Note: This is a political post. But as always, I shall remain as non-partisan as possible.
This year has been an interesting one for the romance genre. Between the romance genre being a source of comfort (and resistance) for readers in the aftermath of the 2016 election and the evolving conversation around consent and the role of the alpha male hero in romance that has only become more pronounced in the second half of the year as sexual harassment allegations dominated the headlines, I don’t think the genre has has been as talked about, within the community and outside of it.
But even a woman who, for some, embodies female empowerment, can be ill-informed about romance and the progress that has been made. Ironically, she compared the much-beloved genre to the tales of sexual harassment from the headlines, stating, “The whole romance novel industry is about women being grabbed and thrown on a horse and ridden off into the distance.”
Romance readers and authors, of course, did not take kindly to the comment. #RomancenovelsforHillary became a hashtag on Twitter. One author, Cecelia Mecca, wrote, “If you honestly believe a woman w/ a Ph.D. in education raised by a strong single mother would make a career writing literature that subjugates women, the only logical conclusion I can draw is that you haven’t read a romance novel lately.” Christopher Rice, while not calling out Hillary directly, wrote, “I continue to be astonished by the speed and ease with which those who have apparently never read a romance novel use the term ‘romance novels’ as a slur against pretty much anything they don’t like.” And both Lisa Kleypas and Maya Rodale wrote their own letters to her to her in major publications, through which they hoped to educate her about the value of romance for empowered women.
However, very mention of the name “Hillary Clinton” might get two reactions. Rodale declares herself a Clinton supporter in her piece, but whether you support her or not should not affect your opinion of her comments. People were quick to contradict Kleypas’ naming Clinton a romance heroine in the title of her piece, with one commenter stating, that she is “definitely not a romance heroine that I would want to read about. But not surprising that she is still casting blame all over the place.” Another commenter said, “That woman is only a heroine to un/undereducated fools. Her days outside lockup are numbered.” However, another injected some levity into the conversation, saying, “Dear H, so sorry your knight in shinning armor turned out to be an a-hole in tinfoil. But don’t be trying to brainwash our girls from ever knowing what a real prince is.”
But underneath the comedy of it all, this commenter may be right. Hillary wields influence as a political figure, and with the negative image of romance novels still lingering, a comment from someone with political power and/or media presence could further shift the public perception about romance novels, and keep people from discovering the truth about this wonderful genre that empowers both women and men.