- BREAKING NEWS: Media Still Sexist In Reporting of Romance Industry – It was announced on Friday that News Corp was buying Harlequin and putting it under Harper Collins. The news coverage was exactly as “clever” as you thought it would be and littered with sniggering and bad puns. Heidi Cullinan wrote a great post about how insulting it all was.
Because today when it was announced that Harlequin Enterprises, who advertise themselves as “We Are Romance,” was sold to News Corp, we didn’t receive reporting on what such an unexpected, potentially industry-changing merger would mean, or what this did to the outstanding lawsuit against Harlequin. We didn’t get gravity and insight, or attempts at insight into what this might mean—not often, not overall.
The media, largely, regarded this as a women’s issue. Instead of reporting, we received jokes, insulting satire, and an umbrella reminder that despite what this might mean for the money and power and influence to the culture of reading in the twenty-first century, romance novels are about women, and women are ridiculous.
- Media Coverage of the Harlequin Acquisition: It Could be Worse. No, Actually, It Couldn’t. – Smart Bitches also has a takedown of the media coverage of the deal.
You’d think that this was enough of a story with very wide reaching ramifications that business reporters would be able to take it seriously.
But instead of examining the differences between the two companies, how Harlequin has often led the way in digital transitions in romance, how readers perceive the different publishers as brands, how each publisher has markedly different approaches to reader cultivation, library relations, and community building, and how each has followed very different timelines for all of the above plus many other initiatives in digital and print publishing, it’s much easer and a well-worn path to just make sex jokes and call it a day.
- On “Slut Shelves” and Eating Our Own In Fiction – A number of people on Goodreads have books shelved as “slut” for when books have a heroine who has sex and this post talks about how we teach girls to police themselves in this way.
Evan isn’t condemned by readers for his sexual choices. He’s a player, and he’s unabashed about the way he seeks out girls and then sleeps with them. Mesrobian does not shy away from depicting Evan as a player. It’s part and parcel of who he is.
Ava, though, who had sex one time in Duncan’s book, is a slut.
Callie, the main character in Trish Doller’s Where the Stars Still Shine, another title on this Goodreads slut shelf, has just come out of a sexually abusive household, and when she finds a guy — just one — whom she finds herself sexually attracted to, she pursues and engages in those desires. It’s the first time she’s felt like her body belongs to her and not the hands of any number of older men abusing her, and she is ready to allow herself control of her own sexuality.
- MFA VS. POC – Junot Díaz writes about his experience with the MFA program at Cornell and how it failed the POC who attended it.
It’s been twenty years since my workshop days and yet from what I gather a lot of shit remains more or less the same. I’ve worked in two MFA programs and visited at least 30 others and the signs are all there. The lack of diversity of the faculty. Many of the students’ lack of awareness of the lens of race, the vast silence on these matters in many workshop. I can’t tell you how often students of color seek me out during my visits or approach me after readings in order to share with me the racist nonsense they’re facing in their programs, from both their peers and their professors. In the last 17 years I must have had at least three hundred of these conversations, minimum. I remember one young MFA’r describing how a fellow writer (white) went through his story and erased all the ‘big’ words because, said the peer, that’s not the way ‘Spanish’ people talk. This white peer, of course, had never lived in Latin America or Spain or in any US Latino community—he just knew. The workshop professor never corrected or even questioned said peer either. Just let the idiocy ride. Another young sister told me that in the entire two years of her workshop the only time people of color showed up in her white peer’s stories was when crime or drugs were somehow involved. And when she tried to bring up the issue in class, tried to suggest readings that might illuminate the madness, her peers shut her down, saying Our workshop is about writing, not political correctness. As always race was the student of color’s problem, not the white class’s.
- Blogging Against Disableism Day 2014: Sheltered Workshops – Sheltered Workshops are labor exploitation through and through. There’s no dignity in starvation wages.
The disability rights movement has fought back long and hard against this model of employment. We resist the notion that some people should be paid less than others on the basis of disability status (a highly discriminatory pay scale like this is offensive and illegal), and we also resist the idea that disabled people should be isolated from society in sheltered workshop environments where they can’t interact with people or develop rich community ties. The pushback against sheltered workshops is part of the larger community-based living movement, which defends our right to live (and work) in communities, not institutional environments.
- Flaws Only A Protagonist Could Have – Mallory Ortberg is just consistently on point over at the Toast. These “flaws” slayed me.
She wasn’t perfect. Her mouth was, if anything, a trifle too full, like an overflowing Cupid’s bow.
“Would you…do you think you would like to go to the dance with me?” she asked sportsball captainback.
“That’s disgusting,” he said, sneering. “Your lips are beautiful and kissable and someone better than me is going to point that out to you in just a few years. Get out of my way.”
She cried out of her eyes. One of the eyes had a little freckle in it, which made her disgusting.
- Romance Is a Feminist Genre – This roundtable with romance authors is on a comics website and it’s an interesting outsider view of the genre that isn’t full of mansplaining. There’s a focus on fanfiction romance and some ideas I just throw my hands up at in frustration.
What do you see for the future of romance in terms of content, publishing models, and popularity?
Honestly, it’s anything goes. We’re seeing people jump from fanfiction into self-publishing and then on into a traditional publishing model. We’re seeing continual crossovers (as referenced in Scalzi’s post) between genres — if there’s any one guarantee, it’s that people love relationships, again, regardless of what form they take, they will always be at the heart of most storytelling and at the core of most relationships is love.
In terms of romance as a genre, I hope it continues to evolve to the point where perhaps a Happily Ever After isn’t the be-all / end-all by which the genre is ultimately defined. I can’t wait to see where the writers who are continuing to explore and expand its boundaries take the genre.
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Trigger Warnings – It’s been a while since trigger warnings have been the big discussion topic, but I liked this look at what we’re saying about trauma and its victims when we dismiss warnings as coddling and censorship.
I’m also baffled by this assumption that trigger warnings are meant to prevent us from having to see or feel anything difficult–that the only way one responds to a trigger is by falling apart. Being triggered doesn’t mean you fall apart or are overcome by stereotypically feminized hysterics. Trauma responses can include a huge range of reactions, including physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, and heart palpitations and emotional ones, like anxiety or numbness. Sometimes being triggered looks like getting really quiet and sitting through something until you can get somewhere safe to take care of yourself. Sometimes it looks like someone going on as though nothing has happened at all and then having a really terrible nightmare that night.
Likewise, I’m not sure why a trigger warning has to imply censoring someone or stopping something. A “warning” is just that, and if you know what to expect–that you’re about to see something upsetting–you can plan in advance how you’ll handle it and how you’ll get through it. And we often warn people when they are about to see things that might be disturbing, whether we know them to be trauma survivors or not.
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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.