by Libby Austin, guest blogger
Everything I know about Feminism I learned from romance novels. When asked about, the romance genre is likely to be brushed off as mind-fluff. Yes, there are a lot of romance books merely meant to provide the reader with entertainment. Every genre has books meant to be nothing more than an enjoyable escape.
As I grew up, I would hear bits and pieces about how romance literature degraded women because they were always being rescued and their goals were to secure a husband. Well, I heartily disagree. I learned more about being a strong, independently thinking woman from romance books than anywhere else. Here are a few things I learned from romance novels about being a feminist:
- I could be anything I wanted to be, whether it was a mother or a doctor or both.
- Life has struggles. A good support system is helpful, but you are responsible for you.
- Use protection!
- Antibiotics affect birth control.
- Sex can, and should be, enjoyable.
- It’s okay want love.
- Life isn’t always fair, but it can still be great.
- There’s give and take in relationships and it varies depending on time and place. Both (or even all willing participants) can be strong and vulnerable, sweet and hurtful, kind and cruel.
- Everyone has a place. The romance genre runs the gamut from wholesome Amish to hardcore, from straight male/female to male/female/male, from vanilla sex to hardcore BDSM and everything in between.
- Smart is sexy.
Romance writers are some of the smartest writers I know. The detail in an accurate historical novel is astounding. Historical writers even place strong feminist characters within the proper historical context. One of my favorites is Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas and the heroine Beatrix Hathaway.
Beatrix is a different type of girl for the time, but she stands by who she is even in the face of ridicule from the society around her. Though it is fictionalized, Kleypas makes it apparent Beatrix is allowed to be true to herself because she is protected by her family, so it accurately portrays the social restrictions of the time while providing a strong heroine.
My first encounters with strong heroines of Lois Faye Dyer and Debbie Macomber. I was eleven and these books taught me to dream, not just about finding love, but that I could overcome an impoverished beginning, that I could have a career not just a job, and that I had value.
Romance readers are just as smart. They know the stories are not real, but there are elements of truth in them. And when you look back at romance across the decades, the subtle shades of feminism are there, quietly teaching the predominately female reader they too are smart, strong, kind, cunning, desirable, independent, and a million other attributes that have nothing to do with weak and needy. The greatest lesson in feminism from romance is there is a place for everyone.
Libby Austin is a feminist, wife, mother of two, contemporary romance author, and student. Visit her website at www.libbyaustin.com, find her on Facebook at Libby Austin Author, follow her on Twitter @Author_Libby, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her books are available on Amazon.