Many of you know I read and write romance. I LOVE romance.
A few days ago a hideous piece was published in the NYT, normally I don’t weigh in on these discussions. There are many others, far more eloquent than I, who regularly fight this battle. This piece, however, link to typical white male writing about something they know nothing about goes beyond what I can watch from the sidelines.
I ask, friends, read the original article and then, please, read the following rebuttals. Understand what I and my romance-reading-writing-author friends are up against when we talk about our work, about romance and what it means to us, as women, men, people of color, LGBTQA, as HUMANS. It’s not pretty.
This first article was written by the brilliant and witty (I must assume because I’ve never met her but I almost found myself on the floor I laughed so hard) Olivia Waite, Robert Gottleib is obviously smitten. While it is light-hearted, the piece does an excellent job of highlighting the near obsessiveness Mr. Gottleib has with what he deems as wrong with romance.
Ron Hogan authored this second piece. So pleased to see a male person on the side of romance. Wait, a side? Why does there have to be a side? The amazing thing about romance is that it is INCLUSIVE. There is something for everyone and every dream. Ron Hogan goes to battle. Romance is Radical – thank you Ron, for the following:
“Frankly, there are times when, if I knew more about the field, I would be inclined to argue that, far from harmless, the romance novel may in fact be a radical genre—that instead of mindlessly satiating women’s fantasies, it has encouraged them to dream bigger dreams and to pursue them. And that if, now, those bigger dreams include not just emotionally and economically satisfying work, not just fulfilling romantic relationships, but mind-blowing sex in the bargain, with a cure for toxic masculinity on the side, then so be it.”
This last piece I chose because Lauryn Lane is pretty big, she’s the real real thing. And I understood so much her initial, other people say it better than me. Thankfully she changed her mind and wrote this: Lauren Lane’s defense of romance. She claims it is long overdue but, why SHOULD readers and writers have to defend themselves?
It’s because of this says, Lane:
“It’s random strangers, who during small talk, smirk right through my credentials to crudely ask my husband if he’s the bedroom inspiration for those scenes. Because, absolutely, guys—let’s make my accomplishments about my spouse.
It’s “friends” who ask if I’m still writing “smut.”
It’s authors of literary fiction dismissing genre fiction as “lazy, sloppy.””
So much is wrong with the original article but what struck me hardest was Gottlieb’s lazy assumption that men prefer James Bond and violence where women prefer ridiculous dreams and (apparently) super hot sex.
Why can’t men dream about non-violent satisfying relationships? Are unsatisfying violent relationships better, healthier? The voters say no. Why can’t we all want hot sex, to be treated well, to know that someone truly loves us? What is wrong with having a dialogue about what we hope for? Why demean romance readers [I use reader w/o gender as many of my readers are men] by allowing that it is a ‘harmless’ dream?
Next time you see me and ask about my writing, understand why I hesitate to discuss it outside of a trusted group. That I hate starting a conversation feeling like I already have to defend myself, that I am constantly made to feel that what I write and read is wrong.
Next time you leer a little, or titter because I write about love, sex and relationships, think about the message you’re broadcasting, the one you must unconsciously believe; that romance is stupid, trivial, harmless, just a hopeless little dream.
Next time you see me, think about how radical romance actually is, how it allows many readers dream of something better than what they are living and, maybe, to try and go out and get it.