Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gender and Literature

Diane Meier's article "Chick Lit? Women's Literature? Why Not Just...Literature?" was published today in the Huffington Post and provided an interesting first-hand account of some of the issues that come from being a woman who writes.

But my concern is larger, for the issue is insidious: the way Chick Lit has been used to denigrate a wide swath of novels about contemporary life that happen to be written by women.

If you think it's not affecting our work, not affecting what the publishers are handed, not affecting the legacy we leave for future generations, you're wrong. In The New York Times, the judges of the UK Orange Prize (for women novelists) bemoaned the grim and brutal content offered this year in the submitted manuscripts. Their conclusion: No serious woman writer wanted to be painted with the Women's Lit label, and issues contemporary and domestic, if not presented with violence, are apparently (to academics, to critics and to the general culture -- male and female, alike) seen to have less value.

Most telling, I think, are the attempted "corrections," as those who try to right the misunderstanding of Chick Lit labels on some of our books, slap on another label: "Women's Literature." As opposed to what, Literature?
Obviously this a question that probably crops up in the mind of every woman who writes.
Other intersting conversations and comments came out of my earlier post and the corresponding post on 49 Writers.

1 comment:

  1. I may be in the minority here, but I never considered "chick lit" to be a label attached to novels based on the sex of the author, but based on the vacuous and narrow market ideal publishers were targeting. I would not bat an eye over a chic lit book written by a man (though I also would probably not read it), any more than a historical romance or forensic procedural written by the same.

    Furthermore, I would not consider just anything written by a woman to fall into the constructed pigeonhole popularly referred to as chic lit. Women have a very strong showing in the mystery genre right now, right?, but those are certainly not anything like "chic lit". Much of what surfaced in your last post about reading woman writers falls well outside of the fairly restrictive soapy, young, and affluently neo-urban formula "chick lit" usually indicates (though, as I type that I realize that the label is really more of a marketing model based on a faddish cover style--bright stylized neon figure paintings, trendily accessorized--and I guess any kind of book could be pushed that way, since that way seems to sell like hotcakes among Sex and the City fans.