I remember reading my first romance novel in my late teens. Or at least, I should say I remember the cover—the classic Fabio bodice-ripper—and a line about a turgid member and a deep, moist well (cue disgusted shiver). Beyond that, nothing sunk in. Because I could not relate to the damsel-in-distress heroine in any way, shape, or form.
Even back then I never wanted to be rescued—by a man or anyone else. And pretty early in life I realized I could only expect people to love me if I loved myself. Ditto liking. No knight in shining armor on a white horse could come to my internal rescue. I needed to rescue myself.
This was around the same time that I became sick and tired of being told I couldn’t do…Whatever. It became my mission to do every one of those things. To take charge of my life and my choices, no matter what anyone else said about them. To own my successes, and my failures.
As part of that, I took big risks: became a whitewater raft guide when women on the river where I worked made up maybe two percent of the guides… Moved across the country alone (except for my dog) at age nineteen… Walked away from a wonderful man I loved because I needed to learn to love myself more.
What I wanted in my reading, what I needed, was examples of strong, independent women building their lives on their own terms. Women who were then celebrated for their abilities and uniqueness. The kind of books that could help me learn to celebrate my own strengths and abilities and choices and goals—even if they didn’t include getting married or having children.
I needed feminist romance novels, and back then they didn’t exist. Now, I can’t imagine reading and enjoying any romance that doesn’t include a smart, strong, capable heroine. One who doesn’t need a man, but decides she wants an equal partner.
Is feminism in romance important to you? Do you have any favorite feminist romances you can recommend? Please let me know in the comments.
Looking for great feminist romances to read? Check out this article filled with terrific recommendations.