ClitLit – Women, Romance Fiction and Patriarchal Discourse

January 5, 2010

Oh Karen Templeton No! #3 – Them Stoopid Wimminz!

Still not finished on this book! This time, we’re tackling parochialism and the ‘them stoopid wimminz!’ mentality. Again, Pride and Pregnancy is not the worst book I’ve ever read in this area. But it’s the one I’m reading while I’m in a ranty mood, and so…

…the next time I read a parochial hero – especially one who, up till now, has been a Good Guy ™ – I am throwing the book at the wall.

The scene: Karleen has just discovered that her session of afternoon delight with hero Troy has left her knocked up. He wants to marry her ‘for practicality’ (so she can go on his health insurance, even though she has her own), she tells him to get stuffed. I still don’t like Karleen and her clothes (sidenote: in their sex scene, Templeton describes Karleen’s underwear as ‘pale pink embroidered silk high-cuts’ – OH KAREN TEMPLETON NO!), but I like that she’s determined to be independent. There was a scene earlier I thought was good where Karleen’s BFF was all alike, ‘when did you fall off the man wagon? OMG u hav no man sooo sad!!!1!’ and Karleen, quite rightly, verbally bitchslaps her with something along the lines of, ‘I don’t no man!’

But I digress. So Karleen is determined to be independent. Troy, who has hitherto been reasonably decent, agrees with uncharacteristic sourness. And then comes this parochial exchange with Blake, his business partner:

‘”Meaning, at least I’m in the position to take care of both Karleen and this baby. But she’s not having any of it.”

“As in, marriage?”

“Well, yes. Except she’s insisting we didn’t know each other well enough or have enough in common to make a marriage work.”

“Not that she has a valid point or anything.”

“Especially since she’s been married three times already.”


“Yeah. …Karleen’s got a real thing about trying to stand on her own two feet.”

“There’s a lot of that going around these days,” Blake said dryly, referring, Troy supposed, to his own wife, Cass, who – despite being broke and, as it happened, also pregnant – had given Blake a similar song-and-dance before finally agreeing to remarry him last year.’

– Templeton, K., 2007, Pride and Pregnancy [Harlequin Mills & Boons] p.111

This is by no means the worst scene of its kind in romance fiction. But still, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t rewrite it like this:

TROY: So Karleen should totally give up this crap autonomy thing she’s harping on about and just marry me. Y’know, so I could be a Real Man and paternalistically take care of them.

BLAKE: Yeah, them wimminz are real stoopid sometimes… don’t know what’s good for ’em!

Say it with me – OH KAREN TEMPLETON NO!

ETA: Two pages later, Blake manages to say what I was saying. So Karen Templeton knows exactly what her subtext is. But that don’t mean it ain’t parochial…

‘”But here’s a newsflash, buddy – women don’t much like being given ultimatums. And they especially don’t like feeling like somebody’s threatening their autonomy. Doesn’t matter what the motive is, or that you’re only doing whatever it is ‘for their own good’.” (p.113)

Or you could read it this way:

BLAKE: Them stoopid irrational wimminz! They don’t understand what’s good for ’em, even if you try to tell ’em. Too busy being all damn autonomous to let us take ’em under our patriarchal wing and take care of ’em!



  1. I’m going to take a closer look at that “song-and-dance” comment because if someone hands me a metaphor, I’ll always want to unwrap it to see if there’s something shiny and interesting underneath the wrapping paper.

    I get a distinctly country music feel from Karleen and that and your comments (in this post and the others) about her mix of independent feminist statements and more traditional ones reminded me of a post at Feministe about country music. There, Aunt B mentions how being pretty in the way that Karleen is, i.e. “being able to wear make-up and do your hair and shave your legs was a profound symbol of independence for [Loretta] Lynn.”

    By the way, Karen Templeton’s written a blog post which shows that she thinks about some of the details (in this case of the heroine’s choice of lipstick colour) very carefully.

    Comment by Laura Vivanco — January 5, 2010 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

  2. This little series on Karen Templeton is HILARIOUS. Apparently she did not read the book by Stephen King where he bemoans authors who detail every piece of clothing and describe their looks down to how many dimples they have. Priceless!

    Comment by MissFIfi — March 7, 2010 @ 12:46 am | Reply

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