I’ve always hated the expression “chick lit”, even though I’ll admit I have used it myself in the past to describe books written in a lighthearted way about modern woman and non-serious issues. Light reading is a better description, and in the past those are the words we used to describe these books; and other books like them that weren’t about women. Not particularly deep novels, but fun. Light reading, and who doesn’t need that sometimes! (Tell me you only read novels of significance and depth, and I’ll tell you to lighten up once in a while.)
The expression “chick lit”, though, has singled out one type of light read and given it a derogatory twist. It’s by chicks for chicks. Not by or for women. Chicks. Fluffy little things without stature that look at you with a vacant stare. And the expression is used now by some readers with a sneer, with the implication that these books are worthless reads, beneath the notice of all men, and also beneath the notice of women of substance.
Here is a marvellous Huffington Post article from Diane Meier, American author of a book about an intelligent middle-aged woman, “The Season of Second Chances”.
As she herself puts it: “Most critics felt the need to talk about how “surprisingly” intelligent the book was. Their tell-tale phrase: how many “notches above Chick Lit” they deemed the book. Or they registered amazement that a book so domestic in tone might have been intended for — can you imagine — educated, intelligent readers.”
Later on in the article (and do read the whole thing) she writes:
“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.”
She goes on to question the idea of having a prize just for woman novelists, and I’m not sure that I agree with her on that issue, but mostly she is spot on.
I especially agree with her at this moment…Why this week? Well, because it hit home. (Yeah, I admit it. I wait till things get personal, before I get vocal. Mea culpa.)
Stormlord Rising is a fantasy novel, but it does deal with issues of war and its effects, especially on the woman and children who are caught up in the battle. Ok, so it’s a story, not a treatise, but it touches on things like: how much should a woman do to keep her unborn baby safe? Should a woman use her sexual allure and her body to stay alive? How much should you compromise your principles for those you love?
Universal themes, one would assume. One Amazon reviewer didn’t much like the latter two-thirds of the book – his privilege, of course, and I don’t mind that – but he says it’s chick lit and therefore automatically disappointing, not worth the read. Pregnancy in war time, love and life and death of loved ones, are chick issues apparently, not universal after all. Chick lit. Light-hearted comedy.
Let’s stop using the expression “chick lit” even if we enjoy the books now so designated. Let’s be careful how we use the expression “women’s issues” when such issues are usually universal to humanity. If a reader doesn’t like a book about what women feel or what happens to them, or the way in which women live and love, let him say so outright, and not hide behind a derogatory dismissal: “It’s chick lit”.