I hate the phrase "women's lit"

Also “chick lit,” “chick flick” and any sort of variation that tries to stick books written by women into an entirely different category from books written by men just because publishers think it’ll be better marketed that way. I prefer the term “beach read,” actually, or even “airport novels.” At least then it’s not automatically associated with “books written by (stupid) women for (stupid) women who only care about shoes and aren’t they stupid, not like us MEN who are smart and write smart books because we’re smart.”

There’s a lot more to it, and I know my argument isn’t perfect (or even really an argument) but I don’t want my afternoon filled with hatred and frothing at the mouth, so instead I’ll just direct you to this article:

But my concern is larger, for the issue is insidious: the way Chick Lit has been used to denigrate a wide swath of novels about contemporary life that happen to be written by women.

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.

Most telling, I think, are the attempted “corrections,” as those who try to right the misunderstanding of Chick Lit labels on some of our books, slap on another label: “Women’s Literature.” As opposed to what, Literature?

Chick Lit? Women’s Literature? Why Not Just … Literature? by Diane Meier at Huffington Post.

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7 thoughts on “I hate the phrase "women's lit"”

  1. Yeah! *shakes fist* And don’t even get me started on the idiocy of movies targeting women *cough*sexandthecity2*cough*, as if we’re unable to appreciate intelligent films.

    1. It’s just…I know part of is it marketing, but when straight-up literary fiction is divided into “fiction for women” and “fiction for men” it creates an assumption that because a book’s been marketed as “for women” that must mean that men shouldn’t read it (because it’s “girly” or “effeminate” or whatever). And then that means it must not be as good as a “real” literary fiction book (i.e. a book “for men”). And that assumption DRIVES ME INSANE.

      A lot about marketing drives me insane, actually. AND publishing.

  2. I agree with you, but it is hard to not label books sometimes, isn’t it? It is all too easily done I think. woman’s lit isn’t a better name at all, I agree. And I’m sorry to read that about the Orange Prize.

    1. I think labeling books by genre is much easier than labeling them by age group (YA/teen/etc) or by intended audience (women’s lit/African-American lit/etc). At least genres make a little bit more sense! Although of course there can be overlapping between more than one genre, and then it’s like “is this a mystery with sci-fi elements or a sci-fi story with a mystery in it” and it turns into a big ol’ mess.


  3. I totally agree with you about the “chick lit” label, it really annoys me too. Why is it that books have to be marketed in a certain way anyway? It seems to me that it’s all about making a tonne of money for the publishers. I think labelling a novel “women’s literature” diminishes it, and makes it sound like it isn’t as good as just a plain fiction book (i.e. a book written by a guy). Books written by men don’t get a “guy lit” label or anything. It’s a bit of a double standard really.

  4. I am totally with you, Anastasia. It’s hard enough to get men to read books written by women, or featuring female lead characters, and this just makes the problem even worse. Argh!! It’s infuriating. >:(

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