Wednesday, July 27

Political Correctness, Perceptions and Writing Styles

I've been semi-following the different discussions about PC on message boards and blogs.

Let's be honest, we may tolerate certain behavior in a historical romance that we would abhor in a contemporary. Is this because it IS more accurate to history or is it we PERCEIVE it to be more accurate? I don't know.

On a societal level it's only been in the last 100 years that we have gained "equal" ground to men, and I say that loosely. We can vote, own property and businesses separate from husbands, we should be paid equal for equal work (though this rarely is true) and domestic violence is something that is no longer tolerated and ignored. Men don't have a right to beat and rape their wives/girl friends. Is it because in the past a man did have the right that we accept it in historical romances, probably.

I wrote on Anne E's blog that I think some women who like books with domineering men and weak woman are looking to escape the responsibilities of everyday life, and want to see someone else in control--most of the women I know hold together every aspect of their families lives. It's not my choice in reading material, but I can understand someone wanting to escape to a place where someone else is "in control" and the heroine is a "damsel in distress" needing rescuing by the "knight," and it doesn't matter to them whether he's good or bad.

Personally, I like alpha hero's but not because I like weak heroines, but because I like strong women who can hold their own with a strong man.

At what point do we expect political correctness to kick in when we're reading historicals? I don't want to see a rape or beating in any book, but if it's included, I first need to see the context, it's never justified, so how does the author handle the hero's repentance and change and does it work. If the hero believes it's his right to "control" the heroine can the author show his change in thinking and behavior and make it believable.

I'm left to wonder if those who prefers the bodice rippers of the past are really looking for a hero who rapes and plunders or are they looking for a style in writing that is gone. Kathleen Woodiwiss writing style of (OMG) 30 years ago is completely different from anyone's writing style today. Whether you call it lyrical or full of purple prose, it's different. I personally like her writing style enough that when I re-read her books, I skip scenes I don't like because I like the overall style of the book. I do the same thing with some of Catherine Coulter's earlier books.

So, that's my take on political correctness, perceptions and writing styles.

Have a great day, and happy reading--and those of you sweltering like us--stay cool and safe.

5 comments:

McVane said...

We can vote, own property and businesses separate from husbands

Apart from the vote issue, this is true for women during, for instance, the Medieval period as well.

Marriage in English noble families was essentially political and it was these politics that enforced a woman's rights. If one looks at the legal history of this country, Medieval-era women could and did file lawsuits, and many won.

I mean, it's true that the general belief that women were not the equals of men, due to religious beliefs, but women DID carry status in their own right. Just enough for them to hold/own land, own businesses, transact business, sue in courts of law, and be in a number of professions, including medicine. If they were married, there were restrictions, of course. Even so, the wife usually had the fully control of a purse, and [unlike a certain era during Victorian England] she could buy whatever she wants, including properties, businesses, and such. [I'd be happy to provide bibliography if anyone is interested.]

Yet in romance genre, heroines who do these are regarded "unusual", "modern", etc. by many authors and readers alike, therefore they dismiss it as 'historically inaccurate' or 'modern romance in medieval setting' *headdesk*

About heroes' "unPC" behaviour, I tend to accept it as part of their make-up, rather than as *the norm* in historical context. I'll be honest to admit that my home region was a bit slow in catching up with modern times [it wasn't really open to the mainland until mid-1970s when we finally had a proper road between our region and the mainland installed], so I do have a different perspective of social issues, such as alcoholism, domestic violence, and such, e.g. as a child, I understood these are wrong, but I also understood that one shouldn't judge because it's between God and them. In modern terms, it's all about karma, baby. :D That's the way it's been for centuries at where I come from, e.g. N.E. Highlands of Scotland. OK, I'll shut up on this one. :D

I think some women who like books with domineering men and weak woman are looking to escape the responsibilities of everyday life, and want to see someone else in control--most of the women I know hold together every aspect of their families lives.

I fully agree with you on that, and I don't see anything wrong with it if this is indeed what some readers want. Someone once said that it's the guilt that has some justifying it as 'that's how it was back then'.

Mari said...

You both make great points about the historical accuracy of gender roles. The temperance movement in the United States is only one example of a coalition of strong women. Of course, there's also an important distinction between the political correctness of the novel's time period and our own. A widowed duke who married his governess was highly improper in 19th century England but we don't have any qualms about it. Conversely, domestic violence was "private" and we recognize that it's intolerable.

I've noticed that readers who favor bodice rippers or strong men/swooning heroines tend to prefer Big Misunderstandings (ex. secret baby) as plot conventions as well. These misunderstandings are usually solved when the hero muscles his way out of the situation. This is definitely more escapist in nature than a couple who opts for discussion over kidnapping. In any case, I agree that it's to each her own paradise and thanks for excusing the gross generalizations;).

Tara Marie said...

Maili,

We can vote, own property and businesses separate from husbands...

I wasn't thinking about medieval times because I knew women had more "rights" per say, but more Regency, Victorian and American history and actually I should have said manage property, money, business and this may have been more a societal thing than actual law.

About heroes' "unPC" behaviour, I tend to accept it as part of their make-up, rather than as *the norm* in historical context.

I agree, I see this as more of a character issue, but many people see it as historically accurate.

I'm one of those people who don't like a "modern romance in a medieval setting." But, my issue comes with vernacular and dialogue.

Mari,

A widowed duke who married his governess was highly improper in 19th century England but we don't have any qualms about it. Conversely, domestic violence was "private" and we recognize that it's intolerable.

Great comment--well put.

erika said...

I admit that I like reading those unpc romances or retro romances as I like to call them.
No, I don't much care for rapist heroes and I'm quite glad they're gone. But there's just something about those retro romances that has captured my interest. They're just so very different from the current romances. And perhaps what draws me to these retro rom. is the over the top melodrama *Steve & Ginny* and larger than life characters and the uber jack ass alpha whose mate tames him and they get the hea and 14 children. *sigh*

Anne E. said...

I am pretty tolerant of what people want to read -- neither inspirational or erotica hold any interest for me, and the old style bodice ripper even less, but I know there is a market out there for what I don't read.

I've stated before that I want an historical with details, details, details and I want those details to be as accurate as possible, given the limitations of the genre. There are very popular authors of historicals whose settings are the equivalent of Disneyland -- clean, neat, populated with cute characters, and someone is always coming along to sweep up the horse poop. I shun those books because they are so unrealistic, so perhaps that is why I have trouble with those who want the bodice rippers of the past, because those books as well represent a type of Fantasyland. And a weak heroine who has to find her strength from an alpha male, instead of within herself? Forget it!

As a woman who has been divorced for almost 10 years, I might seem like a natural for the alpha hero who takes control. As one of my friends loves to say, "Girl, please!" In real life I have seen too many hearts broken by "the bad boy," and I've come too far to risk everything I have accomplished in the last 10 years for a chance with an jackass alpha male. So, I don't even want one in fiction, because frankly I think it is a story line that has taken on almost mythic proportions that perpetuates a form of anti-feminism that hurts women in the long run. Didn't mean to get carried away, and don't mean to offend anyone...as I wrote, there is room for all!