Hi friends! Shew. So we know … gosh like everything is fraught with danger and tension online these days, right? And yesterday was no different. In fact it was actually so much more than even those with drama fatigue were sucked in. The “crazy” thing though is most likely nobody will remember next week. Or perhaps I won’t even remember this weekend when I look back at this post what I was talking about. Such is the ephemeral nature of the internet. What isn’t, however, is kickass women. 😀 We might not know about them, or hear much about them, but the amazing things they’ve done are lasting. Today we have a post from Janet Eckford to help us celebrate [Smithsonian] Women’s History Month! Whee!
When invited to contribute to Limecello’s Women’s History Month blog extravaganza (my description because anything celebrating the accomplishments of women should be an extravaganza) I was immediately pumped. I can pontificate about women and women’s issues forever. I’m sure there is some personal investment from this, because, as a human that identifies as a woman, I’ve got some major stock in ensuring issues that impact me get highlighted. Back in the day (5,840 days give or take a few hundred to be exact) when I was a baby feminist, heading off to college, I wanted to make sure that desire to engage in social change was something I never compromised on.
I’ve spent my entire professional career working in a field that has its foundation in improving the lives of women and girls. Making sure they are free from harm and able to live happy and whole lives. This has been work that is life changing, life affirming, and to be honest, exhaustive, but it’s the life I wanted and I’m committed to it. I’m sure at this point you’re probably wondering, “If this career is so wonderful why are you being so cryptic, Janet (if that really is your name)?” Great question and I have quite the diatribe ready if you’re willing to read.
Janet is in fact not my real name, but it’s my grandmother’s name, and when I set out to write romance, something that had only ever been a creative outlet, I knew I wanted a name that still had meaning. After all, I share my given name with a grandmother, why not drag the other into the mix that is the adventure I call my life. Yet, why create a “fake” name? I’m this huge feminist right? I work in a field in which I talk about the empowerment of women, and their right to happy and whole lives, free of harm. In that work I’m constantly discussing the importance of healthy sexuality. Boom! I write erotic romance, I should just slap that on my resume and keep the party going. Well, I’m going to share a secret with you all, I don’t tell anyone.
Okay, that’s not really true. I’ve told a few people. People I’m close to. People I can trust. Fascinating that word is, “trust”, because for the entirety of my adult life, working in my profession I’m being very cryptic about, I’d always thought I could “trust” the people around me. We’re doing great work after all. We understand what it means for women to be subjugated, regulated, and stripped of agency. I’d made a point to surround myself with “good” people in my professional world. If “trust” is an interesting word in the context of this piece, “good” is even more fascinating. I’m concerned that these “good” people are not worthy of my “trust” when it comes to my work as an erotic romance writer.
I feel that when it comes to being a romance writer, who writes in a subgenre of erotic romance, who writes in a further subgenre of IR/MC erotic romance, there isn’t a safe place for me amongst these “good” people. Shocked? Yeah, me too, but it’s a truth I feel shaky even admitting within the confines of my anonymity. I’d expect feeling hesitant telling my family because of their conservative religious beliefs. There might be some hesitancy to tell my friends that are “writers”, because you don’t have to wait long in most literary circles before hearing something disparaging about romantic fiction or romance writers. Women centric spaces should be the place where I can raise my hand and proudly proclaim I write about sexy time.
My reticence to be my fully authentic self is not wholly housed in my personal paranoia or neurosis (because we know how hysterical women can be), but from interactions I’ve had over the years. It’s all fine and dandy to discuss healthy sexuality but what I’m doing, well, isn’t that porn? If it is, well, feminist and porn have this long uncomfortable relationship with each other, and why are you contributing to a heteronormative narrative of romance, and what’s with this interracial love thing you have going on, and…the beat goes on. I’m not saying those aren’t valid questions and thoughts, but at the end of the day I’m tired of constantly being in the place of taking something that hurts my feelings and transforming it into a teachable moment.
I’m tired of always having to negotiate the right words to say when explaining that empowerment means being able to consume media of a sexual content that is affirming and positive for women. It’s disheartening to have to explain to a person you’d respected that, no, because my heroines are women of color that develop romantic relationships with men that are not men of color, that doesn’t mean I find no value in AA romance. It’s exhaustive to explain that although I write straight couples (when my own sexuality has been known to bend over time) that doesn’t mean I don’t find value in non-hetero pair bondings. It just means I like writing this. I like reading it. It’s a personal preference and not an indictment of anyone or a movement. I can still be a feminist, I can still be an activist, and I can still care about issues that negatively impact women.
Whew! Yeah, I have a lot of feels about this. So many that I’m re-reading this piece several times, wondering if I could have articulated “this” better or “that” better. I’ll be honest, I’m worried that not everyone will read this in the spirit in which it was written. This is not an indictment of the super cryptic career I currently have, instead, it’s my way of honoring Women’s History Month by highlighting that women are complex beings that engage in our world from the mundane to…well the quite naughty. At the end of the day as long as what women define as sexy is safe, sane, and consensual, shouldn’t that be all that matters? I really want to believe it does, but I’m still moonlighting as the masked crusader of the female orgasm and the happily ever after. Fingers crossed if I’m invited back next year to share my thoughts it will.
Thanks for sharing, Janet! I’m glad you shared your thoughts with us, and the struggles (issues?) you’ve faced. We always appreciate honesty here at ALBTALBS. Also, I think we all want ~Romanceland to be a safe place. It’s big enough for all of us, as wonderful, weird, flawed, and different as we and our interests are.
What about all of you? What has your experience been? What’s your takeaway from what Janet said or her experience(s)?
Even as readers, there are those who think there’s something wrong with [educated] women reading romance. I will not be ashamed for reading a genre I love! However, I understand the need to keep one’s personal life separate from one’s day job—no problem with an author using an alias. Probably safer for those who write in the subgenres where there are normal readers, and then there are creepers.
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