A topic that is near and dear to my heart—chick lit. Of course, even typing that makes me nervous because it is a term that ruffles a lot of feathers. What do you think? Are you offended by classifying popular fiction marketed towards women this way?
I enjoy reading something light, easy, and fun every once in a while. The books I reach for when I’m in that particular mood tend to be in that space between chick lit and women’s lit; too heavy for one category, too light for the other. I struggle with that line: If the book feels like chick lit but isn’t specifically marketed as such, I’m afraid using the term will come across like a backhanded insult.
For me, chick lit is my go-to happy reading place so the term is not pejorative, it’s positive. It means light, easy-to-read fiction usually with a fair amount of shoes and shopping. Plot driven and fairly predictable ala Sophie Kinsella, Plum Sykes, and Candace Bushnell (who has a new book coming out in June!). It’s the sorbet I need in-between reading things like A Little Life and other literary fiction.
I kind of agree with Monika that if it’s not specifically marketed as chick lit then it’s almost a pejorative. I use ‘beach reads’ or occasionally ‘airplane reads’ for those books that are easy-breezy for me (usually simple genre books involving murder and mystery) rather than ‘chick lit’. I hate the term on so many levels. Though I might be interested in the newest Candace Bushnell!
This is where it’s hard for me—it evokes such a strong negative response in people but doesn’t bother me at all. It’s a type of reading I enjoy, so having it labeled in that way makes it easier for me to find when I’m in the mood for it. Is there another term you use for this kind of light reading?
As I said earlier, I describe my light reading as ‘beach reads’—though I hate the beach. Basically what I mean by that is something that is not going to be a good book club book because there’s nothing to discuss. It’s light (for me), fun, and easy. I’ve occasionally gotten some pushback on the blog on a book that I consider light but other people have trouble with because it’s full of murder and mayhem.
I don’t read anything in this category (I tend to pick up nonfiction when I need a break from heavy fiction), so I don’t really have a dog in the fight. I just find it frustrating that there’s not a male counterpart to the term—men just get everything else. So, while I don’t find the term “chick lit” itself offensive, I’m bothered by the fact that it needs a gendered term at all. I’m just as put off by “women’s fiction”. It’s basically like creating a Books for Boys section and a Books for Girls section or (shudder) those gendered toy aisles, is it not?
Dick lit. See for yourself.
Of course there is, haha! But aren’t those all commonly seen as “literary fiction” titles?
What about “beach reads”? Does this have a negative connotation? It seems to indicate a lighter, more fun feel without being too gender specific?
To me, beach reads are a sub-genre: summer chick lit! But now that you mention that, it is getting to be that time of year—yay!
I’m sure someone will say, “Well, chick lit needs a tag just like any other type of fiction.” And maybe it’s different enough that it can’t fit somewhere else. But why does it have to involve gender? If publishers can create the umbrella term “family life” for books about family issues, why can’t chick lit be something like “lifestyle”?
Lifestyle! Love it!
The gendered aspect of the labels bother me, too. Then again, are authors in these lighter genres providing readers with characters who defy gender stereotypes? If not, maybe the label is what it is—merely a guide—and helps readers find or avoid books they’re in the mood for.
I totally get that. But then shouldn’t we make sure that hyped up super-male thrillers get the same treatment and an equally gendered name? I just feel like we’re doing a big disservice to readers by making sure these books are set apart. Dick lit? You can hang with literary fiction. Macho military thrillers? You can be in the thriller section next to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. But if there’s a high heel on your cover, we better put you in your own section over here with the other ladies. I guess this makes me angrier than I thought.
I’m going to come across as a cis-gendered bitch right here, but honestly, I think that thrillers, military or not, are thrillers and may appeal to readers of both genders. Whereas ‘chick lit’ about shopping and bad relationships and shoes have a very specific audience. Perhaps it’s just the books that I prefer but spy novels and thrillers, I feel have a much wider gender-neutral audience.
I’m interested in a male corollary as well (if we’re going to work with gender identified labels). You’re right, Shannon, that male-centric books have more neutral labels—thrillers, spy novels, etc. but like big action pictures that contain more explosions and blood than dialogue why aren’t they more clearly identified? Instead, they’re blockbusters while Devil Wears Prada is a chick flick. Not great. So maybe the focus needs to be less on dropping chick lit and more on coming up with a male counterpart! Dick lit could work. 😉 Or something with the word ‘macho’ in it because that’s how they feel.
Weirdly, I agree with this in movie terms. Perhaps I’m a hypocrite.
You? Never. No way! It’s just one of those topics that can go a lot of ways.
How do you feel about the term chick lit? Does it have a negative connotation for you? If you like that kind of reading is there another term you use or prefer?