Some interesting articles while I take a break from writing about serial rapists and their gay twin brothers.
Mary Bly aka Eloisa James aka Professor of English Literature has written an op-ed piece in the New York Times about Romance Novels. It’s an interesting article, though I strongly disagree with her contention that romance readers completely ignore literary fiction (which implies that intellectualism is defined by particular reading choices, something that Ms. Bly should be careful of, considering her own reading – and writing – habits). And yet, I find the following statements particularly compelling:
Intellectuals never seem to believe that a strong story and an interest in relationships could explain the popularity of romance. I’ve been repeatedly asked by academics whether romances are anything more than female porn – a question that to me seems linked to a fear of female sexuality, as is the dismissal of romances as “bodice-rippers.” In fact, I’m not sure that the term, with its implication of enjoyment taken in forced intercourse, ever was an accurate description of romances; even the silk-ripping rake of “The Flame and Flower” passed out before he damaged anything more than clothing.
So why is romance the only genre ghettoized for including those [sex] scenes? In the early 80’s feminists like Janice Radway maintained that romances channel women’s desire into patriarchal marriage, but now these scholars are issuing apologias, having discovered that many romances depict working, independent heroines. As Ms. Radway has since declared, romances actually validate female desire. Clearly, the genre’s struggle for respect is part of a larger cultural battle to define and control female sexuality.
Which brings me to Wendy Duren’s reaction, which actually is the reaction of a gentleman who read the Mary Bly op-ed piece, and had this to say:
“Writing romance and teaching college level literature are mutually exclusive endeavors…it is “chilling” that Ms. Bly teaches.” and“The books in the genre are “paint by numbers trash”.and “One day very soon romance novels will be written by machines because they follow directions faster and better.”
My reaction to this nonsense is summed up by Wendy’s blog tag line: “At what point am I allowed to say I write romance?” Because unfortunately, there are many who think it is quite acceptable to deride romances and the people who write them as nothing more impressive than wasted paper and chimps with pens. This coming from people who rave about “intellectual literary fiction,” despite the fact that such fiction might also contain scenes of explicit sex and depict complex relationships.
Hypocrisy and double standards make me angry. I’m going to go take it out on my hero.