Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ranting, Stemming from "ChickLit"

One of the last times I went into a bookstore, I found what bothered me most was the pressence of a table labled "Chick Lit". Somehow, this label offended me deeply, especially, I think, due to its pressence in the "safe" confines of the "educated" bookstore.

Even the idea of "Chick Flicks" has always deeply offended me. Those terrible "chick flicks" that I have seen actually deeply offend me. It's that storyline, somewhat fairy tale, somewhat modern that bothers me so much.

We all know the storyline. The pretty and smart girl who can't seem to get a relationship that she likes, who meets the fine example of manhood and then has to cope with other issues at stake (be it friends/family in the way, careers conflicting, plain and simple drama...). The ones that really bug me are usually the ones where she gives up some career-making move to another city to pursue this relationship that has already spiraled down to the break-up point at the end.

And I'm certain that I'm not being entirely fair about this all. I'm sure that there are some movies labled "chick flick" that are actually quite wonderful. But it does kind of bug me that just describing it as "romantic comedy" is not enough, it is a "chick flick", and (if you've seen Toronto.com's ads all over the TTC) if you're a girl, you need to seduce your guy into seeing it with you. Chick Flick just refers to "movie intended for women", I guess. But I do not count myself as part of the group of women that actually enjoy many of them. Indeed, when I have somehow ended up seeing another one, I am generally disgusted at the way women are portrayed in them, often preferring the slightly ridiculous female characters in action movies such as Sin City - maybe those women are scantily clad prostitutes, but damn! At least they're not silly simpering "chicks" who can't seem to figure out how to balance a vewy sewious caweer (and I used baby-talk because generally the career in question is usually fairly unrealistic, or so it seems to me) and her unbending bastion of gentle manhood.

Chick lit, to bring this back to where I began, generally bothers me more, because it always seems to me (and I really should have gone to the library to read up on this sort of thing, since I have a tendency to read what I perceive as harder-hitting, better written books) that they appear to be just like Harlequin Romances, with the exception of one thing: less bawdiness, less sex. Some chick lit may well be an interesting read, but the somewhat trite titles repulse me; Confessions of a Shopaholic, Dating without Novocaine, I Do (but I Don't), See Jane Date, Whose Wedding is it Anyway? (this list was compiled very quickly from amazon.ca). I can't critique the inside of the books since I haven't gone there yet, but the titles alone strike me as somewhat... patronizing. The first: Women and shopping. Obviously all women love shopping, can't resist sales and all that, in fact, women are shopaholics. This, by itself, I find deeply, deeply insulting. Second: Dating. All we care about is dating? Even more to the point, the summary Amazon provides states it's all about a career woman who needs to find Mr. Right, whom she can marry. I hope most women in the real world are more far-sighted than that. Third: come on people, marriage? When are we? 1950s? As a culture, we really need to reassess this marriage thing. Especially the obsession with how women should want to get married. Fourth... ok, I think we have the point. The titles under the label bother me.

Chick Lit. Like Chick Flick. Simple, memorable, catchy, everything that retailers want in a label. You've heard it once, you'll never forget it. But it bothers me that so many women don't seem to be disturbed by being a "chick". Little yellow fluffy bit, totally helpless. Chick always connected itself (for me) to "bimbo" and other such stereotypes. Chick is that bouncy blonde babe who don't know nothing but that she loves her bf (<3<3<3!) have taken notice, even if I'm not buying into it, it has worked well enough. The people who do buy into it... I can't scream about them having no self-respect due to the label some merchandiser slapped onto it. Well, I could, but it would simply reveal my own predjudices, and ignore the fact that it is their choice. And I truly feel that feminism is most deeply about having choices - equality, to me, means being able to respectfully choose what you want, without gendered restrictions. So perhaps, in this entire rant, have I been anti-feminist in disregarding "chick lit" or "chick flicks" as offensive? Or do I have a point about it being some sort of "propaganda" that is really meant to teach us how to be proper women; a simple reinforcement of existing gender structures?

3 comments:

Electric Furr said...

hmm. Your post reminds me of my feelings towards watching either Spike TV, or the WNetwork, both of which presume to know what either gender wants to watch, and that basically all men and all women want to watch the same thing. Fact is, I like Gilmore Girls, which airs reruns on the WNetwork. Fine. That show certainly appeals to me. But not because its a mother daughter drama. That show, in my opinion, is well written, acted and has a lot to offer, whatever flaws me or anyone else cares to point out. And I also like CSI and other crime shows. But crime shows end up on Spike, which makes me a non-male viewer. Why would WNetwork presume that women would not be interested in shows like that? Why are CSI and Law and Order "men's" shows? I love Special Victims Unit. As well, an afternoon of watching adverts for Spike TV reveals that the executives over there don't really give men much credit. And presume that they are all 100% straight. I don't understand the need to polarize gender so much on TV. Well, I do realize we live in a capitalist society, so maybe I have an inkling...

As for your ponderings on feminist choices...well, that's never really been a simple issue...you have to consider how these choices are informed and why people may choose them too...it can get quite messy actually.

Medea said...

I kind of wonder mostly why so much of our media is so male/female divided. It really doesn't seem necessary. Why can't ("shouldn't") I enjoy action flicks as a girl? Why should I like romantic comedies that much more? I don't think I'd have much trouble with any of it if not for the label of "chick", since I just don't watch/read much of it... and yeah, it's all a very messy topic.

Electric Furr said...

messy is good...