I was a thousand feet above the ground with blood seeping from a scrape along my elbow when I finally told my close friend the secret I had been carrying for months now: I had written a book, and in six months I would be a published author.
“Romance?” she said. “That doesn’t sound like you.”
It’s no surprise she said that; we’ve all met a judgmental feminist who hasn’t bothered to read what she derides. But the truth is, my knee-jerk reaction is to agree with her. It’s hard to face that the calls are coming from inside the house; it’s even worse to realize you’re the caller. It’s probably a drunk dial. Internalized misogyny is a hell of a drug, and it took becoming a romance author to for me to realize I’m just as high as everyone else.
There is something inherently feminist about books written by (mostly) women, for (mostly) women, and about (mostly) women. That romance novels exist at all prove that women have worth, both as creators and consumers. Of course there are problematic tropes, and sometimes abuse is wrapped up to look like love. But the same can be said of “serious” literature as well.
No, what really brings out my inner misogynist-disguised-as-a-feminist is the very thing that makes romance a romance: the HEA.
Because it’s not about being happy. It’s about being happy with a man. (Or a woman, in the case of f/f, but either way, we’re still talking about an individual outside of oneself.)
Don’t you have anything better to do than think about boys? Go climb a mountain or something, says the voice inside my head. It sounds like something a feminist would say, doesn’t it? But it’s not, because what it really means is, hey, men don’t read about love, so it must be Less Than.
As a romance author, I have to let my heroines choose love. Every time I sit down to write, I remind myself: Love is not less than anything. Feminism is about autonomy, and while sex and love are biological imperatives, they are not individual mandates. It’s not an HEA just because two people get married; the heroine has to choose this ending for it to truly be happy. Love has to feel right to her.
For some women, the perfect HEA encompasses marriage and children. Others don’t want children. The marriage/children question is about lifestyle, not morals. Wanting an HEA that encompasses children does not make you any less of a feminist. It’s just a choice, like preferring bikers to cowboys, or werewolves to humans. Luckily, no matter what your perfect HEA looks like, there’s a romance to match.
And what’s more feminist than that?
Elizabeth Bright is a writer, attorney, and mother. After spending ten years in New Orleans (yes, she survived Hurricane Katrina), she relocated to Washington, D.C. to be closer to family. When she’s not writing, arguing, or mothering, she can be found hiking in the Shenandoah or rock climbing at Great Falls. Twice as Wicked is her first novel.
Elizabeth is offering, to one lucky US reader, a signed paperback copy of Twice as Wicked and a $25 Amazon gift card. Make a comment below to be entered in this drawing.