I’m proud to call myself a feminist romance author. Yep. You heard that correctly. Sure. Plenty of people are quick to point to bodice ripping covers of yesteryear and pass judgements on series romance novels. You’ve heard it. They denigrate women. They’re misogynist. Romanticize toxic relationships. Have an inequity of power. Blah. Blah. Blah.
But you know what? Such criticisms are usually leveled by folks that have never read category romance. Any fan of our genre knows that our books, largely written by women, for women, celebrate our gender and our triumphs. Our heroines want love. Of course they do. That is not, however, exclusionary of their desire to achieve success in their chosen professions, to reach personal milestones, to strive to be the best possible version of themselves and help others to do the same. Our novels feature strong female heroines who are making positive differences in their world and in others’ lives, as well as their own.
Romance novels are one hundred percent about female empowerment. There is no genre that does this better.
Romance heroines are good role models for young women and girls. They prove that you can have it all. Love and success. A career and a family. Hearts, flowers and a separate checking account. Our heroines are negotiating the terms of their relationships throughout a book, never fully giving themselves to their love interest until he’s proven himself worthy and noble. Physical attraction only gets a hero so far with our heroine (In a Heartwarming book- that’s usually page twelve- lol) and after that, the man’s got to reach her standards. Period. No toxic relationships.
Happily-ever-after is earned. Not given.
This isn’t to say that our heroines are perfect. Far from it. In fact, it’s their flaws, their mistakes that makes them human and relatable. We see ourselves in these women. Walk in their shoes as they struggle. Dance with them when they succeed. Cry with them when they don’t. Sometimes I’ve just wanted to reach right through the pages of one of my favorite romance novels (usually this is why they are my favorites) and give the heroine a hug. But through it all, our leading ladies never give up and they teach us not to either.
These are very important life lessons for young girls who should and must think of romance and feminism as sharing the same ideals. So I challenge all closet romance addicts to read your novel proudly in your doctor’s waiting room. On a bus. In a park. Not just to declare yourself a proud romance reader, but to inspire the next generation of young women to read books that uplift and celebrate all of the wonderful things that add up to being a woman.
Some might say, “Harlequin- you’ve come a long way, baby.” I say—we were always there.