Wow, you guys are really on the "we think we're edgy" but we're really sexist train here. I won't bore you or Mr. Smith with the extraordinary accomplishments of these four women or the phenomenal success of romance in the publishing world. I will ask: If this night had featured authors who wrote books about murder, incest, dismemberment, or random violence against women, would you have written such a condescending blurb?
I'd like to explain why in the hopes that, the next time the INDY covers romance, they understand why romance novels and those who write them deserve to be treated with respect.
Why am I bothering to do so? Because I care about the INDY. I've been a reader for decades, have been interviewed by your reporters, and have good friends who are employed there. For as long as I've lived in the Triangle, the Independent Weekly has stood up for the marginalized and illuminated the lives of those the mainstream media here rarely bothers to explore. I've come to expect compassion and intelligence from you.
I think we can all agree that sexism is alive and well in 2014. With the exception of education where I believe an argument could be made that women are beginning to have parity with men, in virtually every area of society, women’s work is demeaned, dismissed, and devalued. Even when women are exceedingly successful, those accomplishments are routinely minimalized.
Which brings us to romance novels. Romance dominates today’s fiction world. Last year, the industry brought in over 1.6 billion dollars. As a genre, it out earns horror, suspense, mystery, science fiction, and inspirational. And, though there are men who read and write romance, it is by and large an industry for and by women. It’s a wildly successful, diverse, moneymaking industry that is, despite that, routinely mocked, usually by those who don’t read romance.
Sarah Wendell, the brilliant woman who runs the influential website Smart Women, Trashy Books, wrote an insightful article covering HarperCollins/NewsCorp's acquisition of Harlequin.
In it she writes,
You'd think that this was enough of a story with very wide reaching ramifications that business reporters would be able to take it seriously.
But instead of examining the differences between the two companies, how Harlequin has often led the way in digital transitions in romance, how readers perceive the different publishers as brands, how each publisher has markedly different approaches to reader cultivation, library relations, and community building, and how each has followed very different timelines for all of the above plus many other initiatives in digital and print publishing, it's much easer and a well-worn path to just make sex jokes and call it a day.
One reason why I'm particularly disappointed is that this is an area of the publishing world I know little about, except to watch what happens when Random House and Penguin merge (so far: press releases, meetings, email address confusion, then layoffs and redundancies).
It's really that difficult to see this as a business transaction that has considerable ramifications -global ramifications - for writers, employees, and readers?
Apparently. Because, as usual, when the business is about women, it's not worth the time to come up with something new or even interesting. Thanks for the reminder.
So, one reason others and I were so irked by your coverage is that it’s part of what we call everyday sexism. We experience this every damn day and it’s pissing us off.
There is a second reason the blurb was so awful. It was, unintentionally I’m sure, demeaning to the authors all of whom are astonishingly accomplished.
Jessica Scott who is pursuing a PhD at Duke and will be teaching at the US Military Academy next year is a career army officer who has served in Iraq. She’s written for the NYT At War Blog, was featured as one of Esquire Magazine’s Americans of the Year 2012, and has served twice a company commander at Fort Hood. She’s also a mother of two.
Jennifer Lohmann is a UChicago grad, a local librarian in Durham, was chosen as RWA Librarian of the year, won Harlequin’s “So You Think You Can Write” contest, has just published her fifth book, and is a tireless promoter for literacy in Durham. She recently won a Readers’ Choice Award for best first novel.
Katharine Ashe (who is in academic circles known as Katharine DuBois), has a PhD in religious history, has taught at University of Michigan, and, until she quit to write fiction full-time, was a visiting professor at Duke. She is a mom as well.
Virginia Kantra has published over twenty best-selling books, teaches professional writers workshops for authors, and is a mother of three. Her recent series is set in Dare County, NC.
I hope this helps explain why I found your blurb so offensive.
Partner at All About Romance
Race and genre are not remotely similar, yes. Race and gender, however, usually are considered to be so.
It's not just me who is offended by this. If you are on Twitter, the @indyweek tag is being criticized by women writers for being offensive and sexist. Here's hoping the INDY listens and rethinks their attitude toward romance.
It's sexist in that this was a professional event featuring four women speaking about their work. He belittles the work--the books mentioned--and their writers. When women speak about everyday sexism this is the sort of thing they're talking about. Work done by women that is, in general, utilized by women, is mocked as a way to diminish its power. That's why I'm playing the sexist card.
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