Among the many interesting sessions that I attended at last July’s
Romance Writers of America conference, one that really got me thinking
was a discussion of “Romance Fiction as a Feminist Issue.” Perhaps
because I live in an academic environment where most of my colleagues -
women as well as men - look down on romance, I was much taken by the
remarks offered by two of the best known authors of category romances,
Alison Hart (aka Jennifer Greene) and Barbara Keiler (aka Judith Arnold.)
Allison and Barbara were directing their remarks at an audience of
fellow writers, but I thought that TRR’s readers would very much
enjoy what they had to say. Both of them graciously consented to share
their thoughts with us. I think you will find their insights most
illuminating and thought-provoking. Jean Mason
Alison Hart’s Remarks:
My first goal is a shortie, and that's just to define 'feminism', so
we're all comfortable that we mean the same things by the term. Then I'd
like to get into why we should give a damn whether there are feminist
issues in the romance genre or not. And for the bulk of my time, I want
to give you some specific ideas about how feminist issues show up in
romantic fiction. So in short, I want to give you a what, a why, and a
The "what" first. Like any other writer, when I first decided that I
needed a definition, I reached for the obvious source-a dictionary. It
took me a second before I realized how silly that was and (quickly)
((very quickly)) put the dictionary down. I mean, come on, the source of
almost all the definitions in a dictionary come from dead white men - so
it just seems tacky to look for a valid and meaningful definition for
feminism in there.
So then I went to a variety of women-driven and women-written sources.
Unfortunately I discovered that wasn't so easy, either, because
definitions of feminism seem to vary enormously from source to source.
However, what they all seem to agree on is a historical understanding:
the feminist term originated from the 19th and 20th century movements
for women's political, economic and social rights.
That not only sounds like a garbled mouthful; it seems awfully removed
from what we do. On the surface, what does a love story have to do with
women’s rights? It would seem that the two subjects are completely
unrelated. Sure, some of us may be feminist in our beliefs - or not -
but what does that have to do with a content in a love story?
Well... I hate to address those questions logically, because I'm one of
those emotional creatures - a woman - and I don't want to relate to you
like one of the guys. But let me just give you this short ounce of logic
to chew on.
Any group who've had to fight for rights obviously didn't have them. And
if a group was deprived of certain rights, then there is likely a reason
for that. Possibly that group was perceived as weak or undeserving ...
and to gain those rights, in ANY political, social or economic medium,
the so-called weak group has a job to accomplish before they can achieve
change - and that job is to convince the other side that they are
strong. Deserving. Worthy.
Self worth. Self value. Strength. Amazing, isn't it - because that's
exactly what romances are about. Our heroines struggle with that in
every single book. Whether we're writing category or historicals or
single titles or any other variation in women's fiction, the heroine
begins with a problem that she can't solve. Something is standing in the
way of her and fulfillment.
On the surface, that problematic 'something' can be anything, like maybe
a tornado ... or a lost job ... or poverty ... or a pregnancy she wasn't
expecting, or a man. But if you get down to a deeper level in a romance,
those problems are just the track for the train. They're not the train.
That critical 'something' standing between the heroine and fulfillment
is always the same problem, and although it may seem to be an external
conflict - it never is. The problem is always HER. Something in HER that
has to grow, that she must overcome or conquer, for her to reach for
love and however else she defines fulfillment.
That's what romances are, and that's why we have to care how feminist
issues are handled in the genre. They're the essential key to selling.
It's the feminist issues that enable the reader to identify with and
relate to the heroine. The reader HAS those problems. She experiences
those fears in her own life. She has struggled with self worth and self
confidence, exactly as our heroines do.
The writer's relationship with the reader is unique in a romance. It's not
something you find in any other kind of book .... and the appeal of
romance and women's fiction can't be understood without looking at what
the writer and readerbring to each other.
We give the reader a promise that she's not alone - that someone else
understands. That is an absolutely critical part of the escape that a
romance gives a reader - NOT just the love story - but a talk fest,
woman to woman, about sex and values and children.... about men who do
us wrong .... about what we need in mates and don't always get... about
what's wrong in our schools and our cities and our government - the
things that really bug us, because we see the problems and how they
affect our lives, but we feel so frustrated at trying to change them.
In a romance, there is an atmosphere of honesty between writer and
reader which makes for a freedom to talk about the things that we're
afraid of - so we do. We talk about the people who have hurt us, and we
try to understand how that happened and how to protect ourselves from
making the same mistakes again. . We talk about the things we're ashamed
of and can't say in public -but our heroines can, in the privacy of a
book--and because they've made those kinds of mistakes, we get ideas
about how to heal and cope with some of the private, tough hurts in our
I believe that the romances that work --- and by 'work' I mean the books
that sell well, that we love, that end up on our keeper shelves - all
have a feminist bent. Just saying that, of course, doesn't mean much,
because there are so many schools of feminism. Ours, tho, follows a very
specific philosophical track. For one thing, we're NOT anti-men. We're
pro-women, and there's a huge difference in those two concepts. We're
not of the feminist school where men are to blame for everything wrong
that ever happened to womankind. We're of the feminist school that
teaches Strength is Power - and that we're not seeking power on a man's
terms, but on our own. Our goal for each other is to win - not to win a
man or to win over a man-as if a guy in one way or another is an answer
to everything--but to win fulfillment within ourselves, so that we can
achieve those things we need.
Still, all that philosophical stuff is easy to say, but as we all know -
talk is cheap. Now: what do we DO with this information? HOW do we
convey these things in a story? How do we show a woman's brand of
strength ... how do we empower our heroines?
Well ... part of those answers stem from simply understanding what our
genre is and how it functions. There are lots of mediums communicating
to women. The news. Movies. Song lyrics. Newspapers. But romance
communicates to and reaches women in a completely different way than any
other medium. For one thing, it's our break time - it's time we
recognize as being 'for us'. Secondly, it's a medium that communicates
in a no-stress, empathetic way. Add those 2 factors together and you
have the really unusual key ingredient of a medium where the readership
actually wants to hear what we have to say .... and they're willing to
listen because we writers have a strong trust relationship with our
When a reader picks up a romance, she has expectations and trust that
we'll meet those expectations - she trusts that there'll be a happy
ending ... she trusts that the book will be a true break, easy to read,
enjoyable .... she trusts that there will be a level of language, of
behavior, of values, and of action where we all agree on those rules
ahead of time.
That trust business is a serious thing and it matters - in fact, I would
suggest that romance is a medium that has power over us-and for us-for
exactly that reason. Women hunger to share, in an environment where they
feel safe - and that is especially true because these are such harsh
times. I don't know why folks are so intolerant of each today, but you
know what I'm talking about - it's everywhere. People are using religion
like a machine gun. They excuse violence and anger and intolerance and
cruelty and call it 'righteous'. We can't seem to find a solution for a
little boy like Elian without fighting. People are rude. They're furious
on the road. They push you in lines. You all know what I'm talking
Romances are not about a fairy tale - or ignoring those realities - but
they ARE are about the kind of world we want to live in. The core
difference between a fairy tale and a book that toots feminist values
like romance is that we can HAVE this world.
Personally, I never wanted the prince. You can never trust those
too-good looking guys - they always seemed self indulgent and spoiled to
me. But I do want a good man. And I want a life where I have the
emotional strength and the character skills to attain the things that
are important to me ... whether those things are children or a house or
a great job or all those things. That's what a love story is. Not a
fairy tale, where the girl goes off to the prince's home and does his
life. But a story where both the man and the woman respect each other,
and seek to help each other achieve their goals.
One way to discover how feminist issues are handled in - romance is
simply to study one of our classic story lines. The 'lost baby' plot is
the easiest example I can think of. In the most common structure in the
'lost baby' story: the couple meet when they're young, have sex, the
girl gets pregnant ... and a bunch of years later, the hero runs across
her, not realizing she's had his child. You've all read this. In fact,
you've all probably read it 3,492 times.
If the 'lost baby' story is done in a way that celebrates pro-women
values, it traditionally hits at least two major themes. One is: the
heroine gets a chance to right an old wrong, and somehow we all seem to
have an 'old wrong' in our hearts that we wish we could take back. And
number two is: that story brings back the wonder and magic of our first
love, which seems to be a memory we universally cherish. But... I
believe there is a third reason why the 'lost baby' hung around as a hot
trend for so long... and that's because we're in a period when we have
the highest divorce rate in history - a time when more kids are getting
raised by single parents than ever before. Essentially, the 'lost baby'
story is a chance for women to talk to each other about a problem that
we're all worried about today, our changing families, how single parents
cope, all those issues.
However, I've seen the 'lost baby' plot done in some ways that made me
want to whack the author-and the editor-upside the head, and I assume
you have, too. In some of those stories, the hero feels obligated to
marry the heroine just because she's pregnant - even if he doesn't love
her, even if she doesn't love him. In other stories, there's the
unspoken value that it's okay for the woman to never tell the man that
he fathered a child. And in a few of these stories, the guy sleeps with
the woman and it never once seems to occur to him that she could have
Don't get nervous if you've done some stories that way, because I've
been stuck, too - I know how this can happen. Last year I had a book
titled Prince Charming's Child. The back cover reads: "I AM A MAN
OF HONOR. IF SHE'S CARRYING MY CHILD, SHE WILL BE MY WIFE!" I didn't ask
for this copy. If I'd known what they had in mind-after I finished
throwing up--I would have
asked them to change it. Worse yet, where it's easy to argue when
there's a problem; it's tough to argue against a point of view that's
successful --- it's hard to change something like that, when sales are
so great on a book. However, that kind of back cover copy - the unspoken
values in that message - I really find disturbing. To me, a man who
would talk that way, think that way, or a treat a woman that way is an
arrogant, manipulative creep, not a hero.
You may not agree with me. In fact, I don't doubt there are a zillion
areas where you and I might disagree on all kinds of values - birth
control, abortion and religion between through obvious touchy ones for
all of us. I think what matters, though, is NOT where we disagree, but
where all of us are in accord.
The themes that show up in romances-the trends - all openly wave a
banner about how we want our world to be. And to use the 'lost -baby'
plot again for an example, I suspect you all believe with me that
ideally every child is raised by a loving, two-parent family. No sweat
there. But I can't believe any of us want to go back to the values in
the 50's when a woman married a man because she had to ... when women
felt trapped into being married and staying married because of needs
they didn't believe they could fulfill on their own. Whether you're
agnostic or believer, Jewish or Catholic or Buddhist, right wing or
left, black or white or polka dot... I really do think everyone in this
room is likely to have no difficulty agreeing on certain things.
We believe that love has power. We believe in family. In commitment. We
believe that honor is important. And that people - a couple
together-should behave with honor and respect toward each other. Take
away all our differences, from race to religion to politics to anything
else, and issues like that are still true. These core beliefs make up
what romances are. And those core beliefs are also at the heart of
I sincerely believe the reason anti-feminist values sometimes show up in
romances is not because we don't agree on this stuff .... it's just
because we get careless and aren't paying attention. Unfortunately,
though, we're not just responsible for the outward themes we write
about, but also for the hidden values under the surface.
And before I quit, I'd just like to leave you with a short, specific
list that I hope might start you thinking ... start you making your
lists, about the feminist issues that matter to you and that need to be
shouted about in romantic fiction.
--Let's agree that a hero who calls his heroine 'you little fool'
deserves to have his face washed in grape Koolaid.
--Let's agree, that a man who pretends that he doesn't know a pregnancy
can result if neither partner uses birth control is really too stupid to
--Let's agree that a woman who would knowingly sleep with a guy who
would manipulate or use her is a lousy role model for a good woman or a
--Let's agree that for a man to use financial, emotional or physical
power over a woman is a low-down skunk of a worm.
--Let's agree that for a woman to stay in a relationship - much less to
call that relationship 'love'-when a man tries to use financial,
emotional or physical power over her is a dumb jerk who is not worthy of
the label of heroine.
--Let's agree that a man who can't comprehend a simple two letter word
like 'no' is really far better suited to the role of villain than
I was trying to make you smile a bit-but also to leave you with some
examples of how easily we agree on certain values. Whether we've thought
about it on those terms or not, we've all been writing feminist concepts
into our romances for a long time. And that's wonderful - because our
books have the huge potential to support women in a way no other medium
can. In this extraordinary medium of a love story, we're able to talk
together about the things that really matter to us ... about the
problems we have, about how we might solve those problems, about what we
want our world to be, about how to empower women to be able to meet
their needs and life goals. No one can do it better than us. I know you.
I read you. Let's just keep at it - do our best to keep our
consciousness high on the messages we give our fellow sisters in
romantic fiction - and to take care to give them the messages that we
really mean to.
Barbara Keiler’s Remarks:
Alison has talked about the feminist messages that are inherent in our
books. I’m going to talk about how writing and reading romances are
inherently feminist acts.
Let me start with a little context: Back in the ’60’s and ’70’s, when
the recent feminist movement was in full flower, we were all taught that
women could have it all. Today, many of us do have it all: husbands,
children and jobs. Somewhere along the way, unfortunately, we learned
that having it all often equates to doing it all.
No matter how much progress we’ve made during the past few decades, no
matter how much control we’ve gained over our bodies, our careers and the
direction of our lives, we often find ourselves doing it all. Whether by
choice or by default, we are caretakers. In the workplace, we still make
up the majority in those professions geared toward serving others —
secretary, nurse, administrative assistant, school teacher, the kind of
work that’s all about enabling others to accomplish their goals or
improving other people’s chances for success.
At home, we still bear primary responsibility for housekeeping and child care.
Women are conditioned at a young age to understand that our worth as
human beings is measured by how well we are liked and how deeply we are
loved. We’re taught that an effective way to earn affection is to do
things for others.
Men are the frequent beneficiaries of women’s efforts. Women learn the
value of doing things for men: socially, because the most common
domestic unit in our world remains the male-female marriage; and
professionally, because men still occupy the more powerful positions in
the working world.
I’m not saying that men do nothing for women. However, because on
average men earn more money than women, women end up doing things for
them. We often learn that if we want to advance professionally or
socially, the most effective way to achieve our goals is to do things
Now what does all this have to do with romance fiction? Well, let me
tell you about how I became a romance writer.
In 1974, I enrolled in a graduate program in creative writing which at
that time had no women on the creative writing staff. The graduate
program was small and competitive. To receive one of the few
fellowships, students had to win the favor of faculty members — all of
So, I learned how to write to please men.
And that was okay. I figured it was good training, because I knew this
was the way to become a successful novelist: you have to please men with
your writing. Books read only by women didn’t get reviewed, didn’t win
the Pulitzer, didn’t get taken as seriously as books read by men. That
was the reality.
But about fifteen years ago, I decided I’d had it. I no longer wanted
to write to please men. As a wife and mother, I spend an awful lot of
my life doing things for men — especially since both my kids are boys.
But in my career, the intellectual heart of my life, I no longer do
things for men. Writing romance fiction is something I do for women —
and for myself.
I’m not saying I don’t want men to read my books. I’d be thrilled if
they did. I think the world would be a better place if men read
romances. But winning male approval isn’t the objective of romance
writers. We are writing for an audience of women. If men don’t get it,
I think — and this is just my opinion, of course, but I’m tossing it out
for your consideration — the main reason romance fiction gets ridiculed by
literary critics is because we don’t care if men get it. We aren’t
writing to please men, and this really bugs men. They feel threatened by
anything that isn’t primarily devoted to pleasing them.
When it comes to romance fiction, men have two options:
1. They could just ignore it—except that it threatens them, and men
can’t ignore anything that threatens them, so I guess that’s not a
real option for most men.
2. They could try to learn about it, the way women make an
learn about, say football.
I was never interested in football until I met my husband, and
it was a big interest of his, so I decided to learn about it. I’m still
not a big
fan, but at least I’ve got the gist of it.
Now, football games are kind of similar to romance novels, in a way. Men
watch a game, enjoy it, get emotionally involved in the game to the
point where they want to talk about it for days afterwards. They have
some “keeper” games, which they will remember for the rest of their lives.
And yet, every game shares certain similarities with every other game:
there are two teams, each one wants to score points, they have the same
basic arsenal of strategies, and at the end of the game one team will
have won and one will have lost. They even have “length
restrictions"—sixty minutes of playing time (although, of course, in
“football time,” sixty minutes equals three hours.)
Nobody ever says to a man, “You just watched a game. Why do you want to
watch another one? They’re all the same.” Yet they say this about
romance fiction all the time.
It’s true that romance novels, like football games, share certain
features: a hero, a heroine, a romantic conflict, a happy ending.
Sometimes a “length restriction” —a word count. But just as men will
tell you that every football game is unique, some are boring but some
are brilliant, we know that every romance novel is unique — some not so
good, others brilliant.
Apparently, this “sameness” among football games is perfectly
acceptable, but among romance novels it’s a mark of how silly and
shallow the books are. I don’t think anyone would criticize romance
novels as being silly and shallow unless they felt threatened by the novels.
It’s not just men who criticize romances, of course. Female literary
critics also deride our books. But most of these female critics gained
their stature in literary circles by pleasing men — by accepting and
adopting their critical biases. Female literary critics — book
reviewers and professors — know they won’t be taken seriously unless
they think like men.
Yet our readers devour romance novels despite the ridicule and
the lack of respect. They read romances because it is one activity—in
perhaps, the only activity—they do for no one but themselves.
Romance fiction fans don’t care whether their husbands, their
children, their bosses or the critics at the New York Times Book Review
consider their choice of reading material worthwhile. They aren’t reading
romances to please anyone but themselves.
Janice Radway, in one of her seminal studies in the ’80’s, came
up with a theory that one reason women read romances rather than unwind
of the TV is because with a book, they can create a physical barrier
between themselves and the world. They hold up a romance in front of
their faces, and it’s a way of signalling their families: “I’m not
available to you right now. I am doing something for myself.”
If they were watching TV, or sitting in front of a fire, or playing with
the dog in the family room, they’d have no shield against their
families. They would still be accessible. By holding up the book, they
remove themselves from the people they usually “serve.”
One of the most telling comments I’ve received from a reader was a
letter she wrote after reading one of my books. She’d been going
through some sort of crisis with her teenage grandson — she didn’t
specify what the crisis was. But she wrote, “I would pick up your book
after a black, depressing day and lose myself in it for hours at a
time.” What she was saying was that after giving herself to her family
all day, after doing things for everyone else during this crisis, she
used my book to escape, to do something for herself. To lose
herself — meaning, to remove herself from her oppressive duties to her family.
Most writers hear comments like this from our romance readers. Our
books are a gift our readers give themselves after they’ve spent their
days giving their time, energy and effort to others.
Okay. So the act of reading a novel is a feminist statement. It’s a
woman’s way of saying, “I’m on my own time now. You can’t have me, you
can’t make demands on me, you can’t expect me to take care of you right
now. I’m doing something for me.”
But does it have to be a romance novel? Why can’t women do this with
mystery novels, or thrillers, or science fiction?
Well, obviously, they can. But I think romance novels offer something
more than simply an opportunity for a woman to do something for herself.
The fact is, romance novels are in and of themselves feminist tracts.
As Alison has said, one essential ingredient in romances is a strong,
proactive heroine. She is the energy center of the romance novel. She
does things, she determines the course of her life, she makes decisions.
She’s strong. She’s a warrior. She fights for what’s right.
One phrase you could never use to describe her is the “love interest.”
How often do you read a book blurb or a movie review that goes like
this: “A soldier of fortune. A beautiful woman. A plot to assasinate
the President.” Or: “He was a farmer determined to save his land. She
was his neighbor, with dreams of her own.” Or: “A young artist seizes
an opportunity for adventure by winning passage on a great ship. There
he meets a beautiful woman engaged to marry a wealthy man.” Okay? The
biggest movie of all time — Titanic. Jack Dawson (DiCaprio’s
character) is an artist. What is Rose (Winslet’s character)? A
beautiful woman. Someone’s fiancée.
What am I getting at here? In most popular fiction, the “heroines” are
defined by who they are, rather than what they do. And often that
definition has to do with (1) their appearance, or (2) their
relationships to others. They’re a neighbor, a fiancée, a mother, a
daughter. And heaven knows, they’re always beautiful.
The main female character in most popular fiction is passive. She is an
object, a symbol. Or else she fits into some sort of stereotype: the
whore with the heart of gold; or the virginal princess; or the
long-suffering noble mother; or - in Titanic, the repressed young
thing who needs the right man to release the real woman inside her.
Let’s face it - how does Jack liberate Rose? By stripping her naked and
drawing her! She lies there passive and naked — and decked out in
priceless necklace—and Jack draws her picture.
In good romance fiction, the heroines usually don’t fall into these
simplistic roles. They are defined not by who they are but by what they
do. They have careers. Jobs. Ambitions. Missions. They are going to
save someone. They are going to redeem the family name. They are going
to avenge the death of their father. They are going to build a
corporate empire--or they’re going to build a back porch.
It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re doing something. And
because they’re doing something, they are powerful.
Women who read romances are all doing things, too. But frequently, what
women do goes unnoticed. The mother who shuttles her son all over the
state to violin teachers and master classes is doing things, but
ultimately, when her son plays in Symphony Hall, how many people are
going to be thinking, “Wow, that young man’s mother really worked hard
to enable him to become a virtuoso”?
Much of what women do in their lives goes unnoticed and uncredited. It
is their job to enable others to attain their goals, remember?
In romance novels, the heroine’s efforts get noticed. She gets credit.
Even if what she’s doing is saving someone else, or helping someone else
— hey, I’ve written plenty of heroines who were nurses and teachers!—she
gets credit for what she’s done.
I had a book out a while back in which the heroine is a preschool
teacher. What could be more nurturing? More traditionally female?
More “doing for others”? Yet in the book, she was respected and
appreciated for what she did.
So often in real life, the mothers of young children work like dogs and
get little appreciation. They say: “The only reward I want is for my
daughter to grow up into a smart, healthy contributing member of
society.” Well, sure. But I’d bet that mother wouldn’t mind having her
husband say, “Gee, you’ve worked so hard. Put your feet up while I get
dinner. You’re not going near a greasy pot tonight.”
In a romance novel, that would happen. In a romance novel, the
heroine — and what she does — matters.
Another feminist aspect of romance fiction is that in romance novels
female sexuality is taken seriously and treated respectfully.
The sexuality in romance novels is one of the primary targets of
ridicule. This ridicule is actually a put-down of women. It belittles
our sexuality and our fantasies. Why? Because our sexual fantasies are
different from those of men, so men feel threatened by them. And what
do men do when they feel threatened? They sneer. They make fun of what
The sex scenes in romance fiction are nothing like the sex scenes you
get in most men’s fiction. The sex scenes in popular fiction written
for men are usually something along the lines of what you might find in
Playboy: the woman is like one of those centerfolds with the
surgically enhanced bosoms and the collagen lips, and in the interview
she says she’s working on her Ph.D in astrophysics. And the hero in
men’s fiction can bring exquisite sexual satisfaction to the heroine by
letting her perform oral sex on him in an elevator.
A typical example: About ten years ago, my agent called me to tell me
about this phenomenal manuscript his agency was repping. A first novel,
and it was going to be big. It was Scott Turow’s Presumed
Innocent, and my agent told me he’d read it and thought it was
fabulous — except, he added, “You write better sex scenes.”
Well, when the book came out, he sent me a copy, and I read it. And it
was a terrific book, a real page turner. The big sex scene in this book
involved the assistant D.A. — who just happened to be blond and gorgeous
and stacked and was sleeping with several lawyers in the D.A.’s office,
even though she was also a brilliant attorney — and she’s having anal
sex with the hero, and in the middle of this anal sex scene, she says
something along the lines of, “I bet your wife doesn’t do this for you.”
And that realization—that she’s allowing the hero to do to her what his
wife won’t allow—is what turns her on.
That’s a guy sex scene. And not a single critic made fun of it.
Men want to believe women are turned on by wearing black French maid
uniforms and crotchless panties—this is what men buy for their lovers on
Valentine’s Day, right? And if we don’t get turned on by what turns men
on, they’d rather not think of us as having our own sexual agenda.
That’s too threatening to them.
In a “Dear Reader” letter a couple of years ago, I wrote, “Romance
novels are women talking to other women about the things that matter to
us.” I should say that among the letters I got from readers after that
book came out was one from a man who said he loved my book but wanted to
take exception to that statement in the “Dear Reader” letter. “Men read
romances too,” he said.
Well, of course, not enough men read romances. Whenever a man reads a
romance, I’m thrilled, because I want men to know what matters to us. I
want men to take our issues seriously. I want men to understand what
women respond to in heroes and heroines. I want them to read books in
which people overcome their problems by cooperating instead of crushing
their opponents or going to war or anihilating the planet.
But when I write a romance novel, I’m not writing it hoping that men are
going to read it. I’m writing it for other women. It’s girl talk.
If men want to listen in and learn, wonderful. But romance fiction is
for us. It is one thing we do for ourselves. Pleasing men is not its
purpose. Those of us who write romance write to please women, and those
of us who read it read to please ourselves.
And that’s as feminist as it gets.
Jan. 10, 2001