I’m always fascinated by the responses of my male friends when they read my books. Yes, I write romance, which is typically considered a sub-genre of “women’s fiction”. I also do a whole lot of outdoor sports that are male-dominated. In my stories, I blend romance, love, and sex with skiing, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, and more to create adventure, drama, and tension. I also tell the stories from both the male and female point of view.
Given that men love sex, extreme sports, and outdoor adventures you’d think my work would interest them. Yet every single one has admitted they were surprised by how much they enjoyed my stories — usually with a few sheepish glances and some foot shuffling. Despite liking them, only about half have gone on to read all three of my novellas.
Why? Because they’re romances. So, they’re only “for women”.
Apparently men simply can’t relate to books written by women, that have a woman as one or more of the main characters, and discuss relationships (IE: “women’s fiction”). If they try, their heads could explode. Or, they might develop “feelings”. Gasp.
The expectation is that books written by men are for everyone. We should all be able to enjoy and relate to the male perspective—particularly the white male perspective.
However, books written by women, about women, are only for women. That goes double if they’re about women actually getting what they want and deserve in careers, relationships, or the bedroom.
In other words, only women should be able to relate to and enjoy these books. Which is fucking ridiculous.
It devalues the work of women authors. It also immediately reduces the number of potential readers and sales of those books. This helps keep women from being as successful and financially independent as they could be.
It’s a power play, and it’s been pervasive in our society for a long time.
Think about it… Music written and sung by men is for everyone. Music written and sung by women is primarily for women. Sure, there are exceptions (it’s pretty hard to say Aretha isn’t for everyone), but on the whole music by women has often been dubbed “chick music”. Which really isn’t so different from “chick lit” or “women’s fiction”.
If you’ve ever wondered why there are so few women directors in movies and TV, and so few meaty roles for women, you can stop now.
What this segregation really means is that what women say, think, feel, want and experience is less important. It’s less interesting. And it’s inherently less valuable.
Yet one of the most valuable things in the world is experiencing other: other perspectives, other ways of life, other people’s experiences. The more different they are from your own, the better and more valuable.
Because when our range of experiences is small, we can only think within a tiny box. We begin to label anyone or anything different as scary, bad, or lacking in value. The easiest way to experience the world, and otherness, is through books and movies that show you different perspectives. It’s only when we give other voices and perspectives credence that we all grow.
Agree or disagree?
Do you think we should get rid of the “women’s fiction” category? Why or why not?
Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.
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