Feminist Romance: Is it possible?

So, I’ve got a soft spot for romance, for the steamy, action, heart wrenching kinds of romance…

But I’m sick and tired of the tropes, but find it hard to satisfy my need for romance, while fighting my quasi-feminist mindset.

  • Consent is a big thing. A girl isn’t going to find out she likes being forced into having sex because its her soul mate.
  • Strong female characters that… save themselves… that men don’t need to take care of (benevolent sexism in Romance is strong!).
  • Why do the women have to be virgins all the time? Honestly?
  • the “alpha” trope. Research actually proves that Alpha isn’t really a thing, its a societal misconception that values bad leadership, low emotional intelligence and dangerous aggression issues.
  • Existing only to find “the one”. Seriously, I like the idea of soulmates, but I want a three dimensional character that exists in her own way, plus has a romantic relationship?

Anyone think I’m just entirely too picky? Or agree? Or have any other thoughts on how unflattering to women Romance is?

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No. I think all of your points are perfectly sensible. I don’t think its wrong to want stories that treat women as people instead of sexy lamps, and treat men as people instead of angry muscle with an ego complex.

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And, luckily with romance being the biggest genre, there are tons of stories that are done right. Romancelandia has a tendency to be one of the more forward groups of fiction. With more talks about consent, sex, etc.

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Lol. I love your descriptors of it. They work completely well.

I must have some seriously bad luck then, because I haven’t found any such things. I honestly worry about the messages people are being sent, with the things I’ve found both in published works as well as here on Wattpad.

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There are certainly stories out there that would align with your feminist mindset. In fact, those are pretty much the only stories I like to read.

The problem is that the general public seems to want (toxic) anti-feminist tropes.

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Yeah, Wattpad is infested with them. That’s why I mostly use the Story Request threads to find new things to read. I also just write my own romances, the way I want to :joy: Seems to be the best solution.

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Yes, it is. Real Romance is formed through friendship. I use to write romance novels, they came off creepy though. I had an obsessed protagonist who ended up stalking his love interest. He died, love interest met a great guy. It was sad, but I still think it ended up being okay.

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It’s unfortunate. There needs to be more mainstream push to tell people that romance can be everything it needs to be, without being toxic / sexist / a big mess of no.

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Yeah. That’s the only reason why I broke down and wrote my own as well. I was wading through so much junk it was making my brain bleed.

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That’s pretty neat though! Challenging the trope in that way!

The typical “guy knows they’re meant to get together and forces the issue” and how it turns out in the real world (hopefully - I won’t get into how often this turns out really, really badly for the uninterested love interest, but stats say it’s not good) .

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Agreed. I hope it’ll slowly become better, but I think it’s going to need a lot of time before there’s real progress.

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I’m just happy to know I’m not the only one. I felt like there was this divide… if you wanted to read a romance, you couldn’t be slightly concerned with women’s equality…

I’ve read good writers, who are stuck on it. And the more “Awakened” I become ( to steal a concept from Chopin) the less I can tolerate it.

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Well, romance isn’t taken seriously in the first place, I think. When I tell men (especially older men) I write romance, this slight smile enters their faces – oh, she’s that kind of girl. Romance is treated like some sort of escape for bored housewives, teens, and desperate single women. I think publishers aren’t likely to publish books that go against the grain, because those tropes sell, and well, isn’t it what women want?
It’s a circle. They think it’s what we want, so we get it. Because there’s nothing else to read, we buy it. And they keep thinking it’s what we want.

And to be honest, I do believe there’s a large group who does actually want it. But I’m not sure if that’s because they’re used to it and don’t know better, or if they genuinely enjoy it. Many women are probably very unaware of the anti-feminist tropes in romance stories.

I suppose it’s like that with many things. There’s lots of old Disney movies I find hard to watch due to the blatant racism in them. And yet, I must admit to still enjoy the classics like Sleeping Beauty, even though those are the worst stories in terms of feminism. I suppose it’s because I grew up with it.

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This is pretty much why I turned my back on the romance genre and started writing my own work. I’m so abundantly tired of running into cringy stories perpetuating abuse and sexual violence as “the epitome of true romance”.

What also sucks is that, as a queer woman, the above tropes even extend into my community’s written works. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the “good boy/bad boy” trope or the over-sexualization of F/F relationships to the point it feels like I’m reading trashy grocery store porn and not the “acclaimed” piece of literature it was billed as. I got so frustrated, in fact, that I started working on my own pieces because damn it someone has to break the mold at some point, right?

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Yeah, that’s the tough thing. Is it because of an informed choice? Or is it, because they just don’t understand what the messages are? And you’re right, the genre has always been something a little less than “Serious literature” I mean, I even usually call it “smut” and don’t admit to reading it, let alone writing it. But that’s women’s literature in general. Women fantasy writers are constantly getting their work put into “YA” genres and having to write to that demographic because of how hard it is for female characters and writers to be considered anything other than “Chick Lit” or “Young Adult.”

But there is such power, the ability to teach people about love and interpersonal relationships, through the stories in romances. I know that some people just read for the fun of it, and I get that, but the underlying message is what we see in society. Or does society change, then we change the literature?

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The power of being a writer, making the story, the message, that you want to read and hear.

But I can only imagine how frustrating it is for you in that way. There are so many stereotypes and biases that you want to escape from, and to find it in literature, (no matter what the genre), I can only guess its so frustrating.

Do you think a straight person could appropriately write a queer romance? Or even incorporate it into a story? I know that its a hotly debated topic, but I know I try to include a variety of relationships in my writing, but I always feel like I’m treading on territory I don’t belong in, and doing it wrong, and I shy away from it because I know I don’t actually understand it like I think I should. But then… I just contribute to the normative concept of straight-being the only visible option.

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You’re very right, this is a hotly debated topic (and one I’ve personally struggled with), so don’t take my word as law since I don’t speak for the entire community.

Yes, I do believe a straight person can write appropriate queer romances if they do two things: 1) get more than one sensitivity reader. 2) do the research first before writing the story (though I’m very against straight people writing queer coming out stories). I would approach it like you would a white person wanting to write a story with a POC lead. You need to do the research first because there are so many ingrained stereotypes and learned racism that need to be avoided and frankly eradicated from works of entertainment. This applies to people wanting to write LGBT romance. I’m perfectly fine with a straight person wanting to include representation in their novels. It’s a needed thing, and perfect way to use your privilege and platform to bring attentions into marginalized groups, but you gotta put in the legwork first.

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I’m kind of terrified to admit that reading on Wattpad has subconsciously changed something in me that makes me feel attracted to the idea of being dominated by a man, while I know that is wrong. I have always known it is wrong. But still…

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Although it’s not by books on Wattpad, I know what you mean. When I was young I used to read these traditionalist romance novels, and all I wanted to be was a house wife and marry a good looking dude. Those thing, in and of itself, aren’t bad, but basing ones mindset and life on it is pitiful in my opinion.

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