Are Romance Novels Anti-Feminist?

feministinsideheartA lot of people I know consider romance novels anti-feminist. One of my friends said that romance novels idealize traditional marriage roles too much and look down on stronger female roles and independent women.

I think that is a load of bull.

Sure, maybe at one point romance novels were like that. In the days of The Good Housewife Guide when wives were actually told to wait until their husbands were done talking before talking themselves because his topics are more important.   Or when women were only just entering the workforce.  But just because most people have an outdated idea of what romance novels are doesn’t mean the romance industry has stayed in the dark ages.


Not only is the heroine a cop in this book, but she can also talk about sports as good as any stereotypical guy.

Romance novels depict real life, just in a more ideal manner. And that ideal manner includes women who are cops, CEOs, firefighters, veterans, and even criminals. It’s actually very rare for me to come across books that have women end up as stay-at-home moms or housewives as their happy ending. Sure, women always end up depending on men and marrying them in the end. But the men depend on the women just as much. And of course they’re getting married. It’s a romance. Is James Bond anti-socially awkward nerdy guys because he’s suave and buff? No.

Even marriages fit modern ideals  The heroines stay just as strong and independent as they were when the book started. And what does the “ideal” marriage look like? More often than not, it’s two people madly in love with each other with a couple of kids that they both equally raise and support financially. So much for being anti-feminist, right?

The exception to the rule above is historical romances. Because historical romances have to be somewhat historically accurate, the heroines often become gentlewomen or housewives. However, they are usually still strong, outspoken characters and they’re often in a sort of adviser role for their husbands. Their husbands respect their opinion and take guidance from them all the time. There is no “his topics are more important than yours” bullshit.

Under Fire is only one of an entire series of romance novels with female veterans.

While there are plenty of problems with the romance industry, like slut-shaming, the lack of ethnic diversity, and the scarcity in nerdy love interests, anti-feminism is not one of them. There are plenty of more anti-feminist things out there. Like Barbie. And high school curriculums and dress codes. Most superhero worlds as well.  But romance novels? Not as far as I’m concerned.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments.