I’ve noticed a trend on several Bookstagram accounts I follow. It is a good trend, and I am all for it. At the root, it’s about making sure female authors have the same opportunity male authors do to be on your bookshelves and receive awards when it’s time for those literary trophies to be handed out. Equality=good.
One specific part of this growing movement stuck out to me, and I’m going to give you my thoughts on it. For free, even.
The challenge for Bookstagrammers one day was to turn around every book on their shelves written by male authors to leave the blank pages facing out, but leave the spines facing out for every female author. This made a powerful visual. Lots of shelves looking like a sea of white pages, with small islands of color. A few were colorful shelves, with the occasional spot of white. Out of curiosity, I did the same thing to my shelves.
And I found out that being a Romance fan has automatically filled my shelves with female authors. Except for my Terry Pratchett shelf, I had bookcases worth of spines faced outward, proudly displaying female author names. Romance is and always has been a female dominated genre.
In a way, this means that feminism already has a strong foothold in romance. No one has to campaign for women to be able to write in this genre. There won’t need to be an awareness initiative to bring attention to how few ladies are putting pen to paper to turn out happily ever afters. No hashtags required. We’re already here.
Fun fact: now that I’m starting to get to know my fellow authors better, I’m meeting men who write romance under a female pen name, so they’ll fit in and be published. Not all of them do this, but a lot do. Imagine it for a minute. A male name on the cover of something like “Deal with a Duke”. Would you take them seriously? Chances are, no.
So on one hand, females are already the alphas when it comes to Romance.
On the other hand . . . it’s Romance.
This is the lowest common denominator, pulp fiction, trashy novel, bodice ripper genre. I say this as a proud author in the sub-genre that is even more looked down upon than regular romance (which is erotic romance). It’s not such a big deal that women already rule here, because it’s the kingdom that no one else wants. Like owning a whole island in the northern Atlantic. Sure, you own every inch of it, but that’s because no one else in their right mind wanted to buy it. Romance Writer’s of America has their own awards ceremony because no other awards exist. When was the last time you saw a Pulitzer Prize logo above a clinch cover?
This is a classic example of a clinch cover, in case you were wondering:
New York Times bestsellers? Absolutely. Badges for Amazon #1 top selling titles? Romance authors are #1 on a lot of those lists. Literary prize winners? Booker Prize? National Book Awards? Costa Book Awards? We’re not even on there.
This Instagram photo challenge ended up challenging me. Yes, when it comes to Romance you will find plenty of female authors. But it feels like we’re still not equal. Not when it comes to having the respect of the rest of the literary community. Women are cracking glass and earning awards left and right in SciFi, Fantasy, Horror, and Literary Fiction.
Maybe it’s time the women in Romance asked for the right to stand up beside them.