Friday, April 15, 2016

Bravery and the Romance genre by Michelle Styles

The other day I happened across a brief talk by the founder of Girls Who Code, a program to encourage young women to  learn how to write code for apps, computers etc. Personally as a daughter of a woman who coded for a living and who choose to major in Economics rather than in mathematics (which according to my mother, I should have done if I wanted a job), I know that women are more than capable of coding (I can do it but chose a different path than my mother). But I do understand that some women are put off the subject by the perception that women are somehow incapable.  Her insight was that girls need to be taught to be brave instead of to be perfect. She knows of girls when they are taking classes through her company who would rather show the instructor a blank screen than show the failed attempts at coding.
Learning to code (or learning a computer language) is all about making mistakes and finding tiny errors. It can drive you nuts. It is why What You See Is What You Get programmes were such a boon. If I had to type this in html, it would take me far longer.
Anyway apparently a study has been done that shows when applying for jobs, men are more likely to apply for a job if they are 60% qualified, women will only apply for the same job if they are 100% qualified.  A fact that my job-hunting daughter wishes I would stop banging on about. (My daughter has chosen not to follow my path or my mother's but her own and she can code when she has to)

If you don’t have time to  view the talk, you can read a transcript here. 
The talk made me think about bravery and perfection and how different people react. I can remember the first time I submitted anything to Harlequin. Another woman had also submitted. We both were rejected. That woman wrote a little note about  how she accepted the verdict and would go and try something else. I became determined that the next time Harlequin would not dismiss me so easily. I dug my toes in, became determined and eventually I persevered. In other words, I decided to brave and to keep on trying.
But what  about romance novels themselves? Do they teach women to be brave and take chances?  Or are they more about putting women on pedestals or teaching them that the way to get through life is to take the easy route?
Some people in the past have argued that they reinforce the status quo. I think they are wrong, dead wrong. The romance genre expands rather than contracts women’s horizons. They give positive role models for women where the heroine is more than simply arm candy.
A story would not be interesting if a heroine was perfect or had only minor easily overcome imperfections. Heroines need to struggle and grow.  I like to think that my heroines (whatever the era and societal limitations) possess grit, determination and perseverance in abundance and that anyone reading the books would see them as potentially positive role models. In order to see how a lead character will react, you have through nearly insurmountable obstacles in her path. It makes for a more interesting story. And the heroines in the romance genre come from all walks of life. They give readers a chance to try out different lifestyles or experience different situations. And I know from personal experience that a story can make a person decide that they are going dig their toes in and follow their dream.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods. Her latest historical romance manuscript is sitting on her editor’s desk and her latest book Summer of the Viking was published in June 2015. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on 

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