Friday, July 24, 2009

Chick-lit Throw Down

Blogger Carrie Kei Heim Binas has a nice run down of the chick lit stigma on her blog. In her post is a link to a story from GalleyCat about Maureen Dowd who apparently was very naughty and wrote a disparaging article about the genre.

Carrie and Galley Cat cover the discussion very nicely so I won’t rehash all the contradictions of bashing the genre and inherent difficulties comparing chick lit to women’s fiction (which, incidentally, is what I call what I write--it just seems to fit). Probably the term “chick lit” comes from stories that involve cities, sex, cocktails, and shoes, but who really knows.

What annoyed me most is a snippet from Maureen “Badly Behaved” Dowd, who wrote: "I seriously doubt that the readers who enjoy their Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin et al will be throwing down their pink books and making a mad dash for The Red Badge of Courage on Leon Wieseltier's say-so. I can't speak for anyone else, but as for me? I read it in high school.”

See, now, why you gotta play? That’s terribly insulting. I read widely and some of my choices include classics and nonfiction and very serious, studious novels, and maybe, perhaps, something Leon Wieseltier recommended (although not bloody likely now since he sounds like a right drop-kick). Last year I blogged about a similar type of sexism (what do you call it when women are being sexist towards women?):

I recently read an issue of Parents magazine where they said “Why do toddlers seem so interested in the computer keyboard? Because they see you on it a lot, like when you’re checking e-mail or looking up recipes.”

What? What?

Did it really say that? Looking up recipes? Who wrote that? If I had half a brain cell left I’d go find out which issue it was, but I think it was from months ago. I mean, how insulting is that. How about “While you’re working on your dissertation.” Or “While you’re blogging about the environment and what your plans are to save it.” Looking up recipes. I say. Anyway, I’m too busy to look up recipes because I’m down at the river scrubbing laundry against the washboard.

Both Parents and Parenting are complete and total rags and I encourage you to skim through them if you take them and then pitch it into the recycling bin within five minutes. I did find a Kiddie Kebab article in one the other day that might be vaguely useful but that really is the extent of helpfulness of these ridiculous, ad-driven, thinly veiled marketing brochures.

GalleyCat notes:

Stella Duffy, Henderson's comrade in the "Tart City" movement of women crime writers, advances this theme further in her comments. "When (name any woman writer, ever) writes about family/relationships she is considered domestic. When Mike Leigh does exactly the same (only with added shouting by the women, which he equates with 'character') he is considered universal," Duffy observes. "Dowd is only reiterating the classic view that men's work is valid when women's is for women only. We know the stats: Women read women and men, men read men. That's it. That's how it is. And until we change that one, what is considered 'women's fiction' will continue to be denigrated, by both women and men, because it's an easy buck to slag it off. It is a feminist issue. But it might require the women—and men—involved (on both sides of the fence, those successful in the work and those denigrating it) to get involved in the discussion to make a difference."

Call me still recovering from the shock of the damage that Sarah Palin did to women, but girls, we’ll never get anywhere if we bash each other. Just admit you read chick lit/women’s fiction. I’ve read Sophie Kinsella—and I didn’t particularly like her writing (for reasons not to do with the genre)—and yet I still read two more of them. It must be because the plot was good, and we all want a little spark of romance in our lives. Yes, you do, even if you’re happily married. And if you don’t like that type of genre, ask yourself what it is you don’t like before you disparage.

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