Now, I was in a grumpy mood, and it's quite possible that I was jaded and impossible to please. However, every fucking book I looked at had misogyny in it. Women murdered gruesomely. Women treated badly by lovers. Destitute women finally given a break and then screwed over. Women being abused and mistreated by their families.
I just couldn't take it. So I went off to the romance bookshop, thinking they might have some stories that were fluffy and happy and with nice people in them, and, you know, no misogyny.
I said to the sales woman, "I only have two criteria. It can't have any misogyny in it of any kind. And I'm a writer, so it has to be passably written. Otherwise, any genre any style. I'm in the mood for something contemporary, if that helps, but I also love stuff like Georgette Heyer."
So. She recommends a few books and I glance at the blurbs and grill her a bit about whether there are any mistreated women in them, and then I buy two.
I bet you can see where this is going, right? Yeah. Let me tell you about the first thirty pages of Linda Howard's Mr Perfect.
Here is the blurb:
What would make the perfect man?
That's the deliciously racy topic that Jaine Bright and her three girlfriends are pondering one night at their favourite after-hours hot spot: Mr Perfect. Would he be tall, dark, and handsome? Caring and warmhearted -- or will just muscular do? As their conversation heats up, they concoct a tongue-in-cheek checklist that becomes an overnight sensation, spreading like wildfire at work and sizzling along e-mail lines. But what began as a joke among friends turns deadly serious when one of the four women is murdered... Turning to her neighbor, an unpredictable police detective, for help, Jaine must unmask a killer to save her friends -- and herself. Now, knowing whom to trust and whom to love is a matter of survival -- as the dream of Mr Perfect becomes a chilling nightmare.
Okay, so it's a thriller/murder mystery, and yeah, that was dumb of me to pick, but I only scanned the first part of the blurb, saw the checklist idea (so charming), and then flipped to a random page to make sure the writing didn't suck. I had this vision of... well, bascially of Rodney McKay overhearing the people in the lab concocting a list of their criteria for "Dr Perfect" (gender neutral), and him being all sarcastic, and "Oh, please, the most important thing is whether they have a brain" and so forth. And then the list (including his sarcastic asides) being posted to the intranet. Like so:
- Smart (There are enough morons in the world without inviting them home to breed.)
- Good looking (Don't be ridiculous, of course looks matter.)
- Fight-style compatibility (Tears have no place in the lab, and are twice as bad in the bedroom.)
- Congruent sense of humour (If they don't laugh at Monty Python, there's no point in a second date.)
- The kink factor (Is anyone really going to debate that uniforms are hot? Totally illogical, but the evidence does not lie. Also blondes. Blondes are always hot.)
And all the women are suddenly ranking all the men by it. Ha ha ha. And Rodney is firmly convinced that his list matches Carter perfectly, until it's suddenly and embarrassingly brought home to him when they have this big fight that, no, not so much. Instead of shouting back at him, she just gets mean, just like Siberia all over again. Also, she doesn't find his Batman jokes funny at all. And they totally are funny, because they always make Sheppard snigger, so it's not just Rodney.
This figment of my imagination both charmed me and filled me with anticipatory glee. I was sold! I bought the book. I couldn't wait to find out how the author would concoct this charming frippery for my entertainment. I was all agog to laugh and fall in love along with the characters. Doris Day, I thought, and Cary Grant. *happy sigh*
And then I started reading the book, and promptly discovered that it was a murder mystery. Doh! So much for that flight of fancy on my part. But okay, I thought, I actually like crime novels. And the romance is the main plot in this, and the sales person said the main characters were all nice. And yes, the psycho-killer has mommy issues, but I can deal. I expect psycho-killers to have issues. As long as it's just a kind of background angst to help get the main love story going, I'm okay with that. It's just like a Wraith loose on Atlantis or something. Not a deal breaker.
So I read on, and this is what I found in the first 29 pages:
- The male lead is a slob that the woman, Jaine, hates and is scared of.
- All Jaine's friends are in abusive relationships.
- All of them get sexually harrassed at work, all the time, even by the resident "nerd" they all think is harmless and cute.
- Jaine has been engaged three times before, and got jilted at the alter by the last fiance.
- Jaine is the only character I like, and I only like her because she's cat-sitting a cat called BooBoo and cusses a lot. I have a feeling if I read further, I will end up disliking her as much as everyone else.
I just... I have no words. I mean, if you were a sales person and someone asked you for a book without misogyny in it, would you think this was a good choice?
*throws book across room*
The other book I bought was Sherrilyn Kenyon's Night Pleasures, which is about gods and vampires. I didn't even bother to read the blurb on this one, because the sales woman gushed so much about it, and cannily told me it had Greek mythology in it, including Atlantis (I swear, I didn't even mention that I had any interest in these things, so wtf?). But now I've read the blurb, and it's about some horny vampire guy who doesn't want to be attracted to the strong, witty heroine, but is despite himself. OMG. WTF? I'm scared to even open it now. I'm pretty sure it's just going to make me crazy and angry.
How did I even end up with these books? "No misogyny" was my main criteria! Are there really no books in the world that are misogyny free? Am I speaking some strange and exotic language? When I say, "No misogyny," does it come out as, "Blah blah blah Fido blah blah sex"?
*throws up hands*
I have more marking to do now, but once I'm done, I think I shall find some fanfiction to read. Because at least I can hit the back button if it squicks me, and there's a decent chance that no women will come to any sort of harm. And maybe I'll even find my "Rodney's Mr Perfect" story, which will be charming and funny and not bash any women at all, and will have Carter being sly and funny and alive at the end, even after killing the Wraith that's stalking Atlantis (with her science-ninja skillz), and Ronon and Keller being cute together and decent to each other, not to mention Rodney getting his big gay happy ending with John.
How fucking hard is that?