Discussion: The Myths of Trashy Books and Women’s Fiction

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.

anthingtoadd2And 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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20 thoughts on “Discussion: The Myths of Trashy Books and Women’s Fiction

  1. Good discussion! I get what you’re saying. When I was in undergrad, I took a Women in Fiction course. However, it was more on the concept of women writers AND women characters in fiction. What I enjoyed is the course covered a wide variety of genres: gothic, horror, romance, fantasy, etc. Even more so, the Romance wasn’t seen as “trashy” or the only thing that related to women in literature.

    I fell into that phase of hating romance…but that’s because I hated certain common elements (i.e. insta love, love triangle, cheating to fall for another, etc.). However, I by no means ever thought romance in general is trashy. I dont even really like that term…

    Funny thing is that I’ve been reading a lot of romance lately haha! I’m about to dive back into Fantasy but it’s been enjoyable reading a genre I tend not to. Fun discussion @

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As I was writing this post, I came across an article discussing Women’s Fiction vs Women in Fiction, and basically Women in Fiction is just fiction written by women, while Women’s Fiction has all that baggage I spoke about. And I can totally understand hating romance and hating the tropes and just that not being someone’s thing, but that’s obviously different to looking down on romance readers. And I am glad you’ve been enjoying reading romance. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ya. Our professor talked about that with us; I was so nervous to enter the course because I didn’t want to deal with women’s fiction. It was so well done! And I concur. I never see why people get at others for the books they enjoy. We are all different and enjoy different things. And each book has it’s own special meaning to each reader. Romance definitely gets the biggest “trash talk” in the book realm…even in film franchises…dont get why…and thanks! I really liked this discussion a lot. I love how you are willing to discuss such strong topics!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! Great discussion! I really hate the idea that women will read about any kind of protagonist, but a man will ONLY read about men protagonists, and I think that ideas like Women’s Fiction being seen as trashy only compounds that problem. And I think calling it “Chick Lit” doesn’t help either. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a woman yet I don’t think I’ve actively sought to read Women’s Fiction. I’ve never thought they were lesser works, but I’ve always had this idea that they’re usually contemporary/realistic fiction which isn’t my thing. However, I have to agree that the whole idea of there being a “women’s fiction” genre is a little odd. It’s not like there’s a “men’s fiction” section at the store.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get that. My issue is exactly the fact that there’s no such thing as men’s fiction, that’s just general fiction and I don’t see why there should be women’s fiction genre when those works are perfectly described with contemporary, realistic fiction like you called it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great discussion! The fact that the entire romance genre gets the stigma of being “trashy” IS pretty unfortunate, and I agree with your point about “women’s fiction” being a genre. I get that it’s a thing so women who want to relate to such stories can find these books easily, but it’s also telling people that these stories are stuff only women should know about; I mean, men could definitely use more education about the struggles of women, so it really doesn’t make much sense to keep it separate from the literary fiction crowd. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t read a lot of them now but let’s be honest, books like Far From the Madding Crowd and Pride and Prejudice are at their very core romance novels and yet they are praised highly, so I don’t know why people should discriminate against the contemporary ones?

    I never thought that there was a distinction between Women’s Fiction and Literary Fiction, so this is surprising for me. On one hand it’s like enforcing the stereotype that men should be hard-hearted and shouldn’t have any interest in any emotional romance. Great discussion, by the way! It has really got me thinking not only about the books I consume but also how I choose them!

    Liked by 1 person

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