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The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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June 19, 2024

Love’s new chapter: The empowering resurgence of romance novels

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Nikhita Dass
The discrepancy between fictional and real relationships is a key factor in these trends. The rise of social media has made in-person grand gestures far less prominent. The days of the “Say Anything” boom box or the “10 Things I Hate About You” bleacher performance seem even more distant than when the movies were originally released.

A woman approaches the romance section of a bookstore, browsing the colorful covers and the names in bold letters — names like Emily Henry, Sarah J. Maas and Ana Huang jump out. Feelings of lust and romance fill the air as the woman opens the hardcover and reads the inside flap. This woman could be one of many who are increasingly interested in the genre of romance.

Romance novels are climbing up the charts — they now make up nine out of the fifteen New York Times bestsellers in the combined print and e-book fiction category, and women wrote all nine. Women aren’t just writing novels; they’re also the main readers. In 2022, 82% of romance readers were women, and readers should start recognizing the importance of female-written romance novels as they are a representation of who women are and what they want.

The discrepancy between fictional and real relationships is a key factor in these trends.  The rise of social media has made in-person grand gestures far less prominent. The days of the “Say Anything” boom box or the “10 Things I Hate About You” bleacher performance seem even more distant than when the movies were originally released. Today, people are more likely to use apps like Snapchat or Instagram to ask people out instead, sophomore Arieanna Singh said. In 2015, roughly 33% of teens asked someone out via texting or on social media. As social media advances, this number only increases. This phenomenon attracts women to romance novels, where they can enjoy reading about profound, dramatic confessions of love.

Singh noticed the effect of modern dating habits on women and love overall. 

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“Oftentimes in real life, you have things like situation ships on Snapchat,” Singh said. “Romance as a whole has kind of deteriorated.”

However, enjoying romance novels can be a source of teasing and ridicule. People often think of modern romance books as “chick-lit” or “trashy,” said Women’s Studies teacher Linda Leslie. While these books may be the source of judgment, they hold value. They allow people to dream about their future, and teach them not to settle for less than their worth. Like beauty, literature is in the eye of the beholder.

Freshman Raama Sistla isn’t embarrassed by her love of romance. She enjoys reading the genre in her free time, especially if it revolves around fantasy. 

“Most of the romance novels that I read are cheesy romance novels,” Sistla said. “I’m not scared to share that out.”

Female writers know how to appeal to female readers, especially in modern times. A 2023 study shows women write 83% of books in the romance genre. Women write their main characters based on their wishes, Sistla said. Romance novels can help form expectations for an individual’s romantic future and women may see romantic gestures in books and realize how much they want and deserve. A common misconception is that romance novels provide unrealistic expectations for dating in reality, however, these books don’t necessarily raise the standard but allow women to realize they deserved a higher standard all along.

Many readers feel a male-written romance novel differs from a woman’s expectations, noticing that male authors objectify their female characters and create a surface-level, male-fantasy-centric love story. Whitman Media Specialist Alexis Mazur believes some male authors describe what their female characters look like in unrealistic terms.

“They’ll talk about a woman’s body a lot — her weight or what she looks like — in terms that are odd or unattainable,” Mazur said.

These descriptions may not only feel unnecessary to the plot but also don’t represent most women, thus turning them away from romance books written by men.  Books like these cater to the male gaze, which appeals to the physical aspects of the female leads, using them as objects of male desire rather than empowered and independent characters. In contrast, the modern concept of the ‘female gaze’ includes prominent themes of complex female characters, and others valuing a woman’s mind over her body. 

“The female gaze prioritizes emotions over bodies, emotions over actions or equipment,” Leslie said. “The male gaze has been criticized for objectifying women and sexualizing them, often reducing them to characters who interact only with the male protagonist, and only about sex.

While some argue that female-written romances similarly contain female fantasies and may objectify men, their main point is to prioritize a woman’s pleasure and independence, whereas stories written by men tend to focus on degrading women to prop up a male protagonist.

“I think when people are starved for representation, they want to see themselves in all kinds of media,” Leslie said. “They speak to their audience — almost create an audience.”

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About the Contributor
Nikhita Dass
Nikhita Dass, News Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join The B&W? I wanted to be able to share news on current events and issues with my community. What is your favorite board game? Monopoly

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    Sylvia FischerJun 5, 2024 at 4:25 pm

    I completely agree with the author Stella . In these moments with so many wars started by men but afflicting women , the romance novels written by women are goof for women ‘s soul

    Reply