• Weslie Ashe

Romantic Heroes: Feminist?

So I had the great pleasure this week to have not one, not two, NOT EVEN THREE, but FOUR conversations about feminist ideals. One of these conversations was with a group of ladies, and we discussed women helping women in the workplace accept praise and credit. And hey, that conversation was a highlight of my week.

But you guys: the other three conversations all included men who were curious about things like "what do you mean when you say you write feminist romance?" and "what is the definition of romance." Fellows, if you're reading this and you were one of those men, I say kudos to you. Because I can honestly say that not a single person I spoke to about feminism this week wanted to make fun or it or downplay it or be disparaging toward it in any way. Nope. We were all just there to learn and discuss.

To this I feel as follows:

But in the course of all this wonderful, I had a horrible sadness come over me when I realized one of the greatest things about feminist romance (which, by the way, I may never define, because I find definitions of feminism limiting) is a feminist hero. Let me describe this guy for you, in case you don't know what he looks like:

  • Attracted to a woman who is capable and confident

  • Capable and confident enough himself not to feel threatened

  • Wants to make the woman he loves feel sexy, powerful, awesome, beautiful, etc.

  • Knows she doesn't need him to make her feel that way

  • Appreciates a woman who is independent and not clingy

  • Would rather a woman want him than need him

  • Encourages her to stand up for herself to sexist pigs

  • Thinks it is So Damn Hot when she tells him what gives her sexual pleasure

Now here's where the great sadness comes in: even though my feminist hero is a frickin catch, there are no Amazon book categories about him! Not one. Amazon's list of contemporary romantic heroes is limited to this:

  • Alpha Males

  • BBW

  • Bikers

  • Cowboys

  • Criminals & Outlaws

  • Doctors

  • Firefighters

  • Highlanders

  • Pirates

  • Royalty & Aristocrats

  • Spies

  • Vikings

  • Wealthy

Does that list disturb you? It does me. Because I can't help but notice that the list seems to glorify men who are likely to be rich, bad, or bossy. Why are those the three things we go for, ladies? Or maybe, more importantly, why are those the three categories available to us? Why can't we aspire a little higher? I mean, I'm not saying that I don't sometimes want to fantasize about a billionaire love story, but why can't we have a vulnerable romantic hero? Or maybe an artist? Or a geek? (Okay, fine, I know why "geek" isn't up there on that list, but geeks are wildly underestimated my friends.)

And back to my feminist hero...come on! I cannot possibly be the only person who thinks that no alpha male could possibly hold a candle to a feminist hero with, say, a great tattoo of a symbol for harmony on his sculpted chest (which, of course, would not be the first thing you noticed about him) (because he'd presumably be wearing a shirt) (though we could do this at a beach). Erm. Whatever. The point is that the feminist hero could be rich, bad, or wealthy, but that would all be icing on the cake for his heroine. She'd fall for him because when she's with him, she feels so damn good to be herself, so validated, so powerful, so sexy.

I guess this means I am now on a quest to find lists of feminist romance and places where feminist heroes rank on indexes. It has to be out there. Know of a great place to find a feminist hero in a book? Comment below! I need to know!


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