Anyone who's read a book by Julie Ann Walker knows that the women in her stories are as strong as (and often more perceptive than) the men. Read on for her thoughts on how feminism and romance writing—and reading!—go hand in hand. —Adrian
Romance! That word alone is enough to make some readers curl their lip and turn away in disdain. As a romance writer, I’ve heard it all. They’re pornography packaged as literature. They’re poorly written. They’re frivolous. They’re anti-feminist.
While I have stock arguments all loaded up and ready to fire off when confronted with these outlandish claims (Many romance novels include no or very little sex, so how can they all be porn? Some of the most talented writers I know pen romance, including English professors, lawyers, and psychiatrists. And frivolous? Um, have you read a romance lately?), the one I want to address is the last one.
Let’s take a look at the definition for feminism, shall we? According to Merriam-Webster, feminism is the theory (Really? We’re still calling it a theory?) of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Well, holy smokes! That’s the very definition of a romance novel, too. So feminism equals romance. Romance equals feminism.
Don’t believe me? Then sit back, relax, and let me school you on four things you might not know about romance.
1. Romance is a billion-dollar industry. That’s right, billion with a B! Romance makes up a reported 34% of the entire U.S. fiction market. Considering it’s a genre written by women, for women (For the most part. Hats off to all you male romance writers. You guys rock my socks!), that’s a whole lot of ladies making some dolla, dolla bills, y’all. Talk about go, go, Gal Power!
2. Romance novels feature women in leading roles. Okay, sure. There are leading men, too. But there is no other genre that exalts the role of women, or gleefully and unabashedly follows their human journey, like romance. And in case you’re mistakenly thinking, Sure, there are women in leading roles, but they always play the ingénue or the damsel in distress, let me state for the record, “These ain’t your momma’s romances.” Modern romance novels tend to feature strong, flawed, fascinating women who kick ass and take names. Not sure it gets any more feminist than that.
3. Romance novels celebrate, extol, and honor women’s sexuality. For most of history, women were not allowed to explore their fantasies, speak of their desires, or exalt in sex the way men were. Just look at our lexicon. A man is a rogue, but a woman is a slut. A man is a playboy, but a woman is a whore. However, romance novels not only feature strong women who readily ask for what they want, get it, and then don’t feel the least bit guilty about it, but also these stories allow readers to explore their own fantasies and desires, to embrace their own sexuality and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the male of the species who has been doing all of that for... well, forever.
4. Romance novels deal with subjects women are interested in. Namely: community, family, friendships, and the journey to finding and choosing love. Whether it’s a contemporary romance set in a small town with lovable and laughable secondary characters, a paranormal romance featuring reclusive werewolves and brooding vampires, or a romantic suspense rife with car chases and shootouts, at the hot beating heart of every romance novel is a story that examines the doubts, conflicts, triumphs, and tragedies that make up the human experience. And even though readers are guaranteed a happy ending, that doesn’t mean these books are full of fluff. Quite the contrary, whether they are light or dark, silly or sexy, full of angst or full of fun, romance novels are thought-provoking and packed with real issues.
So, go on. Pick up a romance. You know you want to.
—Julie Ann Walker
Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of award-winning romantic suspense. She has won the Book Buyers Best Award, been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award, the Bookseller's Best Award, the Australian Romance Reader Awards, and the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award. Her books have been described as "alpha, edgy, and downright hot." Most days you can find Julie on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.
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