How Romance Books Have the Power to Empower Women (#metoo)
It’s ongoing. It’s pervasive. It’s hidden in plain sight. Women experience this from an early age until it’s ingrained in our minds, in our world views, in our very identities. Maybe we don’t even see it until it’s pointed out to us. Until some brave woman takes a stand to say ‘Enough is Enough.’
I watched a powerful video recently. Oprah Winfrey stood before an audience of Hollywood actors and actresses, directors, producers, men and women from all walks of life, and an international audience far and wide. And she spoke her truth.
“For too long, women have not been heard, or believed, if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. BUT THEIR TIME IS UP!“
I felt so many powerful emotions watching this speech, but specifically starting at this point (6:31). And I don’t know a single woman whose heart wouldn’t swell with pride and resounding excitement to those words – BUT THEIR TIME IS UP!
As a woman, I know what it is to live in a culture inundated with the message that my identity and self worth is tied to my sexuality and what men think I have to offer them. As a romance author, I have a voice that may not have the same reach as this amazing woman, Oprah Winfrey, but I do have the amazing opportunity to reach women in a unique and powerful way, all the same.
See, I write about women. Strong women. Women with brains. Women who don’t sit back and take the shit from men that we, as women, have to deal with every single day of our lives. Shit that most men don’t even have the slightest clue about, because we keep it quiet. We don’t talk about it. We ignore it so that we don’t bring more attention to it, and maybe it will go away.
In the books I read, romance books I love so much, books by amazing authors like Lauren Blakely, Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, Rye Hart, Elodie Colt, L.M. Halloran, Maria Luis, Faleena Hopkins, J. Saman, Kharma Kelley, Patricia Briggs, Linsey Hall, and so many others… there are women in these stories who light the way to what we, as women, are really and truly looking for.
To be loved, cherished, and respected for the person we are. Not for just our looks, not just for our sexuality or what we can offer a man for his sexual gratification. Women have minds. We are resourceful, courageous, and forces in our own rights. We have thoughts, opinions, talents, abilities, skills that apply outside the confines of a bedroom. Our worth is more than our reproductive organs. We have an infinite amount more to offer and contribute to this world, and these things should not be stifled by the thoughtless, selfish, ridiculous attitudes and biases of men.
In romance books, at least the good ones, and at least the ones I’ve read, it’s not the selfish, bigoted, narcissistic men who get the women worth getting. Even if the men start out that way, they don’t get the girl from being that way. They get the girl by changing and learning a different way. Call it a character arc, call it overcoming obstacles, call it resolving conflict, or what-have you. This can be a powerful message to the women, and even men, who read romance books. And as romance writers, there’s more than just that message if you look close enough.
To me, romance books send these message to women (and if they don’t, they should!):
Make men work for it! Teach men that you demand respect and you command respect. NEVER accept anything less, regardless of what you look like.
Men who make you feel like nothing more than a sexual object are not the Heroes meant for your Happily Ever After. If that’s who you’re with now, you’re not done yet. Keep looking.
Men who treat women this way still have work to do on themselves. If they aren’t working on it, or aren’t willing to, then maybe it’s time to look for someone who is.
Few good romance book heroines go through life alone. They have best friends, sisters, sidekicks of some form or fashion. They have mentors to help them on their way. Don’t make men the end-all-be-all in your lives. Keep your sidekicks and mentors around and nurture those relationships so that they are there when you need them.
Be the woman worthy of a great Hero! Don’t tie your entire identity to your sexuality. Find what breathes color into your life and build your identity around what makes you strong, what makes you respect yourself. Be the leading lady of your own story.
What Other Messages Have You Gotten From Romance Books You Wish Other Women Would See?
Let me know your thoughts down in the comments. This isn’t just about me, it’s about all of us. It’s about being empowered and giving yourself the credit you deserve.