Contrary to the male-gaze and popular culture, women do not actually disappear after their mid-30s. Nope. We’re still here, we’re kicking ass, and we want to read romance novels that reflect the challenges and issues that we face in our own everyday lives. 
FINALLY! WE can tell Mary Wollstonecraft, the amazing person who started the feminist movement over 200 years ago, that in 2019 we women have finally reached full equality with men.
Queue the red double-decker London bus circling Newington Green – actual birthplace of feminism – with ads plastered on its side for a recent movie showing five grey haired men, one with his arm thrown around the shoulders of a “pretty young(ish) thing” of maybe 30.
So … maybe not. Women are in a much better place – hey, we can vote! – but the patriarchy remains firmly entrenched and so their viewpoint, the “male gaze,” is reflected right back at them in popular culture, where all women are young, of child-bearing years, and hopefully single.

Women then begin their vanishing act in the media: those between 35 and 45 may stay on as wives or mothers, but the 50 plus crowd simply gets erased or referred to with micro-aggressions.

Queue young, child-bearing lead on your favourite sitcom rolling her eyes when mum rings. Or – here’s a personal favourite of mine – the ubiquitous dinner where the 60-something mother nags her adult daughter (young and child-bearing, of course) to start producing grandchildren.
Romance has always been subversive. In the seventies and eighties, when popular culture was frequently killing off sexy women – the skimpily clad girl who gets eaten by a shark in the opening scene of Jaws, the young camp counsellor getting murdered in Friday the 13th for having sex – romance was sending sex-positive messages.

Not only do you get to enjoy making love, it said, but you get a happily ever after at the end.

True, these novels are fraught with their own issues (subservient, pure-hearted virginal heroines and their domineering alpha-hole heroes) but the point is that romance keeps up with modern day issues.
“While it is a very durable genre,” states Dr. Sandra A. Barletta, “it has also been over many decades, a flexible one, constantly attuning to new readerships, being challenged by authors and scholars, responding to changing social patterns and values.”
This is happening right now with the subgenre many (but not all) refer to as seasoned romance.
Authors are purposefully writing novels that challenge the socio-cultural norms associated with women and aging by writing love stories featuring heroines who are 35, or 45, or – GASP – over 50. Some of these crazy bitches even want to write about heroines in their 60s and 70s!

Mostly, know this, we’re never too old for a little sexy romance.”

Contrary to the male-gaze and popular culture, women do not actually disappear after their mid-30s. Nope. We’re still here, we’re kicking ass, and we want to read romance novels that reflect the challenges and issues that we face in our own everyday lives. 
“Most of my readers are between 30 and 60 in age,” author Phoebe Alexander says. “Many of whom are way past the “life stage” of the typical 20-something heroine who is falling in love for the first time. I believe many of us (myself included) are finding ourselves divorced and dating again or on our second marriages, basically in a position where we are thinking about love and romance at an older age.”
“Most of my readers are between 30 and 60 in age,” author Phoebe Alexander says. “Many of whom are way past the “life stage” of the typical 20-something heroine who is falling in love for the first time. I believe many of us (myself included) are finding ourselves divorced and dating again or on our second marriages, basically in a position where we are thinking about love and romance at an older age.”
And luckily, with social media, connecting with the readers and writers of this subgenre is easier than ever – the Facebook group, Seasoned Romance, just recently hit the 2,000 members mark.
Disturbingly, ingrained societal messages – like an aging woman’s main value is linked directly to family and children – make a real impact in our everyday thoughts and attitudes. When I had my first child, for example, I was somehow under the impression that my mother and mother-in-law were waiting in the wings, ready to swoop in and take over childcare the moment I rang.
Their responses were along the lines of, “been there, done that, sort your own shit out.”
Even though I knew my mother-in-law and mother each have their own lives – MIL took up the saxophone at 50-something and joined a marching band, sails competitively, and has been to the Antarctic twice, and Mum wasn’t even around for me to empty-nest her, she took off from the family home before I did to be with the love her life – I was still influenced by ridiculous social stereotypes.
There is actually good news to share with Mary Wollstonecraft, the invisibility of women in popular culture is under attack in 2019. Besides seasoned romance and its burgeoning discoverability, there’s been an uptick in shows (Netflix’s Grace and Frankie) and movies (Julianne Moore in the newly released Gloria Bell) featuring mature women.
And also circling Newington Green, birthplace of feminism, are red double-decker London busses plastered with ads for a brand-new West End show, based on that freaking awesome hit film starring Dolly Parton, Nine to Five the Musical. ♥
BUY | A Thousand Butterfly Wishes, Susan Haught
#blushmagazine #romancelandia

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