Thursday, 7 July 2011

Put down your books, Women! (unless it v serious & literary)

Another week another controversy.

Yet again we are being told women are far too easily influenced and led by our hormone driven emotions to be trusted to read fiction, especially romantic fiction. It makes us want to be happy you see, makes us want loving equal relationships, possibly even families so we stick with our men, stop using contraceptives and have to have an abortion.

Woman writing for the British Medical Journal say what?!

Yes ladies, close those frothy pink covered books because YOUR reading material leads to unwanted pregnancies, marital breakdown and adulterous affairs. In a Daily Telegraph article published today with the not-at-all-sensationalist headline “Mills and Boon causes Marital Breakdown”
relationship psychologist Susan Quilliam ( - journalist, PR woman, broadcaster wow, multi skilled, she probably doesn’t have time to read – check out her website couldn’t see her research credentials but I am sure they are robust enough to back up such a huge claim) says "a huge number" of problems are caused by romantic novels.

"What we see in our consulting rooms is more likely to be informed by Mills & Boon than by the Family Planning Association,"
"We warn of the stresses of pregnancy and child-rearing, and we discourage relentless baby-making as proof of a relationship's strength. Above all, we teach that sex may be wonderful and relationships loving, but neither are ever perfect and idealising them is the short way to heartbreak. But are our lessons falling on deaf ears when compared to the values of the Regency heroine gazing adoringly across the Assembly Rooms to catch a glimpse of her man.”

Yes, Jane Austen, you may not have written for Mills and Boon but you are clearly also to blame with your breeches clad heroes and romantic declarations. I insist schools stop teaching such froth immediately and replace this woman with some nice Thomas Hardy – Jude the Obscure should do it, no expectations of a happy ending to be found there.
I ranted just last week about how men can, apparently, read all kinds of escapist fiction and yet be trusted not to let it overheat their brains and won’t repeat myself but do find it interesting that it is the right wing press that like to peddle these myths. As a woman what I find hard is not escaping into a novel – of whatever genre – for a couple of hours but the relentless barrage of criticism telling me I am too fat, not fashionable enough, my hair should be glossy, my skin flawless, I must work but not too much or I will ruin my child’s life, must exercise, eat this, wear that, decorate my house this way...

In my opinion the worst and most pernicious influences on women are those drip fed to us by adverts, by magazines, by tabloids, by reality shows, by soaps showing us a world where you have to be pretty and sexy to succeed. Where high heels and glossy hair are more important than a degree, where a cheating lothario of a footballer is a perfect mate. Look at the reality shows and you will see silicon enhanced women making a fortune out of selling every detail of their lives to the papers and magazines, often having babies with multiple partners as part of this real life soap opera. Spoilt heiresses, kiss and tell girls, barely clad pop stars, footballer’s wives (not female footballers, far too sweaty and non blow-dried) – these are the female role models.

Or you could lose yourself in a romance novel where the heroine could be a CEO, a successful baker, run an Art Gallery, a lawyer, a PR consultant, a graphic designer, a computer programmer, a doctor. What kind of ridiculous message is that to teach women? A fulfilling career and an equal partnership with someone who loves you? Clearly fiction. Go get a spray tan and some false nails and hang around a Liverpool nightclub instead. After all, if you get lucky you can always sell your story…


Teresa Morgan said...

Well said!

Isn't it a bit like saying crime is on an increase due to crime novels and thrillers? ::rolls eyes::

Hey, my argument is if men were a little more romantic in the real world, us girls wouldn't have to indulge in fantasy ;-P

Xandra James said...

Completely 100% agree. Will romance books always be to blame for everything? Easy pickings it seems...

Julia Broadbooks said...

Her lack of research credentials and the lack of any facts or statistics in the article don't make me inclined to click through to her website. I just don't think she has anything to say beyond her opinion, which is offensive and dated.

And I think it's a huge, ignored, point that the tabloid reality has more in common with the problems she cites than does the average Mills and Boon book.