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:
— Maya Rodale (@mayarodale) December 8, 2017
— Alexis Anne (@AlexisAnneBooks) December 8, 2017
— Heidi Anti-facism Cullinan (@heidicullinan) December 8, 2017
— Auntie Fa – Disinfected Inside and Out (@AuntieFaWriter) December 8, 2017
— Harper Prince (@HarperPrince1) December 8, 2017
Alexandra Haughton even got into the spirit of the season:
— Alexandra AT💃HOME Haughton (@WriterAHaughton) December 8, 2017
Others couldn’t pick just one romance:
*looks through my collection*@AlyssaColeLit The Loyal League@TessaDare Duchess Deal@Kris10Callihan Darkest London (especially 3 and 4-she loves mystery right?)
Or if she's feeling particularly frisky @ZoeYorkWrites Prime Minister
— R.G. Alexander (@RG_Alexander) December 8, 2017
#romancenovelsforhillary Alexis Hall’s Waiting for the Flood, Sonali Dev, KJ Charles’s Think of England, Loretta Chase, Elizabeth Hoyt,
— Megan Frampton (@meganf) December 8, 2017
And some offered up the whole backlist of their favorite progressive romance authors:
HRC should start with the books written by Selena Montgomery (aka Stacey Abrams who addressed the DNC convention last year. Oh and, is currently running for GA Governor) https://t.co/Vv6ksccqsZ #romancenovelsforhillary
— Kaia is Undaunted By The Fight (@kaiawrites) December 8, 2017
— Kwana Jackson/K.M. Jackson (@KwanaWrites) December 8, 2017
(@authorMsBev is the twitter username of Beverly Jenkins)
— Melissa Wiesner (@Melissa_Wiesner) December 8, 2017
— Stratton Gray (@StrattonGray) December 8, 2017
Even romance publisher Avon got in on the fun:
— avonbooks (@avonbooks) December 8, 2017
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.