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Debate Grows Over Chick Lit and Feminism

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There have recently been some interesting defenses of Chick Lit by writers who say that female critics shouldn’t be complaining about all those pink-covered books that feature such emphasis on shoes and dating. Bestselling author Jennifer Weiner said in an article with the San Francisco Chronicle that she minored in women’s studies at Princeton and that “It bothers me as a feminist that these are other women throwing stones; we’re all women and we’re all writers.” Jessica at Bookslut responds by saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that I was a bad feminist for pointing out that chick lit treats women like they’re stupid. Once again, Weiner appears to be confusing attacks on chick lit with attacks on women in general.”

Meanwhile, Maud Newton takes exception with a recent Salon article by Rebecca Traister. On her blog, Maud writes “If you want to read chick lit, read chick lit. If you see yourself reflected in The Devil Wears Prada, that’s your affair. But try to tell me Lauren Weisberger’s books are recording my history, and you’ve gone way too fucking far.” Maud wraps up her post with “To suggest that Weisberger’s some sort of modern-day historian, or a Jane Austen or Edith Wharton, or that women can’t call themselves feminists if they don’t embrace every single-girl-husband-search jeremiad — no matter how badly written, or how regressive… — is to do a disservice not only to one’s sisters but to contemporary literature as a whole.”

It’s an interesting discussion. Weiner, in the San Francisco Chronicle piece states the “are you literary or are you chick lit” question is essentially “a grown-up version of the smart-versus-pretty games of years ago; like so much jockeying for position in the cafeteria and mocking the girls who are nerdier/sluttier/stupider than you to make yourself feel more secure about your own place in the pecking order.” She then goes on to make Marxist assertions that a lot of this rancor is a result of flat book sales overall but rising sales of so-called chick lit. So this debate will surely rage for some time.