I’m always here to be a thorn in the ass of annoying people online and right now… that’s a lot of people who view themselves as (gate) keepers of Romancelandia’s Sacred Sexy Flame.
Let’s begin with a bit of backstory:
January 25th at 7PM YouTuber Jack Edwards – whose whole thing is being a guy who reads books and then talks about them for his subscribers – tweeted the following joke using a popular meme format:
romance books: this man is so big. he is just so huge. he towers over me. all i can think about is how big he is. his arms are big. but i have to contain this feeling. we work together! yet my mind is imagining a life with mr big in all his enormousness. he is so… big.
This is “normal”. Most people writing traditional M/F romances engage in a really dramatic size difference between their hero and heroine.
Please check out the obvious and exaggerated size difference between Riftan (the big guy) and Maximilian (the tiny woman) in Under the Oak Tree.
In the follow up tweet Jack makes before trying to do a little thread, he mentions that he’s doing a video on romance and that his main observation is “the word ‘big’ is used an absurd amount in the romance genre”.
Instantly, the hordes descended on him and it was… bad.
In his replies alone – quote retweets were a different screechy beast until non-Romancelandia fandom people got involved and boosted the mood by talking about their size kink preferences – you have dozens of people who armored up to defend romance from… a guy cracking the mildest possible joke about the genre’s size kink.
It wasn’t a critique and it was barely even commentary, but it was being treated as if Jack said that liking size difference in romance made you a monster or as if he was clowning people for liking it. (When clearly, it was a good-natured joke about something plenty of us have joked about and put in our own romance works.)
People accused him of making fun of romance readers/writers, lumped him in with the people who do really inaccurate commentary on romance, and even… bodyshamed him. (Lots of people saying he was complaining because he was short or had a small dick… which cannot possibly be a thing you say to another human being except – they did.)
You can go through the replies to his tweets and see some of the awful commentary there because not enough people had the shame and sense to delete their awful takes. There were so many subtweets too, sneering at him for being a man “talking over” Romancelandia – by making a SINGLE joke about his observations while doing a speed-run – and plenty of absolutely horrifying aggressive threads intent on misrepresenting him.
One absolutely unhinged person actually weaponized her dead dog in an attempt to make Jack feel bad. No joke: she actually said that’s what she was doing:
“Just to make you feel bad… after my dog passed this year I read 84 romance novels, often audiobooks while baking to fill the void of my 60lb golden retriever and his personality. The stillness of it all. You’re dissing on a genre that got me through the death of my dog…”
The original tweet had a photo of her dog for extra guilt tripping energy.
And the thing is that… he didn’t diss romance.
Even if he’d offered a critique, he wasn’t “dissing” romance. But he didn’t offer a critique, he didn’t drop a dunk or a diss.
At no point did he actually dismiss romance because of these large ass dudes populating the genre. He made a joking observation using a popular meme format and… literally hundreds of incredibly aggressive white women romance readers and writers descended on him because it’s a rule on twitter that you “don’t mess with Romancelandia”.
Jack Edwards is fair game because he’s a white guy who’s been deemed an outsider – and at what point do you become an insider in romance because there are people who’ve been reading romance for decades and talking about the extreme sexual dimorphism present in romance… and how it can make queer people, trans mascs and femmes, and POC feel to read them and uh… they don’t get listened to either.
But because he’s an outsider and a man, it was okay to guilt trip him, to attack him, and to mobilize in the same way that they did against Dana Schwartz and Time for an interview she did that seemed to “generalize” romance novels –
The thing is that Romancelandia isn’t just about romance.
It’s also about righteous rage.
Romancelandia is peak “Let People Like Things” culture and because the romance genre and its fans have gotten unnecessary backlash or has been used as the butt of jokes, people kind of… take any perceived or actual slight against the genre to go wild.
The big issue? They think criticism – or anything coming close to it – is a direct violent attack because they’re women that must be met with aggression in return. Sound familiar?
“Don’t Mess With Romancelandia” is a recurring joke around the book-oriended corners of the internet because it happens so often that the hammer of romance readers/creators comes down on people.
As with other fandoms dominated by white women, if you’re seen to “come for” anything they love or have built their identities or personalities around, they then have carte blanche to come for you in the name of… feminism? I guess. It’s supposed to be funny, but I don’t think it’s very funny to crack jokes about a fandom of (largely white) women creators and consumers that see nothing wrong with dogpiling random people over mild jokes specifically because they’re men or otherwise seen as outsiders.
(Understand how mad I am that we’re going through all of this for a random YouTuber… my god.)
White women’s anger – especially in defense of (what they think is) feminism – is seen as empowering for those women. They’re fighting against the out-group (men and male romance readers including Romance Historian Steve Ammidown, creator of Romance Fiction Has A History who’s had his credentials dismissed and his experiences mocked like in the quotes of this tweet) and so that excuses the nasty things that they then say to other people over it. They’re accusing people of gaslighting them and so they’re fighting gaslighting with… fire.
After all, they’re claiming to fight the patriarchy and they’re pushing back against cultural norms about sex/uality and desire, so anything goes, except … they’re not.
One big issue I realized as I watched (and screenshot) dozens of incredibly aggressive women try to pretend that Romancelandia was once again under attack by the patriarchy – was that a lot of these people sure did try (are still trying!) to position themselves as oppressed by Jack Edwards’ tweet because they are women who like large (tall but not fat) men in their romance novels or real lives.
I didn’t know my liking Kim Namjoon – the big, beefy, and brilliant leader of BTS – made me marginalized online, but I guess I missed the memo?
Anyway, Jack Edwards didn’t intend to start sharp commentary on the ridiculous bioessentialism and sexual dimorphism present in tons of traditional cishet M/F romance, but he sure set it off!
And rather than pause to go “hey, what are we saying by getting mad about this fact of our space and claiming romance as solely for women”, people… doubled down, made increasingly aggressive tweets they then had to delete or lock to avoid getting yelled at. Because they decided to gatekeep, gaslight, and girlboss their way out of reckoning with something the joke tweet brought up: that a lot of romance writers like big ass white dudes and that can be funny to clock.
At the end of the day, romance is for everyone that wants to read or write it. Period.
Whether you’ve been reading for two weeks or two decades, if you’re into romance you’re into romance.
Gatekeeping who can read it – or talk about what they read on any level – isn’t cute.
In fact, a lot of people got downright ugly in their aggressive defense of what they’ve decided is an exclusive women-only space… because what women like is apparently above all critique and commentary. If jokes aren’t allowed… I’m assuming actual critique of things like the endless racism across the genre won’t be either.
Do better, Romancelandia.
Because this shit was embarassing.