Romance novels, fashion & other "girly" ...

Romance novels, fashion & other "girly" things

Jul 06, 2022

If you looked at my bookshelf as a teenager, you would have found crime, war, contemporary drama, history and potentially some fantasy. Never in a million years would you have found anything by Jojo Moyes, Sophie Kinsella or any other romance/chick-lit author.

When you looked at the list of movies and TV series I was obsessed with at that age, once again, you would see war, crime, history and drama. You would have to be an actor I reeeeally liked if I was watching, let alone actively scouring Blockbuster, for a romance movie. To be honest, there were only a handful of comedies I enjoyed too.

I did enjoy musicals though.

In high school, I dreaded going to the cinemas or having movie nights with my friends when the movie of choice was a romance. The Notebook? Titanic? Warm Bodies? Valentine’s Day? Love Actually? Yeah nah, not for me.

So it’s super amusing now to know that I love watching romance movies AND reading romance novels. And not only that, but I…*clears throat*...thoroughly enjoy writing romance novels.

Me? Enjoy WRITING romance novels? Whilst I always did enjoy a romance subplot, I never would have thought that I would actually write in the romance genre…and be good at it.

In usual Monique style, I started to ask myself more about this.

And it didn’t take long before the outdated, subconscious mindset came to the forefront. All the stigma that I had picked up around romance novels came into the light. All the “what will people think of me?” questions started whirling in my mind. All the “will I be as respected for writing romance?” questions went hey, hi, hello.

When I actually dug deep into it, I realised the underlying patriarchal nonsense that had been spurted out for centuries.

It’s not just a 20th century thing that has carried over to the 21st century- it’s generational.

In 18th and 19th century Croatia, there was an increase in female writers. Many of them were often laughed at or belittled because they wrote ‘silly girl stories’. Even if they had well-written, complex heroines, they were ridiculed by their male counterparts. I used to think romance novels were trashy, shallow and vain. They were read by immature girls who weren’t the brightest.

Of course, this came from someone who was the sort to say “I’m not like the other girls”.

Nowadays, I cringe when I hear that. Sure, it feels great to the ego to stand out from the crowd.

But no girl is like the other girls, right?

When did we have to start tearing other women down to feel good about ourselves?

I don’t hate on the version of me that engaged in that mindset. I love on her instead. Now that I’ve healed my sisterhood wound and the mindsets I had around other women (partially thanks to my rugby team who showed me what female friendships were really about), I’m grateful for that version of me for teaching me the lessons I needed to help others, and to also instill in my own daughters in the future.

Whilst we’re on the topic of thinking “feminine” things are vain, trashy and shallow, let’s talk about fashion. Would you be surprised to know that I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was little?

I would watch Project Runway and then spend the rest of the day drawing clothes. I would spend hours on Stardoll, Girlsense and Polyvore.

Somewhere along the lines, 10-year-old me gave into the idea that it was way too hard to break into fashion, and it all went downhill from there. From there, it was a similar idea to the romance novels.

Not only did I find people who were into fashion vain, boring, shallow and dumb, but I also had a preconceived idea that they were nasty too. Sure, maybe some were. But there’s nasty people everywhere.

Now I’ve decided as a hobby to interact more with the fashion world through blogging. Maybe it will become monetised, maybe not. It’s something to do on the side. It’s also something that has made me feel far more abundant once I actually healed the beliefs I had around it. 

Writing romance isn’t just about writing a love story, it’s a statement. It’s taking a stand against the generations worth of ridicule that has led to inherited self-censorship. The same can be said for loving fashion or any other “predominantly female” concept.

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