I’ve never been a particular fan of ‘chick lit’. ‘Chick flicks’, on the other hand, I do quite enjoy. But I’ve never really thought about the phrase ‘chick lit’. Until today.
I have to admit, when I think of ‘chick lit’ I think of easy-to-read books with little substance. The kind of thing you can read on a beach, with no need to concentrate. Yes, in the back of my mind I’ve always made a fairly derisive snort when I’ve seen such books.
Would I want my daughter to read them? Well, it probably wouldn’t be harmful, but I’m sure there are better things she could be reading.
And yet, I might be laboring under a misconception here. A quick Internet search has thrown up various definitions, but which are generally along the lines of ‘writing about young (ish) modern women, often light-heartedly’.
Apart from The Urban Dictionary, which has the following second definition of ‘chick lit’:
‘Books written by bad female writers, aimed towards stupid female readers. Usually marketed in pink jackets adorned with semi-retro pictures of high heeled shoes and martini glasses. Always about trendy twentysomething bitches whining about their jobs or relationships.’
The Urban Dictionary might not be the most reliable source of meanings, but in this case I do think it neatly highlights the problem. It’s not necessarily the genre, it’s the name. Using the word ‘chick’, no matter how post-feminist you might think it is, still has negative connotations. It implies a fluffy, dumbed-down version of literature.
But why do women have to be pigeon-holed as the fluffy, dumbed-down version? And why should my daughter (and son) be presented with this implied gender-specificity when deciding what books to read?