So, hermit that I am, lost in the medieval world and far from the modern day and the world around me (I literally got Facebook two months ago, and because my publisher said I should) I only just realised, ten days in, that it’s “Chick Lit May”. Aside from the fact that this is just like ‘International Women’s Day’ and ‘Women’s History Month’ and suggests that all things “lady” are the “special event” and all this men are the norm, it has got me thinking about the term “Chick Lit”.
I don’t know how I feel about it. I think if someone called me a “Chick” to my face I would slap them. I think it’s patronising, and demeaning, and I think it belittles women. I don’t like ‘bird’ either, incidentally, so perhaps I am just overreacting to avian nicknames for women, I don’t know. I would not call what I write “chick-lit”. But, my publisher would. To me, “chick lit” was always something with a pink cover you read on the beach, and nothing I ever enjoyed. It was like the Sex in the City Movie (not the series – that was great) in book form – glossy, trite, false, and full of aspirational items to buy. I read historical, fantasy and classic fiction and I was sure that “chick lit” was something that was aimed at a different kind of woman. Someone pretty. Someone who wanted to imagine themselves shopping, or marrying a faceless billionaire.
But “chick lit” May has made me rethink. Seeing fellow author Julie Shackman talk about chick lit, http://julieshackman.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/three-cheers-for-chick-lit/ and her own novel which is as far from “pink sparkly women go shopping and replace their lack personalities with designer gear and a rich man” as you can get, really, I wonder if I haven’t been a bit of an awful snob about the whole thing. I wonder if I haven’t succumbed to some culturally embedded sexism, when I assumed from the name chick lit that we could only be talking about something bland and vacuous. It has also made me think of things I have read which have been deep, and moving, and wonderful that would definitely come under “chick lit”.
So maybe it’s time for feminism to reclaim “chick lit”. We reclaimed “cunt”, surely, “chick lit” can’t be harder. But maybe it already has, and I am behind the times, because I see women writers who wright complex, sensitive stories using it about themselves. So it’s my “chick-lit” May resolution to start using that term about my own work, and to be proud to say that it’s under the broad and varied umbrella of Chick Lit. Women writers have already been making the term theirs, and it’s high time I joined in.