This past week, I sat on a panel and the woman next to me asked a writer in the audience what she wrote. When the answer she received was, “Women’s fiction,” she remarked, “As long as it’s not trashy romance.”

I immediately nudged her and jumped into the conversation. “Umm…you might want to rethink your comments since I happen to be a multi-published romance author. And I don’t consider my work ‘trashy,’ thank you very much.”

Over the years, I’ve heard all the snide commentary and backhanded compliments about “bodice rippers,” “clinch covers,” “mommy porn,” and how I do “the research.” I’ve always maintained my cool and cited the usual statistics: 1.5 billion dollars in sales annually, 74 million readers, 16% of the publishing industry’s sales (larger share than any other genre).

But…honestly? We’re still having this discussion? Why? When someone tells me they write mysteries, I don’t ask them how many people they’ve killed in the name of “research.” If I’m introduced to a science-fiction reader, I don’t accuse him/her of living in a make-believe world. Why the snark for romance? I know I’m not blazing new ground with this post and I don’t intend to get into one of those debates that will send romance writers flocking to my page to defend the genre. Nor will I link to the hundreds of articles deploring the publishing market because of the dearth of romance novels. 

I write about men and women who connect on an emotional level. They fight real battles, struggle to raise families, and work jobs they may or may not like. My characters are just like you and me. Why is that “trashy”? 

If you told me about your home and, sight unseen, I said it sounded like a “trashy” place, would you take offense? You bet you would! If I said your significant other was “trashy,” your kids were “trashy,” your career was “trashy,” you’d be insulted on all levels. You might even dismiss me as an ignorant fool. After all, what do I know about your life that would allow me to make such ugly snap judgments?

Maybe the blazing success of the romance novel makes it an easy target. But when you use words like “trashy,” you’re showing the world your ignorance, not mine.  

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