Let’s Talk about “Chick Lit”

“Chick lit.” The genre that makes feminists cringe. Let’s get something straight, I cried over Gerry in P.S. I Love You and followed Elizabeth Gilbert as she traveled the world. All chick lit isn’t “fluffy,” but it also doesn’t encompass how an entire sex feels. No genre can accomplish that! Instead, the controversial title conjures and enforces stereotypes while hiding behind a pink martini cover. So, let’s talk about it…

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What is “Chick Lit”?

Wikipedia refers to the genre as a “fiction which addresses modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.” It’s usually written from a female perspective. Goodreads has over 67,000 books labeled “chick lit” including Confessions of a Shopaholic, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Something Borrowed.

Unfortunately, you can usually spot chick lit by its cover. Its pink glossy cover usually features heels, martinis, abnormally skinny women or a dress. You know, the stuff ALL women like…

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But sometimes, the genre is tricky. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love isn’t fiction and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger isn’t lighthearted. Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember and The Notebook aren’t specifically about a woman and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice isn’t a modern tale. Yet these books are on the top of Goodread’s “chick lit” list.

Here are my problems with chick lit:

Don’t tell me what I like to read

Like any human being, I’m complicated. I like to shop, I don’t want to lose weight, I hate chocolate, I can’t wear high heels without tripping, I love lipstick and I don’t like comedy.

I have a problem when publishers, society or critics try to put me in a box or demonstrate that these certain novels should reflect my life. They don’t. Not all women like pink things, comedy or romance. So why do we have a title that traps us in a cushion-lined box?

pink and blue gift boxes with poka dots

It limits perspective

Most chick lit novels share a perspective of a young, white woman who relishes the bustling city life. I want to read a book about an Asian woman’s perspective or an old woman’s tale of how she views the world. More women authors are fabulous for society, but what are we really achieving if we only offer a sliver of diversity?

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If we limit our perspective to a narrow narration, we close ourselves off to the rest of the literary realm. Newsflash: women are young, old, black, white, purple, witty, snarky, mean, straight, gay and beautiful. We’re a rainbow of extraordinary complexities.

 

Most of the protagonists aren’t feminists

According to an AAUW article, most chick lit protagonists are not feminists. If feminists are featured, they “become stereotypes that contrast with the more modern protagonists” and supports the radical anti-shaving feminist stereotype. Not cool.

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All aboard the romance train!

There’s nothing wrong with a romantic novel, but the term “chick lit” implies that all women’s lives revolve around it. AAUW reports that in chick lit, “love remains central in the quest narrative” and “most novels do end either in marriage or in some romantic union hinting at marriage.” Finding “Mr. Right” is not a priority in my life.

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I have yet to read a chick lit novel that talks about abuse, neglect, rape, adoption, mothering, education or inequality. No, these aren’t humorous topics, yet some people heal and find themselves through laughter and adventure. If we’re going to have a title that suggests it tackles “modern-day women’s issues”… let’s be real about it. 

 

I’d be pissed if the roles were reversed

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What if there was a section called “dude lit” that was about stereotypical male assumptions such as fishing, cars, spies and mystery? I’d be hella pissed. It’s like choosing a Happy Meal toy from McDonalds: you shouldn’t have to choose whether you want to act like a boy or a girl.

 

Ladies and Gents, Here’s my Solution:

The term “chick lit,” just like “chickflicks,” is offensive. How about we just call them… “novels.”

Does the Harry Potter series fall under chick lit because a woman wrote it and it features a strong female? Is the Hunger Games trilogy chick lit even though it’s more serious than humorous? More emphasis should be placed on novels that don’t fall into a specific category!

If you like romantic books, awesome. You could go to the “romantic” novels section at the bookstore instead of the “chick lit” section. Do you like humorous books? Great! Check them out in the comedy corner.

Don’t ban books that you like from your library. But after reading any book, challenge the protagonist, plot and characters. Ask yourself if the protagonist executed a feminist perspective or in what ways the novel hindered the message of equality? Read, Challenge, Explore. Uncover deep and insightful novels hidden under a stereotypical cover. Don’t let society tell you what books you should like with a generalized and offensive label.

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5 responses to “Let’s Talk about “Chick Lit”

  1. I liked your point about dude lit and I can really see how it’s just marketed under a less gender specific name, because books about fishing spies hunt and fight bears most likely exist!

  2. I agree completely! After reading your comment I looked up “dude lit” and found there’s an actual section of it on Goodreads. There’s a more diverse range of books and covers compared to the “chick lit” section, but I wonder why we have to divide books based on gender.

  3. They are a love hate genre. They bring tears to my eyes but can be way too broad of a genre too.

  4. Great commentary – I have been thinking similar thoughts for years! I avoid those books/movies simply out of principle. I may be missing some good writing, but I can’t bring myself to supporting this placing of women into one, very specific, genre.

    • I totally agree Lindsey! There’s also really well-written books that are simply called “chick lit” and given a “fluffy” cover because they’re written by a woman. It makes me so sad because I also tend to stay clear of the chick lit section

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