Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Dave Pollard and the Modern Day Romance

The Romance Novel: Literature of Liberation

Romance novels are at once the most scorned and popular form of literature in the world, accounting for as much as 40% of total book sales in much of the world. The average romance reader (and writer) is female, ambitious, leads a very full and busy life, and has an above-average education and intelligence. The livelihood of some of the world's most critically-acclaimed (mostly male) authors depends on the revenue base generated from the sale of the remarkably diverse genre called 'romance', written by and bought overwhelmingly by women.

I have often written about the need for us to reduce human population to sustainable levels. Short of introduction (by nature or man) of a monstrous new technology to achieve that end, history suggests there is only one way that will happen: If, around the world, women achieve equal power to men. This is currently close to true in only one place: Scandinavia, which by every measure has achieved the highest and most egalitarian quality of life on the planet in modern history. It is nearly as true in Kerala, India, a matriarchal society with a standard of living (measured by health, longevity, low infant mortality, nutrition, equality of wealth, and low homelessness and poverty levels) comparable to that of the West at one sixtieth its level of per-capita consumption. Both societies have reached sustainable levels of population, while Kerala has also achieved sustainable levels of consumption. The one absolutely necessary key to achieving equal power for women is education. One of the best methods for learning is by listening to success stories, and modeling your behaviour on the examples that led to that success. And romance novels are the definitive success stories.

So romances are, in fact, subversive literature: They encourage women to be dissatisfied with inequality, and to set higher expectations for themselves, and they show them ways to achieve those expectations, largely by taming men and, in a way, usurping their power. Romances are arguably the only art form of any kind that portrays women as equal partners with men. Literature professor Mary Bly (a/k/a romance author Eloisa James) writes in this week's NYT that "romances actually validate female desire". and "reflect no more than what most of us hope for in daily life."

A fascinating read...highly recommended! I added my two cents to the comments section.


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1:19 PM  

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