Real life and fiction are two separate things - we all know that. In fiction, women and men meet, hate each other on sight, sleep together, are separated, get back together and live Happily Ever After. It's called romance, and the formula is employed in one fashion or another in all the romance books published - from 'Forever Amber' to the latest Linda Howard book - and romance books are the bestselling books in America - keep that in mind.
But I wonder what effect all these romance books have on the easily influenced minds of young women all over America. When I hear about the teenage pregnancy rate and the unwed mother rate, and the latest story about the 23 year old woman who tossed her three children into the sea to drown, (if you do your math you'll see that she was only 17 when she had her first child) I wonder if romance books have somehow placed the reality bar too high. The happy-ever-after that these women are longing for never happens for them. They stay unmarried, on welfare, on medicaid, with kids to raise and few people to help them. If someone wants to write a realistic romance, it wouldn't be a very cheerful book.
In reality, young girls fall in love every two weeks or so, while boys just want to screw (I dare you to deny this, young men) and the results are often tragic. With the rise of formula romance books, women's lib fell back - the cult of the alpha male wiping out a decade of education and women's rights gains. Women everywhere read books where a woman's ulitmate 'happy ending' was walking up the church aisle dressed in white. The princess bride, daddy's little girl; the myth of a woman's place in life that had finally been vanquished in the sixties and seventies came back with a vengence. When I go to the US, I am shocked at how woman have slid backwards to the mentality of the fifties, where a woman's place was in her home raising the kids, and the man was superior to woman.
In Egypt right now, a woman is running for a seat in the government on a conservative ticket. This woman is speaking out Against women working, and saying clearly that according to her religion, Islam, men are superior to women. The problem with this picture is that in all religions men are portrayed as being superior to women. What we have to remember is that MEN wrote the bibles and religious law books - not women. For centuries, men have used these books as a way to control women. Now women are writing books that Millions of other women are reading. And instead of using this opportunity to empower women, they are staying within the confines that men have drawn for them.
Give me some examples of romance books (other than Gone with the Wind) that empower women? (and look how hard Scarlet had to fight and how her society looked down on her) In which books do heroines fight for equality and don't see love and marriage as the only goal worth having? In most books I read, the woman is submissive. In real life she is too. In most books I read the future is rarely discussed between couples. The woman invariably has the 'lesser' job (waitress, nanny, secretary, or assistant). Women hardly ever take control of their lives in books. Women often rely on men to help them or get them out of trouble. Women fall in love first.
Only in a romance book will a woman get pregnant and amnesiac and wander off to be found by an unmarried cowboy who is willing to keep her around (for housework? For cooking?) and they will fall in love and somehow it will turn out that the pregnant woman is not already married, and the baby will somehow vanish (miscarriage or some sort of high drama) and the couple will end up HEA...
When are we going to start writing books that empower woman and teach girls that education and ambition are good? When are publishers going to start accepting books that show women kicking the hero out because he's an arrogant and violent, and have her find someone who is intelligent, hard working, and willing to accept her as his equal?
It's no mystery that the best-selling books my erotica publisher has are BDSM - where women are submissive and the males abusive. No matter the authors try to portray the relationship as equal and loving, in reality, the relationship is skewed and demeening.
But more and more women are buying these books, reinforcing their uncounscious feelings of inferiority and need to be punished for their 'sinful' thoughts of their own sexual freedom, which often involve adultery, mulitple partners, and uninhibited sex - but these feelings are not supposed to belong to women, so they fall back on books where woman are beaten and dominated in order to put their own secrets back into their 'proper' place.
In real life relationships are often unequal.
"When," asked an English socialogist, "are women going to hold men responsible for their acts? When will they stop taking resposibility, raising their children, wahsing their clothes, cooking their meals and letting them get away with the myth of 'the Breadwinner'? When you understand that men commit 90% of all violent crimes all over the world - regardless of race, religion, or nationality, you understand that the problem is not with society - the problem is with men."
If women are going to be writing books that other women read, why not write books that address the problem of alpha males instead of celebrating them?
When will our books start being helpful for the 17 year old who has her whole life in front of her - not just a wedding?