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Welcome, everyone! Here's where I blather about writing, life with my wife BA, and my two basset hounds! I love to hear from readers, so comment here or email me!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Labels in fiction, or why I hate the word Manlove

Okay, I know it might piss some folks off, and that's not my aim here. I want to say that upfront. I'm making a very personal statement about the label "manlove" as it applies to what I read and and write.

I hate the word Manlove. At its most harmless it seems relatively easy to understand. A construct, like bromance or manhug, used as a descriptive. People wield it to indicate male/male fiction in the same way they say I write m/m, pronounced em-em at conventions or to people on the bus who ask what people write when faced with a writer. For what it's worth, I also dislike the em-em phenomenon, as well, because it's a way of ducking the commitment to say I write gay.

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand the distinction people are trying to make. The long and rampaging argument about GLBT fiction versus gay romance versus women writing romance with two men has worn people down, and they see Manlove as a compromise, I think, one that removes the need for the bluster, one that finds commonality with other writers who pen the same kind of prose. I have more than once been told by readers that I write really average guys who don't seem gay so much as into this one man they've fallen for, which is absolutely fair. I like to explore all sots of relationships without stereotypes, I think. At least I hope that's where I land in the great scheme. I can happily point out a good many books I've written, though, where the characters identify as everything from in the closet to way out and flaming!

! Why then do I hate Manlove?

Because I think it's disingenuous, at best. At worst, it's like "girl on girl action" a phrase designed to delineate lesbian film/fiction/media from girls getting it on to titillate men. Saying I read and write Manlove is tantamount to admitting I'm willingly misappropriating someone's culture, that I'm co-opting part of the GLBTQ experience for my own use and discarding the rest. As someone who self-identifies as part of the queer community (a woman married to a woman, mostly bi on the sliding scale of sexuality) the whole idea of taking the LGBT out of gay romance makes me squirmy and uncomfortable. The idea, too, that readers want what one m/f author at a con recently called "Alpha-Alpha males" in their romance and that no gay man can provide that also makes me a little nuts. I know at least three gay men writing romance alongside all of us right now that would qualify as the kind of alpha males readers love to see.

I think that taking the LGBT out of the "m/m" romance equation widens the gap between detractors who say women shouldn't be writing gay romance rather than closes it. I think,very much like Emma Watson recently said so eloquently, gender (and I'll add in sexuality) should be a spectrum. It's okay for men to be sensitive. It's okay for women to be strong. And it's okay for gay men and lesbians and bisexuals to be represented in all sorts of different ways, rather than being pushed aside in favor of a fetish-ized fantasy of men on men or girl on girl action. The implication of Manlove just makes me grit my teeth before I shout, "You keep saying you support the gay community, so why isn't it okay to be gay? Why does it have to be Manlove?"

I'm eager to hear what y'all think. Feel free to discuss, but please keep it friendly!




Moma Sue said...

Well said and I agree

Moma Sue said...

I hate labels of any sort. They are just people