Monday, September 12, 2011

In Defense of Women's Fiction

I've been reading a lot lately on blogs about Women's Fiction--both pro and con. Not for or against the books themselves, but the term in particular. Women's Fiction was, initially, an umbrella term encompassing writing that targeted women readers, stories that would primarily appeal to women. It also included chick lit and romance. As a female reader and then writer, I gladly embraced the term. If I wanted to find a book that would provide a good story about a female heroine overcoming some obstacle, finding her own inner strength, and succeeding with or without a man in her life, I knew exactly where to look.

As a budding author and former psychotherapist, I found a niche for my writing--stories featuring heroines older than thirty who stand strong in the face of adversity. And, yes, some of them do find a romance along the way. But its not integral to their story.

Now I'm reading about authors, some of whom are well-established, who run from the term 'Women's Fiction' like someone dropped it in an outhouse at the county fair. One argument is that there is no genre titled 'Men's Fiction'. Okay, that's true. We tend to think of men as being drawn toward police drama, mystery, sci-fi, and some literary drama. And the shouts of 'sexism' rise.

Why? Sci-fi isn't only for scientists. Paranormal isn't geared toward an audience of vampires and ghosts. Law enforcement and criminals aren't the intended audience for police dramas. Okay, I'm being facetious.

Seriously, why has Women's Fiction as a genre term taken on such a negative value? I read a lot of different genres. Not only because they're entertaining, but because as an author, I need to have a diverse reading base. There was a time when some readers and authors alike would refer to romance novels as those heaving bosom books that denigrate women. Now romance in all its sub-genres has risen to a new height of respect among readership. Is Women's Fiction the new pariah?

I admit to a certain confusion in the publishing industry. I'm published with three publishers. One classifies my books as Women's Fiction and the other two as Mainstream Fiction. One actually lists what I submitted as Women's Fiction under Mainstream Romance.

I'm proud to say I write Women's Fiction and I love the feedback I receive from the women who read my books. I was approached by a man at a book fair who picked up one of my books and asked, "What kind of books are these?" I said, "Women's Fiction." He set the book down like it had burst into flames and said, "Oh, women's stories." Unoffended, I smiled and said, "My books are about women and are stories women would enjoy, but they're also stories from which men can learn." He bought a book for his wife, then asked, "So, should I read it first?" I thought that might be a good idea and told him so.

My point here--Women's Fiction is no more only for women than, as I said, Sci-fi is for scientists and Paranormal is for vampires and ghosts. If we can only get past the semantics.

What about you? Does the title Women's Fiction offend your senses and stop you from picking up a book in that category?


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