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Friday News: Romance, feminism, litigation, and plagiarism

“But I must wonder why so many women – forty years after the women’s liberation movement, Roe vs. Wade and the pill have transformed the lives of women in the most dramatic of ways – continue to indulge in the fanciful tales of females so unlike them who live in fantasy worlds light years removed from their reality?” International Business Times

“‘While funding a study on the development of romance in popular books and movies might not be at the forefront of what we deem necessary as far as funding through taxpayer money goes, it certainly has its place in U.S. culture,’ said author and screenwriter Ariane Sommer. ‘And a rather large place it is. For romance, basic needs aside, is likely the biggest motivator in our lives. As a taxpayer I would rather see my money go to cultural projects and education than, say, invasive body scanning machines at airports or subsidizing the ingredients of junk food.’” Fox News

“‘The restatement and the accounting allegations under investigation by the SEC are only two symptoms of a pervasive deficiency of internal controls at Barnes & Noble impacting many areas of the company’s operation and reporting,’ Shaev said in the lawsuit.” Los Angeles Times

“More importantly, there’s the absolutely surreal, yet apparently true, revelation that this apology about plagiarism was itself plagiarized, as noticed by Andrew Hake on Twitter and that LaBeouf has already been caught once before specifically plagiarizing an apology. Let’s look again at that first tweet, shall we?” Wired

“The magazine sought to provide an alternative to the traditional gender roles. Cover headlines such as “Doctor’s Needles not Knitting Needles”, “Cellulite – the slimming fraud” and “Why women starve themselves” ran alongside articles featuring women as diverse as country and western singer Tammy Wynette, of Stand by your Man fame, or US political activist Angela Davis, who was interviewed about black women and revolutionary freedom.” The Guardian

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isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

24 Comments

  1. mari
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 05:45:36

    In regards to the whole “romance is trash thingy”, ain’t nothing new here. The only thing I’ll say is I have always looked on romance novels as happily anti-feminist. But I consider this a positive. Whenever I read of a self-proclamed “spokesperson” of women yelling about how bad traditional marriage is for women (except of course for polygymy which is now “sex positive” and all about “diversity”) or shrilly yammering on about evil men, I just laugh. There’s a reason romance is so popular and its not because of “fear of heteronormativity” or “exploration of gender roles.” Its because romance presents a VERY pro-marriage POV and men are GOOD. I love romance for these reasons. I suspect I’m not the only one.

  2. Angela
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 06:38:48

    I should have followed my instincts and not even clicked through on that first news item. How, and why, do people who have no understanding of the romance genre and its variety of characters and scenarios deem themselves fit to ‘report’ on it?

    And how is it that so many years after the start of the women’s lib movement so many women still don’t have a clue what feminism really means?

    One of the many reasons I’m so frustrated by the Romance community’s persistent vilification of the series.

    I know this is a general statement but it made me question how I portray and respond to this series. I have multiple issues with it but I don’t think I vilify it. I hate that it’s fanfiction that was P2P and that’s got nothing to do with it being romance. I also hate how it portrays what is supposed to be a healthy BDSM relationship – hell a healthy relationship in general. I voice these opinions anytime I get into a discussion about this series, but while I may have no respect for the books and author, and indeed quite a bit of disgust for the books, I still pretty strongly feel ‘to each their own.’

    Rambling aside – I guess I wonder what you mean by vilify. Admittedly, this is pretty much my only source for romance ‘news’, so I’m probably missing some stuff that’s happening elsewhere.

  3. SAO
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 06:52:39

    Of course, it’s a shame that women, even smart, accomplished women read such trashy, unrealistic stuff like romance whereas men disdain fantasy in favor of more realistic, meaningful, intellectual fiction, as epitomized by Jack Reacher and Jack Ryan, not to mention the movie favorites James Bond and Rambo.

  4. Diana
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 08:59:01

    Why do people consistently opine that “so many smart, successful women like romance novels?” Does it occur to no one that maybe because a lot of really awesome people enjoy romance that the genre might have some great qualities? And be worthy of more than just dismissive scorn? *internally rages*

  5. jamie beck
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:02:30

    I must be very peculiar because it would never occur to me to spend any significant time analyzing “why” people read whatever it is they choose to read (serious literature, commercial fiction, or comics). Whatever one’s personal preference, the most likely reason he or she reads any genre is to be entertained and, on occasion, provoked in some way.

    When I pick up an historical romance, I want to be swept away to another time and place for five hours. I’m not consciously thinking about comparisons to reality, or forward movement in womens’ rights, etc. I’m not trying to make any statement about who I am or how smart I am (or am not…LOL). I’m just having FUN.

    I think writers (especially romance writers) are used to critics, who can sometimes be offensive in the way they bash what or how something is written (which makes me want to ask them to redirect their energy into creating something of their own instead of tearing down the efforts of a writer who did their best to entertain others). But while there is surely value in “objective” book reviews (like those on this site), I have to wonder why anyone needs to bash readers for what they choose to read? Seriously, let’s just be happy people are still reading.

    And frankly, romance and love are at the root of most of life’s happiness, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that romance stories are popular.

  6. Anonymous
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:11:52

    I am consistently bothered by the perceived homogeneous nature of Romance in the popular media. For all its many formulas, this is such an incredibly diverse genre in so many ways, and there are so many different reasons that it might appeal to people. mari and I appear to be basically polar opposites in terms of our sociopolitical views, and the fact that both of us have nevertheless found a lot to love within the same genre, for very different reasons, is a testament to that diversity. So the way in which these articles always seem to assume that we romance readers are all exactly the same, the books are all exactly the same, everyone’s tastes and preferences and motivations for reading are all exactly the same… it reminds me of how in so many other forms of media you have the one token female character whose personality is “female” (and also of this conversation I once had with a thankfully-ex-roommate which concluded with him saying ‘So what I’ve learned from you today is that different women are different‘ as though this were the most novel thing he’d ever heard). I wish that some sort of acknowledgement that romance novels and romance readers are in no way uniform or identical didn’t seem like such a pipe dream.

  7. Brigid
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:17:06

    Did you see his condescending apology? It. was. ridiculous. Clearly, he was not sorry and decided to take the route of ‘I am sorry if you were offended, but…’

  8. Amanda
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:18:29

    It just seems that the author of that article does not like the romance genre and, therefore judges it and its readers. It is rather childish to have the “I don’t enjoy this and if you do there is something wrong with you” mentality. People like what they like.

  9. Carolyn Jewel
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:20:18

    I remain disturbed by the notion that feminism is somehow anti-man and anti-marrige (referencing mostly Mari’s comment above). Feminism pointed out the ways in which our culture shapes the relationships– legal, emotional, and more— that we must all navigate and how women (in particular) are personally affected by this.

    I don’t believe it’s anti-marriage to ask that the legal structure of marriage not place one of the partners in a legally inferior position. It’s not anti-marriage to ask that our partners recognize unequal burdens and work to address that in a mutually acceptable and equitable manner.

    Certainly there are romance novels in which the relationship that leads to marriage is “traditional” with all that means about the dominance and submission of cis-gendered roles. But there are more romance in which the marriage is negotiated through a relationship that does not assume traditional roles.

    I would argue that Romance novels that substantiate a relationship in which both the partners have arrived at a place in the relationship that gives each of them what they need and want — as opposed to what our culture says they should need and want is by definition feminist.

    It’s one thing to be in a marriage that imposes an unfair distribution of rights and responsibilities (legal, emotional, etc) and quite another to enter into a marriage where both parties are self-determined as to what their relationship looks like.

    Feminism gave us the idea that women have the right to determine their fates in and out of marriage and that marriage need not mean loss of agency. Plenty of Romance novels show us women who do exactly that.

  10. Brigid
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:21:10

    @Angela:
    I agree, but I think unless people first hand experience modern romance its hard to put away those prejudices when there’s SO much of it. Kinda sad, but true. Still, doesn’t give him the right to bash on a genre that is so clearly feminist. I sincerely hope romance readers don’t have to with stuff like this fifty years from now, but its doubtful.

  11. cleo
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:26:24

    @Carolyn Jewel – Amen. Beautifully said.

  12. leslie
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:34:03

    @Carolyn Jewel: Thank you!

  13. Angela
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:46:55

    @Carolyn Jewel: Beautifully said, I agree completely.

    This especially struck me as perfect:

    I would argue that Romance novels that substantiate a relationship in which both the partners have arrived at a place in the relationship that gives each of them what they need and want — as opposed to what our culture says they should need and want is by definition feminist.

  14. Maggie
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:55:23

    “The only thing I’ll say is I have always looked on romance novels as happily anti-feminist.”

    This may be the strangest thing I’ve heard about the modern Romance genre in a while. The most basic premise of modern Romance novels is that people, including women, get to choose with whom they want to have relationships and, possibly. marry. Characters that deny women agency are usually the villains.

    Where do you think these idea originated? The modern Romance genre is very feminist.

  15. Romance, feminism, litigation, and plagiarism |...
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:57:46

    […] “But I must wonder why so many women – forty years after the women's liberation movement, Roe vs. Wade and the pill have transformed the lives of women in the most dramatic of ways – continue to indulge in the fanciful …  […]

  16. Maggie
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 10:59:19

    @Maggie: My apologies to Carolyn Jewel who said everything I said first and better…maybe next time I’ll read all the comments first before rage-responding to the first one…

  17. Aly
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 11:35:12

    “(…) clearly something is missing in the lives and experiences of tens of millions (maybe even hundreds or millions) of contemporary ladies. ”

    What a moronic statement. Judging people by their hobbies. Claiming that a woman must be unhappy or missing something if she enjoys reading about it.

    “Still, I would suggest that if someone is enamored with romantic novels, one should perhaps eschew the contemporary books and read the beautiful, deep and moving works of 19th century women authors like Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters – they combined romanticism with cold hard reality and profound insights in humanity.”

    Clearly the article’s author has read every single contemporary book from every single author and realized that ALL romance books are old-fashioned. But oh, everyone sounds intelligent and well-read if they mention Jane Austen… even if they only watched the movie adaptations of her books.

  18. Brigid
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 11:48:30

    @Carolyn Jewel:
    Dear Carolyn Jewel, would you please write about the romance genre and its feminism? Not only do you know how to perfectly articulate it, but you’re an amazing writer. Sincerely, Brigid

  19. Lynnd
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 11:49:38

    @Carolyn Jewel: YES! I wholeheartedly agree with you.

  20. E
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 14:25:40

    @Carolyn Jewel:
    THANK YOU!!!! You addressed that comment, stating all I thought but would not be able to articulate half as well.

  21. Jonetta (Ejaygirl)
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 16:23:27

    The addendum just made it worse. Ouch.

  22. SAO
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 22:44:21

    @Diana
    I was being sarcastic. The thing that annoys me the most about the denigration of the romance genre is that men’s popular fiction is just as unrealistic. Take Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. He’s 6’8″ for starters, he’s, like just about every male hero, wildly attractive to women. Women he’s worked with are secretly in love with him, to the point that they’ve never married and drop everything to run and help. He can kill with one karate chop when fighting a highly trained bad guy with a gun. He’s pretty typical.

    Even Robert Langdon of the Da Vinci code starts out looking like an ordinary guy, but it turns out he’s the only guy in the world who can break the secret and in the end of the book, he, of course, gets the hot, much younger girl who is — get this, not even James Bond topped this — a direct descendent of Jesus!!!

    But, that’s realistic, right? All the people who read Dan Brown and Lee Child book weren’t sad, sorry losers who could be reading, say, Moby Dick, if they knew what was good for them.

  23. Diana
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 23:34:51

    @SAO: My comment wasn’t directed at yours at all. Sorry if it came across that way! It was just a general observation/thought I had when I finished reading the original article, not a reaction to you. :)

    I completely agree with what you’re saying about perceptions regarding fiction written for/by men and books written for/by women. There aren’t very many (that I’ve seen) condescending pieces written about the intelligence of men who enjoy reading spy or military oriented genre novels. But, of course, anything to do with women’s fiction is highly scrutinized, mocked and pretty openly dismissed. Really depressing!

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