Today is Women’s Fiction Day, a day set up two years ago by USA-based WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association) “to celebrate the authors, stories, readers, bookstores, and fans of the women’s fiction genre.” You can read more about them here.
When a reader sent me a lovely message earlier today wishing me Happy Women’s Fiction Day and thanking me for my stories, I was touched and delighted and nearly penned a blog post immediately to celebrate the day.
But then I didn’t.
And I wondered why I’d paused. I realised it was the label ‘women’s fiction’ that had stopped me.
I’m not the sort of person who gets precious about labels because I know I work in an industry that is rife with them. Two decades ago before I ever entertained the idea of being an author, I used the term ‘chick-lit’ for what I read. When I became an author many years later, there was a definite move away from this and many authors felt it was a derogatory term. I can see why but I’ve never felt upset by it, although it’s not a term I tend to use these days, much preferring ‘romcom’.
I sometimes say I write romance or contemporary romance. I more often use a tagline – stories of love, friendship, family and community – but I’ve never applied the term ‘women’s fiction’ to my work and I think that’s because I struggle with the suggestion that the stories I tell are only suitable for women. Because they’re not.
Before anyone shouts at their computer, I know that the term doesn’t mean that but, to me, it implies it.
I love how the WFWA describe women’s fiction and they have this amazing visual on their website. They also make the point that women’s fiction may or may not have a romance :
This is definitely what I write. Although there is always a romance in my books, it doesn’t always take centre stage. Even when the romance is a major plot point, the driver of the story is more about the journey the protagonist is going on and their emotional growth.
Despite reading – and agreeing with – all the above, I still struggle with using the term ‘women’s fiction’. I am certain that women make up the largest percentage of my readership and my social media following, reviews, and membership of my Facebook Readers Group would back this up, but I know for a fact that I have male readers. Some message me, some engage on social media and others make it clear they’re male in their reviews and I love that.
We don’t have a genre called men’s fiction so why do we have women’s fiction? What else would we call it though, especially if it doesn’t include a romance? Contemporary fiction is far too broad as anything set in modern times would fall into that. I don’t know what the answer is.
So I think I’ll create a new label for the purpose of this post called ‘Women’s fiction (also read by men)’ and leave it there for the moment.
To all the authors of this wonderful genre and all those who love to read it, sending my love and thanks.