Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Chicken Little

"Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken." - Chuck Palahniuk

There's a really thought-provoking post over at RTB today thanks to Kassia Krozer about image and how RWA and RT are hurting the cause more than helping.

Anyone and everyone knows that romance novels have an awful image. They're nothing but porn. They're poorly written. They're trite and simplistic. They cause women to have unhealthy expectations in their personal relationships. And worst of all? Those beefcake, cheesetastic covers.

But we've heard that all before - and up until a few months ago, I vehemently defended my choice of reading. Except of course to my family - who never ridicule anything that involves people reading something...anything...it doesn't matter. I know, ain't they just wacky?

You know what though? I'm tired. I mean, I'm just tired of having to defend what I read. Why should I bother? Hell, why should I have to? No other genre comes close to romance in terms of having to defend themselves (OK, maybe science fiction). It's like the romance genre has an inferiority complex. Why not let the sales figures and popularity of the genre speak for itself? Why do we have to constantly stand up and deliver eloquent arguments on why romance novels are a valid form of entertainment and fiction?

Frankly, I'm just starting to tell people to fuck off. Is that wrong?

That said, I do think RWA is barking up the wrong tree. There's been a big push recently to broaden romance, to redefine what a romance novel is, and if you read industry/author blogs this topic has been beaten like the proverbial dead horse.

Now, I'm about to say something unpopular - so brace yourself. I don't think romance should knock itself out to be "all inclusive." It cannot be all things to all people. Romance should concentrate on what it does best - life affirming stories that feature happy endings. Period. I think the big push to "redefine" what the romance novel is, is a way for RWA to say "Hey! Look at us! We're legit! We're 'real books'!"

News flash - romance novels have always been legitimate, real books. Just because some people are too narrow-minded and ignorant to accept that doesn't make it untrue. No matter how you dress up the chicken, it's still going to be a chicken. So even with a flashy all-inclusive definition - the same people who sneer at romance now will continue to sneer.

Frankly, I think time would be better spent on handling the genre with class, intelligence, and dignity. Lead by example - that's my motto. Believe that we are legitimate and no belittling words can hurt us. They are, after all, just words. Sure they may wound, even sting a little, but we know what we like, we know what we have to offer, and bugger off to anyone too simple to figure it out for themselves.


Lilith Saintcrow said...

Bravo! You inspired me to write my own romance rant. Wonderful points!

Nicole said...

I have to say that I've gotten to the point where I do say "so what" to my friends who can't believe I read romance and raise their eyebrows when they look at my bookshelves filled with romance in my office. It's not any different from reading any other genre.

Lilith, great rant on your blog too.

Lilith Saintcrow said...

Thanks. Kudos to Wendy for inspiring me to rant. I also can't wait to really get started on the demon-hunting librarian book she's inspired me with; SuperLibrarian is a Muse!

Wendy said...

I feel so glamorous! A muse! Maybe I should start dressing like a Grecian goddess? Lounging on a chaise pondering the meaning of life, love and the pursuit of happiness.....

sybil said...

Very well said... ::clap clap clap::

I don't try and explain why I read what I read. I do because I like it. Period.

Arethusa said...

Yeah, I generally switch immediately to a new website when I see yet another "Romance is good stuff too"-type post, as I'm pretty tired of it. Sometimes you just have to flip the bird until you're in a situation where the defense is necessary.

Caro said...

Well said, Wendy. I used to spend a lot of time defending reading -- and writing romance -- but it wasn't until I took time off from doing so that I realized I was really spinning my wheels to no purpose. I've had the usual experience of people referring to romance as "female porn" and least one of them was referring to a "sweet" romance as such.

Those who think romance isn't worty aren't going to change their mind and many of them are going to get a kick out of watching someone twist themselves into knots trying to justify their choice of material. Why give them the pleasure?

I had a much longer response, but I think I'll go write a rant of my own. :)

Becca Furrow said...

Thanks for writing this. I'm tired of apologising about what I read and wrtie. Why should I have to???

Evangeline Holland said...

I never defend what I read, mainly because my peers(I'm in my early 20s) rarely read anything that's not assigned in school. So the fact that I read for fun just astonishes them.