In a recent Washington Post interview, Hillary Clinton made an offhand comment about romance novels that struck readers the wrong way. As part of an answer regarding the recent wave of sexual assault allegations, Clinton—with the verbal equivalent of a dismissive gesture—lumped romance novels in with a culture of masculine aggression towards women. She condensed the entire industry to the single image of ” women being grabbed and thrown on a horse and ridden off into the distance.” I guess it’s been a while since she read a romance (since at least the 1980s, by the sound of it). Most modern readers could tell her that the genre these days is populated by strongly feminist romance novels—no “grabbing” necessary.
(Unless consensual. Of course.)
Clinton’s treatment of the genre is, at the very least, disappointing. As a supporter of women’s right, you would think that a genre by, for, and about women would meet with her approval. In particular, a genre which in recent years has produced a wide variety of romance novels, featuring increasing levels of racial and sexual diversity and social insight.
Maya Rodale—a frequent defender of the genre—shared her thoughts about Clinton’s dismissal of the romance genre. She ended by issuing a challenge to Romancelandia: recommend some #RomanceNovelsforHillary. So readers and authors alike chimed in on twitter to help fill Clinton’s TBR.
Some tweeted specific romance novels, with political themes or complex female characters that they thought HRC would appreciate:
Alexandra Haughton even got into the spirit of the season:
Others couldn’t pick just one romance:
And some offered up the whole backlist of their favorite progressive romance authors:
(@authorMsBev is the twitter username of Beverly Jenkins)
Even romance publisher Avon got in on the fun:
Aside from being an excellent list to stretch any reader’s TBR, the books recommended go far beyond any of Clinton’s expectations for the genre. In fact, the collected list is a perfect slice of the modern romance genre: alive, thriving, and constantly evolving.
So yes, occasionally a heroine still gets tossed onto a horse. But these days she’s just as likely to pick up the reins and ride for herself. Maybe not towards the sunset, but definitely towards a better future. Because that’s the promise of truly feminist romance novels: you don’t just get to live happily ever after, you get to do it on your own terms. And on your own horse.
I would think that’s something that Hillary Clinton could appreciate.