Links: Thursday, April 10th

April 10, 2014 Links 2

Cover image for a comic called Ducks. A rough black and white line drawing of a woman and a man sitting at a table at a job site. Ducks: A sketch comic about working at Fort McMurray

  • Why The Romance Genre Is Interesting, Relevant and Important – even if you think it’s bad – Jodi McAlister pens an excellent defense of the genre without stressing sales numbers. “By women, for women” notwithstanding, it’s an enthusiastic argument for romance as a genre worthy of both discussion and study.

    But you know what? IT DOESN’T MATTER. Even if you think romance is the worst genre ever and every single book published is a total piece of rubbish, these three reasons I’ve given above are reasons we need to be talking about it. Romance as a genre performs interesting, unusual, unique work. It can tell us fascinating things about culture and the way we read, and it is one of the few genres that is truly centred about women.

    Given this, how can we possibly justifying excluding romance from the greater discourse around writing and literature?

  • How Pregnancy Changed One Reviewer’s Romance Reading – Ah, the things you notice after living longer and experiencing more. Ten years ago, magical disability cures wouldn’t have fazed me. Now it’s all HULK SMASH.

    It took me a significant amount of time to get pregnant. My husband and I were just about to start looking for a fertility specialist when I conceived. During this time, I was (obviously) very stressed, and my favorite stress relief bar none is a romance novel in the bathtub. As I read, I could not freaking believe how many romance novels were full of magical infertility cures, including the most patronizing one I’ve ever read, in which the heroine’s body was “just waiting for the right man.” Because apparently my husband was the wrong man? Nothing jolts you out of your relaxation bath by being poked in the eyeball by the exact problem you got in the tub to escape, that’s for sure.

  • Female Bodies: A Weighty Issue – This is from a couple weeks ago, but it’s a great exploration of the crock of shit that is BMI and a “healthy weight.”

    We have, as a society, such a completely disordered, distorted perception of female bodies that the vast majority of people are incapable of recognising what “overweight” actually looks like on a woman, let alone “healthy”. As such, we’re now at a point where women are not only raised to hate their bodies as a matter of course, but are shown, from childhood, a wholly inaccurate picture of what they “should” look like – a narrow, nigh on impossible physical standard they are then punished, both socially and medically, for failing to attain.

    I don’t say this lightly. I say it because this is the only conclusion supported by the facts.

  • ‘Staggering’ experiment brings hope for those with paralysis – I have some mixed and complicated feelings about this, but it’s interesting research and I’m happy for anyone who finds it gives them a better quality of life.

    By coursing an electrical current through the four men’s spines, the research team, which included scientists from the Pavlov Institute of Physiology in Russia, appears to have “dialed up” signals between the brain and legs that were believed to have been completely lost.

    All four men, after being paralyzed for two to four years, can lift their legs, flex their ankles and support their own weight while standing, though only when the device embedded under their skin is turned on.

    In a response that shocked researchers, all four have regained bladder and bowel control, sexual function and the ability to regulate their blood pressure and body temperature – even when the epidural stimulation device is not running.

  • Western atheists: You aren’t illegal in Saudi Arabia – I really need Western atheists to just stop. Their Islamophobia and need to center themselves in every discussion about religious abuse isn’t cute.

    By declaring themselves “illegal in Saudi Arabia,” Western atheists co-opt an opportunity to direct attention to ongoing human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

    It’s not much of an act of solidarity to deprive Saudi human rights activists—who may or may not be atheists—of much-needed global attention.

    Instead, this decree should be viewed as a chance to remind the world that Raif Badawi could still be put to death for apostasy, or to put public pressure on the Obama administration to finally address the subject of human rights with our Saudi allies—something President Obama refused to do as recently as last week.

  • Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person… – This is definitely a anti-oppression 101 post, but it seems like it could be a handy bookmark you could whip out if you’re ever trying to explain how privilege works to someone playing the “But I grew up poor!” card.

    Years ago, some feminist on the internet told me I was “Privileged.”

    “THE FUCK!?!?” I said.

    I came from the kind of Poor that people don’t want to believe still exists in this country. Have you ever spent a frigid northern Illinois winter without heat or running water? I have. At twelve years old, were you making ramen noodles in a coffee maker with water you fetched from a public bathroom? I was. Have you ever lived in a camper year round and used a random relative’s apartment as your mailing address? We did. Did you attend so many different elementary schools that you can only remember a quarter of their names? Welcome to my childhood.

    So when that feminist told me I had “white privilege,” I told her that my white skin didn’t do shit to prevent me from experiencing poverty.

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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.

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2 Responses to “Links: Thursday, April 10th”

  1. Roslyn Holcomb

    Yeah, I left social work after I had my first child. Now I’m back and it’s like WHOA! Everything feels totally different. I can’t help but see myself in these cases. I’m not sure I would be particularly effective if I were still a frontline worker.

  2. lawless

    Even Jodi McAllister’s “defense” of the romance genre doesn’t really directly address the core artistic (as opposed to commercial) reason romance matters: its emotional resonance. (She comes close with reason #3, but doesn’t hit the nail on the head, imo.) Secondarily, it’s an exploration of the importance of relationships to women and what relationships mean to them.

    It may well be that romance novels will never appeal to men as long as society thinks that love, romance, and navel-gazing about relationships (romantic or platonic) is a girl thing, and even if that wasn’t an issue, men don’t read in the numbers women do. But as long as romance is written to appeal to the way women are socialized, it will not only suffer from the stigma of female lack of power in society vis-a-vis men but from the fact that its potential appeal is limited to half the population. How does this compare to a genre that is romance’s equivalent in terms of appeal to men and lack of appeal to women? The only such genre I can think of is maybe action/adventure. Or certain non-fiction subjects. (The only other thing I can think of porn aimed at men, and as an artistic matter, I’m not sure it makes sense to include it because it doesn’t have the same expectations on writing style and plot as romance.) While the best-selling books such a genre may get reviews (Jack Reacher, anyone?) and they’re not sneered at as much, I don’t know as they get much more in the way of attention from literary reviewers than romance.

    Also, it makes me want to hurt something whenever someone points to the mystery genre as proof that romance is not formulaic or that other genres are formulaic as great an extent. That overlooks the fact that all that the mystery genre requires is for us to know whodunit at the end and for getting there to make sense; it doesn’t require a certain tone, so it can be as cynical as one wants; expectations as to how characters should act (especially morally) are far less constrained (with the possible exception of the detective, who may be expected to pursue justice or to otherwise act in a morally satisfying fashion vis-a-vis the case); mysteries can be realistic, escapist, or anywhere in between and still be within the genre, Genre conventions don’t even require that the perpetrators be brought to justice, although an author who doesn’t at least kill them off at the end most of the time may well be shunned.

    Full disclosure: I’m female and I agree with much of the criticism aimed at romance; it’s just that most of such criticism is condescendingly written, poorly researched, and riddled with factual errors. Most m/f genre romance bores or angers me, and while it’s possible to write feminist m/f romance, the underpinning of the genre is anti-feminist: heterosexual love and relationships are privileged above all else in life, which comes close to, even if it might not be exactly equivalent to, “women are nothing without men.”

    On the other hand, there are romance novels and authors whose work I consistently enjoy (Sherry Thomas, Courtney Milan, Mary Stewart, Loretta Chase, Jeannie Lin). I also have fewer problems with m/m romance and enjoy that genre/subgenre considerably more.