I’ve recently read a couple of books labelled as ‘women’s fiction’ and it got me thinking.
What makes a book one in the women’s fiction category? Why does this genre exist? Does it have a right to? And if yes, why isn’t there a genre for ‘men’s fiction’?
Because…it would be logical, wouldn’t it?
To be fair, this might be just me. I don’t know. I don’t remember ever seeing it being thoroughly discussed… But I’ve never in my life got what this category might mean. Ever since I was a tween starting to get interested in adult literature, I can’t fathom why women’s fiction is a thing.
I already wrote a couple of my thoughts about it in my review about ‘More Than Bones’, and I don’t want to compose the exact same thing another way again, so I decided to plagiarize myself a bit here. (
Well, the source is clearly marked, so it’s more like a quote from myself…) Here it is:
“I don’t completely understand or agree with the concept of the genre ‘women’s fiction’. I get it, they’re books for women… but… are these books only women like? They’re certainly not. Do women not like other books…? That’s not true, either. Okay, there are genres that mostly women read (mostly, but I let it slide now), like romance… but those have a genre already! Then what is the reason this category has to exist? It doesn’t make any sense…”
And there are other thoughts as well: what makes a book so “girly” that puts it in this genre? Many times it’s simply the fact that the protagonist is a woman. Or that it’s about things that mostly concern women. Is that really a reason to put a label on something, so people would think it should be read only by women?
These are things I can’t accept.
These books mostly have another genre, as well, making this “women’s fiction” label all the more pointless (in my opinion, at least).
I didn’t want to judge quickly, though, especially after I decided to write this post, so I went on good ol’ Wikipedia. This is what I found:
Okay, so according to this, women’s fiction is by definition the thing I thought it was. A book about a woman, or women, or the situation of women that’s somehow decided to be published with the pure intention to preferably aim at women. Why, I ask? Why should a book about women only keep the attention of women? Why couldn’t it be a hit with men, too, especially if it’s quality work? Well, it won’t ever be, if it’s marketed as a book specially for women. I think many books lose a serious number of potential readers because of this.
Let’s go on…
<<The Romance Writers of America organization defines women’s fiction as, “a commercial novel about a woman on the brink of life change and personal growth. Her journey details emotional reflection and action that transforms her and her relationships with others, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending with regard to her romantic relationship.”>>
Okay, so am I the only one who thinks a woman’s personal growth and development could be interesting to anyone, regardless of their gender? I think if a book like this is well-written, anybody can enjoy and learn from it. And if it’s not a good work, then that is the reason some people doesn’t like it, and not that it’s about the opposite gender.
And I haven’t even mentioned anything non-binary. But let’s not go there, that would be worth a whole other discussion topic…
Also, I don’t think that all books labelled ‘women’s fiction’ have an upbeat ending…but that’s another thing, too.)
“At the Women’s Fiction Writers Association women’s fiction is described as a story where the plot is driven by the main character’s emotional journey. Women’s Fiction includes layered stories about one or several characters, often multi-generational that tackles an adult character’s struggle with world issues resulting in emotional growth. It may include elements of mystery, fantasy, romance or other subgenres, but is not driven by these elements. The writing is high quality and accessible. Upmarket fiction often falls in this category, and is appropriate for book clubs.”
This is the end of the Wikipedia article (it’s painfully short by the way). I think this is the best definition of the three, and it makes me question the existence of women’s fiction even more.
I just…don’t get it.
Reading about it made me want to discuss this issue with you even more. I’m keen to learn what you think!
Have you ever thought about how the genre women’s fiction might be problematic? Do you think it has a right to exist, or do you think these books should have a genre, a label that reflects more of what happens in the book?
I’m very interested to see both sides of this, so please, leave a comment if you have any thoughts about this! No matter if you agree with me or not.
Let’s discuss! 😉