Stop Calling It “Chick Lit”

Truth
“Truth”. Image via Wikipedia

Seriously, just stop.

Just because a book is written with a female main character and the focus of the plot is on her life does not make it “literature that only chicks want to read, hurrr”. Just because it’s fluffy does not make it “chick lit”. Just because it appeals to women does not relegate it to this oft-overlooked, oft-disparaged corner of the literature world.

The truth is it appeals to men as well. The truth is it may be fluffy, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold some deep truths in it. That doesn’t mean it can’t speak to someone on a deeper level.

Every time you call it chick lit, you are telling a little boy who likes to play with make-up and dolls that he’s less of a person. Every time you call it chick lit, you are telling women their issues don’t matter and will never be taken seriously in the “real world”, ie the world of men’s literature. Every time you call it chick lit you are making the enjoyment of it a guilty pleasure, a sin that shouldn’t be committed by the intellectual elite. It’s misogynistic and ableist.

I have a copy of The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. I thought it was a great book and I’m not ashamed of liking it. I look forward to reading some of her other works. It is classified as chick lit. Why? Because the main character is a woman who leaves her job and discovers her true self in a simpler life style? Because there’s a romance with a hot gardener? Because she becomes a stronger person by the end of the book and stands up for herself and her new life?*

Oh, no, we can’t have those pesky womenfolk feeling better about themselves. Can’t have them taking strength from literature. Better name those types of books as “chick lit”, better genre-ize them so they’re not real literature, which of course involves hunting and rape and men referring to an abortion as just “letting a little air in”. Otherwise women might think their voices matter, might think their issues matter, might take matters into their own hands, get fed up, and start a revolution. We certainly can’t have that. What a tragedy.

What a tragedy, indeed.

It’s a tragedy that books by women get pushed aside because they’re by women. It’s a tragedy that women still use initials as pen names so people won’t pass over their works, and that they are still advised to do so. It’s a tragedy that those of us who do not use initials have to work twice as hard to get our work looked at, or have to submit to genre-fication in order to get published.

The Undomestic Goddess is mainstream literature. By which I mean it’s set in the here and now and deals with modern-day characters, and there are no fantastical or science-fiction-y elements to it.

Mainstream literature is real fucking literature, regardless the gender of the main character or the author.

Writing has been a boys’ club for far too long. It’s time for that to change, and it’s not going to unless we stop saying “chick lit”.


*Unless it’s by D.H. Lawrence, in which case the same basic plot is real literature.

Books I Think You Should Pick Up (And Read, Obviously).

Cover for the poetry book "glasstown" by Katje van Loon
Yep, I designed that by myself.

So, I heard about something called The Friday Five, and apparently it’s something you do on your blog each week. There seem to be sites that generate questions for it, but I’ve been told you can also just list five things you want to share.

I’ve decided to do it. As this is the blog of a writer and an avid reader, my topic will be Books I Think You Should Pick Up (And Read, Obviously). This will probably remain the topic for a while, but I will always post the topic as the title for the entry.

  1. The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau. YA literature is not just for young people and The City of Ember is highly enjoyable. (Though, if you plan on seeing the film as well I recommend watching the movie first, so it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the book.)
  2. Green Grass, Running Water, by Thomas King. I’ve blogged about this great book before, but I think it bears reiterating that it’s well worth your time to pick up this novel and give it a read. It starts out a bit wonky, as King doesn’t adhere to traditional rules in novel writing, but persevere — it’s worth it.
  3. glasstown, by yours truly. This is my poetry book, and I think a lot of people should pick it up (by which I mean buy it) and read it. Just saying.
  4. The Undomestic Goddess, by Sophie Kinsella. This is a good story about a high-powered lawyer who finds out who she really is in the unlikeliest of places — the kitchen of a rich family. It’s not “chick lit”* because it’s not about how important it is to have a boyfriend — it’s about how important it is to be true to yourself. (The fact that there’s a hot guy involved? Bonus!)
  5. The Fifth Sacred Thing, by Starhawk. Another great book I’ve blogged about. Seriously, pick this up and read it. The film has reached its funding goal on Kickstarter, which means that soon pre-production will begin. I’m sending an email to Starhawk to ask for the chance to audition. So, who knows — you might see me on the silver screen in a few years. 😉 Regardless what happens, read this book. You won’t regret it.

*Coming soon: a rant about the sexism inherent in the very existence of the genre of “chick lit” and how it makes my blood boil.