- X is for X-Chromosomes: The Gender Binary (Part 1) – Resisting the urge to link all of Waite’s posts has been a Herculean effort. This post on gender essentialism in romance is particularly spot on.
Many a romance novel mentions how the hero/heroine is desired by all women/men — as though attraction is an objective measure, or as though gay and bisexual people don’t exist, or as though the hero/heroine’s sexual allure is a rule of physics like gravity or entropy and doesn’t involve another person’s desires or personal preferences at all. This often becomes a point of confusion for heroes in particular, puzzling over the heroine’s resistance to their advances. “Did she not know his reputation with the ladies?”
- The Berlatsky Affair: a Close Reading – Eric Sellinger, who Berlatsky quoted in his infamous canon post, weighs in on the controversy. It’s a three part series that I found interesting if nothing else.
On Twitter, after the piece went live, I mentioned to Berlatsky that we men writing about romance have to consciously try, at all times, not to be That Guy in our writing, because our training, our habits, and our editors will all encourage us to condescend to the genre, playing up stereotypes. I’ve been asked a dozen times to have my picture taken holding up a book with Fabio on the cover, and I’ve done it, because the book in question (Flowers from the Storm) is one that I’ve also written about and extol at every opportunity. That was my excuse, at least, but in retrospect, I wish that I’d said “no.”
In any case, Berlatsky answered that he’d tried very hard not to be That Guy, and seemed honestly surprised by some of the anger towards his piece. I figured I should take a second look to see where he went wrong.
- How many roads must a man walk down? – I can’t with this post, so I won’t. I’ve tried to not dislike Hall for the fawning attention he inspires and posts like this don’t help one bit.
The first thing to recognise is that oddities within any community do draw a disproportionate amount of attention, both positive and negative. You see classic examples of this with women in gaming, and it gets deeply problematic because for every Felicia Day you get a Jennifer Hepler. Obviously, romance is unusual because it’s a female dominated community so whereas women in gaming are both a minority in the hobby and marginalised along gender axes outside of it, men in romance are in the awkward position of being a minority within the genre with all the problematic baggage that implies, but having behind them the weight of a patriarchal society. This immediately presents men in the genre with an impossible dilemma. It is clearly wrong to deny your status as a privileged outsider, but it seems equally wrong to draw attention to it. To put it another way, there is a fine line between checking your privilege and, for want of a better term, waving your dick.
- Not All Men: A Brief History of Every Dude’s Favorite Argument – This seemed relevant somehow. /shrug
It’s true that previous derailment favorites like “patriarchy hurts men too” were paraphrases in a way that “not all men” is not. The demand is the same — “please move me to the center of your discussion” — but “not all men” is, in many cases, straight from the horse’s mouth; even an amateur Reddit spelunker can turn up plenty of sulky or defensive uses of the phrase.
“Not all men” also differs from “what about the men?” and other classic derails because it acknowledges that rape, sexism, and misogyny are real issues — just not, you know, real issues that the speaker is involved with in any way. The “not all men” man, at least in some cases, agrees with you and is perfectly willing to talk about how terrible those other guys are, just as soon as we get done establishing that he himself would never be such a cad.
- Blindingly White: BookCon, John Green, and Knowing When It’s Time to Speak Up – Acknowledging your privilege is only the first step. You need to also use it to work to dismantle it. Also worth reading BookRiot’s post on BookCon’s statement.
The thing is, we can’t pretend John Green’s whiteness, his maleness, and his heterosexuality aren’t central to his brand. They’re essential to his brand. The adorkable, young, slim, non-threatening, able-bodied, bookish, handsome guy who took YouTube by storm (with his adorkable, young, slim, non-threatening, able-bodied, bookish, handsome brother) would not have had the same response if he was a white woman (she’s a fake geek girl), or a black man (he’s angry/scary), or a fat woman (she’s unhealthy/a poor role model/gross), or a genderqueer person (think of the children), or a Muslim woman (let’s debate her hijab or lack of hijab), or a man with cerebral palsy (aw he’s so inspirational!), because he would not have been the fantasy. John Green is the fantasy boyfriend of nerdy girls everywhere, and he combines that with his not insignificant writing talent to be a BIG CULTURAL DEAL. I am not blaming John Green for these things. His success is not undeserved simply by virtue of his privilege. But we can’t divorce him and his success from these things, either.
John Green is aware of his privilege, and I think that’s rad. But, you know, unless he acts on it, that’s kind of like BookCon telling us all that they’re “committed to diversity.” It seems empty when all we’re hearing is silence.
- Why should men read books by women? – File this under “duh,” but it bears repeating.
To read only books by men leads to thinking that the male lens is the norm and superior and that, therefore, anything else is different and lesser and unusual and, usually, inferior. A world where we believe and act as though part of our populace is inferior is a dangerous world, and it becomes so much easier to sanction cruelty.
As with the term Lego man, it can be a subconscious thing. So let’s make it conscious – we have to decide to seek out books by women. Some will be rubbish, but pay that no more heed than you would a rubbish book by a man. It isn’t because it’s about family or because it’s about a bunch of girls (even the term sounds derogatory – how ridiculous is that?), or something domestic, or because it’s written by a woman that it’s not good, it’s simply because it’s a rubbish book.
- 17 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Girls About Sex – Every romance author out there should print this out and tape it to their monitor. I’ve seen too many of these in books.
Fueled by outdated ideals of gender roles and the sense that female sexuality is somehow shameful, there seem to be certain pernicious myths about girls and sex that just won’t die. That sex education in America has gaping holes in its curriculum hasn’t helped much, either; in a recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report just 6 out of 10 girls said that their schools’ sex ed program included information on how to say no to sex. This lack of personal agency was reflected in a forthcoming study by sociologist Heather Hlavka at Marquette University as well, which found that many young girls think of sex simply as something that is “done to them.”
Knowledge is power, and we can promote a healthier relationship with sex by encouraging a more open dialogue, teaching girls to feel comfortable with their sexuality and, most importantly, emphasizing that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. But first, we’re going to need to stop perpetuating the following 17 myths about female sexuality.
- professional hockey is a white sport – Hockey Twitter drama might be OT for this blog, but I really liked the responses @langluy had for some bloggers’ angst over a reporter joking that the NBA’s Donald Sterling should buy a hockey team if he dislikes black people so much. @langluy goes into how white men are welcome everywhere and how Subban and Iginla don’t make these numbers irrelevant.
Disregarding the fact that pretty much everywhere in the world is a safe haven for a rich, powerful white man with bigoted views, and disregarding all of hockey’s race issues (whether or not you think they exist – which I will discuss in another article because this one is already too long), these are the facts. NHL hockey is a sport run by white men, played by white men, and watched by mostly white people. Acknowledging this might make you uncomfortable, but that doesn’t make it not true.
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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.