Hey, you! Yes, you there, with the marketing degree! Or you, Creative Director with that massive advertising agency; hell, even you, person who spends more time than is healthy shouting at the TV when terrible ads come on, because you could do better. (Four monkeys with bad head colds could do better, you admit, but that’s not the point.)

I have a job for you. Are you ready? Good.

You have no time whatsoever, and 55% of a regular marketing budget, to repackage Women’s Fiction and sell it to the reading masses as something which is just as good as Men’s Fiction.

Because, well – you know Men’s Fiction, right? The genre listed on all the annual bestseller round-ups? You can see it right there, can’t you? Just underneath the 74th biography of Steve Jobs – which is listed as a ‘Biography’ – you can see it. It’s in the top ten. It’s written by a man. And it’s listed as ‘Men’s Fiction’.

Except of course it isn’t. Because Men’s Fiction isn’t even a thing. Most booksellers (except Amazon) pretend that Women’s Fiction isn’t a thing, either, by not specifically listing it as such, because they know it’s patronising and insulting to female readers, who make up a significant majority of the reading public. But just try, as a female writer, to sell a book to an agent or publisher and get away from the term ‘Women’s Fiction’. You can’t. Because behind the official lists, it’s the biggest genre there is.

Tara Sparling on “women’s fiction”.

Also see: any other fiction category not produced by or for (assumed) straight white male readers.

There’s a lot of excuse-making and justification about why this sort of thing goes on, of course. Words like “audience” and “market segments” get thrown around a lot. But underneath that all, what it’s all really about is who is assumed to be able to tell the “default” story. That is, the story “everyone” is supposed to be able to identify with, and from which all other stories are deviations. And if the “default” story is applicable to everyone then, by definition, a “non-default” story will be applicable to only someones.

And hence we end up with “women’s fiction”.