Michelle Dewbs said something that really resonates with me, "For me, I regard myself as absolutely equal. All around this table, beyond this table, in the work place, in the social... I regard myself as an equal person. I don't think you're better than me. I don't think you're better than me. I just think we're all the same. I want to see woman do well. I think it's awesome when girls do brilliant things but I also think it's awesome when guys do awesome things."
"I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men."
"Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."
And back then, that was completely true. Women who wrote used male pen names because it wasn't a suitable thing for a woman to do. Jane Austen and other authoresses like her, changed everything for us that would come later and they did it so well. Their female protagonists were mostly formidable creatures. Even Emma, the brat, had a strength about her that was easy to admire. She had for years fulfilled the role of her dead mother without complaint. Sense and Sensibility's Elinor was strong in a way that women of her time weren't. She worked hard. She did her family's accounts - she did the man of house jobs. Elizabeth, from P and P, was her father's favourite because of her intelligence and wit. Things that weren't considered attractive by society's standard of that day.
I wonder what future generations will think about the women of today based on the books we write? I'm not saying it's all bad. It's not. To use an easy example, Fifty Shades of Grey? What does that tell us about women today?
It tells us that we care about money. That the average man is beneath us.
How many books are there out there that are about Billionaires? Don't worry, I'm not judging, I love them too. I'm just asking a question. Is that really the lesson we want to teach future generations? That men can do whatever they want, if they are powerful and rich enough? I don't think that's any of our intentions but it does paint an interesting picture.
It tells us that we like to be degraded
I love books that involve a bit of kink. I don't have a problem with bondage or a little bit of pain. If that's what gets your character off, then it's part of who they are. BDSM is a lifestyle and that's okay too. But write it right. BDSM isn't about degradation. It's about trust and respect. It might not be for you and I could never fully submit so I get how you feel if it's not your thing, but you still have to write it right. In my first series, the Rules Series, I looked at the idea of control because it's a real thing. It's not just guys who want to be in control. On some level most people want to be in control, at least of themselves. In the end, the two character Aurora and Landon came to the conclusion that they could share control. That it was safe to lose control with the other. That they could give the other their control. It was an equal exchange between them. Now not every relationship is like that but we need to be fair to everyone, not everyone is as submissive as Anna or as weak. Because lets be real, real submission, involves trust to a level that is beyond what Anna was giving, real submission is a sign of strength - a strength I don't have might I add. I'm a control freak.
It tells us that we are usually unable to look after ourselves
Seriously, the days of hero legends like Hercules are way over and yet we seem to have fallen into the trap of letting our female protagonists act like damsels in distress. They can't pay their bills so a billionaire has to rescue them, seriously could you be more disrespectful to women kind? Sorry. That was a bit ranty but still true. They need him to give her a job, get her a better car, get her a nicer apartment... wtf??? We're better than this. Women are better than this. Yes, sometimes we need picking up but not as often as contemporary romance is suggesting.
It tells us the easiest way to shut us up is sex
How many times do we have to end an argument with a sex scene? Sometimes it makes sense and it really adds something to the story but other times it just looks like the only way he's going to win is to fuck her. It's crude and shows a lack of intimacy and if that's your point then I totally support you, but if that isn't the message you're trying to give, then stop and think. Ask yourself what you are trying to say. Change it up. Have her cry. Have him kiss her tears away. Have her walk away or slap him if he's being a bastard but don't let her give up on the fight because her vagina is weak!
It tells us that women are still expected to be inexperienced
VIRGINS! It's more common than almost any other plotline and I'm guilty of it too. I wrote Aurora as a virgin because it fitted with her character. But as a general rule, why do we keep re-writing this? The truth is that innocence isn't something that our society expects in every day like, if anything it's embarrassing for most young people. I wish it wasn't true. I wish they were more empowered not to feel virgin shamed but unfortunately it happens. So why do the books we read make it sound like it happens every day? It's like the 1900s again when women were expected to be completely pure whilst men were allowed to be as naughty and roguish as they liked. It sets a double standard and that's not cool. Although I did read a book about a male billionaire virgin - that one really did something to stamp out the stereotypes.
I'm not saying the books we read and write are bad. They're not. I love them. There's no world in which I will stop reading romance books but I just wish we (me included) would sometimes think about what message we're delivering. The pen is a powerful tool. Back in the day, not many people's pens were heard or read but today we have an open platform and our words can inspire or destroy - it's completely up to us authors. With great power comes great responsibility. Jane Austen and the like, taught us what a woman should look like, lets not let our predecessors down. Rant over.