Friday, March 16, 2018

Sexism in Romance

I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about when I came in to prepare my post, but I took a quick read down the list of recent posts here and recalled that it's Women's History Month.

It was also International Women's Day on March 8th and, despite that, and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, I received an infuriated email from my sister the other day. 

She is a manager in a male dominated industry, but has a number of female coworkers of similar age, education and experience with the company. Most, including her, have a lot more on their resume than the recently hired twenty-something man.

However, when it came time to name a "Go To" temporary supervisor while the boss and his usual "Go To" were scheduled to be away, guess who the boss appointed? 

It's the sort of casual sexism that is so common we almost don't question it. We almost, almost, believe that men are more logical, commanding, and capable of resolving issues. My sister isn't in a union. It's totally up to the boss's discretion. She's not in a position to hold him to account and probably no one will. So it will continue. 

With all of these things in mind, I can't help using a different lens as I look at my own stories. Am I perpetuating sexism if my hero feels sexually attracted to my heroine even as he realizes she works for him? What about when he fires her out of revenge? 

It's that old debate about whether art imitates life or the other way around. Sexism is a reality. So is sexual attraction. Romance novels certainly get criticized for depicting unenlightened men, but those are real, too. 

I've always tried to be conscious of consent, especially if passions are particularly inflamed, but I also believe that a core message in romance is the transformative power of love. Some men are sexists. Sometimes they objectify women. I like writing a hero who has those flaws. Then I can show how his journey of falling in love also teaches him respect and empathy for the heroine and all women.

Is it realistic that we can change men? Not necessarily, but we can change our expectations and give the men in our lives the choice to adjust their behaviour and meet those expectations. 

That's why I think it's so laughable when romance novels are criticized for setting women up to have unrealistic expectations. Yes, there is a level of fantasy that isn't likely to be fulfilled. I'm still waiting for my husband to show up in a helicopter and take me to his private Greek island, but the part where I expect him to view me as his equal, that's completely realistic and not just achievable, but achieved. 

What are your thoughts about sexism in romance? Do you think authors should be more careful how they depict both sexes? Are you influenced at all by what you read in romance novels?

Dani's latest book, Consequence of His Revenge, features an arrogant alpha-male who fires the heroine, takes her virginity, gets her pregnant, and expects her to marry him. 

The heroine fights for her job, helps his grandmother, uses him for his hot tub, throws his jewelry in his face, and only goes with him to Sicily to clear her father's name. 

It's totally realistic. Start Reading.


dstoutholcomb said...

I read romance novels to be entertained. I don't want the characters to be abusive. I don't mind being whisked off in a helicopter to another world through reading.


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