Stop Calling It “Chick Lit”


“Truth”. Image via Wikipedia

Seriously, just stop.

Just because a book is written with a female main character and the focus of the plot is on her life does not make it “literature that only chicks want to read, hurrr”. Just because it’s fluffy does not make it “chick lit”. Just because it appeals to women does not relegate it to this oft-overlooked, oft-disparaged corner of the literature world.

The truth is it appeals to men as well. The truth is it may be fluffy, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold some deep truths in it. That doesn’t mean it can’t speak to someone on a deeper level.

Every time you call it chick lit, you are telling a little boy who likes to play with make-up and dolls that he’s less of a person. Every time you call it chick lit, you are telling women their issues don’t matter and will never be taken seriously in the “real world”, ie the world of men’s literature. Every time you call it chick lit you are making the enjoyment of it a guilty pleasure, a sin that shouldn’t be committed by the intellectual elite. It’s misogynistic and ableist.

I have a copy of The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. I thought it was a great book and I’m not ashamed of liking it. I look forward to reading some of her other works. It is classified as chick lit. Why? Because the main character is a woman who leaves her job and discovers her true self in a simpler life style? Because there’s a romance with a hot gardener? Because she becomes a stronger person by the end of the book and stands up for herself and her new life?*

Oh, no, we can’t have those pesky womenfolk feeling better about themselves. Can’t have them taking strength from literature. Better name those types of books as “chick lit”, better genre-ize them so they’re not real literature, which of course involves hunting and rape and men referring to an abortion as just “letting a little air in”. Otherwise women might think their voices matter, might think their issues matter, might take matters into their own hands, get fed up, and start a revolution. We certainly can’t have that. What a tragedy.

What a tragedy, indeed.

It’s a tragedy that books by women get pushed aside because they’re by women. It’s a tragedy that women still use initials as pen names so people won’t pass over their works, and that they are still advised to do so. It’s a tragedy that those of us who do not use initials have to work twice as hard to get our work looked at, or have to submit to genre-fication in order to get published.

The Undomestic Goddess is mainstream literature. By which I mean it’s set in the here and now and deals with modern-day characters, and there are no fantastical or science-fiction-y elements to it.

Mainstream literature is real fucking literature, regardless the gender of the main character or the author.

Writing has been a boys’ club for far too long. It’s time for that to change, and it’s not going to unless we stop saying “chick lit”.

*Unless it’s by D.H. Lawrence, in which case the same basic plot is real literature.

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