I'm guilty, I confess! I admit that I'm the first one to steer clear of the chicklit shelf at bookstores. First, I've been successfully indoctrinated of our rather gender-heavy focus at the institute for media studies, so I try to avoid needlessly gendered stuff as much as possible and secondly, my mind keeps doing this:
The flow chart looks like this: ARE YOU A LADY? Yes. YOU WRITE ROMANCE: No. YES YOU DO. AND THAT IS CHEAP. What? I said no, and what?
— maureenjohnson (@maureenjohnson) May 8, 2013
Women? Aren't those the writers who produce She-is-mid-twenty-to-thirty-a-little-ditzy-and-thought-she-would-never-find-the-right-one-fiction? No. No, they're not. I should know this. I don't write cheesy romance novels and I'm a woman. And with these personality-related issues, you should always proceed like an astronomer: Never consider yourself the exception, consider yourself the rule until proven otherwise.
But aren't we all oh-so-special and unique snowflakes? We all do tend to see ourself as big exceptions compared to all the others. That's why every person knows at least one woman who claims that, oh, she doesn't really get along with other women, she's more like one of the guys. Women are so bitchy and complicated and tiresome. She's different. But the other girls? They're, like ... women, amirite?
The opposite -- men claiming to get along better with women -- are a much rarer breed. Because that would be girly and gay and yuck! I could drop the term hegemonic masculinity at this point and I hereby did, but I digress.
Books. We were talking abour books and their female equivalent (bookesses!), which strangely seem to be an entirely different thing than those produced by male writers. This phenomenon is echoing a discussion that has been going on for quite some time now whithin the realms of film and video games: Producers and marketers keep insisting that men aren't able to identify with female characters. From their point of view, the case is clear: A woman writing about a woman can only ever adress other women.
Again: The other way around isn't problematic at all because masculinity is the social ideal, which is why women may strive for it without reprehensions. But men identifying with females move down within the social hierarchy in patriarchal logic. And that would be ... I don't know. Blasphemy?
The empathetic abilities of men are highly underrated. Men are just as able to identify with women as women have been able to wrap their heads around the ever present male perspective in fiction. But they won't find out as long as we keep hiding all books by female authors underneath the pink and fluffy covers of the unpretentious lable of romance. These send out a clear message to male readers:
This is not for you.
I don't want my stuff to be labelled "romance" just because I happen to be female. And even if my protagonists tend to be female, they all share one "redeeming" quality:
You know what? Men are human as well and even they -- gasp! -- fall in love sometimes. Or so I've heard.
So! Any recommendations for great romance novels?