Monday, October 09, 2006

Romance & Respect

Kati Dancy is a smart, successful conference planner in her early 30s. She is college educated, has a dog and a cat, and lives in a posh Washington, D.C., suburb.

She also has a not-so-secret addiction: Dancy is an avid reader of romance fiction.
This article came through on one of my email lists. It's very interesting and quite respectful to the genre. It notes however that:
With 64 million readers generating $1.2 billion in annual sales, the romance fiction industry is thriving. Yet, somehow, it hasn't garnered the mainstream acceptance so many other popular fiction genres enjoy.
Why is that? Is it because of the happy endings? It is because it's fiction primarily written by women for women?

Some people say it's because they're "all the same". Aside from the fact that these same people often begin their sentences by saying that "I've never read one but...", their statement could apply to other genres as well. So romances have a happy ever after. In murder mysteries, we always know the cop is going to find the killer. In high fantasy, we know the hero is going to defeat the evil. In horror, we know the creepy thing's under the metaphorical bed. All genres have their conventions. Why then do people feel justified in turning up their noses at romances? Opinions?

9 comments :

Jennifer K. said...

I think it's the sex.

I mean, sure, other genres may have some sex in them, but they're still called a mystery or horror. If you look at the covers on romance books, not to mention the name of the genre -- romance -- and even worse, erotic romance, *shudders* ... oh, the horror!

I can't speak for the rest of the world, but we're still pretty repressed in the U.S. about our sexuality. More in some places areas of the country than in others.

Reading romance is a sort of thing that's more hush-hush or an in-the-closet type thing for many. Because of the sex. Unless, of course, you get a lot of women who love the genre together, and then things can get kind of wild. ;)

I remember back when I was in middle school, I think it was. I had graduated from reading Harlequins and moved on to Silhouettes. I was with my mom at a drug store one day and I was standing in their book section holding a romance book and reading the back of it when my preacher's wife came up to say hello and asked what I was reading. Uh-oh. Caught red-handed. My mother said later that you could've fried an egg on my face I was so red.

So, I think it's the sex.

Michele said...

Women and sex. Is this the 21st Century or am I just imagining things? Is a women with brains supposed to be without heart and soul? I don't think so.

At times I feel like reading romance is an act of defiance. It's about embracing happiness, strength, honor, and other values. It's about a genre that encompasses a vast range of ideas and beliefs and manages to see past all the barriers that society likes to put up.

Not the best article in the world but not too low on the list either.

Emma Sinclair said...

Even though that article states otherwise, romance is written for women.

And anything that's primarily for women can't be good as things that are for men! We'll forget for a second that most men can't really survive without a woman to take care of them.

I think that when someone says "romance is stupid" or gives you that sneer when they say, "oh, that kind of book," you know a lot about that person already.

And one thing that you know with certainty - you're smarter than them because they're making judgements having not read a romance since the dark ages!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Emma.

Do you know that there is empirical evidence that in industries that are 'taken over' by women, ie female workers become the majority, pay falls? In fact, one of the principle examples has been the publishing industry.

IMHO, this extends to other areas as well. Housework has long been considered easy by men, because it was the province of women for so long, for instance.

Nalini Singh said...

Thanks for the responses everyone. I find this a very interesting topic for so many reasons. I wonder if writers will be having the same discussion in the next century??

Anonymous said...

Probably.

Humans never do learn from their mistakes, Nalini. LOL.

Racy Li said...

That's a fascinating tidbit, May. I didn't know that!

Monica said...

I agree with Jennifer, It's the sex. Although, my own mother handed me my first romance book, (Jean Auel-the second book in the series has oral sex) and to this day I haven't the heart to tell her she was the one who started my addiction/obsession to the genre.

However, I have also come across the men who use that particular section in the bookstore as a good place to pick up women. "So, why do like these books? Is it just the sex?" Thus starts the conversation where the woman is comfortable with the guy and he can snag her number in the end. All very smooth if done with enough confidence.

I think it really depends on the woman who reads them. Different women (men-who will not admit to reading them) come away with different insights and enjoyment after reading romance fiction.

Sujoy said...

Hi Nalini,

Pertinent question (and interesting stats too).....well, I think that the reason Romances get scoffed at sometimes (as many times as they do) is because members/readers of both sexes carry their own weight of inadequacies....especially at the level of "Body Image"...its one thingg to say"Am comfortable with myself" and an entirely different thing to live it down in front of a "certified" hottie (either sex)....the ones actually cosntituting the "certified hottie" populace and the ones "actually comfortable" about the "Body image" are the ones who read these stuff...and of course, the doe-eyed and/or aspirant hunk/goddess precocious lot do as well....problem is- they still are a low number (and horrifically, they transmute into the 'scoffers" as they age, for the same reasons as stated earlier)....if we actually had more Godlikes/Godlings walking amongst us ( and pursuing reading as a hobby), we'd have soaring (or even roaring) sales for the genre.....

Thanks for the read,

Sujoy