I remember being 14 years old and being taken through a fence by my horse, Razzle. He was a good horse. But that day something spooked him and, no matter what I tried, he decided there was no way I was staying on his back. He’d had enough.
As puberty hit, I started feeling that way about expectation. I wanted it off my back. The idea of finishing high school and going to college to get a 9-to-5 job ate away at the fiber who I knew I was. I wanted to chase wild horses and wild adventures. I’m certain I was a feminist before I knew what the word meant.
My parents raised me to be tough and independent, to work hard. There were no pink and blue jobs. Living on a farm, you worked—period.
To this day, my mother is the strongest woman I’ve ever met. She’ll wrangle a stallion into submission, clean the barn, pick up her granddaughter from kindergarten and make the best beef barley soup on the planet, all before dad gets home from work. She doesn’t name herself a feminist, though. She names herself a woman.
My mother also fed my love of reading. For as long as I’ve been alive, her nightly routine, after the work is done, has been to curl up with an evening snack and a book. She reads everything. Mystery, suspense, CanLit, YA and every kind of romance, from Regency to contemporary to paranormal.
On Feminism and Writing Romance
When I began writing seriously, I started with poetry. A great poet can change the world with one line. I write poetry to empower women, poetry that I hope young women see themselves in.
But I soon discovered I wanted to write more. Fun stories about kick-ass women and the alpha men who love them. Along came expectation. A serious poet—a true feminist—can’t write romance. To that, I scoff. The women in my family, the strong women I know, have never been defined by expectation, have never allowed the judgments of others to shape their path.
I write. I write poems that speak directly to women’s lives. I write romance, where happily ever after is found because of the heroine’s strength and resiliency, not despite it. I’m writing a dystopian YA that tells the story of young women leading humanity back from the brink.
Everything I write is shaped by the other and, so far, I haven’t found it difficult to transition between writing in different genres. I think it makes me a better writer, more open to learning.
Today the only expectation I have for myself is to be true to myself. And if you think that isn’t feminist enough, I suggest you have a little chat with my mom, after she’s done lugging those hay bales around. Just make sure you don’t interrupt her reading time.
Rayanne Haines is a 2018 Capital City Press Featured Writer and she’s running workshops and events to help you become a better writer—free to attend with your library card. Check out what’s coming up in our events calendar.