I Hate Chick Lit

But I don’t hate the stuff that’s considered chick lit. It’s the term “chick lit” that really sets my teeth on edge: it just doesn’t make sense to me.

What even is it? What does it mean?

I’ve heard people say that chick lit is:

  • Anything featuring one or more female main characters (But Game of Thrones has some female POVs and, at least to my knowledge, isn’t considered chick lit)
  • Anything written by a female author (Um, hello, Harry Potter?)
  • Romance (which actually already has its own separate genre so ???)

Dictionary.com says it’s “literature that appeals especially to women, usually having a romantic or sentimental theme”. Whatever dictionary google uses says it’s “literature that appeals mainly to women”. Soooo……anything written for women to read is chick lit? Or anything written for only women to read? Because we have such special, delicate secrets we need to keep away from the men, and chick lit is the place to talk about those?

Wikipedia says it’s its own genre, with a specific set of specifications: main character must be single, white, heterosexual, British or American, and female. It’s also supposed to “address issues of modern womanhood” including relationships, friendships, and workplace drama–you know, girl stuff. Ugh.

The reining theme here is that chick lit is supposed to be for women, girls, or both, and if you’re a guy and you read it, you should be ashamed of yourself. If any of the things above are true–if it’s written by a woman, if it has female main characters, etc.–people can and will call it chick lit and guys aren’t supposed to read that.

This ties in to something that really bothers me more than almost anything else in the literary world: the fact that boys and men are discouraged from reading anything with a female narrator.

I once had some guy in a creative writing class complain about the point of view I used because he couldn’t possibly imagine what it felt like to be a 14-year-old girl. This story I wrote was a dystopian fantasy short that a) had no romance b) mentioned no “girl things” like female-female friendships, crushes, periods, etc. c) focused almost exclusively on this girl attempting to stop a fantastical storm that was going to kill everyone. If Leona had been a guy I’m 100% sure he wouldn’t have complained.

And you know what? If you can’t sympathize with my female main character then LEARN HOW TO. Do you know how many books I’ve read with male main characters? Do you know how hard it was for me to put myself in their shoes? NOT HARD AT ALL.

Seriously, people read books with dragons and magic and English-speaking salamanders but along comes a female POV and suddenly that book’s not doable anymore?

Okay, so it’s not actually the chick lit genre that I hate, though I’m not exactly partial to realistic fiction set in modern times focusing on general life drama, work drama, or romance. I’m just sick of people thinking that hard-core dark sci-fi written by women must be “girly” because it’s written by women. I want people to stop assuming that gritty sword-and-sorcery fantasy with a female main character must be “girly” because it has a female main character.

(Also, where’s the realistic fiction set in modern times focusing on general life drama, work drama, or romance with male main characters? Written for men? Does it exist?)

I also desperately wish people would call actual “chick lit” something else. After all, I doubt most baby chickens would find it entertaining.

Shout out to this fantastic, much better organized and less hap-hazard essay about “Women’s Fiction” by Kate Jonuska that inspired me to finally focus this rant that’s been running around in my head into some actual intelligible words.


1 thought on “I Hate Chick Lit”

  1. Well said, my friend, and thank you for the shout out, which makes my heart warm and happy. It’s a subject I think a lot about, too, obviously. As for realistic, modern fiction about the drama/lives of male main characters, it does exist, mostly in the realm of literary fiction, but it’s often disappointing nonetheless. Those stories sometimes recycle the same, tired trope of the misanthropic, whiskey-drinking, tortured genius who just needs the love of a good woman. The female characters are still too often manic pixie dream girls and/or mommy figures. The trope is best represented IMO by the satiric Twitter feed Guy in Your MFA: https://twitter.com/GuyInYourMFA. That feed is written by a lady, BTW. If there is a male equivalent of chick lit, I think it would someone like Nick Hornsby, who wrote About a Boy, Fever Pitch and High Fidelity.


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