Excuse Me, You Got Some Feminism in My Regency Romance (Redux)

 In Kell's Blog

Hey folks! Today we’re having an unusual post. Due to a thread of comments on my February 2020 post, Excuse Me, You Got Some Feminism in My Regency Romance, I decided I would break down this (comedic, tongue-in-cheek) post with the utmost of seriousness and absolutely no jokes in addition to responding, line by line, to some comments on said post. Namely, from one person.

Is this what this one person wanted? No idea. But I decided to do so because I am bored, and further, I dislike it when someone calls me names. Even if they are true, I still would like to admit, firmly, that they are true—and have done.

How delightful this will be.

I will not that further comments will be accepted and only replied to if there is something more to add. If there’s nothing more to add, I won’t add it. Because I’m not doing this because I owe people a response, or because I was wrong (though I am admitting error on some points), but because I would like to. And because I have always had the kind of platform, where I’m honest. I don’t address reviews, because that’s stupid and wrong. However, comments? Sure. If I have time.

Which I don’t but whatever. Let’s do it anyways.

I wrote this post originally in February 2020 when I was three years younger, dealing with various issues and sins, and in deep denial about a variety of things, so I’m actually kind of curious as to what I said and if I agree about it.

Italics and quotes will be used to differentiate what is the old post and what is my current commentary.

Let us begin.

Note that I also excluded portions in red in which I jokingly (recent) added edited notes. That is because they were not a part of the original post and were perhaps in poor taste. You can see those on the original article.

Excuse Me, You Got Some Feminism In My Regency Romance (with comments!)

Today I’m here to talk to you about a somewhat controversial topic that annoys the bejeezus out of me — feminism in historical romances. Specifically, because I see it most often in this era, feminism in Regency romances.

I want to clarify before we go an inch further — in this post I am specifically talking about feminism in modernly-written Regency romances, both general market and Christian fiction, but specifically I read more sweet/clean Regency romances, with or without “inspirational” content. I’m not talking about BBC adaptations, though I later will discuss them somewhat.

Because, y’all. It doesn’t make sense. Some of the most progressive novels of that era were Jane Austen’s (ish). And yes, Jane Austen heroines are sometimes spicy and fiery, and the ideas she presented (and the overblown parodies of reality she wrote) were huge for the era. I love me some Austen.

NOTE: here’s where I’d like to make an actual correction. Jane Austen’s portrayal of feminism in her novels is not a parody. I can’t see how what I said could be interpreted as such, but I don’t think I really meant that. And if I did, I am officially saying I was wrong. So I am sorry. I apologize for how that came off. Jane Austen is in the right here, and like I said below:

But still, that’s pretty tame. And it’s far, far less feminism than you see in literally any Regency romance you pick up off the shelf. Also, Jane Austen is a master while most of the historical romance authors you’ll find around are … not. They’re often good, but they’re not Jane Austen.

Jane Austen is good stuff. She accurately and artistically and beautifully portrays the lives and conditions of the women of her era. THAT part of it wasn’t parody. I never miss an opportunity to point out that Austen did write parody in essence—her characters are comedic by nature. However, the complaints of her heroines? They’re legitimate. And they make sense for the era. And just … yes.

Here’s my main point in this article:

Also, Jane Austen is a master while most of the historical romance authors you’ll find around are … not. They’re often good, but they’re not Jane Austen.

Basically, the problem is not feminism in Regency romances but the silly way women and men are portrayed in Regency romances.

Historical romances — and Regency romances are the ones I’m picking on today — are as anachronistic as it comes when it comes to the ideas women present, the way men react to them, and basically just … all that.

Yes. What that above paragraph said. This is true. It’s not about whether or not the characters are right—they often are. It’s the fact that we’re dealing with historical inaccuracies. Modern thought processes are being shoved into Regency romances, and it’s not good.

But before we dive into my post-sized rant, some clarifications:

WHAT DO I MEAN BY THE REGENCY ERA?

The Regency era is technically 1811-1820, but I define it loosely as novels written in a style or in a way that hints at Jane Austen. *shrugs* I know most would say Georgette Heyer, but I don’t care about her.

Jane Austen is my role model, and Jane Austen I shall call the author of Regency romances who one must emulate, and Jane Austen I shall praise day and night.

Georgette Heyer, Georgette Schmeyer. Did she live through it? I think not.

I was joking about this, by the way. I haven’t actually read a Georgette Heyer book. I will at some point, but until I get to it, that was just a silly joke.

Also, me defining Regency romance as novels written in a style or in a way that hints at Jane Austen may not be entirely fair, but I still think it’s, in essence, what a lot of Regency romance authors are trying and failing to achieve.

WHAT DO I MEAN BY FEMINISM?

Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m fine with some elements of feminism. The “woman are equal” and “women have brains” and “women should be allowed to vote and get whatever jobs they can get” part.

But not the “woman are the exact same as men” or “women are better than men” parts. Just nope. Nopety nope. Sorry, folks. That’ll be enough of that. *tosses all of these thoughts out the window and walks away casually as they fall screaming into the void*

Now, a big problem a commenter had with my post was that I said that feminism includes those elements—the “women are better than men” parts. But here’s the thing. I wouldn’t have said that unless I had been told that. By women who at least claimed to be feminists. More than once.

So even if it’s not true of feminism, it is true that people, claiming to be feminists, have said that women are better than men. That’s where that comment came from. However, it’s inaccurate as men and women are created equal.

I also am afraid I must stand by my stance that women are not exactly the same as men. There are differences. Though that does make me a bigot by modern standards, I’m okay with that because I believe it’s true.

That said, I mean all these elements when talking about feminism in this post. Just … the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the “I don’t even care” parts, as well. All of it.

With those clarifications in place, pull up a chair and grab a mug of hot cocoa, because Granny Kell’s gonna tell you a story. (Though don’t call me Granny.) (I’m just a child.) (Well, a young adult.) (Let’s call a spade a spade and not let me be more immature than I am already.)

When we get to the responding-to-comments section of this post, I will talk about this more, but as long as feminists are claiming things that are lies, whether or not they’re accepted by some other feminists, there will be that side—the ‘ugly’ side of feminism.

However, that doesn’t discredit all feminists. At the very least, I certainly don’t want to discredit most historical feminists (though not all because some evil, nonsensical, and otherwise awful things arose in this movement as with any other). I don’t think I ever said that, though perhaps I did as I went further into the post. Let’s see.

This next part is a long story but I’m going to break it up with comments.

A STORY BY KELLYN ROTH

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Miss Gillseldina Grimelda the 3rd. Or Gillie, to her friends (of which she doesn’t have many). (Yay for cute nicknames for horrific old-fashioned names!)

This is a common trope in all historical romances—long horrible names with cute nicknames. Readers of the genre will recognize this. So this was a jab at the trope—has nothing to do with feminism.

Gillie loves books, and is somewhat shy, and allows her wicked Uncle Mortimer to abuse her. No, Uncle Mortimer never would hit Gillie, of course — this is a PG-rated story, after all!

This is making fun of the way a lot of sweet/clean romances will drive up the stakes crazy high about something that’s not actually that high stakes. Because, believe it or not, these particular things are not abuse!

But a lot of romances do portray abuse, so I’m not in this case discussing actual abuse of any type—emotional, spiritual, physical, etc. This is not a part of the post.

But he does abuse her by taking away her books, insisting that her childhood dream of being a botanist librarian is ridiculous, and, most of all, says that because she is a girl, she is useless and stupid and silly.

This ^ actually does talk about abuse, come to think of. That kind of thing is emotional abuse, though of course, it depends a little how this is portrayed.

Yet it’s still watered down compared to what women would really experience, so it’s still frustrating.

Although Gillie was born in the Regency era, she is blissfully unaware of it. Every time a Regency era tradition or rule comes up, she is shocked. She must wear a corset!? And SHOES!?! AND IT’S UNLADYLIKE TO SLIDE DOWN BANISTERS!?!?!

This is the main problem with feminism as portrayed in Regency romances. They’re doing it for lip service—but NOT because they actually care about or understand women’s rights and more than that, care about representing actual problems in a human way.

Therefore, the worst stakes in the novel are “she has to wear a corset” (women didn’t wear corsets in the Regency era; they wore stays, and they were really comfortable, and tight-lacing was not a thing in this era) and shoes are a normal thing that most people wear.

Furthermore, these quirks are not usually because the author cares about feminism. They are so the author can enjoy a historical era without feeling like the reader might misinterpret this as “I approve of these things.”

I’ve had that happen when it comes to my own books, but I’ve also had the opposite (“the author inserted too many of her own modern ideals”), so there’s no pleasing everyone. It’s just something to be aware of.

But these are again not the BAD parts of women’s oppression in the era. These are just things that existed in the era that have been incorrectly associated with oppression.

Gillie comes to realize that her horrible Regency life is HOLDING HER BACK. It is AWFUL. She’s never known anything but it, of course, but Gillie refuses to acknowledge this. Instead, she whines about how her life is a prison compared to those 2010s girls.

Sadly, this is not the kind of story where Gillie can time travel to 2010. Instead, she is stuck in 1810. It really sucks for Gillie. She is so oppressed.

Now here’s the thing. It’s true that a lot of elements of society back then were terrible and holding women back. Well, not just holding women back but making their lives near-impossible to live through. That’s true. Even if I disagree with some of the things modern-day feminism promotes (and I really do), I will never be able to discredit much of the suffragette movement because of just how badly women were treated throughout history.

After all, the first thing Adam did after the Fall of Man was blame Eve for his own sin. Yeah. It’s been going on forever. And it’s still going on in the church today. So just … let’s never forget that.

However, the problem is that in these books, it’s become a parody of itself. The problem with characters like Gillie, though this is obviously a joking story that is exaggerated for comedy’s sake, is that:

  1. It’s her only personality trait (probably because authors misunderstand characters like Elizabeth Bennet, who spoke truth and was spunky about OTHER things than just her feminist traits)
  2. She’s always surprised by it, like she hasn’t lived her whole life in this society. So we get this character who is inherently an idiot. Not to harp on Elizabeth Bennet too much, although she is quintessential “good character,” but Elizabeth Bennet feels like a character who lives in the era rather than a modern day person who stumbles into the Regency era and learns everything about it as she goes.
  3. People who live through actual suffering don’t act the same way as people looking back on suffering and having not lived through it.

One day, while feeding her pet chipmunks, Gillie runs into Handsome McHandsomeface. We’ll call him Han for short.

Han and Gillie hit it off and spend the rest of the day walking about in the forest together. Gillie tells him about all her REBELLIOUS ideas — like reading and not wearing a corset and wearing her hair down and running about wild in the prairies without her bonnet on — and Han LOVES her for it.

This is the other problem. The hero is ALWAYS on her side. It’s pure escapism, and though that’s what the genre is known for, I care about history more than I care about romance writers.

I’m not an escapist fiction writer. I’m just not. And though I’ve been known to enjoy some escapist fiction, that doesn’t mean I don’t criticize it. I’m one of those annoying people

Gillie is different than every woman Han has ever met because she enjoys reading and says really bold, obnoxious things and doesn’t at all understand the era she’s been born in.

Han is in love with Gillie, and after some mishaps of various sorts, he proves that he is an ACTUAL gentleman, having inherited 2010s feminist morals from … somewhere. He buys Gillie a botanist library and marries her, after proving that her Uncle Mortimer is an Absolute Idiot.

Uncle Mortimer dies of typhoid fever.

This is why Mr. Darcy succeeds where Han doesn’t. You see, Mr. Darcy was a socially awkward, prideful idiot, sure—but he was also a jerk. His growth during the story is amazing. And he’s realistic to the era, again, whereas characters like Han fail to be.

That said, there are characters who start out knowing the truth about life and society while also the truth of what IS objectively true (like women have value, the system is screwy, and so on). Mr. Tilney is a good example of this, for instance—he does everything he can to further Catherine’s goals and protect her, even though it’s not much. (Sometimes he is a bit too passive, though.)

That said, you don’t see that in modernly written Regency romances in general.

DO YOU LIKE MY STORY?

Good, ‘cause I could recommend 500 others just like it.

The truth is, I actually somewhat enjoy elements of these stories (when not over-simplified, as such). I know a number of authors who have done really clever things with these tropes (Julie Klassen and Kristi Ann Hunter both write masterful Regency romances without driving readers insane, for instance).

But here’s the thing … did you catch the feminism? Because it wasn’t subtle. At all.

And I just really don’t understand how authors always manage to get so much feminism in my Regency romances!

So I guess my problem is not so much feminism as INACCURATE feminism and characters who act in anachronistic ways. So I guess a better title for my post overall might have been ‘You Got Some Modern Feminism in My Regency Romance.’

WHY IS THE FEMINISM EVEN THERE?

Here’s the thing … people like to include feminism in their historical stories. For no reason other than to show that they are Woke and they Understand that Back Then things were Not Ideal for Women.

But, first of all, they exaggerate some elements of the era (probably based on authors like Jane Austen, though she does it so much more subtly that I can’t imagine how we got here).

And then they put in their modern sensibilities to solve the problem, unlike Jane Austen, who never attempted to solve the problem of her era at all, except by pointing out that some things (read: most things) were irrevocably silly and random.

It’s misplaced and weird, it doesn’t make sense for the era, and it’s just … annoying. A little trope or plot detail or whatever you want to call it that is included for the sake of including it.

Perhaps it’s to make the hero seem more heroic or the heroine more spicy, but let me tell you — it does not work. And it’s annoying.

And it never gets resolved, truly, at least in a realistic fashion.

And it takes the reader into some fantasy reality the author created for the sake of letting the author be Aware of how Bad things were back in Ye Olden Dayes.

This is another big part of the problem. Authors keep trying to solve what can’t be solved and end up providing an inaccurate solution to a problem that we can’t pretend was personal. It was cultural.

So we make the reader feel good while also failing to actually address the real issues of the time.

That said, I like when it’s solved in the main character’s life because it can be, mostly. Since ‘romance’ is the keyword here, there’s actually some hope for that if the man is decent.

You also have to understand that not every woman, every person, would have these kinds of ideals. We seem to have this modern idea that just because such rights are obvious to us (like, it seems so basic to believe that women are equal to men and that unfair property laws are wrong), they were obvious to everyone.

But that’s just not how it works. Even now, there are so many issues of human rights that seem super obvious, and yet, so many people don’t think about it. (Some of them are directly tied to the current feminist movement, but I’ll not go into that today.)

I don’t have time to go into the nuances of long-time cultural conditioning, but we experience it every day.

And to believe that every person in the culture thinks about or understands the concept of feminism (even though there were many feminist writings and such circulating at the time—and bills in Parliament to change laws and advances being made by women, especially in America) is just unrealistic. Much as not everyone in the modern day world thinks about human trafficking.

It’s also silly to think that this is the only pressing issue in the women’s lives. We live a remarkably charmed life—but a lot of people in this era were in survival mode.

When you’re in survival mode, you’re less concerned with whether or not property laws are fair—and more concerned with whether or not you or other people around you are going to die from a cold.

THERE ARE TIMES WHEN IT DOES WORK, OF COURSE.

The 1920s? Yeah. And even the 1890s. But you have to be aware of the era you’re working in. In the Regency era, it WASN’T uncommon for women to read novels, if they were well-educated, and a lot of them did have little side hobbies, even if they never turned serious, like botany librarianism.

In the 1880s and 1890s, there were some major changes in the way people thought of women as inheritance laws changed, women were found to be murderers, and more and more women attended colleges and got into different business endeavors.

But the thing is, not very many authors take the time to understand the context of the era they’re writing in, the way men and women truly viewed each other, the way gender roles (and all kinds of roles, in fact) were presented, and how people actually thought.

Or if the authors do think of these things, they fail to realistically portray them in their novels.

It’s not enough to know the kind of candle holder used in the era if you don’t understand the kind of people who used the candle.

And I think there are times when it does work in Regency romances, too! I wish I’d said that in the original article because it’s true. Truth is truth, and it’s true that Regency-era society was wildly unfair to women.

So yes, there should be representation of people who saw this and were feminists and were actively trying to promote women’s rights. I’d especially like to see it in a guy who is in Parliament or something like that—I think that’d be very interesting.

WHY HEROES SHOULDN’T ALWAYS BE PERFECTLY WOKE

This is probably my biggest issue with this trope: the hero always gets it. He’s never really a bigot, never really sexist (even if the heroine starts out believing he is).

The thing is, this gives us an unrealistic expectation of the Prince Charming’s Existence AND an unrealistic view of the past. The heroine never has to prove herself to the hero. The heroine doesn’t have to be unobnoxious or kind because He Just Gets Her.

The only reason he is actually the man for her is because he doesn’t have anything to do with the world around him — he is a man who exists beyond his era, and therefore doesn’t really exist at all.

He’s a figment of the imagination, not of the heroine who would not know what to imagine, but of the historical author who believes that a man would realistically behave that way in the era he was born into, raised into, etc.

And yeah, I’m currently with a guy who Just Gets My Quirkiness to a degree, but at the same time, I’m not gonna expect him to understand it immediately. Just to accept it and try to keep his mouth shut if it gets to weird.

But there’s a difference between a man understanding a woman’s quirkiness and falling for it (something that I believe should happen — never change who you are for a man because God is preparing someone for you who understands you — you don’t have to change for the Real Deal because the Real Deal was made for YOU and no one else on earth) … where was I?

Mini rant aside, there is a difference between that and a man in a historical romance time traveling from 2010 to 1810, his modern sensibilities intact.

Also, there’s a difference between understanding someone and giving in to a crazy woman who wants to start a botany library when it Just Isn’t Done.

This is all true and doesn’t need any further comment.

A commenter did have a problem with me using the term ‘woke,’ but I was using it in a comedic way, I thought. It’s generally understood to be a joke thing, right? Like, it is still a jocular term, correct?

I know some Republicans use “woke” in utter seriousness, but that’s why I can’t take most Republicans seriously.

WHY HEROINES SHOULDN’T ALWAYS BE PERFECTLY WOKE

Mostly because if you’re constantly treated like a piece of property, you eventually adjust your thinking to “I am a piece of property” and find ways to cheat the system rather than moaning about your lot.

This plays into what I mentioned earlier, too—though it’s a bit of an extreme statement, and I am joking, as I mention later on. I was joking about pain, because this is pain. So be patient with me.

Okay, I’m joking … kinda. But how much more powerful would it be, if you really want to write this kind of story, to show a heroine who doesn’t get how she’s being treated and then wakes up to it?

Again, this would be interesting.

That said, I’m also confused about why this has to be an issue presented at all. Why does the heroine have to feel stuck in her era? Maybe she’s fine with wearing a corset. I hear they give marvelous posture support.

Especially in the Regency era, due to the dress shapes, a corset (stays, for the more discerning reader) was actually not for crushing your insides but for support and modest. Like a long bra that mostly just covered your abdomen. Okay, but really. The Regency era is a weird one to whine about corsets in — try Victorian, and even then, it’s not as bad as it could be.

I had a commenter frustrated with me for talking about corsets/stays a lot, but they get so much poor representation that I had to talk about it.

And the whole deal with always wanting Something More then to just be some random guy’s wife (you know, until Handsome McHandsomeface comes along)? Well, dangggg, girl. What’s wrong with being a wife and mother? Isn’t it kinda like … the best?

Now, I want to add another thing: this doesn’t mean a woman HAS to want to be a wife and mother. I wish I’d added that. But I couldn’t help but advocate for it given how much people bully wives and mothers these days. (You may say that doesn’t happen, but it’s happened to me! I’m speaking from personal experience.)

Also, what else could you possibly do in the era you were born in? Has no one told you about the property laws?

This is true. I’m never quite sure what the heroine’s eventual goal is when this is a plot thread.

ALSO, I would like to point out that it is SUPER WEIRD for you, Miss Gillie, to be concerned about arranged marriages/marriages of convenience, marrying a man older than you, marrying your cousin, etc., because YOU HAVE BEEN RAISED SINCE CHILDHOOD TO BELIEVE ALL THESE THINGS ARE 100% NORMAL.

DAH HECK ARE YOU WHINING ABOUT, CHILD!?

Seriously, the amount of WHINING that you do about simple LIFE THINGS, Gillie. gEt UsED to YOUr ErA and ShUT tHe McFRICKeN ChIckEn TurKeY McGUrKey UP!!!

Now, here’s the thing. This is a controversial thing, but I do wish more romance heroines didn’t want to marry for love. Because first, I don’t actually believe in marrying for love. And second, this wasn’t an expectation in the era. Though it was developing (duh, Jane Austen), modern-day romanticism didn’t really kick in for a few more decades, and it took even longer to become common.

BUT this is comedy, so I obviously played it up for effect.

COVERING UP THE PAST WITH OUR PRESENT.

Let me be honest: the past is more interesting. I read historical fiction to go back to the past, and yet historical authors are continually trying to insert the present into the past.

Okay, I’m probably wrong there — more than likely, historical authors are forgetting to NOT just write contemporary fiction but the Women Wear Dresses.

This is so true about everything in historical fiction. I was digressing a bit here, but this applies to so many issues. I’m a big fan of historical accuracy, and though I enjoy stories such as Bridgerton, I still feel it does a disservice to the past because we lie to ourselves—we don’t face the uncomfortable truth that things were awful back then.

If uncomfortable truths are brought up, they’re brought up to work with the story, rather than to BE the story.

And that’s an issue because the past is still a thing. Yes, we shouldn’t get bogged down by it, but we can learn from it. But only if it is presented honestly.

Honesty really is the best policy, and the only way we can hope to grow as a culture. If we can take the good things, leave behind the bad, and move on, we can hope to improve rather than continue this big downhill race (dinna get me started, lass).

But … if we continue to look at the past and apply our modern thoughts to it, we won’t see the past. We will see a confusing muddle of our thoughts applied to their lives.

The thing is, it’s a mark of maturity to be able to look at someone else’s life … through their glasses — those old timey spectacles that are adorkably quirky on your heroine. (By the way, reading is not quirky. It’s something people do. Reading. See various Jane Austen heroines and all the lovers of Udolpho out there).

So we have to do that. We have to be able to look back on a culture very different from ours (e.g. Regency England) and interpret it in their way, or we’ll never write a novel that is truly realistic or good or true.

We can’t be perfect, but we can try, if we really want to. If we care about history. If we care about peoples’ lives. And if we care about not being selfish and stuck on our own ideas and views.

With that thought, I’ll leave you to ponder why you just read through so many of my nonsensical ramblings when you had 10 other things to be doing. Talk to you later!

Gosh, that was the most innocent post ever given the comments. I expected so much worse, honestly. I was like, “What did my younger self get into?”

But nope. It was just me ranting about a genre of books I enjoy. Apparently that’s wrong.

So now let’s get to the comments.

The Comments (by one person) on My Post

Everything in italics is a comment.

Researching feminist writings from the late 1700s to early 1800s brought me here. I somehow slogged through to the end of this post and I feel compelled to educate you. You seem extremely confused and angry about something you don’t understand. Luckily, there is a lot of information available outside of -Facebook and Fox News.

I’ve never watched Fox News, but I doubt it talks about Regency romances, and the same goes for Facebook, which I only use for my novel promotion.

I’ll say that I’m not confused or angry. That’s such a funny thing to say. I’m not angry about this. I’m amused by it. It’s about fiction? It’s about FICTIONAL stories. I’m amused by them, and I enjoy then, and parts of them, I don’t enjoy. But the tone of the article was meant to be comedic, not furious. I know you don’t know my tone in other articles, though, so I’ll forgive ya for that.

Confused? Always. I am often. 😛

I also think that people who try to ‘educate’ other people online are fundamentally wasting their time and devaluing what information they do have, but whatever.

Who exactly was this comment for?

-Feminism began long before the regency era.

I know. I mean, not exactly. The women’s right movement began long before the Regency era. However, ‘feminism’ wasn’t used as a term back then.

From Etymology Online: 1851, “qualities of females;” 1895, “advocacy of women’s rights;” from French féminisme (1837); see feminine + -ism. Also, in biology, “development of female secondary sexual characteristics in a male” (1875).

– “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” was first published in 1792 – “a trailblazing feminist work which argues that the educational system deliberately trained women to be frivolous and incapable and that if girls were allowed the same advantages as boys, women would be not only exceptional wives and mothers but also capable workers”

Yes, have read it.

-Feminism is not about demonizing motherhood, it’s about giving women equal ACCESS to areas of life that men had sole control over (full education, the ability to own property and run a business without needing a man’s permission, the ability to open a bank account, the ability to choose whether to marry and to whom, etc.)

Yeah. Sorry for misrepresenting that in my post. That’s what I meant. However, there is also a side of feminism (or feminist activism or people who claim to be feminists) that DOES demonize motherhood, marriage, etc. Or at least, I’ve been yelled at online by enough of those people.

I’m going to go ahead and share a few quotes here in particular that a friend sent to me:

  • I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them. (Robin Morgan, Ms. Magazine Editor)
  • The nuclear family must be destroyed … Whatever its ultimate meaning, the break-up of families now is an objectively revolutionary process. (Linda Gordon)
  • Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage. (Sheila Cronin)
  • Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. (Andrea Dworkin)
  • The institution of sexual intercourse is anti-feminist. (Ti-Grace Atkinson)
  • When a woman reaches ****** [NOTE FROM KELL: this was starred out but I assme y’all mean orgasm? We can say that. Let’s say that.] with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal system, eroticizing her own oppression. (Sheila Jeffrys)

So that’s why some people are concerned, for anyone who hasn’t heard that kind of thing.

They were probably all taken out of context for all I know. But just … maybe it’d be nice for all y’all to be aware that, out of context or no, such quotes are floating around the internet and further, are being associated with the feminist movement. Okay? Okay.

Maybe they were all trolls. *squints at the names of people I know are heavily involved with the feminist movement* Or maybe not. Who knows?

-Both men and women wore high heels and stays (the precursor to the corset) in the 1700s and 1800s, but not all of them did and not all the time. Most regency historical dramas don’t focus on the early corset, but you made a big deal out of it so there you go.

The problem is not with corsets, but with the portrayal of them in novels. I think we’ve read different Regency historical romances, in that case. I’ve read many Regency historical dramas inaccurately focus on a “corset” (they call it a corset, too, though sometimes they do accurately refer to it as “stays”), call it uncomfortable, have a woman talk about it all the time, etc. It’s been a pretty common trope.

Also, it’s a big deal in pseudo-accurate historical films to emphasize tight lacing even when it wasn’t a thing, but I wasn’t talking about that.

Not sure why the mention of high heels.

-Women in regency England had no legal rights – their husband or other patriarch could prevent her from seeing her children, could take control of all of her money/inheritance, her husband decided how much money a woman got if he died which often meant reduction to poverty for women, and it was rare for women to inherit property because it often required no male heirs to exist ahead of her

Yup. I know. I mean, all that you can know just from reading Sense & Sensibility, but I also had to do a ton of research for books I’ve written, so yup.

Also, that’s not entirely accurate, because actually, a woman could not legally inherit property AT ALL in England. Not even if there were no male heirs. It’s also not universally accurate that a husband could decide how much money a woman got if he died. Sometimes the money was tied up or otherwise couldn’t be left for her—usually it was under the control of a male inheritor, whoever he might be.

-Only one regency era woman is recorded as successfully challenging laws that allowed her abusive husband to keep her children from her. Obviously, many more women in a similar situation weren’t so lucky

That’s a fun fact. I’m surprised she was successfully able to do it, though. Usually there was no way for a woman to separate from an abusive husband, let alone claim advice. Are you sure that was actually the Regency era?

-Harriet Tubman was born a slave in 1820. Tell me again how someone brought up only knowing one way of life could never question it or rebel against it?

That’s such an unrelated fact, and so unrelated to the conversation about women’s suffrage, but I see your point. I admit that it’s true that women can and should, in fictional stories, question their ways of life.

But if you know anything about Harriet Tubman or abolitionism, well, first, that’s again such a completely different situation. By 1820 (I mean, from the beginning of time, but certainly by then) abolitionism was a hugely-discussed topic. It was talked about everywhere. Also, slaves are in a worse situation than women were. You do realize that, right? So I won’t talk about Harriet Tubman anymore because it’s so unrelated.

All this said, yes, it is totally possible for a woman in the Regency era, or any woman, to hate her situation. I mean, think of Sense & Sensibility! Or any Austen novel, really. However, that doesn’t mean she can have a modern understanding of feminism. That just doesn’t work. But I am sorry that I seemed to say that women were incapable of realizing that it sucks to be a woman in the Regency era.

However, if we’re going to use that example, not all slaves were Harriet Tubman. And not all women are going to be Emmeline Pankhurst. Or Emily Temple, to use a more applicable example. Though that’s more Victorian.

-One of the most popular publications in the regency era was Fordyce’s Sermons, which told women to be submissive, quiet, always look beautiful, and that the highest reward for a woman’s good behavior is male attention.

I know, they’re lame.

-It would be interesting to see what statements by female “woke” characters are so obnoxious to you. If you list the ones that bother you most, then perhaps we can talk about what it meant for each character in the scene, why it was important to the story, and how it probably doesn’t have anything to do with feminism but just character development instead.

Well, that’s kind of a big assumption to make. Why do you think that all authors are not making mistakes but rather have to do with character development? If you think all authors never make mistakes, do you then think I never make mistakes?

That said, after three years, I’m not going to go back to books that I long-ago abandoned (I kind of have, over the last couple years, started leaving behind the Regency romance genre with the exception of movies, Jane Austen, and books by authors I trust). I also regularly donate books I didn’t LOVE, and I promise you that if these elements were included, I didn’t enjoy the books. And I’m sorry about that, because I know it’s what you really want.

However, I also don’t truly feel a conversation would be helpful because you would be going into it believing the author must have been in the right—and it must’ve been accurate for feminism to be portrayed, however it was portrayed. But it just doesn’t work like that. Further, I know even if I were to find the books (which I don’t own, don’t associate with, and haven’t read in at least three years), you would need to read them from start to finish to get the whole scope of the story.

Do you really want to do that?

-What were the exaggerations that Austen wrote about the time she lived in? She only wrote about what she knew and experienced, and historians agree that it’s accurate.

-Austen is considered a feminist because she wrote that women are created equal to men, that the laws at the time were unjust to women, and that women had little choice about their lives and their money

Yes, sorry about that. That was inaccurate. (Though to say Austen was considered a feminist is a bit of a stretch. She is now, you mean)

The only thing I agree with you about is that it would be interesting to read a story where the heroine realizes the world she’s been raised in is unjust and that she wants to take charge of her future. Elizabeth Bennett does this, but the book starts with her already aware of the injustices to women. Anne Elliott in Jane Austen’s Persuasion is a character who starts out timid, impressionable, and accepting of other’s orders, but she begins to see the injustice in that, grows with time to show great courage in the face of adversity and proves her love to the man who thought she’d forsaken him to go along with others. That’s why Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen book.

Yeah. That’d be interesting.

Ugh. People who hate “woke culture” and “some of feminism” are so sadly ignorant and looking for something to be angry about. It’s a me vs. them mentality for no reason, where they hate the very people trying to help them. To understand feminism, look at how it started, and look at who started it – women, many of whom were happy to be mothers and several preferred no kids for themselves but just wanted their sisters to have a choice in the matter.

Okay. But just because something started purely (which I think I could debate if I had time/thought it would be helpful) doesn’t mean it’s a good thing still, nor does it mean that the movement in and of itself is entirely pure. No movement can be. That said, overall, I agree with you in theory.

Knowing the origins of feminism (which, when we’re talking about simple women’s rights, was sometimes male-led by necessity—you know, because they made and changed the laws), I still have some problems with it, but that’s because people have muddied the waters, as in a lot of causes, with things I can’t support. For instance, see the temperance movement which was largely women-led.

I also in general disagree with the idea that I (or most people with a similar background to me) need “help” to get out of oppression, et cetera. I’m privileged that, as a resident of the western world, I have never been discriminated against because I am a woman. But the words “oppression” and “discrimination” are overused in today’s society. (You’re not comparing the problems of a modern woman in say, the USA, to the problems of a Regency-era woman, are you?)

And dare I say it, womanhood is much more than just making babies.

I don’t think I implied that, but if I (a childless woman, at the moment and at the time of writing the article!) did that, that was an interesting choice of mine.

Feminists were also the first ones to fight for the right to time off from work (ending sweat shops in the U.S.), to fight for protecting children from having to work, to fight for safe working conditions (women tended to die in factory fires), to fight for fair wages people could live on – even the first draft of social security so the elderly could retire comfortably. And so much more.

I find it interesting that you’d call them feminists when a lot of them were just women, but I think when you say ‘feminists,’ you just mean women who do things, right? Is that the idea? But yeah, it’s true that they did get more involved with various aspects of that particular revolution. Though men were heavily involved, too. Most of those aren’t gendered issues.

Also, I work in Medicare, and my goodness … Okay, I won’t get into it.

Be a submissive mom if you want to, that’s your choice and good for you, but you have a choice because of the hard work of feminists who were beaten in the streets. Come on, dude. Read something.

Right. Never denied that. I also feel like perhaps I’m missing something, because feminism looked a lot different in the Regency era than it did by the early 1900s.

I also do have some problems with the early 1900s American “muckrakers”, but I won’t get into that because in general, my thoughts prove unfavorable to the modern audience.

That was the first comment.

Now I made a reply I kind of regret, so I want to apologize for that. This is the reply:

Well, I know you’re not really interested in a reply, but first, this was a comedic post, and second, this is attacking a GENRE (modern historical romance set in the Regency era) that you may be ill familiar with, not books written during the era or anything of the sort. I adore Jane Austen, I know every fact you mentioned here about historical law and attitudes, and I simply feel it unrealistic to portray the era as what it is not … namely, to act like every character but the villains would not have an opinion [typo here; I meant to say ‘would not have an opinion supported by society at large’]

You seem to have missed large paragraphs of my post, however, when I pointed that out, so that’s fine. I actually have never watched Fox News, and I have nothing against feminism itself (unless that is saying that women are oppressed by getting married, etc., which is of course overblown). Nor did I state my opinions about the subject. You ASSUMED that. [This was a little unfair, as I guess you can kind of get the gist of what I mean, but especially if you’re interpreting it all as straight.]

So anyways, hope you have an amazing day and find some other blogs to terrorize if that makes you happy … oh, educate. Sorry. I misread words sometimes because, you know, I’m so dumb!

I did go through the post and edit it to add large, red “THIS IS A JOKE” banners. Hope that helps! [Yeah, there was no need for sarcasm. Sorry.]

But anyways, back to her reply.

Honestly, with the amount of information available, anyone who still loudly proclaims feminism is about putting women above men, or that motherhood is bad, or that marriage is bad, only make themselves ridiculous.

I didn’t say that. At all. But now in this post, I am saying, right now that women claiming to be feminists (again, you can say they’re not if you want) have said EVERY SINGLE ONE of those things to me.

Not in debates, either, which I scarcely get in, though it may seem like I’m the type. 😉 People say it to be casually. They remind me casually that because I married young, I have thrown my life away. I’m told that I’ll regret it if I have children. That children are evil small demons. That men are pigs. That all men do X, Y, and Z. And more.

I’m not saying that that’s what all feminism is. But I am definitely saying that people have said these things to me in the name of feminism. Even if I have never much paid heed to it.

You clearly don’t understand what feminism is.

Yup, fine by me, if such is the case. I suppose unless I write a book about it, I don’t need to know.

I told you plainly it is about equal rights, equal access, and the power of choice – but you still think it’s about hating wives for some reason.

  1. I find it funny that you think I should take your word for it, with no other context, and yet it’s strange that ‘for some reason’ I haven’t learned my lesson already. Naughty me!
  2. I didn’t say that it’s about hating wives. Especially not in my reply to your comment. Did you read the reply?

Where does this idea come from? Did you hear it first from a feminist, or from someone who hates feminists?

I don’t have that idea, and what ideas I do have, I have learned from feminists because no one in my circles talks about feminism but feminists. Because believe it or not, in the modern life, it is largely irrelevant unless you work in certain male-dominated fields (though none of my friends who work in male-dominated fields have faced it yet; I’m sure they will eventually, since you say so).

You painted feminists in such an exaggerated, terrible, even mother/wife-hating light that you can’t really be surprised that you attract disdain for doing so, can you?

Eh, I don’t think I painted them in any light, as I wasn’t talking about feminists. I was talking about (probably conservative for all I know or at least neutral) authors putting inaccurate feminist concepts in their stories because it feels safe.

I’m pretty sure said authors just try to portray ‘safe’ feminism in the name of a quick nod to the fact that it exists. Despite the fact that they rarely take on any real issues (like the human rights issues you mentioned). Kind of like how modern historical authors feel a need to give a nod toward racism even in places it doesn’t make sense to mention it (think, “bringing slaves in modern adaptations of Mansfield Park, which could’ve been interesting if done right but instead was just glossed over making the story seem even more insensitive, which could actually be thematically relevant and maybe does work, but anyways, I digress).

But sure, if I did that, I’m not surprised.

I’m not sorry for being harsh in my disagreement with your post. I’m sure you’re a fine person, but your opinions on this show a paucity of information, willful ignorance, and a weakness of backbone in the face of centuries of patriarchal misinformation about everything feminists stood for. I’m not going to coddle you; I want you to be better.

Coolio, coolio. With no sarcasm, I say that’s all fine. If that’s what you see in me, I’m fine with that, though I again can’t really see where you get that. But I don’t see why you want me to be better. We don’t know each other.

If you really equate feminism with man-hating, wife-hating, and mother-hating, then of course you take issue with characters who remark on historical injustices in regards to women, you’re tired of a subject you equate with hatefulness.

I don’t equate feminism with that! I never said that, and I wouldn’t, either. Perhaps you thought that’s what I meant, but it has nothing to do with that. I’m not talking about characters remarking about property rights or something like that. I’m talking about characters being surprised when they’re not immediately accepted into a male-dominated field of work, as if they didn’t realize they HAVE to fight if they want a change. They just can’t stumble into it. Because they don’t live in modern day society.

You claim to “know all the facts” about life for women in the past; would you be happy being told whom to marry, or that you would be expected to start having sex at 12?

Inapplicable for the Regency era at large (see this article about teen marriage), but in general, I don’t see how me knowing all the facts would have anything to do with me thinking those facts are okay.

One of these things is not like the other. 🙂

In your post, you claim it’s annoying for regency era romances to criticize the marriage process because you think it’s about criticizing marriage – it’s just about criticizing FORCED marriage.

This is not true.

Both the ‘why’ behind me being annoyed about Regency romances criticizing romance (it’s the inherent hypocrisy in a romance novel saying marriage is evil and then having the woman get married and never explaining why things have changed) …

But also in fact: women in the Regency era were forced to marry by their circumstances sometimes, but not always. In most cases, women agreed to get married because in that era, romantic love was not prioritized (hence why romance novels written during this era existed at all; it was a thing that rarely happened), and they wanted a practical marriage. I know that doesn’t equate freedom of choice, necessarily. However, it certainly is not the same as ‘forced’ marriage. That’s such a dramatic definition if that’s what you were referring to.

I have as much a problem with every single woman desiring romantic love as I do with anything else, honestly. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t want it, and in an era where it was not popular to desire romantic love (as it is now), it makes no sense for every single woman in a historical romance to be like, “I’ll only marry for love!” That’s not really so much related to the subject at hand, however.

Feminists want women to have choice; marry or not, fine, whatever, but don’t force people to do something just because they happen to be female. If you really knew what good work feminists have done, and if you really believed life was unfair for women in the regency era, then why does the subject of women questioning society bother you so much?

Because it’s not accurate to the era.

You’re backtracking. And now you contradict yourself in your reply, as if the blog isn’t above. You criticized Jane Austen for “exaggerating” how difficult life was for women at the time – I asked you how/why you think she exaggerates.

Sorry about that. That was inaccurate. I didn’t mean to phrase it that way originally, but even if I did, I don’t believe it now. Consider this my official correction.

You criticized modern historical dramas set in the regency era – especially adaptations of Austen’s work – for inserting “too much feminism” by making the female characters say “obnoxious things,” etc., and I asked you to give examples from those works. Are they scenes from the 2005 Pride & Prejudice? The Bridgerton series? Who knows, you didn’t say.

Not modern historical dramas, and especially not adaptations of Austen’s work (in general). It took me forever to figure out what you were talking about, because I would never say that about Austen adaptations. I love Austen adaptations.

However, I finally figured out what you meant!!! So I talked about authors who are IMITATING Austen badly. That’s what I meant. Other authors writing Regency romance novels and thinking they’re basically Jane Austen and yup. That’s what I mean.

These are the places where characters are obnoxious. I’m not talking about Pride & Prejudice, Bridgerton, what have you. I’m talking about novels—historical romance novels. Little-known ones.

I’m willing to bet they’re from scenes when the heroine isn’t being totally agreeable all the time, especially toward a male character, thereby failing to perform the role as a submissive female to attain the high honor of male attention, or to “prove her love” as you put it.

I can’t find the ‘prove her love’ quote though I keep looking for it. If you can give me an exact quote, that’d be cool.

But no, that’s not it at all? I actually think disagreeable females are more fun. (I’ll do anything to destroy Elsie Dinsmores.) As long as they’re not always disagreeable, because human beings who are always disagreeable are not realistic characters unless they’re dealing with some kind of trauma, which you at least hope to see them recover from (as much as one does).

That said, what I’m talking about is scenes where women deliberately take offense with everything that’s said to them even if it’s kind. Or getting kidnapped for no reason because they refused help for XYZ reasons.

I also think male attention is so easy to attain that it’s laughable to even try. But whatever.

I’m genuinely curious what you imagine that would look like. By the way, there are plenty of literary examples (with modern adaptations) of historical dramas where the heroine recognizes that she’s treated as property and then decides to game the system, as you requested. Incidentally, they’re mainly written by men. Madame Bovary is an example.

Okay, give me some recommendations! Other than MB which I already know of.

Disagreements can feel like power struggles where it is difficult to admit to an error or being wrong because it feels like giving up ground to an opponent. I don’t expect you to admit to being wrong about this or that, like the idea people raised a certain way would never question their way of life. But I would love if you started questioning your worldview – without taking my word for it or anyone else’s.

I mean, my worldviews are not what you have said here, but sure. I question my worldviews literally every day, dozens of times a day.

For starters:

Who were the first feminists? 

I was actually just reading Exodus, and the protective laws around women and children probably make the Judges the first feminists.

Okay, now I’m really being annoying just for the sake of it. Forgive me for being irritating for the next bit.

What did they stand for?

Protection of women’s rights. Originally. Duh.

Who said feminism is about hating motherhood or marriage altogether?

Well, I didn’t say it. I shared a few quotes above, but I’ll also note that the modern take on feminism that I have heard has implied that. Despite the fact that I never really meant to imply that I felt the same in this article.

What is humanism?

As opposed to individualism, or opposed to secularism, or just in general? (I’m at many thousands of words, so I’m being this way deliberately.)

What are human rights? Are men and women treated as equal humans, or are there differences in their basic rights? How has that changed over time? How is that change reflected in art?

That’s far too big a subject for me to get into in this post, but let’s just say I feel very well-informed on this subject.

What are the specific moments from those artworks (like regency era romances) that make you uncomfortable and why?

I find the idea of calling Regency era romances ‘a work of art’ kind of silly, but I know you mean it in the way most people reference creative works. I just think we’re too quick as a society to jump to ‘art’ for everything creative these days. Especially since some stuff (including the kind of stuff I write, sometimes) is objectively for entertainment. That said, since I’m incapable of just being entertained by something (sadly) unless it’s a movie or TV show, well, I shall give you that.

I digress.

Again, I don’t want to do this both because it would be near-impossible …

And because no Regency romance has stuck with me for any length of time unless it was a decent book.

But the other factor is to do so, I would be potentially calling out authors I know. I think it’d be unlikely any of these authors would stumble upon this, but in case they did, well, that’s why I chose not to name any names in the original post.

Because you mentioned Bridgerton, I think that’s one I can use. But not the books since I’ve only read the first two and not in any depth.

For instance, a character like Eloise Bridgerton is a very, very mild example of this (since overall she’s well-developed). She’s fine on the surface. Everything she’s said so far is accurate and informed. However, if it were not for the family she grew up in, with all its varied personalities and influences, it would not work. (As it is, I argue that it does, though I find myself disliking her. But I dislike Penelope a great deal more, even though she seems to disdain feminism in general, so that’s not related.)

Anyways, all this to say.

Eloise works because you can SEE the influences in her life and how they’ve led her to be the woman she is. You can see how, for instance, Benedict has encouraged her. And how she’s rebelling against perfect big sister Daphne.

And that scene where she wonders about where babies come from? It works even though it’s wildly inaccurate (women had information about their own bodies except in very extreme circumstances in the Regency era; in the Victorian era, some information was repressed in certain classes, but in general, it’s just wildly inaccurate) because it pulls us further into the idea of who she is and how she would come to a place of utter rebellion. I don’t blame her one bit.

But if she was just randomly pulling all this out of nowhere? What if that setup wasn’t there?

The other thing is that she’s insanely privileged, which is my small complaint that is vaguely applicable to the argument. Women are literally dying, being abused, being tossed about like old shoes, and Eloise is complaining because she has to have a Season, which is actually a huge privilege in and of itself. It doesn’t even seem like her mother is pushing her that hard to be married—at least, not on screen in the TV show (haven’t read books). We know it’s at least several years (uh, seasons) until she gets married.

So I just … I have a hard time sympathizing with that.

I will add that I’m also having a hard time swallowing her relationship with Theo, but that’s just me. I’ve always had a thing against class-jumping. Yet I feel like it was emphasized enough how risky and stupid this was, so I don’t know. It works. It’s just not my favorite.

Maybe that’s my biggest problem overall. That the way feminism is portrayed in Regency romance may (sometimes) be valid. However, it is so incredibly shallow. It ignores the bigger issues at play and is usually a complaint by characters who are not that bad off.

When even I have more going on in my life than the characters—and I am very blessed to live a safe life—it’s a sign that something’s off.

I just can’t get behind ‘I can’t pursue my dream of going to college for botany’ when another problem faced in the era was, as you mentioned, ‘I don’t exist as a legal person, my husband cheats on me and abuses me, and I am not allowed to get a divorce except in case of neglect. My children are suffering in this horrible household, but if I run away, even in Tenant of Wildfell Hall style, chance are, I’ll just end up dying in an alley while my children stay with their abusive father.”

And I don’t know if there’s any real solution other than the fact that I will write differently. I will show that. And I won’t make it neat and tidy because that’s not life, and not portraying 

A Summary

I think I was too harsh in general in this post, and I also was mislabeling the problem. The problem is not so much feminism as the repetitive tropes that shove characters again and again through the same, inaccurate, wildly fantastical story in what is supposed to be historical fiction—not contemporary and not fantasy.

I want to give the genre a little leeway because I think romances are historically important. Certainly Gothic romances were, and Jane Austen, and on and on, through the years. But we’re at a point as a society where they’ve lost their original usage, and now here we are—still writing them the same way, only with less quality and originality. And sure, it can be fun.

But it’s rather pointless.

Women in today’s world deserve better fiction because they don’t need more romantic escapism that leads to a variety of emotional and spiritual issues. They need a dose of reality.

But I don’t say that in a “rain on your parade” way. It is entirely possible to write entertaining, escapist (in a good way—I think there are a variety of kinds of escapism and fiction offers good and bad ways of doing this) fiction that still deals with hard truths in a realistic way.

Anyways. Moving on.

I ever resent the implication that I said things I did not say, so I thought it would be fun to get on and point out what I really did say and attempt to correct myself in places I said something wrong AND point out what I really meant.

That said, I am never going to be anything but a Christian. That rather means that I will always start with a Book that’s considered to be heavily patriarchal—the Bible. So at the end of the day, I’m going to come back to that. And things like humanism, as mentioned in the comment, looks so weak next to a true understanding of our worth, of morality, of truth … 

But that’s a discussion for another day.

Actually, some day I would love to totally break down my views on femininity, but that’s again such a big subject that I will have to put it off.

Supplementary Information

I really like this post:

Telling True Stories: (The Good, the Bad, and the NOT.)

Which discusses how the modern lens can often show historical characters in an inaccurate manner.

If you are interested in hearing from someone who actually has done research about the history of feminism and found it rather cloaked in unhelpful beliefs, I’d recommend Victoria Lynn on Instagram. She is usually happy to take questions from kind people, and she actually addresses some of these issues on her TikTok (@victorialynnauthor).

Until next time,

TTFN!

~Kell~

P.S.

I feel like y’all are largely gonna either agree with me or feel that I took too gentle a look at this, but you know how I am. Not really that anti-feminist compared to some, etc. I don’t ascribe to the belief that I must accept all elements of a movement’s beliefs to get behind some. (I do believe women should vote; I do believe women should be paid fairly; I do believe women should be legally separate entities from their husbands; therefore, I cannot say I don’t agree with the feminist movement in its entirety despite the facts that I am against some elements of feminism and am very traditional in my approach to marriage.)

That said, I do not in general consider myself a feminist. I would be in a certain era – I am not now.

Instead, I feel there are individual issues that tend to get lumped under feminism but are simply human rights issues that ought to be drawn away from the (honestly, now rather confusing) narrative of feminism in the modern world. For instance, sexual violence, domestic abuse, human trafficking, and the way the church tends to treat women (really crummy, if we’re honest – I’m fortunate to have largely escaped it, but then, I wasn’t really raised in church).

Are you interested in getting to know me & my books better?

I want to invite you to my super secret club. I mean, it’s not really a secret, because I’m telling you about it now, but here goes.

Join Mrs. Roth’s Society Column, my street team! We’d love to have you along for the ride!

Showing 18 comments
  • H.S. Kylian
    Reply

    My word, that person lives in a bubble. Back in the day when I stil haunted Twitter, I saw way too many pro-abortion folks claim to be pro-woman and yet they all too often referred to mothers in degrading ways. If my memory serves correct, one even referred to mothers as ‘breeders’.

    If I were to agree with anything feminist, it’s the vote & own property kind. Not the anti-man, anti-child kind I’ve seen.

    As an aside, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know I have at least two heroines who don’t marry for love; the one does it because it means security and the other does it because it means an opportunity to immigrate to America. (The first lives during the Era of Good Feelings; the latter is in 1840s Ireland…I’m sure I don’t need to mention which part of 1840s Ireland I’m talking about…)

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      I know! I’ve seen the same thing on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram … There’s a huge push within at least the youngest generation to delegitimize mothers and especially their children. I mean, there was literally a TikTok trend lately about how “my husband had better choose me instead of my baby if I’m dying” and another about how children shouldn’t be allowed in public spaces. And yet, there’s this understanding in at least high brow circles that feminism isn’t about that – that doesn’t exist – and conservatives just want to take the vote from women.

      No … I just want to tell women that they are strong enough to be mothers, that being a mother (and wife) is a legitimate choice, that modern ideas about romance, marriage, motherhood, and so on are inherently harmful and causing so many problems … etc.

      And yes, I’m with you there! I’m against historical property and voting laws. I’d even go so far as to say I recognize the ways the “church” has failed women (allowing abuse, covering up stories about abuse/rape, promoting purity culture, not recognizing the effects of pornography or being unhelpful when they do) as well as men. But to say that these things can be helped by the feminist movement? I disagree with that take. As a Christian, obviously my opinion is that we need a “back to Jesus” movement, but even from a secular standpoint, feminism has done little to help with any of these issues other than (perhaps?) spread a little more information about the prevalence of such issues.

      Yeah, I’m a fan of these kinds of relationships because they feel more realistic even though I often write marriage for love storylines. After all, I’m writing Christian fiction, and the marriage of God/church was a love match, so I’m just like, “LET ME DO IT, TOO!” 😛

      • H.S. Kylian
        Reply

        Mh-hm. I actually plan to take on how the church has treated women who’ve been victims of abuse with one of the characters from my Arrows story. And if feminism ever pops up in my historical WIPs, it’s gonna be Civil War era at the earliest and it’s going to be the vote and own property kind!

        • Kellyn Roth
          Reply

          Cool! I think it needs to be talked about more often for sure. And yup, I’m about the same in most ways. I can take it on as a social issue to a degree, as is appropriate, but there are a lot of elements that I just don’t see as … well, accurate or interesting.

  • Rhys-Marie Whitnell
    Reply

    Yeah, I agree, especially with the part about needing better fiction than simply idealistic, fluffy romance novels. Great post!

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Thanks! Yeah, I’m here for the books that are deep and messy and make you a little uncomfortable (while still giving hope, of course!).

  • Ryana Lynn
    Reply

    I didn’t get to read the whole thing (baby 🤣) but what I did had me cackling one minute (I love your style) and saying “preach!” The other!

    And yeah I’ve been “educated” with the same arguments over and over and honestly I don’t think these people know how to have an original argument. Honestly, I know all the anti-Confederacy arguments. Do they really think I’ve never heard of Abe Lincoln? Or Slavery? 🤣🤣🤣 it cracks me up how ignorant “educators” can be 🤣

    Excellent post that I will be referencing back to 🥰

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Thank you, Ryana! I’m so glad you enjoyed what you were able to read of it!

      Yeah, I think a lot of the time people tell me things that are so entirely baseless or at least a little off and you’re like, “Don’t quote the deep magic to me.”

  • iamcharlesbakerharris
    Reply

    Well, as your leftist feminist Catholic friend, I enjoyed this post 😉 It was especially interesting to see you go through your old post point by point and discuss whether you still agreed with those ideas.

    “I also was mislabeling the problem. The problem is not so much feminism as the repetitive tropes that shove characters again and again through the same, inaccurate, wildly fantastical story in what is supposed to be historical fiction—not contemporary and not fantasy.”

    Precisely. The problem with the feminism–or women’s rights–whatever you want to call it–in these fluffy historical romance novels is that it’s so very shallow. The heroine often speaks and acts as if these oppressive systems affect HER ALONE, and she’s the only person who’s ever noticed them. (Well, until she meets the hero, and then HE’S the only man who’s ever noticed them…) When you couple that with the fact that the heroine is often incredibly privileged and refusing to recognize her own privilege, you’ve got a real problem.

    Does it matter that the heroine is in danger of being forced into marriage due to economic and social constraints? Absolutely. Does it matter that her housemaid, and her governess, and the daughter of the shopkeeper in the next street, are ALSO in danger of being forced into marriage through economic and social constraints, as well as being extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation of all kinds? Sure, but you’d never know it to hear her talk 😛

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      I think every so often it behooves us all to return to return to our old opinions and reexamine them. Usually I find something to criticize, and other times, I’m reminded of what I have always believed! Glad you were able to enjoy it despite my own rather caustic at times beliefs. 😛 I know I can be … well, me.

      I’m 100% with you! The privilege thereof makes it iffy, too. I don’t remember if I mentioned it, but that is one of my main issues with the Netflix series, Bridgerton. I expected feminism – that’s part of the genre at this point, practically. However, to watch this insanely rich and privileged and SAFE woman go on and on about how the worst thing in the world is having her mother (who only wants her to marry for love, by the way) encourage her to marry when around her people are literally dying or living in abuse or …? Yeah. It’s super irritating. And even if she says all the right things, at least for the average watcher, it’s STILL sad because she’s sitting here, safe as anything, currently protected by four brothers and someday to likely be protected by a loving husband (if they stick to the books) … and her perspective is so self-centered. She’s the only smart one, after all! It’s just … maddening? Like, girl, you are not the only creature on this planet, you are doing fairly well for yourself, and yet all your complaints are about YOUR life and YOUR misfortunes (and those of a similar class to her). Like, her servants never enter the chat at all. 😛

      It would actually be interesting to read more books where the heroine was in it to help people who weren’t as safe as she was. First, she could make a real different, and second, it would make her perspective a little more appealing. I mean, obviously, it would be good to see books about housemaids and shopkeepers daughters and such, but assuming we must do debutantes, let them at least have brains that process sense. What’s the quote – “It’d be better to have no sense than to misapply it as you do.”

      • iamcharlesbakerharris
        Reply

        True, true! After all, if our opinions remained totally static, that wouldn’t be any fun 😉 And mine have certainly evolved over the years!

        Ughh. *shakes le head* I’ve never watched Bridgerton, but I’m not surprised to hear it perpetuates the shallow, self-centered version of feminism. “My mother wants me to marry for love… which I am totally going to do anyway as soon as it suits me because this is a ROMANTIC COMEDY… but let’s pretend for two seconds that I can’t stand the thought of marriage, just so I can whine about being the most oppressed (rich, white) woman on planet Earth.”

        I really think it does a disservice to women, both historical and modern, who genuinely don’t want to get married (and whose desire for singleness should be respected) to continually portray these heroines who only PLAY at being reluctant to marry until the author makes the right guy sweep them off their feet.

        “Assuming we must do debutantes, let them at least have brains that process sense.” Lol!!!

        Another problem with these escapist pseudo-feminist romances is the way they make it seem like men who Totally Supported Women’s Rights were to be found on every street corner. As soon as you decided you actually wanted to get married after all, boom, there they were, fully concordant with your progressive ideals in every way. Not to be a wet blanket, but if that were true… then actually establishing women’s legal and economic rights wouldn’t have been nearly so difficult. 😛

        • Kellyn Roth
          Reply

          Yup, romances where the heroine talks about how much she hates romance is such a pet peeve of mine. It can work, I guess, in a way, but only if the romance isn’t your average “and then everything changed in a moment …” Romance also tends to discount the legitimate effects of trauma or simply closing your heart up – it’s not easily solved by a handsome or pretty face. If you’ve “sworn off love forever,” then you’ve probably gone through some stuff or at least made some pretty firm decisions, and it’s going to take more than a swoony dude or duddess to change that.

          That’s very true! Sexism only exists until you fall in love, essentially. Which I guess you could read as, you finally found someone who cares about you as a person, which makes sense to me. Sort of the Fitzwilliam Darcy approach — vaguely (? or not so vaguely) misogynistic until he actually takes what you yell at him to heart and fixes himself. 😛 But that’s not what modern romances give us. (Okay, I’ll get off my Jane Austen Knew What Was Up soapbox.)

          • iamcharlesbakerharris
            Reply

            I mean, take me, for example. I’m in my late twenties, single, I’ve definitely gone through some Stuff, and while I haven’t “sworn off love forever,” I am pretty wary about the whole thing, with good reason… and I VERY MUCH DOUBT that will suddenly change in an instant. 😛 So (like you said) it frustrates me when those realistic hesitations are treated so cavalierly.

            Jane Austen did indeed Know What Was Up! One thing that makes Pride & Prejudice in particular so good is that it doesn’t portray true love as the cure-all for sexism and oppression, because Austen makes very clear that not every woman will find a man like Darcy. Some women, like Charlotte Lucas, will still find themselves married to a boor like Mr. Collins out of sheer financial desperation. That’s why you need to reform the whole system to allow women a decent means of supporting themselves.

            • Kellyn Roth
              Reply

              100%! (Sorry for that, btw.) And like, that’s not how people work. Even people who don’t have trauma are STUBBORN. Or at least I am about certain things.

              Totally! And I feel like that is reflected in all her books in one way or another. There is often a, “Oh, but this person didn’t have quite the happy ending, because THAT’S REAL LIFE.” Honestly, I guess what I’m really tired of is everything being solved by the end of the book. That is NOT my life. Again and again, all my “solutions” fall to nothing, and I’m left here going, “What the heck!?” In real life, there is no easy answer. And if fiction can’t delve into the depths of humanity and portray that, what can?

              • iamcharlesbakerharris
                Reply

                Thanks <3 It's all going to be okay, whether I end up getting married or not.

                It's true. I think as authors, we struggle between the need to give our readers resolution by answering the "story question" we set up in the beginning–and acknowledging that in life as well as in art, some questions simply REMAIN UNANSWERED. The balancing act is… not easy, between a book that leaves you unsatisfied and a book that leaves you satisfied but thoughtful. But great writers like Austen can do it with style.

                • Kellyn Roth
                  Reply

                  Yup, totally! It’s just a balancing act. For me, a lot of the answers are solid, but they’re also not easy – they’re “we can’t control X, but … fortunately, X.” And that’s not easy to hear!

  • Merie Shen
    Reply

    This post is very thought-provoking. I remember reading the original one back in 2020 (but didn’t remember anything else about it until I read this post). I think it’s super cool that you’re willing to go back and go over those points. Having also grown since then, I’m reminded of the sort of “controversial” statements I myself might’ve made on my blog in the past, and how much clearer an idea I have of those things now… For instance, it’s amazing how much clarity can be brought into an argument just by properly defining a term–any term–especially one as confusing as “feminism.”
    Also, the point you made against that “perfect hero” of escapist fiction is one I will forever stand by. Even outside of historical fiction, it’s really just a silly fantasy. Are they trying to imply that no decent men actually exist? Or that men have to be utterly perfect and not need to change any part of themselves in order to be considered decent? (Maybe I’m exaggerating the issue, but still.) Either way, it’s not an excuse for poorly-written, undeveloped characters. Why is it so hard to believe that authors, like any other human beings, can make mistakes xD How much “artistic liberty” can you take before it just gets ridiculous, after all.

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Yeah, honestly, I stand by 80% of what I said in the original post, but I do think it’s still important to go back, evaluate, and be honest about any places where I wasn’t as clear as I could’ve been. And yes, you’re right – feminism is a confusing term. I think it’s because there have been so many renditions of it over history which have been grouped under the same name.

      Yes! I’m with you 100%. I honestly feel like romances should be the last books in the world leaving us with unrealistic expectations, yet that’s often what I hear from people. And there’s no real excuse for creating an underdeveloped “perfect” character other than lazy writing.

What do you think of my thoughts?

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