7 thoughts on “DISCUSSION: Abdul-Jabbar & Greer

  1. I don’t think romance and feminism have to be at odds with one another. I think its foolish to pigeonhole an entire literary genre as being ‘anti-feminist’, especially one where I have seen well-written examples. Rather, we need to rethink romance as a genre so that it supports women being in control of their sexuality.

    Jermaine Greer’s talk on the romance genre in her book The Female Eunuch showcases a lot of issues with it that are still present today (whether they’re in novels that anyone can pick up from a local Christmas Tree Shop or, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar points out, in reality TV shows like ‘The Bachelor’).
    The melodramatic portrayals of sex (eg. in one novel Greer quotes – a wife is tracing literal ESSAYS over her husbands skin with her fingers), the painfully rigid gender roles and the blatantly unrealistic relationship milestones are all common themes of a typical entry in the romance genre, and both Greer and Abdul-Jabbar point out that these depictions in the long run are incredibly harmful. If anything, they reinforce the notion that marriages are forever stable and happy, that true love SHOULD happen in only a matter of weeks, and that a woman should let a man take the reins in her relationship with him.

    Again though, this isn’t saying that these problems are inevitable and thus the romance genre is inherently anti-feminist.
    Rather, the status quo for many romance oriented mediums needs to be changed so that more people (especially women) can see how relationships actually work, and thus know what to expect from being in one, instead of feeling like a failure for not being in a relationship they’re not passionate about anymore.

    Just as some suggestions, reforms for the romance genre could include:
    – an acceptance that not all relationships last forever, even those in wedlock.
    – an acceptance that ‘relationship burnout’ exists
    – women having their own agency instead of being ravished by their tall, brooding, byronic husbands
    – queer romance, because let’s face it- most of the romance genre is incredibly heteronormative.
    – sexual relationships where those involved don’t have a romantic bond- ‘friends with benefits’.

  2. In my opinion, feminism and romance do not have to be at odds with one another. As feminism has made progress towards gaining equality for the sexes, ambitious women have started to be praised for working stressful, high level jobs that were traditionally seen as jobs only held by men. I think there is an inherent societal belief that women who are more focused on their careers will never find love. There is definitely pressure for women to settle down in their late 20’s or early 30’s, years that are simultaneously seen as “crunch time” for many careers. I think now it is becoming more accepted that women can be just as focused on their careers as men, and there isn’t a time where “settling down” is necessary or right.

    That being said, I think the idea of romance places men and women into certain roles, where women are seen as somewhat subordinate and always looking for the perfect love and men are the ones who always have to make a move on the woman. This romanticized version of relationships and love makes it seem like there is only one model for the perfect relationship, however it is clear that in our world today relationships are not so cut and dry. Women aren’t always looking for love in a relationship, men don’t always have to be the ones to make the first move, and not all relationships need to end in marriage for the people involved to be happy.

    Germaine and Abdul-Jabbar’s articles made me think about how our society romanticizes the idea of love, making it seem like there is one cookie-cutter way that the idea of love plays out (sparks flying on the first kiss between 2 beautiful people, always heterosexual), when that is almost always false in real life.

  3. I think that there are certain aspects of romance that could be considered anti-feminist, but I don’t think that the overall genre is necessarily at odds with feminism. At times, romance is an exaggeration of gender stereotypes. A classic romance story is the “damsel in distress,” which requires a man to save the day when a woman is struggling. Although these stories may be fun and exciting to the audience, the man shouldn’t always be the one saving the day. Similarly, as Greer’s article mentions, ballroom dancing is one of the most romantic acts. The male dancer is constantly leading the female, leading her while she moves backward. This act, while very romantic, is rooted in a male’s dominance over a female, which is inherently anti-feminist. Another aspect of romance that could be considered anti-feminist is chivalry. When I think of chivalry, I think of a man opening up the car door for a woman or a man giving a woman his coat when she’s cold. While these actions are usually done with good intentions, I can see how you could see them as anti-feminist since they are rooted in the idea that a woman needs a man’s help.

    Although the above examples suggest that romance is at odds with feminism, you could also argue that romance is actually rooted in respect, which is a crucial aspect of feminism. A romantic story is often a man worshipping and admiring a woman, desperate to court her and make her feel the same as he does. This genre might play at too many gender stereotypes of the man being the hero and the woman is the one who needs to be saved, but it also is based on men treating women like they walk on water, which is not necessarily anti-feminist. In order to modernize romance, we should pay more attention to the respect, admiration, and loving aspects of romance rather than the dominance of a man over a woman and other exaggerated stereotypes.

  4. When I was seven years old I saw the movie A Cinderella Story with Hillary Duff and decided that I wanted to one day be my high school’s Prom Queen. Like Kathy, the young girl that Germaine Greer describes as “wildly excited” to go to her first ball, the idea of dressing up like a princess and spending the evening with my price charming was very exciting to me. The thought of standing alongside my Prom King (who would be handsome, funny, and six inches taller than I am) was just as appealing to me as getting to wear a pretty dress and tiara.

    When I began high school I was in for three major shocks. First, that my school did not even have a prom, so my seven-year-old self’s dream would never be fulfilled. Secondly, that the boys at my school were not handsome, charming, or taller than me. Finally, the other girls in my grade did not want to find a prince charming, but were instead only interested in hooking up with junior and senior boys. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar describes the pressure that so many feel to get into a relationship; however, this could not have been further from the reality at my high school. Real relationships at my high school were incredibly rare. The extent of “romance” was a couple hooking up on week nights in addition to the weekend. While I was definitely a part of a community that took the idea of having no strings attached to an extreme, I think that our generation as a whole does not feel the pressure that Abdul-Jabbar describes to be in a relationship. Reading these articles was interesting for me because I have never felt that members of my generation share the fantasized ideas of romance and relationships that both Greer and Abdul-Jabbar describe.

  5. I think as it stands now, the romance genre and feminism are quite at odds, though not just for the reasons that are enumerated in Greer’s piece. Yes, it is largely a problem that the genre infantilizes grown women, often having their partner blur the line between father figure and love as Greer continually points out, and demand that women be inherently submissive the moment they become a wife. These are unfeminist ideas, and we should continue to have discussions about how to address those solidified notions and break them down. However, that is not the only way in which I find feminism to be at odds with romance. I think it is decently unfeminist to tell women [or men or anyone else] what they may and may not enjoy. Feminism is about equally, and part of that equality is having the autonomy to dictate your own preferences. So what if that means a 45 year old mother of two gets off to reading, what is essentially softcore porn just because it has some unfeminist ideas in it? Though it’s not exactly the same, you could equate this to kink shaming–another idea I think to be against what feminism stands for and aims to accomplish. I struggle with the idea of “bad feminists” and what that should actually mean, and I think this is where some women might call others who like romance novels a bad feminist.” That shouldn’t be. People should be free to indulge in whatever guilty pleasures they want– hopefully eventually finding the peace and surefootedness to just call is a pleasure–as long as it does no harm to other. And while some may argue that these novels are doing harm because they help keep women oppressed, I fundamentally disagree with that.

    The existence of words that may be harmful should not be combated with censorship or societal restrictions, but instead should be met with measure, and reasonable arguments. The answer to the problems in the romance genre isn’t to do away with it or even to insist that it completely change, but rather to have a vocal community that continues to point out the unfeminist moments in the literature and explain why the real world is/needs to be different. We need to teach girls that it is okay to like Nicholas Sparks movies, but understand that life if more complex than that, that they themselves are more complex than that. The hope is that the person actually reading the romance novel can play both of these roles, meaning they can still indulge in their fantasies and then go out into the world as a radical feminist and kick some butt. Reality does need to be separated from fantasy, but the existence of the two does not need to be mutually exclusive.

  6. I don’t fully agree with the idea that “romance” and “feminism” are at odds with one another, neither do I completely disapprove of the concept. In my opinion, the real issue at hand is how we are defining “romance”. This concept of “romance” and interaction between a man and woman has significantly changed throughout the past few years, decades, and even centuries. Back then, women had significant pressure to marry early and take on the role of a wife and performing solely domestic roles. In addition, in relation to interactions between a man and woman, men tend to be the ones (especially back then) to take initiative and full dominance over the relationship. In a world that is evolving and slowly but surely getting to “equality between men and women”, the idea of “romance” is becoming somewhat less at odds with feminism. This is so, in the way that women have been granted many more opportunities and rights. The progression of women’s roles in society has taken a significant and maybe subconscious effect on what women can be and do in a relationship. In a generalized sense, women are capable of having careers, reproductive rights, and not having her male counterpart to pay for every meal. Germaine and Abdul-Jabbar’s articles perfectly lay out examples (especially from books and movies) of “perfect romances and relationships” and how society has internally taught us what a normal “romance” is between a man and woman, rather than letting others deduct what romance and a relationship means to them. The bachelor is an example which perfectly portrays and fosters the fakeness of relationships. The show is packed with fake personalities (whether intentional or not) who believe they are in love when in reality they are not. Both of these articles really opened my eyes on how society throughout the years has constructed our perception of love, romance, and feminism.

  7. Romance and Feminism have a lot to do with each other and can have a lot of overlap. From the perspective of Greer, there seems to be quite a strong connect. Greer spoke to great detail about how romance is perceived in society and in the book industry. She specifically tackled the classic romance novel and it’s portrayal of women. She brought up the expectations that women have when it comes to love and romance and how it changes the way that they act. She also showed how there is a norm when it comes to sex and how women often get the short end of the stick and live their “romance” by primarily pleasing the man while tricking themselves into believing that this is what romance really is. This issue specifically relates to the dynamic between women and men and shows how there is a problem with the society as it is this way. She even concludes by saying that in order to turn this situation around, women have to break free of this hypnosis that is created by romantic expectation. The world as it is is catering against women by painting this fantasy that women long for their entire lives which completely defeats the purpose of a relationship, which is love.

    This brings me to Abdul-Jabbar’s piece about the Bachelor which also strengthens the argument about romance being about love. She argues that on this show in particular, women aren’t truly after love, but are more blindsided into what they think an ideal relationship is and thus are tricked into believing that the relationship that they are in is truly love. Women are targeted in shows like this to alter their way of thinking, their opinion, their beliefs, mindsets, etc. so that they can achieve what they think is romance. So romance and feminism are related in this aspect, that with feminism, women and all the genders for that matter, can have a free will and fight for their own opinions and way of thinking that they are just as entitled to have as men and thus can have a relationship which isn’t one sided like it is so often painted as today. And then they can truly experience the real love that we think is promised to us.

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