An author who would like to remain anonymous asked me:
As a romance outsider, I’ve always been surprised by the attitude that romance fans shouldn’t criticize romance writers. And it reminds me of the attitude a lot of minority people have—that there’s enough criticism from outside so you don’t openly criticize your own.
It’s an attitude I don’t quite agree with since it seems to show support for corruption and mediocrity. [Criticism is] actually showing solidarity against the biases of the majority.
But it reflects the mentality of those who are in the minority of a larger group. And the difference is that romance readers and writers are the single largest block of readers and writers. So why do these fans hold onto this attitude? I think it’s because most romance fans are women and women and our society treats our opinions as inconsequential, not as worthwhile as a man’s opinions.
Anyway, just a thought. If I were in the majority of a group, I’d be exercizing my power quite capriciously and arbitrarily. But that’s me.
First, I have to say, before anyone levels the accusation, no, I didn’t write this and attempt to deflect attention by posting it attributed to an anonymous source. I never remember to use the word “capriciously,” even though it is a GREAT word.
Second, I have to also say, yeah, what is up with that? I lot of the ire I see directed at Candy and at me is based on the idea that as fans, we hurt the genre by criticizing it in any way. And that by calling our site “Smart Bitches” we’re denigrating women – and if you do think that, please take a look at the concept of reappropriation of pejorative lexicon – so we’re both anti-women and anti-romance. And thus we hurt the genre, and should be Banned from the Internet.
But anonymous’ ability to connect to a question of majority/minority cultural habit is curious: romance readers are among the most powerful consumer groups in a book buying sense, so why is it a bad thing to criticize the genre from the perspective of a consumer? I haven’t the faintest idea, though I suspect it has a great deal to do with the culturally-enforced group habits of women, which further muddles the question of “are romance readers a minority inside a majority, lurking in a crunchy taco shell?” There is a definite pressure to be nice within groups of women, even as the biting behind one’s back is even more, dare I say, savage than what could be said to one’s face.
So what do you think? Why is there a backlash against romance criticism, ours or anyone’s?