in love,” for lack of a better phrase, that aren’t necessarily sane or healthy. It’s worth having an outlet for one’s fantasies, even if you never plan to enact them. (That being said, upon reading a book with that kind of motif I generally disregard it as anti-feminist trash. But to each her own.)
      Have a good one. 🙂

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