This morning, fresh from waking up, I composed a tweet to spread the word about my new review for Marian Keyes’ fabulous new release, The Woman Who Stole My Life:
I hesitated for a few seconds before sending the tweet because it uses the phrase “chick lit,” a phrase that brings up very complicated feelings for me. However, in the end, I hastily pressed “send.” (Addendum: Marian Keyes’ has expressed feelings about the phrase “chick lit” in this month’s Chatelaine magazine. I wish I had read it more carefully because after reading it now, I see that she thinks that the phrase is belittling, even though she feels “fine now” about it. My apologies to Marian; I didn’t mean to be belittling at all, especially since I loved the novel.)
A response to my initial tweet caused me to re-think my word choice again.
Here is me attempting to flesh out how I feel about the term “chick lit.” On one hand, I understand it as a marketing tool for publishers and a guide for readers. For me, “chick lit” is the book equivalent of a romantic comedy, so I hope to find elements of love, despair, and humour, among other things when I pick up a book branded as “chick lit”. Personally, I really gravitate towards these books when I’ve finished reading something really dense, or just feel like a fun, light read. I guess it’s similar to how I feel about watching romantic comedies. I’m almost 100% going to laugh and cry and feel so much better instantly. When something is labelled “chick lit,” I know that it will suit my reading tastes when I’m feeling a certain way.
On the other hand, I do agree that “chick lit” can be demeaning. The word “chick” in itself is infantilizing; it makes me think of a baby chicken – not exactly how grown women want to be perceived (or called). The phrase is also commonly used very dismissively, as if “chick lit” is less deserving of our universal attention or is only for a certain type of person. There’s also the idea that since a book is deemed to be “chick lit,” it must not be for men at all. I find this is unfair and isolating, as many have pointed out before me. Why can men write about domestic life and have it interpreted as “deep and thoughtful” when when a woman writes it, it’s merely “chick lit” for women only?
I’m still unsure of how I feel about the phrase. I’ve definitely been made to feel ashamed for liking books in the “chick lit” category in the past, and have only just openly embraced the fact that I am, in fact, a fan of these books (thanks to the book blogging community, actually!), so I understand how the term can negatively affect a reader and even an author. But, again, as a consumer, it really helps me pinpoint exactly which books fit into a certain category for my “chick lit moods,” so from time to time I find it helpful. Is there perhaps a less offensive way to call these books? I’m not sure if “women’s fiction” is any better.
What do you think about this? Do you find using the term “chick lit” as controversial as I do? Do you have a strong opinion for one side or the other?