Funny (or tragic, depending on how you choose to look at it) how very good things often result in terrible things. A couple blogs ago I wrote about how romance literature was becoming crass and – in my opinion- disrespectful to women. I heard from much younger friends who believe that the use of vulgar language and acceptance of certain sexual acts in romance novels has more to do with women taking charge than reflecting any kind of disrespect toward them. I respectfully disagree.
When I talk to the younger American generation, I am always amazed by what they accept as “normal” or –in this case –romantic. I think the problem is that in the US women have been “liberated” a lot longer than in other parts of the world. By liberated, I mean that in spite of all the obstacles that females still today encounter these roadblocks pale by comparison with what women have to face elsewhere. I am not even talking about the countries where females are worth nothing and treated worse than cattle. I am instead focusing on my own native country and how my experiences growing up female shaped these ideas I have today.
Until I was ten years old, I lived in a country ruled by a fascist government that controlled every aspect of society. There was no freedom of speech and censorship had impeded some of the progress that was felt in the rest of Europe from reaching us. Not that I minded, being a child at the time. Women were seen the same way that they were seen in other parts of the western world. Quite a few were in the workforce but mostly as secretaries, teachers, and hairdressers. But there was, at least, a certain amount of respect for the “fair sex”. When I turned ten there was a political coup and the government was overthrown by the military in a bloodless revolution. The buzz word after that was freedom. Unfortunately, this was an occasion when something good (the turn into a more democratic society where individual liberties were respected) spawned something really bad.
The concept of freedom in the hands of a predominantly patriarch society (and after years of tight controls) quickly translated into sexual freedom- and not the good kind. Very soon, you could not walk out of your house without being exposed to pictures of naked women, legs spread out or amidst a sexual act. These pictures were literally everywhere. No parent could protect their children from them. They were in the streets, in stores, on TV, in movies… This created a culture of record-low disrespect for women. By the time I was 13, I could not walk down the street without being assailed by vulgar comments and be propositioned by males of all ages. I couldn’t take the train to go to school without being groped and rubbed against. I ceased to be a girl and became a sexual object with no free-will. At the time I didn’t realize this was wrong. I didn’t like it but it was the only way I knew. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how I (and most of all girls back then) had been in a way abused by society at large.
Don’t get me wrong, in spite of these terrible conditions there were perfectly respectful men and most parents managed to somehow raise strong women who took charge of their lives and who still managed to love themselves. However, I cannot accept the type of disrespectful relationships that are portrayed in these so-called romances as normal or desirable and I do believe that we are doing a terrible disservice to the women of the future. By accepting- no, devouring disrespect both in literature and/or movies aren’t we giving the new generation of women the wrong message?
So yes, I find a lot of what’s going on in the romance world (either written or viewed) offensive. It makes me feel as if all the struggles of the women before me were in vain for we are now, not only going back to the world that I grew up in but a world where this lack of disrespect is being endorsed by women as much as men. I am glad I don’t have daughters because I don’t like where we are headed.