Thursday, February 8, 2018

Embarrassed? Don't Worry - There's a Romance Novel For That

Earlier this week, Real Simple published an article titled 7 Romance Novels You Won't Feel Embarrassed About Reading. As if the title weren't bad enough, they took their recs from The Ripped Bodice, a romance-only online and brick-and-mortar bookstore based in California, but linked to Amazon in their article. Were they embarrassed to be linking to a bookstore that specializes in a "trashy, lowbrow" genre (their words, not mine) or was it laziness? Hard to say, but with the implication that you could/should/would feel embarrassed reading romance novels, it's (ridiculously) easy to make assumptions, right?

Also earlier this week, Doritos announced that they are launching a special crisp for ladies that "doesn't crunch as loudly. The official statement:

There's that word again. Embarrassed. For those keeping score at home, we women are embarrassed by what we read and what we eat. And if we're not, maybe we're not woman-ing right? No one's saying that, but they're not NOT saying it either.

Of course, women are plenty embarrassed without anyone telling us what we ought to be embarrassed about. We're embarrassed about what we wear -- or at least what size we wear it in. According to the Women's Equality Party in the UK, one in five women in Britain cut their labels out of their clothes because they're ashamed of their size. Then there's the more serious things that make us blush. A recent study in the UK shows that women aren't going for their smear tests/pap smears because we're embarrassed, despite the fact that cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer in women under 35. I even read one article that said 50% of women are embarrassed about their feet.

Really. Their feet.

It makes me sad, because I don't know a single woman who was born ashamed. It's something we learn, a diet we're fed from a very young age. By the media, yes, but also by society and by not-so-well-meaning people around us. According to Common Sense Media, by the age of 6, children are aware of dieting and may have tried it. I don't know about you, but that makes me way sadder than women disliking their feet. 

However. In this age of #metoo and the powerful representation of women at Women's Marches around the world, women are also saying, "I am not embarrassed and I will not let you shame me." 

You know where else they're saying that? In romance novels. By the damn truck load. 

Far from being a guilty pleasure (another popular moniker for the genre), in the romance novel, women have agency, choice and power. As author Sarina Bowen says in her recent article for Kobo WritingLife, "{The protagonist} may or may not be straight, genderqueer, LGBTQ, asexual or interested in kink. But by page 300 she will own her own choices, and demand that her partner does the same."

In other words, romance novel heroines are just that. Heroines. Women with real feelings and issues who get their happily ever after or happy for now, because that is the explicit guarantee of the romance genre. Regardless of their consumption of junk food, weight issues or feet, the protagonist of the romance novel gets her happy ending, dammit. 

I don't know about you, but I see nothing trashy or low brow about that.

I'll leave you with a few romance reading recs, chosen for (obvious) reasons and, of course, best enjoyed with a bag of Doritos. Make sure you get the broken chips at the bottom, too. I promise you, they're the best part.


Jonathan Schramm said...

Umm... not much to say here... except maybe Girl Power! I am also not embarrassed by women's feet and I love anyone who crunches their Doritos loudly in public.

Carrie Beckort said...

As a mom to a girl, it's difficult to counter all society tries to teach her, but I fight the fight every day. She has these moments when she says something so wise and I hope that means at least some of it is sinking in. Although, after reading this I've decided not to get on her for tipping the bag to get the last few crumbs -- it's not that I think she should be embarrassed, it's that she makes a mess and doesn't clean it up. But I guess I can sacrifice a bit of a mess to teach her to go against the flow.

Brenda St John Brown said...

Agreed. Doritos are meant to be crunched!

Brenda St John Brown said...

It sounds like you're doing a great job with making sure the messages your daughter is seeing everywhere are balanced by a Mom reality check. As for the messiness thing -- my son is so messy! I'm hoping it's an age thing b/c it astonishes me all the things he DOESN'T see.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

I love this post Brenda not only because your observations landed a little close to home (don’t judge my 10 & a half size feet) but give all women the permission we need to let this shit go! Great recommendations!

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