Discrimination, Diversity, Ageism, and Romance Fiction

AthenaIf you haven’t noticed, discrimination against older women is now a ‘thing,’ a topic of ongoing discussion –thanks to Hollywood, Russell Crowe (we’re getting a lot of mileage from you, Rusty), the fashion industry, and the BBC, but where’s the discourse on mature-aged women in the world of publishing fiction, particularly genre fiction?

Yes, romance fiction. I am looking right at you.

The 19 January 2015 Daily Mail UK has Sandra Howard suggesting that Selfridges (A UK department store) ‘Bright Old Things’ ad campaign is not a “nod to the older generation” or even directed to an older generation, but more of a tactic to sell clothes to the young.

If you missed it, on 16 January 2015, Holly Watt at The Telegraph reported that the BBC was shown to have an “informal policy” of discriminating against older women, and that this “imbalance” in the media shaped “social norms…” While similarly aged male counterparts have advanced or remained as reporters, presenters, and experts, older women have been under-represented as broadcasters. This lack of representation of older women feeds the cult of youth that privileges younger women, and renders older women as invisible, which is often something mature-aged women feel is their reality.

All this ‘discussion of age’ serves to highlight the discussion of diversity, which is another current hot issue. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AKA the Academy Awards) have been accused of ‘whitewashing’ the 2015 Oscar nominations. As The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Fritz reports, from 16 January 2015. Oscar Nominations Stir Up Controversy for being the least ethnic and racially diverse group of nominees in something like 17 years.

I want the inclusion of ethnicity, race, sexuality, religion, and gender in film, TV, and fiction, particularly romance fiction. That is why this 16 January 2015 article in The Guardian is good: The Six Hottest African Romance Novels for 2015. Yes, that’s African, not ‘African American.’ Ankara Press is “bringing African romance fiction into the bedrooms, offices and hearts of women the world over.” Ethnic diversity and colour diversity. Real life romance has no colour, but if you look at romance fiction you’ll discover how very white most of it is.

HeraThere is one thing that concerns me in the conversations on age discrimination and diversity. Although it is wonderful that ageism and the lack of diversity in the media is topical, age is seldom included in the discussion of diversity of fiction and genre fiction. There is no discussion of the discrimination against mature-aged women in publishing. That is, there is no discourse regarding the representation of women of age in genre fiction, particularly with how they are seldom or not at all represented in romance fiction.





14 thoughts on “Discrimination, Diversity, Ageism, and Romance Fiction

  1. To date, I’ve seen most of the over-40 women’s romance condemned to be called (and this is a horrid term) ‘hen-lit’, or (again, horrible) ‘women’s fiction’ . It’s like a kiss of death. Readers – and dare I say, publishers? – can biased as well to the young and beautiful (after all, it’s their fantasy reading time), and promptly dismiss the over 40 heroine as being equal to ‘boring’. Pffft to that, I say. Bring it on!

  2. What’s even more depressing is that the imbalances you refer to have been documented and criticised for well over 20 years and yet change in response to this has been minimal. That’s why I don’t watch, listen to or read mainstream commercial media anymore. They simply don’t have anything to offer me (as a feminist unable to tolerate misogynistic crap).

    • I addressed this in my Masters degree (did you know there’s also a classification known as Martron Lit and Hag Lit?) and a even greater length in my PhD, Malvina. As an author I aim to rectify this lack of representation. My aim as a scholar is to keep abreast of this lack of representation. Although I am not and have no intention to be a university-based academic, I feel my contribution as a romance writer puts me in more powerful position, one where I can facilitate change within the romance fiction industry.
      Thank you so much for your input. I appreciate hearing what romance readers think.

Leave a Reply to ASandraAntonelli Cancel reply