Romance readers are rather, er, old fashioned about their men. They like them big, strong, and alpha. No whimps or nerds need apply. Though we'd like to think the genre isn't limited by stereotypical male/female roles, this is one place where you don't see a lot of variety. Tall, dark, and handsome still describes most of our heros.
I've been thinking about this because my son just started taking ballet, and he's really enjoying it. He's young, still in elementary school, and not exactly the most graceful thing on the planet. He got interested in taking lessons because last year my daughter's ballet school put on productions of the Nutcracker and Peter Pan. The Nutcracker, if you haven't seen it for a while, involves an army of toys battling an army of scary mice. Peter Pan involves sword play, pirates, and flying.
Suddenly, ballet looked pretty darn cool.
But here's where I put my gender stereotyping on the line: it's making us a little uncomfortable. (Okay, it's mostly making my husband uncomfortable. I happen to think male dancers are HOT.) How many men do you know who dance? Read a romance lately with a male dancer as the hero? It's all well and good for us to say we're open minded and liberal when it comes to women assuming male roles, but when it comes right down to it, do you think a male dancer (a ballerino?) can be masculine?
What do you think? Could you send your little man to the dance studio and put him in a pair of tights and ballet slippers? Could you read a romance with a hero who was a dancer? Why is it so easy to open our minds to stereotyping when it comes to women, but so hard when it comes to men?