I’m not joking when I say I’ve written about a dozen versions of this article. And so I can truthfully say: if you think this version is harsh, you should see the original!
Now, Romance Community: we have a big problem.
Yes, I attended the 2015 Australian Romance Readers Convention in Canberra. Yes, things were fascinating. Yes, the keynote speakers inspired me. Yes, there were some amazing, lovely people there.
However… Yes. I was very, VERY unhappy with some things, and these are things I’ve been complaining about long before this event.
- The romance community is out of touch.
- Romance readers and writers are a little misogynistic.
- Romance readers and writers are a little sexist when it comes to men. (If I heard one more stupid comment about men ONLY being attractive if they have black hair… Well… my gorgeous thirty-one year old brother met me at the hotel venue at the end of the conference, and he turned MANY heads – even though he was one of those “unattractive” men who didn’t fit the stupid romance reader-writer cliché).
- Romance readers and writers seem to think the only valid opinions on any of these matters come from people over fifty.
Does this apply to everyone? No, of course not. However, the romance community is startlingly cliquey, and they’re not even the slightest bit interested in interacting with people anywhere near the ages of the characters they’re reading and writing about. I swear, the number of times my attempts at conversation were met with a polite smile followed by a turned back (and while I’m very outspoken online, I struggle A LOT with shyness in public, so it was a huge effort for me)…
I went downstairs to the bar every lunch and afternoon tea because I found few people willing to leave their little cliques and talk to me. I paid for a lot of food I never ate because I was made to feel very uncomfortable upstairs with the other attendees. I drank Prosecco instead. Rather a lot of it – and it was expensive.
I turned a lot of thoughts over while I enjoyed my overpriced wine.
I’m thirty-three. And these convention attendees thought I was – at an age OLDER than almost every romance heroine – too young and too stupid to waste their time on. How can you respect or realistically portray women of my age in books if you can’t even exchange hellos with us in real life?
More effort should have been made to welcome and include younger readers – particularly so for any discussions on YA and NA books.
That’s why I’m reading so-called contemporary fiction where Navy SEALs say things like, “He didn’t have the wherewithal to do it.”
That’s why the (so-called) heroine in Fifty Shades of Grey hilariously, ridiculously doesn’t have a phone or an email address.
That’s why so many books still come with the evil “other woman” who is always slim and blonde.
That’s why so many younger (under forty-five) readers aren’t interested in category romances; they’re considered too old-fashioned.
The romance genre is too often out of touch because – as I learnt at ARRC 2015 – the romance community is by and large made up of women of a certain age, race, size and attitude, and this is very much NOT the type of woman who features in romance books.
It’s disappointing. But I’ve decided I’m not backing out. I’d very much like to see this divide gone. I want to walk into a “Welcome Drinks” event at a romance conference without receiving nasty “joke” comments about everything from my eye makeup (I mean, GOSH, imagine wearing a bit of makeup to a “smart casual” function!) to the fact I’m not overweight.
I shouldn’t leave a function feeling bad about myself.
I want to have a place where romance readers and writers respect the women they’re writing about instead of treating them like underage lepers.
Because, if you cannot respect or understand women in their twenties and thirties, you have no business writing or reading about them!