Chick lit. Literature for chicks. Or, as Wikipedia describes it (a bit more sophisticatedly): “genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.”
Sounds like a fun read, right? Why is it, then, that for some reason this genre is so often looked down upon?
When I was in secondary school I used to absolutely love chick lit. Back at my parents’ house I’ve got at least ten Jill Mansell novels stacked on a shelf somewhere, and there are many more chick lit names to be found on those shelves as well. I can’t say I’ve read a lot of chick lit lately, because there are so many other books I want (or have) to read as well, but I’m pretty sure I’d still enjoy them. Maybe not as much as I used to (over the years I’ve grown a bit more sceptic about happy endings in which the guy wins over the girl with a huge romantic gesture) but I would still like reading them.
But why do I cringe slightly at the thought of saying to my fellow English students: “Yeah, I love chick lit! I’ve got a Jill Mansell novel sitting next to my collected works of William Shakespeare, waiting to be read!”?
The question of the somewhat low status of chick lit and why it has that status is rather difficult. I mean, you’ll never hear me say a chick lit novel is of the same level as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, for example. If you asked me why, though, I think I’d have a pretty hard time explaining it because I’m not quite sure myself.
I think the main reason why people tend to belittle the chick lit genre is because it is formulaic. We all know the witty but clumsy girl next door will end up with the ruggedly handsome guy with the crooked smile and they will live happily ever after (or so they claim when they fall in each other’s arms on the final page). But does this have to be a bad thing? Tons of women from all different ages read these novels, so there must be something about them, right?
And there is. That’s the thing. When you’re feeling down there is nothing like a good chick lit novel to cheer you up. Most of these novels are about regular women who are struggling with Regular Women Problems: dating and relationships, work (or school) and money, and just general insecurities about themselves (because let’s face it — every woman is insecure sometimes, either about looks or personality, or both). These chick lit women are usually feeling pretty bad at the start of the book, but they turn their lives around and become happy again. And for all you (fellow) feminists out there: this happiness is not always provided by the ruggedly handsome guy. More often than not the woman makes some kind of change to take control of her life again, and once she’s happy the dream guy to go with that happiness comes in again.
What I’m trying to say is that a good chick lit novel shows us that it doesn’t always have to be bad — it is possible to be happy again when you’re feeling like you’ve hit rock bottom. These novels offer some kind of escapism to the reader, a little slice of optimism to get you through a tough week.
So, I’m thinking that we shouldn’t be embarrased about loving to read a chick lit novel every once in a while (or more often than that). They might not address important social issues, or be full of literary symbolism, but who cares? If they make you happy, they make you happy. And to me, that’s what reading is all about.