Misogyny and the Romance Novel

Romance novels are a billion dollar industry, dominated by women. But the romance genre is often decried by critics as subpar. These attitudes are another case of society shaming women for their sexuality, but many women are fighting back, broadcasting their love for love and erotica for all to see. It would be interesting to look back at attitudes from the past, dating as far back as the creation of the early invention of the modern novel. In the past, fiction was regarded as a "feminine pursuit" looked down on by a patriarchal society while men read philosophy and academia. It would be interesting to explore how those attitudes actually helped female pioneers of the novel thrive and how those attitudes encroach into the romance genre of today.

  • Who ever chooses to write on this topic may want to differentiate between erotica and romance, as most people I know do not consider them the same. I would also question if the modern romance genre is being heavily criticized now because its being written by more women, or if its because authors like Henry James, Virginia Woolf, Alfred Flaubert, Shakespeare and Jane Austen have set a high standard for the genre. (Austen is usually considered one of the best romantic writers with Shakespeare sometimes being held in higher esteem.) I've personally never heard of the genre being held down by a patriarchal society. I have heard that men were accused of being feminine or gay in the 19th century, because they wrote romance and emotive stories, and this lead to romance novels adopting the more masculine/ Byronic protagonist. So it may simply be a trend shift, but I don't really know as you see romance novels come back in popularity during the late 20th century, often getting mixed in with other genres like detective-noire. To prove sexism is really difficult, as you need a direct quote or actions showing that the individual is acting in such a way. But even then does one individuals actions reflect the entirety of a culture? Is it possible that modern women writers are being criticized because they do not write at the same level as their predecessors or is it because there is conspiracy to keep to them out of the writing space? I do not see how that can be proven beyond a single individual holding some women back. But those are my main concerns for this topic. I'd be interested in seeing someone write about this. – Blackcat130 2 years ago
  • I think this would be an interesting topic to write about! I agree that romance novels are more ridiculed and that some sexism is involved. I think that Blackcat130 made a good point about differentiating between romance and erotica- that is an important distinction to make. Also, perhaps writers are criticized for not meeting standards set by Shakespeare and Austen. However, I agree with your point about sexism, and it would be interesting to look at how fiction used to be a feminine pursuit. – shoafhannah 1 year ago

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