it’s me! You’re feminist killjoy friend. I’ve been working on a post for how I’m no fun at parties because I point out when people use problematic language (no, hun, it’s sex worker…) but that’s a tricky mine filled post and it’s taking longer than I had expected.
In the meantime, I’ve been reading a ton of books trying to get through my backlog before my vacation. You may remember because I mentioned it last week. While I struggled with internalized misogyny in the romance industry… but this post isn’t like that post…
Okay, it is just like that post. But apparently, it needs to be said again because I’ve read a fuck ton more books in the past week. I’m tearing through my backlog, and it’s because books keep using problematic language, scenarios, and tropes that make me throw the book against the wall.
What could cause such a reaction? Well, sugar, I’m glad you asked. I’ve compiled a list *things* that are sure to make me throw up in my mouth, DNF, and rate a book with one or two stars.
And away we go…
Child abuse: This isn’t something that needs to go away in the industry, this is my own personal trigger. I can’t consume any media that contains child abuse or child murder since I had my daughter. Sorry, but this is self-care in action. And I won’t even give you a star rating or fault you for it unless it’s casually dropped in the story without warning and with a blase attitude.
Misusing the OCD label: I will admit that I have a history with the term OCD. I have anxiety and odd behavioral patterns that the masses can confuse for OCD as that’s what we’ve always been taught. It’s like the word “ironic” or “literally.” Unlike ironic or literally, though, applying the label of OCD in a slapdash fashion is ableist. Perpetuating the stereotype highly organized or neat people who become anxious when their order is disturbed are OCD.
Anxiousness is not compulsion.
It’s not even OCD when I don’t see my cat before leaving my house and I have to turn around to make sure she didn’t sneak out and I didn’t run her over…
Now I’m about to mention using mental illness as a crutch… I separated out mislabeling OCD because I get called OCD because of my tendency to list and it causes me to rage something fierce.
Mental illness as a scapegoat/crutch/convenient plot point: “the serial killer *gasp* has dissociative identity disorder!” Do you understand how harmful this is? How hard it makes it for people struggling with mental illness to actually go get the help they need? The stigma this thrusts upon us? Oh, there’s Ginny. She’s depressed. Better not give her basic human rights because of her brain chemistry.
And not only that, it’s lazy as fuck… Can’t you possibly come up with another reason for a serial killer to be out there? Can’t give your villain another reason to be villainous. Can’t give your romantic lead something else to overcome?
Just don’t make being atypical.
Being atypical as a scapegoat/crutch/convenient plot point: Same as above. Don’t stigmatize people who are already abused and maligned. All being atypical means is that your brain operates differently from neurotypical folks. Atypical folks are not history’s greatest monster. Stop acting like they are… handle atypical characters with the respect and care they deserve.
(I wanted to weave in some segway to the next point, but I’m too upset at people shit-talking people with Autism…)
Violence against women as a convenient plot point: Obviously violence against women is a reality in our world. It’s an important topic that needs to be discussed and kept in the forefront of our minds. We need to keep fighting against a culture that normalizes these acts… And part of that is to stop fucking using it as a crutch in story telling.
If the only thing you can think of to drive your character’s growth is by attacking another female character in your book, stop and rethink if this is a story you should be telling. If your characters only motivation is the rape of their spouse, the murder of their mother, the torture of their sister… Just don’t do it.
Characters that exist only as objects of sexual gratification: I’m not talking sex workers or booty calls… I mean a character that’s crafted with no more depth than to act as a masturbatory fantasy for the author/the reader or to provide a titillating orgasm to an “important” character. Yeah, even male characters in romance novels can be reduced to wank bait… it’s lazy and sloppy.
GFY: Because of its history of fetishizing male/male relationships, I no longer read the gay for you trope. Closeted, in denial, self-loathing… sure. But the two alpha males who are only interested in tits and pussy until they’re on a desert island or just catch each other’s eye?
Miss me with that…
Alpha assholes: Alpha characters (male or female) sure… Fuck, I am an alpha female at work surrounded by other alpha females. I don’t mind strong-willed characters willing to take charge while taking no shit. But there is a line. A line that separates strong characters from domineering assholes. And I don’t mean Doms. Doms are not the problem. The problem is people idolizing horrible tropes that need to go away and viewing them as the perfect male companion.It needs to end. There is no place for this character in 2017.
Fuck, I’m not even here for redemption arcs for assholes anymore. If you’re such a fuckup some love interest has to fix you… Well, that’s a troubling trope in its own way…
Now, there is a gray area where someone can almost become an alpha asshole or has several assholish tendencies. Where, say, in the middle of a fight the normally chill character suddenly says “I forbid you to go, end of discussion” but this is best saved for the big break in the romance. The moment that divides our lovers and risks their happy ending.
You only get one per story… use it wisely.
Man-card: Similar to alpha assholes, but different in their own, special way. There might be a character who never has an assholish tendency in his narrative until he drops the dreaded “man-card.” Please… you’re dripping with toxic masculinity and I can’t even with you right now.
(my favorite undies are by fruit of the loom, so this add makes me extra salty…)
This is not the only phrase in this vein that ruffles my feathers. You can also imply men cannot have and/or discuss feelings. See also: male characters calling each other pussies, ladies, or asking if they have sand in their vagina. Chances are that if a character is saying shit, they’re an alpha asshole. I mean, the could also just be a regular asshole, but that doesn’t actually matter… I don’t have time for it.
Not like other girls: If there is one thing that I want to get rid of more than alpha assholes and man-cards, it’s this idea that girls are wrong. Girls are bad. Girls are icky… So obviously you want to strive to not be like other girls. But you know what? Fuck you. What the fuck is wrong with other girls? Nothing.
Isms and phobias: The following are things I can only tolerate if done once (or twice) and immediately called out. Even then, it’s tricky and has to be done with sensitivity. In other words: don’t do it for ally cookies or to be edgy.
What is that? (referencing a character’s gender expression/identity)
Cheating: If one of the romantic leads in a story is actively in another relationship that they have not ended (or attempted to end in the case of a separation where both parties are living apart but litigation is taking forever or historical romance). I am not here for you. End your current relationship before starting a new one.
And that’s my list. I’m sure I’ll add more in the future as new and different lazy writing habits become mainstream. As new tropes filter into our collective consciousness. For now, though, I’m tired. I’ve run through my rage and turned back into Bruce Banner. I need some chocolate, my jammies, a comfy chair, and a goddamned good book.
*edit* and I got a boring book. None of the previously mentioned *throws this book in disgust* moments as there were no moments that elicited any emotional reaction.