Earlier today, a fellow creative-professional friend pointed me to Michael Kozlowski’s assertion that Female Authors Depend on their Husbands to Write Romance and asked if I had any comment. The implication of that query was, of course, Release the Kraken! and rightfully so. You’ll note the URL for Kozlowski’s article actually says, “How Female Authors Take Advantage of their Husbands to Write Romance.”
Taking apart people with words is one of those things I admittedly enjoy. I don’t always use this power for good, but I try. Increasingly, however, I try not to use it at all. Too often, Internet outrage only brings attention to vicious viewpoints that deserve no notice, and get us all riled up to no good use. After all, time is at a premium, especially for creative professionals. We all work long hours, even if we only work one job — and few of us do.
I did comment, briefly, on the appalling text. I noted that my partner is female, not male. And that I am the main earner in my household. I also work full-time, a lot of overtime, and then write 40 hours a week. I mentioned that I do get paid to do this, and to write essays, and to blog for various sites, including Romance @ Random. I knew, I was only fighting anecdata with anecdata, although at least mine was my own. The anecdata Kozlowski cited in his piece was apparently lifted from a comments thread on another site.
Misogyny is rife on the Internet, like everywhere else. And there’s massive amounts of it in the creative fields. We could talk about How Not to Review Women’s Writing regarding Patricia Lockwood’s latest book. Or we could pay a visit to CastingCallWoe. You could also look at the statics for women on screen, behind the camera and in writers rooms for film and TV. Or do research on the history of blind auditions and the gender composition of orchestras.
But in wanting to oppose the idea that female creators are dilettantes and/or unable to earn money at their chosen professions, I cited my credentials and my ferocity. I’m proud of both. But in the big argument, they don’t matter. In the biggest argument, they can actually do a certain degree of harm, because they imply that I’m “Not Like the Other Girls” and set up certain activities, which are gender-neutral but often perceived as masculine as more valuable than similar gender-neutral activities often associated with the feminine.
To be blunt, who cares if a woman is able to write because their partner supports them?
If you are ever given the time to create because of the financial security of a household you are glad to be a part of, regardless of your gender, you take it, and you take it without shame. You don’t justify it with how much your art earns, or how much some man somewhere respects it, because all stories matter, even romances.
I can tell you why romances matter. I can write a long justification about how the genre matters because it is about pleasure and desire and about how these books matter because they are a ground on which readers explore their fears and their hopes. Through them we may heal wounds, learn negotiation, or find a way to be more present with ourselves and others.
This is not different from any other type of story except for two simple facts: Romances make scads of money (Romance fiction generated $1,438 billion in sales in 2012, outperforming every other category in the U.S. consumer book market according to Business of Consumer Book Publishing 2013) and romances are predominantly written by women.
Ultimately, Kozlowski’s anti-romance genre misogyny (which strikes me as an odd choice for a man who positions himself as a leader in the e-reader field; what does he think people are reading on their e-readers?) isn’t just the old tired arguments that seek to divide the stories men tell from the stories women tell.
Because no matter what anyone says, it’s simply not true that men write about ideas and women write about feelings. Rather, people tell stories, arguably as Clive Barker says in Sacrament “to tell, by chance, what God left untold. And finishing our tale, come to understand why we were born.”
So here, as writers of LGBTQ fiction, Erin and I are offended particularly because of the degree to which Kozlowski’s article seeks to police relationship styles between people of any and all genders and any and all sexual orientations. How we choose to divide work and currency and authority and creativity in our homes with one partner or many partners simply isn’t his domain to criticize. His arguments are not just poor, but over-reaching. They are not just anti-woman, but anti-creativity. And they fly in the face of possibility, opportunity, and entrepreneurship.
Love is a strangeness. That goes both for who graces our beds and what infects our hearts. And the chance to remind ourselves or others of that, is sometimes actually worth giving one more troll on the Internet far more attention than they deserve.