In the Afterword’s “In defence of ‘Chick Lit’” Lindsey Kelk admits that she really doesn’t enjoy that her writing is referred to as chick lit because it is “nine times out of ten, a derogatory term.” I agree with her—many people in the literary world deem chick lit as a lesser form compared to more serious genres. I guess it’s important to remember that it’s just a label, but realistically, it’s one of the labels that do the best commercially.
I asked a friend what came to mind when he heard the phrase chick lit and he said he immediately thought of stories that are one-sided, fashion-focused with simple plots, a lesser form, a fantasy, princess-stories veiled in modern day concerns. Feminist lit prompted words like intelligent, thought-provoking, complicated, historical, informed and possibly angry.
Similarly, I remember sitting in the lounge in the English Department talking to a fellow grad student a few years ago. He was scoffing at Oprah’s book club picks saying how useless they were, all about the plight of women, all the same. Other than showing his own arrogance and elitist attitudes, he made the point that because he couldn’t connect to it he didn’t value it. Because the majority of men don’t connect to chick lit doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not valuable or good. I guess it’s like the non-Newfoundlander using the word “Newfie.” It just sounds kind of wrong.
Gloria Steinem was constantly criticized because she was a “pretty feminist.” The fact that she was gaining momentum and success was, in the eyes of her critics, due to the fact that she was pretty and feminine. Really, she perfectly straddled being a chick with feminism if you think of the most general definitions of both. Can the same be true for books?
As I look around my book room (calling it a library sounds way too fancy) I notice many books that fall into one or the other genre but to find selections that could be both (Ficklit? One typo and you’re ficked!) is a harder task. I’m a chick who reads feminist lit and a feminist who reads chick lit and I don’t mind being called either unless it’s prefaced by some obscene adjective.