Thursday, January 5, 2017

[Let's Talk]: Romance Survey Results (Part 3)



If you recall, in September I mentioned my senior project and the survey I posted for it. I've since turned in that project, and now that I have a bit more time, I'm going to be discussing the results here on the blog as promised. I'm not sure yet how many parts this discussion will be -- 4 or 5, at least? -- but I'll link to all the previous posts each time I post a new one.


These posts will be a combination of the data results from the survey itself, some of the quotes from the survey answers, and my own thoughts and observations. Parts of it will be taken directly from the giant ethnography I turned in, but I'll also be adding more to it in these posts, often in a much more casual way than what's in the paper. :)


I hope that these posts will start some great discussions within our community. But at the very least, I hope you find this series interesting rather than boring.


Catch up:
Part 1
Part 2


Today I'll be discussing the community --- the good and the bad -- and what it means to the members.



Based upon your experiences, how would you describe the online romance community?


Words used to describe the community
Percentage of Participants
Number of Participants
Positive only words for “welcoming”
31.72%
72
Used positive AND negative words (any words)
18.94%
43
Positive only words for “supportive”
14.54%
33
General positive words like “good”
8.81%
20
Positive only words for “enthusiastic”
7.92%
18
Positive only words for “strong, smart”
2.64%
6
Used “diverse”
3.52%
8
Used “fractured” or “divided”
3.96%
9
Used “generous” or “warm”
1.76%
4
Couldn’t answer
1.32%
3
Random answers
2.64%
6



First, an explanation on how I grouped these answers. I searched for similar words used but also whether those words were used only in a positive sense, only in a negative sense, or a combination of both. This is why there are categories such as “Positive only words for ‘welcoming’”. Using this particular category as an example, I’ll explain further how I grouped these answers.


This category doesn’t just include the word “welcoming”, but words synonymous to it as well, such as “warm”, “friendly”, and “cozy”. Furthermore, in order for a response to be in this group, it had to also be ONLY a positive remark. That is, a sample response would be


            “Very friendly and welcoming”


which is pretty straightforward. 


There are answers that would say something along the lines of


             “Generally welcoming and progressive, but it depends”


which is partly positive, partly negative in nature (or perhaps more accurately, a realistic answer). This combination remark was instead included in the grouping “Used positive AND negative words (any words)”. I say “any words” because this grouping had responses that were similar to many of the other categories—welcoming, supportive, strong, and so on—but with one difference: the format of the answer was “positive word(s) BUT negative word(s) or flaw”, rather than just one or the other.


I left this question open so that participants did not feel the need to only tell me the positive words they associate with the community. While most of the responses were more on the positive side anyway, there were still quite a few that wanted to point out the good and the bad characteristics, which I tend to agree with myself, as it’s a bit na├»ve to assume that a beloved community—any community—is entirely perfect.


The largest answer grouping was the “Positive only words for ‘welcoming’”, with 72 participants. The next largest grouping was the mixed answers (“Positive AND negative words used”), with 43 responses. A handful of participants (8) described the community as “diverse” (only positive connotations), while a similar sized handful (9) described the same community as “fractured or divided”. The 3 who couldn’t answer stated they didn’t feel like they were well versed in the community to make such a statement and chose not to answer. The six responses that I grouped as “random answers” were random only because they didn’t directly fit into the other major categories I had outlined.


My experience:



I love the romance community. It’s not always perfect, and frankly I’ve never been under the illusion that it is. But, for me, the good far outweighs the bad. And I fully realize as I say this that I come from a place of privilege in the community (white cishet woman). But the fact remains that being part of this community has helped me in so many ways over the years, and it’s almost impossible to put it into words.


Romance novels are an escape for me, a necessary part of my daily self-care. They focus on the ups and downs of relationships—more so the ups than the downs, since a HEA is a requirement—and remind me that even if I’m having a bad day, or I’m disgusted at things going on in the world, love is a truly powerful thing. I’ve said before that romance has saved my sanity, and while it might sound extreme to someone on the outside, I can promise it’s completely, honestly, true.


The romance community has done that for me as well. From my experiences, the community is very supportive and loving, fierce and smart, funny and unapologetically real. The community has taught me things I never would have known otherwise, especially since I live in such a rural area. They’ve made me laugh and smile, even on the most horrible days. They’ve given me a place online to call home, a group where I feel like I belong and can be myself. They’ve offered an ear when I need to vent, a (virtual) hug when I’m having a rough time, and advice when I need help. In so many ways, they’ve shown me how to be a better me, how to be true to myself. I’ve made some wonderful friends within the community, and continue to do so every year, and I can only hope that one day I can meet some of them in person.


The community can have its bad times: arguments and words thrown at one another, people showing their asses and ignorance, and especially anyone in a marginalized group feeling like they don't belong -- or worse, being told outright by someone(s) that they don't. I don't approve of any of those things, and I hate when the community shows its negative side. But that's life, and sadly it's going to happen. That doesn't make it right. Not everyone is going to have the same views as you, not everyone is going to be kind and welcoming to all. It sucks, but it's true, and more importantly it needs to change. 


But even on the shittiest day, when it feels like there's only "bad" left in the community, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other community members that step forward and prove once again why this community is special. Not perfect, but doing better, I think, than some communities. We've still got a ways to go, there's no denying that. But I always remind myself that yes, there are some truly bad apples in the community's basket. But that basket is still overflowing with great apples.


Okay, okay, enough with the apples and baskets, TBQ. They get your point. 


What do you love most about being part of this community?


Response
Percentage of Participants
Number of Participants
Community/support
41.40%
94
Reading/Discussing books
24.67%
56
Finding new books/book recs
24.23%
55
Learning
3.08%
7
Misc. answers
3.08%
7
I’m not sure/No answer
2.20%
5
Humor/laughter
1.32%
3


Note: Many of the responses were complex and involved more than one answer, meaning that there’s a lot of overlap that’s not shown in my simplistic grouping and percentages above.


Since the previous question was more open ended, allowing participants to write either positive or negative things about the community, I wanted to then ask about only the things they love about this community (positive); the other side to this question (negative/flaws) will be covered in the following question.


More than 40% stated that the thing they love most about being part of the community is just that—the feeling of support, of belonging and of having found their people. An interesting note here is some within this group mentioned they loved the “like-mindedness” of the community while some others loved that it’s “diverse”.


The next most common answer was the reading and discussing of books in the community (24.67%). Some of these answers also mentioned how much they appreciate the lack of judgment in these discussions, the ability to stand proud as a romance reader, and how smart many readers in the community are, saying that these things add to the enjoyment that’s already present from the reading of romance novels.


Only slightly below that, with 24.23% of the responses, was a similar answer group: finding new books and having books recommended by friends and trusted readers.


The seven participants that listed “learning” were talking about how being part of the community has allowed them to gain knowledge and understanding in subjects that other readers and authors are more knowledgeable in. One even mentioned how she had learned from the romance novels themselves because the historical romances she has read are very well researched and stay fairly true to historical fact.


Once again, the miscellaneous answers are only grouped as such because they didn’t fit into the other categories I had, and the “I don’t know/no answer” group is pretty self-explanatory. The least common answer was about the humor and laughter that can be found in the community, though a few other responses mentioned this alongside their main answer (see note about overlapping answers).


My experience:


I have to agree with most of these answers: I love the support and love within the community, I love being able to discuss books (hence why I became a blogger), and I love recommending and being recommended new books to try. I also love how I've learn so much from people in the community; there are a lot of authors and readers who are experts in their fields, whether that's law, science, psychology, etc., and many are more than happy to share some of their knowledge. 


Not to mention what I learn from readers/authors who identify in a marginalized group (POC, LGBTQ+, disabled, etc.). To be clear: it's NEVER their responsibility to teach any of us, but I appreciate it nonetheless and I listen.


And as to the laughter and fun -- YES. I have a blast on Twitter, where the jokes (often dirty, inappropriate, and/or sarcastic) are always flowing. I love that this community is so multi-faceted, where we can go from discussing romance novels to talking politics to laughing about dick jokes. I'm 100% here for that variety. And if you're not, that's fine, too, there's something for everyone in the community, you just have to know where to "find" it.


No community -- or genre, for that matter -- is perfect. What flaws or issues do you see in the community/genre?


Flaws/Community Issues
Percentage of Participants
Number of Participants
Judgmental/Drama/Arguments
30.84%
70
Lack of diversity
26.87%
61
Issues with authors/publishers/bloggers/genres
19.82%
45
Issues with reading choices
8.81%
20
No problem or NA
5.29%
12
Society issues apply
3.96%
9
Cliques
3.52%
8
Misc.
2.64%
6


Notes:

1) This should have been a question I broke into two parts: the first asking for flaws/issues in the community, the second asking the same thing in regards to the genre. Though my question allowed participants to answer about either (the community or the genre) it makes the responses and overall data results much less clear because there’s a combination of those two very different discussions going on.

2) Much like previous complex questions, there’s a lot of overlap in the responses that are not shown in the percentages above.


70 participants said they see a lot of drama, arguments, pile-ons, and attacks within the community. According to responses, some of these attacks are over political issues, some are over authors that do something wrong and the readers that call them out on it, and so on. 61 participants mentioned the lack of diversity—both within the genre, the publishing industry, and the community. Within this answer group, some also mentioned that they see signs of racism/sexism/homophobia (as well as trans, bi, and ace-phobia) within the community, which ties into the larger issue of lack of diversity. This issue also ties back in, at least partly, to the “drama” and arguments that readers mentioned, though it’s by no means the only cause of such clashes within the community.


45 participants noted their only issue with the community had more to do with authors, publishers, bloggers, and/or genres. For example, one person mentioned plagiarism and publishers that do not pay royalties/salaries like they should. 20 other participants mentioned issues with reading choices—their own, that is, and how there’s too much of any one topic/trope/issue that they don’t like to read. 12 people said that they didn’t see any issues or they don’t feel that they’re active enough in the community to comment on it. A few within this grouping mentioned that they tend to stick to following only authors/readers that they get along with and trust, which cuts back on some of the more negative issues other readers mentioned seeing so often (arguments and diversity, mostly).


9 responses made mention of seeing the same issues in the community that are seen in society in general. Another group (8 answers) said they didn’t like how cliquish the community can be and how it can be hard to join and feel like you truly belong. The remaining 6 answers were miscellaneous and did not truly fit into the previous categories.


My experience:


Again, because I have privilege in the community, I've not had any major issues with the community, or at least nothing worth speaking about. But my privilege doesn't make me blind to the flaws or to how other readers and authors are mistreated. I see it, and I try my best to do what I can to help -- give my support, boost their messages to my followers, speak up when I can. Just because I've not been personally affected by any of the flaws/negative parts of the community doesn't mean I believe they do not exist. They exist, I see them, I hear about them, and I'm trying to do my part to fight and correct these issues.



Part 4 should be up next week!

What has your experience with the online community been like? Good or bad, you're more than welcome to share (and you can be vague or even comment anonymously rather than while signed in). What do you love most about it? What do you dislike or wish would change?



Enjoy!



Until Next Time,
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