Have you ever been reading a book, and when someone asks you what genre it is, you kind of wince as you admit that it’s “just” a romance? I know I’ve had this inclination. Heaven forbid I be caught reading that mushy love stuff. What a waste of time, right? Except that, no, it’s not. The romance genre shouldn’t be viewed as less than any other genre, but somehow that’s the hand it’s been dealt.
But where did this need to undermine the value of the romance genre come from? Somehow action and comedy and sci-fi feel more acceptable. Is it because they’re more male-centric? Well…yes. I believe so. Action is about being tough. Science fiction is about sciency stuff. Comedy makes you laugh. But romance. Ooh. Geez. Romance is all about feelings. That’s girly stuff. As if men don’t experience emotions. As if valuing and discussing and wanting love someone makes a person less than.
And when I say that out loud—or write it down—it reminds me of just how ridiculous it is. Heaven forbid that I value love, that I acknowledge and want to understand my own emotions and those of others. Do we really want to live in a world where the thing we value most is action—wars, contention, death?
I am not belittling action or any other genres. I just want to point out how very wrong it is that we’ve thrown the romance genre under the bus.
We feel good recommending action movies to everyone. Let’s all go see a comedy. Star Wars is for the masses. But that chick flick? Better make it a girls’ night.
And if we do make it a girls’ night, that’s okay. My husband doesn’t care for romantic dramas. I don’t care for action movies. So we tend to not watch either of those genres together. But it took me a while to be okay with saying no to seeing an action flick if it didn’t appeal to me, and saying yes to a romance movie even if it meant watching it on my own. Not because my husband cared one way or the other, but because I didn’t want to impose my unimportant, girlier opinions on our marriage.
What the? *FACEPALM*
I believe that’s entirely a reflection of the society I grew up in. Where throwing like a girl or running like a girl somehow means you’re bad at it. Where gender-neutral clothing lines have everything to do with making girl clothes more masculine, but nothing at all to do with making boy clothes more feminine. Women taking on more masculine attributes makes them “stronger” but men taking on more feminine attributes are “weak.”
We all know this. We’ve all seen it. And it’s sad, but what can we do? Well, we can start by making a conscious effort to not apologize for having feelings or wanting love. Do you really think that guy over there doesn’t need love in his life? I promise, he does. So then why is it “girly” to want it? We have to stop apologizing for our emotions and stop letting others write them off as hysterical or irrational. And we need to stop rolling our eyes when someone tells a “silly love story.” So that novel over there has scroll writing and a wedding dress on the front; that doesn’t automatically mean the writing is going to be trite and shallow. It just means it’s a love story.
And since love is an integral part of life, it’s likely to play a part, whether big or small, in every story. After all, most of those beloved action movies have a love story.
Super hero movies? Love stories.
Comic book adaptations? Love stories.
Han has Leia, Spiderman has Mary Jane, Batman has…whichever woman is in that particular film. Harry has Ginny and Hermione has Ron. We seem to be just fine with love stories so long as they’re couched in bigger, tougher elements, but if the romance is center stage, suddenly it’s fluff. Vapid. Just for the ladies.
The inclination to apologize for the romance genre in general is something I had to get over when I started publishing my books. I had to learn not to brush aside my own accomplishments when people asked me what kind of books I wrote. I write novels. Romances.
And I’m proud of it.