I have thoughts I need to share.
Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of Romance novels and I’ve always been a reader of the so-called Women’s Fiction and there’s a lot of stuff that gets attached to these genres. When it comes to romance books, people tend to deem them trashy or of less value than the rest of literature, while Women’s Fiction remains an umbrella term for books that focus on female experiences, while also being a less infantilizing term for chick lit. And that sucks.
What constitutes a trashy book?
I have heard on numerous occasion the term “trashy romance novel” and it never comes up for books of literary fiction or any other genre for that matter. And there’s always a point to make about a book being poorly written. And there are of course a lot of poorly written Romance novels. But there are also a lot of poorly written books in other genres. Yet you are never going to hear about any other book being called “trashy” than Romance novels.
Is it the fact that there’s explicit sex in romance novels (sometimes, not always)? Or is it just the fact that these books are focused on and marketed for women which instantly makes them less worthy of literary praise and thus, trashy? In my opinion, books for women specifically tend to get the most grievance.
And there’s a point to make that books about white men cheating (which is a lot of literary fiction, let me tell you) should be considered trashy, but they never are.
As with everything else, there’s judgement for whatever women enjoy and consume and that is the fact that is unavoidable in today’s society.
Which leads me to Women’s Fiction
According to a the most credible of sources – Wikipedia – Women’s fiction is an umbrella term for women centered books that focus on women’s life experience that are marketed to female readers, and includes many mainstream novels. So basically we need a specific genre for books with female protagonists and we need to market them for the women specifically, while literary fiction is for everyone. Huh.
What bothers me about this as a genre is that so many books that I would personally categorize in different genres get bunched up together into Women’s Fiction and get called “the perfect mom read”. What does that even mean?
Books like The Help, Big Little Lies, Me Before You, An Anatomy of a Scandal etc. – they are all categorized as Women’s Fiction. Why should these books be marketed for women specifically? They are good books (okay, Me Before You isn’t but whatever), and why shouldn’t men be interested in them?
There’s a misconception that these novels aren’t serious enough to be interesting to men. So we have a whole category for literature by women about women that men should not read. There’s something overtly misogynistic in that.
I for one love both Romance genres and Women’s Fiction. I think that there are some exquisitely written Romance novels (The Hating Game, anything by Alisha Rai, The Wedding Date, The Kiss Quotient…) that explore so many different themes and go beyond just the romantic arc of the story. I also think that Women’s Fiction is a misleading genre, because there are so many fantastic books in them that readers of all genders would enjoy.
And not to say that men are not reading these books. They are not not picking up these novels solely because they are categorized as Women’s Fiction. But marketing is so important and by marketing these books to women specifically, the books and the readers are missing out.
Also, side note, trashy white men cheating should be a genre so I know what to avoid. Please and thank you.
And those are some of my thoughts on the topic! I would love to hear from you! How do you feel about fiction for women being deemed trashy and how do you feel about the genre of Women’s Fiction? I’d love to know!
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