Friday, May 28, 2010
My blog host wanted to surprise me with some stamps displaying my book cover. Sadly, the postage provider denied the request based on the following criteria:
--- Design may be considered obscene, pornographic, or sexually suggestive, including most depictions of artistic nudity.
--- Design includes material that XXXXX believes would hurt its reputation.
It’s not the first time a romance cover has elicited such a response. Some romance novels have been banned by certain stores due to their covers and it’s no secret that at least one large chain has enough power to suggest changes to both book titles and covers.
So why is it that romance novels get such scrutiny? Why is it that an assortment of men’s magazines can show so much more skin and yet face no such censorship? Or for that matter, why is that romance novels have earned monikers such as “trash” or “porn? and that some men believe that romances instill unrealistic relationship ideals in woman?
Cutting to the chase – romance novels oftentimes contain sexual matter, sometimes explicit, but there are also many romances without sex or that are inspirational. Romance novels do portray relationships that are idealistic, whether the hero happens to be a vampire, Navy SEAL or pirate. In fact, all romance novels have one thing in common – they believe in a happily-ever-after. That’s the big payoff for romance readers – an emotionally fulfilling ending.
The question is: Does a woman taking control of her life to find emotional (and physical) satisfaction warrant censure?
I hope your answer to that question is a big “No.”
Why shouldn’t women read novels where they can identify with the heroine, cheer with her when she accomplishes her goals , enjoy the depiction of a relationship that is fulfilling, and along the way, be entertained? And as for those critics who say that women can’t separate fiction from real life, do we ask men who read Ian Fleming the same thing? Do we worry that men may slip into the persona of James Bond because they are not intelligent enough to understand that they are not superspies?
Of course not. To imply that women cannot make that distinction is blatant chauvinism. Now we’ve finally gotten to the crux of why romance novels get trashed – because they are totally dedicated to women and those things that women consider important.
By now you are probably wondering why I’m so passionate about the romance industry. The answer is simple: I’m passionate about the romance industry because I’m passionate about women.
I want to write books that entertain and enlighten women and by writing romance I am doing just that. Not to mention that the romance industry is mostly run by women. From publishers to editors to agents to authors to readers, women rule the roost.
Another reason why romances and the romance industry are likely subject to chauvinistic attack.
Rather silly considering that 2009 romance sales were estimated to be $1.36 billion (yes, BILLION) and that nearly 74.8 million people read at least one romance in 2008. In addition, romance was the top performing category on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists.
What’s even sadder is that romances are unfortunately often attacked by women. It’s not unusual for me to hear another female say to me at a book signing that they do not read “that trash.” I even had a recent incident where the subtle and not so subtle tones of a female interview host conveyed dismay that she had to question a paperback writer of “questionable” commercial fiction.
Bottom line: Don’t judge a book or author by a cover. Today’s romances are far different from the five and dime novels that launched the genre. Today’s romances deal with real life issues that are of interest to women. Romance novels satisfy and entertain and the romance industry economically supports a large number of women in various positions in publishing.
So do something for women’s liberation today – pick up a romance novel!