Thursday, March 8, 2018

One feminist step forward, ten million steps backward...

So this just happened

Yes, a former Yale student was found not guilty of rape by slut-shaming the victim. It still works, this defense, "She was asking for it." In this age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, men are found not guilty of sexual assault because a woman was wearing a sexy kitten outfit and used provocative emojis when texting.

She was unconscious during much of the attack. But she consented to sex. Sure.

Again, for understanding consent in a more jovial way, check out this video.

I'm just so flipping mad I can hardly stand it. 

I'm just so mad. And I'm so tired of being angry, as I'm sure many women are too.

What can we do?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

What is an alphahole?

For many years, I never read a romance book. When I did, I had a few years of never encountering what many call an alphahole. Then I met many of these so-called alpha heroes. To me, these alphaholes aren't truly alphas. They're toxic, as in toxic masculine.

Here's a definition of toxic masculinity from an article written by Alia E. Dastagir. "[T]oxic masculinity, the stereotypical sense of masculinity that embodies behaviors, such as denying help or emotions, which psychologists and sociologists say are harmful to men and to society. It's the things in our culture — from toys given to movies watched to messages parents consciously and unconsciously send — that tells boys and men 'being a real man' means repressing feelings and consistently demonstrating strength and dominance." 

So for purposes of this blog, I'd like to call heroes who are toxic with their masculinity simply toxic or toxic masculine. I feel calling these kinds of heroes alpha gives the word alpha a bad meaning. 

But what do you think?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Hero and Heroine’s Journey: More Plotting for the Feminist Romance Author

The year was 19-something or another—I’m not tempted to date myself too much here—and that was the first I head of Joseph Campbell and his books regarding myths. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d been fascinated by fairy tales and other myths. I will date myself quite a bit here, but when I was little, Disney hadn’t remade many of the tales in their image, except for three. So I’d been reading the “real” myths that were full of dark forests, conniving and mischievous tricksters, violence, neglect, abandonment, and death. So much death.  

I was in college when I’d heard Campbell’s name and then devoured Bill Moyer’s video series featuring Campbell. I bought book after book. Sadly, I always came away a little empty after reading Campbell. Then I found Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs. Finally, my heart felt full. And free. (I’ll get to the Wolves book later. :)) 

Don’t get me wrong. I love Campbell and his work. Further, I know he studied goddesses and myths regarding females later in his life. But I still feel a little flat when I read his work. And I feel the need to argue, though I’m not sure why I even feel that way. That’s probably why, when reading through Christopher Vogler’s work, I also feel a little flat and want to pick a fight with him. (By the way, picking a fight for me is often a silly and humorous debate, not actual fighting-fighting. No yelling. But lots of squinting, thinking, and laughing.)

I’ve heard that Campbell, when asked if women had a version of the hero’s journey, said they were the reward for the journey. I’m not sure if this is true, and it doesn’t exactly sound like his style. And thanks to recent movies, it’s obvious that Vogler’s touch has helped many a female character have her own hero’s journey—The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman, etc. So it’s not because I didn’t think them feminist enough that led me to feel like they were missing something within their texts.  

It wasn’t until I heard an audio taping with Michael Hauge and Christopher Vogler that I finally got it. Hauge argues with Vogler about the inner journey, which Vogler does talk about in his book and many of his seminars, to be fair. But it’s Hauge that ties up the hero’s inner journey succinctly: essence versus identity. The hero’s journey is always about figuring out one’s essence versus one’s identity. The identity is the safety blanket all of us have—our jobs, what we think we are versus who we are underneath our ego. Essence is all about the very ineffable parts of you that make you you. (Lots of yous in that sentence. I apologize.)  

When I first started writing romance, I had a hard time with the terms hero and heroine. It sounded so differential, dividing, and, well, not deserving of love, which unites people. I’ve since started calling the main female character the heroine and the main male character the hero, though I prefer protagonists. Do I think there needs to be a hero’s journey versus a heroine’s journey? 

No. I don’t. I think both the hero and heroine are fighting themselves, the plot, and sometimes each other with the internal quest to find their respective essence versus identity. I think Campbell and Vogler and Maureen Murdock when composing the heroine’s journey are thoughtful, and we can learn a lot about plot and story structure from all of them. But story structure doesn’t amount to much when the “real” story isn’t told—essence versus identity, which in a romance equates to truly loving and being truly loved in return. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What can I do?

Nearly half of ALL murdered women are killed by romantic partners.

Nearly three women in the US are killed every day by intimate partners.

If you survive domestic abuse (and besides physical abuse, included should be emotional, verbal, and/or sexual abuse), it could take years to manage the residual effects, which can include anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, PTSD, eating disorders, etc. That's not because a woman is weak that it takes years to deal with the abuse. It's because she's strong that she's trying to deal in the first place.

Domestic abuse, all kinds, has a long history. But in the US it's a crime. Yet it's still underreported, and we well know it's still very much not taken seriously. Police procedures are changing, but there are many police and sheriff squads all over the country that practice non-intervention. Yep, in 2018, there are law enforcers who look the other way when a woman is hurt (or when a child is hurt). The military not reporting many dishonorably discharged soldiers who have domestic abuse records may be a sign of just how not seriously domestic abuse is still taken.

I'm confused about why this is. In 2018, will things change enough that domestic abuse is taken seriously? And what can I do to make it so?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Enthusiastic Consensual Sex and Romancelandia

 It's really is as simple as this.

Consensual sex is a strange conversation with fellow romance authors. Individually, they have much to say. In a group...they're a tad quiet. No one wants to stomp on someone else's toes.

See, romance novels have a history of heroes who are rapey. And stalkery. So it's a touchy subject to talk about consent.

Or is it? This Tea Consent video makes consent very easy to understand and recognize. You can't force tea on an unconscious person. They could drown. It's not nice to coerce a person into tea--to guilt them into it by saying, "Yeah, but earlier you said we could have tea, and I really got excited to have tea with you. So now you're making me feel bad by not having tea with me. It would be great if you made me feel better by having tea with me. Now."

So consent itself might be easy to recognize and understand. But talking about it is another thing.

That's why I made the conscious decision to write enthusiastic consensual sex scenes. For me, romance is so much more than romance. It's about power--the power we give, the power we take, the power we share as romantic partners.

What say you about consensual sex in regards to romance books?
I loved this article from Buzzfeed Who Gets A Happily Ever After In 2018?

That said--and I'm going to sound so angsty and whiny probably--some of us have been hating the alpha hero for decades. Some of us have boycotted him for years, refusing to spend a dime even if the writing is phenomenal. And some of us, long before 2016, have been writing a different kind of alpha hero.

One of my critique partners calls my heroes a "true alpha" hero. He doesn't have to prove himself by being hyper-masculine. He's not insecure that way.

So I welcome all the other romance writers who want to write about a true alpha hero! Glad you made it!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Sexism of Beta and Alpha Heroes

So I've been noticing a trend. On a romantic writer forum I'm on, whenever the subject of #metoo or sexual harassment or sexual assault comes up, the subject is taken over by women sympathizing with men. Once the topic was taken over by a romance writer complaining how other romance writers objectify male cover models. And another time many romance writers talked about how their husbands were now scared to go to work because they worry about sexual harassment charges. 

To be perfectly honest, as the recipient of sexual harassment on an academic level to the point where six long years of work and my future was taken away from me by one man, I was a little floored that the conversation ALWAYS kept going back to how bad men have it. Well, floored and wondering where the sympathy was for the women, the majority of sexual harassment/sexual assault victims, was.

So, okay, yes, I'm here to point out one more sexism that romance Author's are overlooking: beta/alpha heroes. 

Sure, sure, in all writing we have seen some of the characters enough we call them names--Mary Sue, Bad Boy, etc. But calling male characters either betas or alphas is sexist, pure and simple. We wouldn't stand for a male writer to call female characters alpha or not. Oh, and most romance authors when talking about beta males versus alpha males seem to be referring to a weird 1970s and outdated anthropologist take of wolves. Or maybe they're talking about those desert baboons who do seem to have rather rapey male alpha leaders. I'm not sure, and whenever I've asked romance authors to specify, there's a strange silence with looks like I should know better than to even ask. 

So I'm not 100% sure what romance authors mean when they're talking about alphas versus betas, but from what I've heard it's incredibly sexist. Some label a beta hero as any male character who can express himself without fists or anger. Some label a beta hero as any male character who respects a woman to NOT to be sexually harassed and/or assaulted. In other words, sadly, some label a beta hero as a normal nice guy. 

I've read enough of the history of romance to know that the rapey, alphahole hero has been around for a long time. When I started reading romance, admittedly only a decade ago, it took more than five years to find a rapey, alphahole hero. Five years of reading about blissful relationships where a couple thought of each other as equals. Yes, I probably lucked out. But my point is that several romance books feature just men. Sometimes, really nice men too. 

(As an aside, many romance lovers have taken to reading queer romance because there is less of a prevalence of the alpha male in gay romance books. And, honestly, I adore queer romance books and (knock on wood) have not found one alpha male so far.) 

Anyway, in an age when justice, true justice, is (hopefully) around the corner, and men are reckoning about their behavior and treatment of women, isn't it time to reexamine the label of alpha versus beta? Isn’t it time we romance authors call out our own sexism? 

Lastly, in a Brene Brown book or lecture--sorry! I can't remember which--she was pulled aside by a
man who had an urgent question for her: When was she going to cover men and men's shame? And this part stuck with me when he told her he needed help not only for himself but for his wife and daughter because sometimes he just wanted to step down from the damned white horse and just be. So that's what I write. And that's what I've always written. Men who don't have to worry about their masculinity if they want to get off that damned white horse of theirs and just be real and authentic. 

So my other question for romance authors is this: besides examining the sexism in labeling men alpha or betas, can you please allow a male character to just be a human being? That's all women want. Why can't we let our fellas?