Friday, June 19, 2015

Some Problems with Feminism and How Romance Novels Counteract Them

The past few months I've come across quite a few blogs, articles and podcasts with strong feminist slants to them. Maybe it's because I enjoy listening to body image activism or the health at any size messages which are very pertinent in our diet and image obsessed modern times. But besides that, I've noticed quite a few posts on Facebook written by feminists. I have nothing against feminists and I think they're doing a marvelous job in working on equal rights for women as well as changing skewed perceptions of certain things in our westernised culture.

I don't know everything about feminism. I do know that they want women to be seen as equal human beings and not put in a box. The pressure nowadays to fit into a certain mold like be beautiful, get married to a man, have babies, etc. is unfair and should not be placed on anyone. Those things should be chosen because a woman really wants them. And I think many do but there are a few who don't and why can't they be who they want to be?

But I have a few issues with some of the feminist posts and ideas that I've read. Merely because I think they break down the simple characteristics of who we essentially are as women. Sure, we deserve to be treated equal and given equal standing and respect in the workplace for achieving the same things as men, but really do we want to be exactly like men? I've heard the feminists say that they don't push that at all, but they don't seem to practise what they preach. Now, I'm not a qualified socialist, anthropologist or psychologist, but I do have an intrinsic sense of my womanhood. And I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate it. Maybe that's the intention of the feminists, but in the process, sometimes they're not seeing that women and men are born naturally different and that's perfectly okay, and it's often why men get paid more and get listened to more in the workplace. I'm not justifying less pay for the same work. I think that's terribly wrong and I've seen it in the town where I live.

I read a couple of articles recently about how men don't listen to women as much or believe them. I read the article with this deep sense of the writer's resentment toward men. Maybe it wasn't true, but I just got the off feeling while reading it. I honestly haven't felt that way from the men in my life (okay maybe sometimes from my teenage sons). My father was always deeply respectful towards what I had to say. I felt valued and important and intelligent when with him. My husband the same. In fact, I often have to guard my tongue to make sure I don't say something that would break him down because he takes my words to heart. Yes, men have this very strong logical side - the logical side of their brain has been more strongly developed in the womb whereas with women our relational and logical side are in equal proportions. Sometimes, men can see things much clearer especially when it comes to technical things and that's not a bad thing. It's great! Because we often see things about relationships that they don't see. Wow, I want to celebrate my womanhood, don't you? I don't want to try to be like a man and compete for first place in everything. I love that manly leadership quality and strength. It's what makes them attractive.

Now, I know that some women are born with a lot of logic and drive like men, and that's great. They're meant to be like that. The Hilary Clintons of this world have a part to play, but from my forty-odd years of roaming the planet, I've seen most women are more nurturing. The feminists say that it's social conditioning that has made us that way and not genetics. If so, what's the problem with that?

What on earth does this have to do with romance novels, you say?

Well, there's something wonderful about the attraction between a man and a woman. And guess who likes to put the spotlight on such a thing? Romance writers. I love exploring the chemistry between a couple and that's why I can't stop writing romance. I've considered writing another genre several times, but each time it doesn't feel right, it doesn't resonate with something inside me. I delight in the natural rhythm of a romance, the initial meeting with a simple like or maybe even irritation, the stirring of the first attraction, the discovering of the person's good qualities and then the internal conflict which always pulls the couple apart. What's so fascinating is the difference between a man and woman. Not just the obvious physical difference, but their personality nuances. I mean even the way a man talks. When we write dialogue, we have to be careful to word it how a man speaks - very differently to a woman. There are some great tips on this that I gleaned from the last Rosa Conference - that can wait for another blog post. But it's not only the way they speak, but the way men and women think about relationships and respond to situations. It's a fascinating field of study.

What's special about romance novels is that they respect the genders. There's no competing to become like the other, but rather a love and respect for the differences and how they work in attracting the couple to each other. And how we complement one another to form a strong team.

In well-written romance novels, men are respectful and good to their women. Woman admire and speak highly of their men. There's a feeling that there's still good in this world. And truly, there is. I think well-written romance novels are a great resource for young women to learn about how a good man should treat them. It's also a good way for women to accept their sexuality and not be ashamed of it. As our culture has become more liberal in the sexual sense, many of the archaic and Victorian viewpoints about a woman not being allowed to enjoy sex have dropped away. But I have to say, it's still prevalent in many circles, especially religious ones. It's subtle, but it's still there. Romance novels have a way of dusting away these misconceptions, so in this way, we work with the feminists in teaching women to be proud of their sexuality and desires and to embrace them.

Kudos to true feminism and romance novels. Here's to equality and embracing of the uniqueness of our genders.


  1. Lovely and thought-provoking, Kathy!

  2. Very interesting perspective. I love what you said about romance novels respecting the genders. I think I was born a feminist and a couple of the things you wrote make me suck in air through my teeth, but then you explained your view of it and that's cool.

    1. Thank you, Nana. I have to admit, I agree with most of their ideas so I understand where you're coming from. Great to stir up some thought though. And even greater to be able to write about it.