Reading: The Penguin Book of Sewing
Watching: The local currawong parent trying to keep the food up to its very demanding baby
Listening to: the rhythm of the pouring rain
Making me smile: the fact the possums haven't eaten my chilli plant (yet)
I love reading romances and I love writing romances—given what I do that’s probably pretty self-evident. :-)
I also believe romance novels, as a general rule, are examples of feminist writing—not just because they’re stories primarily written by women for women (although they are), but because in a romance novel the heroine ends up with everything she wants. Go girl!
Another thing I love is reading academic books that discuss my genre and, as is my want, towards the end of last year I read a book of essays titled Romantic Conventions.* I want to quote a piece from one of the essays, because it made my head spin, and because I would love other people’s takes and thoughts on it.
The essay is titled “Lead us into Temptation” by Rosemary Johnson-Kurek.** She discusses the language used in romances to describe or denote a whole host of things, but I’m just going to focus on one tiny part of the essay—two lines that are often used to describe the heroine’s specialness. Both of these lines occur from the male point of view.
Line 1: No other woman had affected him like this before.
Line 2: He’d had other women, but none special.
And then Johnson-Kurek points out her problem with the second line. “It certainly casts aspersions on the female gender when negative stereotypes involve all women a hero has had because by presenting the heroine in opposition to these women, she is viewed as exceptional to the gender.” (p. 130)
And that was when my head started to spin because I may in fact be guilty of using these lines myself, and I would never knowingly do anything to denigrate my gender. TBH, I don’t have a problem with the first line. I love for the hero and heroine to have a unique connection. There’s nothing in that line that to my mind casts aspersions on the rest of the female population. It’s not saying that the hero hasn’t loved other women, that he hasn’t felt affection and connection with other women. What it is saying is that the heroine affects him in a unique and strong way.
But when Line 1 is used in conjunction with that second line… Cue much shuddering, because, quite frankly, that second line has really started to get my back up and it’s that “none special” that’s making me grit my teeth.
He’d had other women but none special.
Whoa, hold on there, buster! All women are special.
On further reflection, I’m not big on that “had” either. If I could rewrite the line I’d want something like: “He’d been with other women—lovely women, beautiful women, funny women, clever women—but no one had affected him like this before.” (That could just be me wanting my cake and eating it too, but hey…isn’t that what romances are about? :-))
So I’m interested to know if anyone else finds this offensive. Or are there other lines out there that you loathe and find derogatory to women?
And in the interests of promoting free and frank discussion ;-) I’ll give away a copy of one of my backlist titles to one lucky commenter.
*Kaler, Anne K., and Rosemary Johnson-Kurek. Romantic Conventions. Bowling Green: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.
**Johnson-Kurek, Rosemary. “Lead Us Not Into Temptation.” Romantic Conventions. Bowling Green: University of Wisconsin