"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.