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  #21  
Old March 9th, 2009, 7:11 pm
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Re: Feminism and literature

I guess Harry had to be a boy, because he represents a "Jesus"-character and because I have the feeling that Rowling wishes for boys like him, as she said in an interview something like only one in a million men would give up there lives for others, unlike women, who actually always do it. That´s how Rowling sees it, well...

I´m a typical women, haha, I prefer character based stories (you should really read the essay on Croggon´s website!!!). I believe any plot can only happen, because there are different actors. Of course, in a novel one can construct a plot driven story, but in my opinion a character based story is closer to the ´truth`.
The worst prejudices you find in detective novels by those women whom I call "enlightend women, who see through the follies of feminism"(irony), like this awful tess gerritsen and her rizzoli-character.


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Old July 21st, 2009, 4:17 pm
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Re: Feminism and literature

Anybody read the Amelia Peabody series?? Not only is Amelia a woman in the early 1900s, but the books also take place (mainly) in Egypt, where she fights for the rights of women, while being an archaeologist, detective, mother, and also having time to battle the Master Criminal!


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  #23  
Old August 26th, 2009, 10:17 am
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Re: Feminism and literature

I was pleased to find this list of outstanding female and non-white SF writers, which somebody compiled to challenge the stereotype that "only white men are interested/any good at writing SF":

http://www.tor.com/index.php?option=...=blog&id=52460

Anybody got any female SF authors they think should be on there, but aren't? And do people think that SF is more "naturally" a male genre or that men tend to write a different kind of SF to women?


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  #24  
Old August 26th, 2009, 11:51 am
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Re: Feminism and literature

The two that spring to my mind are Storm Constantine and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Neither author is bound by genre, Rusch writes books that fit into various different categories where as Constantine’s books stretch the definition of SF. Instead she concentrates on the plot and characters and ends up writing something that often blures the boundaries of SF & fantasy (although her later books have shifted more towards fantasy)

In Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s case I know which I would recommend - Alien Influences.

Storm Constantine however I would find it hard to narrow down to just one book because her writing is so divers imo. Hermetech is the most obviously SF of her books, but I would probably put her Wraeththu books (esp the 1st trilogy) and Calenture in the SF bracket too – all are well worth reading.

The thing I really love about Constantine is that she is above everything else a storyteller – it doesn’t seem to be important to her which narrow category her stories should be in – she has the bravery to ignore such strictures and concentrate on telling the story as it should be told and that I think is her gift to writing.

That said I think it can be said of several authors including for example Margaret Atwood - I do think SF has traditionally been a male genre and perhaps the fact that women writes are not traditionally a part of that genre has given them a freedom to reinvent it.

I certainly think that the way in which SF is being stretched and taken outside the old boundaries is both an asset and due to the increasing diversity of its authors.


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Old August 26th, 2009, 12:03 pm
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Re: Feminism and literature

I've hardly read any sci-fi, I have to admit ...

But I am very happy to recommend a sci-fi 'trilogy' by a new writer in the genre, Kristin Landon. It's set in the far future, with the human race hiding in various galaxies from the Cold Minds -- the ruthless machine intelligences that have colonised Earth.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_ss?...ndon&x=14&y=15

The correct order of reading is:

The Hidden Worlds
The Cold Minds
The Dark Reaches


Kristin is someone I know from Tolkien fandom. I was so happy for her when she at last became a proper, published author.

I really enjoyed her books and think she is a good writer.

The central character, Linnea, is a very strong, believable heroine. Not a perfect 'you-know-what-kicking' Mary Sue but a thoroughly believable and engaging character.

The issue of sexism is certainly explored in this series, as Linnea's lover (the very lovely Iain ) comes from a highly elitist, patriarchial system that has excluded women for centuries.


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Old August 26th, 2009, 11:31 pm
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Re: Feminism and literature

Quote:
Posted by Pearl Took
I am very happy to recommend a sci-fi 'trilogy' by a new writer in the genre, Kristin Landon.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kittling View Post
The two that spring to my mind are Storm Constantine and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
I will definitely try to check these authors out. Thanks for the recommendations. It must be really exciting to see one of your friends make it as a professional writer, Pearl.

Quote:
That said I think it can be said of several authors including for example Margaret Atwood - I do think SF has traditionally been a male genre and perhaps the fact that women writes are not traditionally a part of that genre has given them a freedom to reinvent it.
I love Atwood! It's funny, I remember wickedwickedboy saying a while back that on the whole he avoids reading fantasy by female authors, because in his experience they subvert the genre too much and don't have the big battle scenes he looks for in a fantasy novel (hope I haven't misrepresented what he said too much - it was a long time ago, and I haven't got time to search the HP feminism thread for his posts. I trust he'll correct me if that's not what he said). I think I am positively drawn towards female fantasy novelists because they do something a bit different, and often psychology and relationships/elements from other genres are more important than just biff! pow! action (although that probably is a bit of a stereotypical thing to say). One of the reasons I love JKR is because she has drawn more heavily on the whodunnit genre than on other fantasy in HP.


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Old August 27th, 2009, 10:51 am
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Re: Feminism and literature

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Originally Posted by Melaszka View Post
It must be really exciting to see one of your friends make it as a professional writer, Pearl.
It's so cool.

Margaret Atwood is a brilliant writer. I find her books very powerful, almost too much to handle, somehow. I've never been brave enough to read The Handmaid's Tale, because it looks so bleak but the one Atwood novel I've always kept is Life Before Man, because it is just so well written.

Quote:
It's funny, I remember wickedwickedboy saying a while back that on the whole he avoids reading fantasy by female authors, because in his experience they subvert the genre too much and don't have the big battle scenes he looks for in a fantasy novel (hope I haven't misrepresented what he said too much - it was a long time ago, and I haven't got time to search the HP feminism thread for his posts.


I don't read an awful lot of sci-fi or fantasy (despite being a Tolkien geek, I am fairly allergic to most other fantasy series. )

But I agree with your take on women writers below ... without wanting to sound at all as I'm stereotyping, I enjoy women writers in general because women do take a psychological, 'relational' approach (not that men never do, but you know what I mean ... hopefully )

Quote:
I think I am positively drawn towards female fantasy novelists because they do something a bit different, and often psychology and relationships/elements from other genres are more important than just biff! pow! action (although that probably is a bit of a stereotypical thing to say).


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  #28  
Old September 26th, 2009, 11:16 am
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Re: Feminism and literature

Thought I'd mention this here, as a discussion on the Delacours and the Weasleys cropped up on the HP Feminism thread and it got me thinking about the stock characters of the puny, hen-pecked husband, the fat, ageing, dragonlike wife with the rolling pin, the nubile young lovely whom the hen-pecked husband hopelessly lusts after etc.

As a feminist, I've always been a bit embarrassed about the fact that I'm a big fan of Carry On films and Donald McGill's seaside postcards, as they are so politically incorrect.

Apologies, as Carry On and McGill are very Anglo-centric references, but I think these stock characters date back hundreds of years (I once did a production of one of Ben Jonson's 17th century plays with a saucy seaside postcard design theme, as the characters overlapped completely, and Jonson's stock characters are ultimately derived from ancient Roman comedy) and I'm assuming that they also exist in some form in most Western cultures.

In many respects, this kind of comedy reinforces misogynist myths (that only young women are attractive, that marriage is a prison for men, that women exist solely for the purpose of being sex objects and that when they cease to fulfil this function they are superfluous, that older, less conventionally attractive women are dragons etc).

However, I have read more positive criticism of Carry On which points out that the main butt of its humour is men. The audience doesn't laugh because the women in it are either sex objects or old and fat, it laughs at the male characters, because they are too arrogant and pathetically self-delusional to realise that they are pursuing women completely out of their league, because they are unable to control their bodily desires, because they are consumed by embarrassment and fear of sex as much as by lust. Far from being a figure of fun, Matron is usually the only rational, well-adjusted, admirable person there!

But, than again, a very shrewd observation someone made of HP, also really applies here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldMotherCrow View Post
Something that does bother me about this scene is how Rowling depicts the difference between males acting silly over the oposite sex and females acting silly over the opposite sex. Mrs. Weasley, afterall, practically swoons over Gilderoy Lockhart, and we also are shown the swarms of giggling fangirls pursuing Vicor Krum. The girls seem to be silly because they are silly creatures, but when it comes to the boys, like Arthur over Mrs. Delacour or all the young men over Fleur, the boys act silly because the girls have powers that make the boys act silly.
In this light, it's still deeply misogynist.

Anyone else got any thoughts on this, or am I just rambling incoherently again?



Last edited by Melaszka; September 26th, 2009 at 11:19 am.
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  #29  
Old September 26th, 2009, 11:43 am
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Re: Feminism and literature

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Originally Posted by Melaszka View Post
In this light, it's still deeply misogynist.

Anyone else got any thoughts on this, or am I just rambling incoherently again?
Well the thing is, those two particular examples are not simply men acting silly because women have powers. Those are two women who aren't entirely human, so I always considered Fleur and her direct ancestors a special case. Even so, there's no shortage of other examples and of long-established literary language out there to support what you're saying. Seems like you often read of a woman bewitching or beguiling a man, which is odd, because I've always thought that men throughout history have gone to catastrophic lengths to attract, impress, and ensnare women with varying degrees of success.

So yes, there's my (half) thought.


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Old September 26th, 2009, 12:26 pm
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Re: Feminism and literature

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Originally Posted by canismajoris View Post
Well the thing is, those two particular examples are not simply men acting silly because women have powers. Those are two women who aren't entirely human, so I always considered Fleur and her direct ancestors a special case.
Well, to me that makes it actually worse... because it takes the mystic powers of women to rob men of their sobrity and sense to a new level by solidifying it into a palpable force. It takes the blame completely off men. If you look at it as a metaphor for women's "powers" over men, it sends quite a disturbing message, in my opinion. Of couse I suspect not everyone see it as a metaphor.

Quote:
Even so, there's no shortage of other examples and of long-established literary language out there to support what you're saying. Seems like you often read of a woman bewitching or beguiling a man, which is odd, because I've always thought that men throughout history have gone to catastrophic lengths to attract, impress, and ensnare women with varying degrees of success.
Actually the idea that women "ensnare" men and render them helpless with their mystic powers of seduction is as old as the worls and features in most mythologies I have read into. It's also the basis of the deminization of the woman in Christian tradition.


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  #31  
Old September 26th, 2009, 6:30 pm
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Re: Feminism and literature

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Originally Posted by Yoana View Post
Actually the idea that women "ensnare" men and render them helpless with their mystic powers of seduction is as old as the worls and features in most mythologies I have read into. It's also the basis of the deminization of the woman in Christian tradition.
Well, as men probably did most of the writings in question, it's no surprise that they were trying to come up with excuses for their behavior. Blaming women probably worked out nicely because nobody was really in a position to argue.


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  #32  
Old December 14th, 2009, 11:43 am
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Re: Feminism and literature

I wasn't quite sure whether to put this observation here or on the Gender Roles and Stereotypes thread.

A couple of things I've read lately have troubled me.

1. I read a report by a local feminist activist group who had gone through the books their primary school-aged children had brought home from school and found that only 30% of the characters in these books were female and they tended to be in less prominent/authoritative roles than the male characters.

Where do people stand on the Numbers argument? Do you think that literature in which male characters vastly outnumber female and/or where the more prominent roles are mostly taken by males is unfeminist?

This argument regularly crops up on the feminism in DH thread, with some people arguing that the fact that the majority of central characters are male makes the series problematic from a feminist perspective, as it suggest that men being important/powerful is the norm we should always expect, and others disagreeing, saying that if there are even one or two powerful, talented female characters, that's positive from a feminist perspective, as it shows it's possible (both genetically and socially) for women to achieve, and that demanding equal numbers in RL can lead to discrimination against men as it's unmeritocratic.

I tend more towards the first group. Obviously, I don't want to be too rigid about this, as it would be nonsensical to demand that writers create a perfect 50/50 split between male and female characters, regardless of their artistic vision or subject matter, and there are some circumstances where the context of the book positively demands a majority of male characters (e.g. a book set in an all-boys' boarding school or a monastery, or a feminist novel about how difficult it is for a woman to break into a male-dominated milieu like the police force or the priesthood).

But I do worry that if we are complacent about an overall pattern in literature where women are rare in prominent roles and rarer than male characters in total, as the local group noted, it teaches girls from a very young age that their experience is considered less important by society than boys' and that they should take the sidelines and let the boys take the lead most of the time.

I agree that demanding equal numbers in RL is discriminatory, but literature isn't RL where you have a finite group of candidates to choose from where the men who apply may just happen to have better CVs - authors are deliberately choosing to create male characters who are more talented/qualified than the women.

2. Someone recommended this poetry site to me lately.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/poetryworkshop

Although it's a really good site, I felt quite threatened and excluded by the extreme male dominance on it. On the first page, of the poets who give masterclasses, there is only one woman (and she is given the stereotypically female topic of Love for Valentine's Day) and the latest workshop is about fathers (fair enough, female poets usually have fathers they can write about, too) and all 3 of the exemplar poems are by men.

Obviously, they have to pick the people who they think are best for the job, not positively discriminate to ensure equal numbers, but it's not like there aren't any good female poets around they could have chosen. I also wonder how many men would be interested in a poetry site where 90% of the workshop leaders were female. In life, it often seems that having "too many" women in charge is deemed to make an activity unacceptably feminine to men, but having mostly male leaders is considered "gender neutral". And the quest for equality seems to be stuck at a faux equality, where there has to be at least one woman, "so we're not being sexist", but men have to be in the majority, so men don't feel it's "a woman's activity".



Last edited by Melaszka; December 14th, 2009 at 11:48 am.
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  #33  
Old December 14th, 2009, 3:25 pm
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Re: Feminism and literature

Are there any books which you feel carry good feminist messages and what is it you like about them?

I know I'm not original at all, but I have to say Jane Austen. She's clever, subtle, acid and deliciously satyrical. Her heroines (except, perhaps, Catherine Morland) are not only beautiful, but also clever, with opinions of their own, and they aren't willing to do anything to get a man.

I like Jane Eyre, too. The way she seeks independence, and how, though loving Mr Rochester, she refuses to be his mistress or his pet; she considers them both equal (that must have been scandalous in that time). I also like that when, during a chat Mr Rochester claims to be superior to her, it is due to his being older, not being a man.

Is there a book which you feel really creates a vision of an ideal feminist society and what is it about the society depicted that you like?

I haven't read any yet. Anyway, what is an ideal feminist society? One in which women have power and men are treated as inferior? It would be unfair, anyway, and I don't think I liked it.

What are your favourite strong female characters in literature and why?

Lizzy Bennet, for all the reasons so accurately given by other people.

Milady de Winter. I don't know of anyone who's read The Three Musketeers and doesn't have her in the top 10 villains list. She makes four tough men shiver just with the mention of her name...

Helena Justina, from the Falco series by Lindsay Davis. She's deliciously strong-willed and independent in a time in which women almost didn't have even legal existence.

Are there any books which you feel promote a feminist message too strongly and/or unsubtly? Discuss.

Again, I haven't read any yet. In any case, I think too strong a message, except in openly claiming books, goes against the literary quality (at least for my taste)

Are there any books which you find unacceptably misogynist/patronising to women?

Almost all literature prior to XXth century is patronising to women. But so was society, and at reading a book we shouldn't forget the context and the time in which it was written.

Anyway, I find quite annoying that in so good a book as Dracula, when Van Helsing has to praise Mina he says she has a man's brain with a woman's heart.



As for the ratio of male/female characters, I prefer quality to quantity. Better a single good, strong, remarkable female character than five plain ones.


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  #34  
Old January 19th, 2010, 5:40 am
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Re: Feminism and literature

Are there any books which you feel carry good feminist messages and what is it you like about them?
I don't know. I don't really look out for feminist messages when I'm reading.

What are your favourite strong female characters in literature and why?
Jo March. I know a lot of people will say Lizzy Bennet, but honestly, I can't stand her for too long. I think Jo's more relatable than Lizzie. For me, at least.

Are there any books which you find unacceptably misogynist/patronising to women?
The Twilight series. Bella is a girl in the 21st century, yet she can't think for herself.


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Old August 26th, 2010, 7:56 pm
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Re: Feminism and literature

I came across an excellent (in my opinion) article today. I won't link because it contains some swearwords, but it's on jezebel.com and it's called "Why Books By Women Aren't "Serious."" It elaborates upon many of the things I have noticed and pondered over with regard to women in the literary and publishing world and how books by women are perceived and reacted to; and some of the things we've discussed here:

articleThe female colonization of once male-dominated literary forms is a fascinating topic [...].

But I'd also like to see female-dominated literary forms get some respect. If the boundaries of the Serious can be expanded to admit Philip K. Dick [...] I'm not sure why they can't include Jodi Picoult. Actually, I think I know why: as Chris Jackson says, "it's clear that women are willing to buy books by male writers, but men seem much more reluctant to buy books by women." That's how books by men become universal and books by women become specific, feminine, domestic.


And also some things which go beyond the gender discussion into what's wrong in the literary world in general:

articleThere are really two problems at work here. One is the consistent devaluing of women's experiences (a woman's "domestic fiction" is a man's "sweeping family saga;" a woman's "self-absorption" is a man's "moving memoir"). The other, though, is the persistent and pernicious need to identify what is and isn't serious. The whole term "literary fiction" seeks to exclude science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, and yes, chick lit from the category of Things Smart People Should Read. Which, as many readers agree, is pretty Dumb.


I think it's worth a read for anyone interested. It's a bit depressing though. Though it does have an optimistic streak to it towards the end:

articleMaybe I'm a ridiculous optimist, but I've noticed that plenty of men are actually interested in women's lives (if Daulerio will admit to watching rom-coms, imagine how many other dudes are doing so secretly). And perhaps if interest in women's lives itself weren't so totally stigmatized — women aren't even supposed to be interested in ourselves! — then a man could actually pick up a Jennifer Weiner novel without the masculinity police jumping out from behind the bookshelves [...].


And most importantly, from my point of view, it ends with an idea about how men can help change the situation - I consider this a very important but almost always overlooked point: men can be enormous help in combating all forms of sexism, because it's still generally their perspective which is seen as universal.

articleAnd in fact, male readers could do a lot to combat the ghettoization of women's experiences by challenging Jackson's observation, one purchase at a time.


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  #36  
Old August 27th, 2010, 9:08 am
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Re: Feminism and literature

Thanks for posting this, Yoana - it's a great article.

I would take issue with one minor point it makes - that sci-fi and mystery are now being taken more seriously as genres because they're male dominated. In my experience, mystery novels are female-dominated - most of the great names of the past (Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham) and present (Elizabeth George, Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell, PD James, Ruth Rendell) are female. Perhaps it is the ones written by males that have started to be considered "literary", though. (Or just that I'm more drawn to female writers, so I notice them more?)

And, yes, the devaluing of women's experience as "self-absorbed" and "narrow in scope" is something I've also noticed and it makes me seethe.

It would be great if more men read books by women.


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Old August 27th, 2010, 9:59 am
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Re: Feminism and literature

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Originally Posted by Melaszka View Post
I would take issue with one minor point it makes - that sci-fi and mystery are now being taken more seriously as genres because they're male dominated. In my experience, mystery novels are female-dominated - most of the great names of the past (Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham) and present (Elizabeth George, Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell, PD James, Ruth Rendell) are female. Perhaps it is the ones written by males that have started to be considered "literary", though. (Or just that I'm more drawn to female writers, so I notice them more?)
No, I wondered about this, too, when I read this part. Also, fantasy authors - I might be wrong, but it seems to me there are plenty of women who write in this genre nowadays. Not sure how much it's moved up in the "prestige" scale, though.


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Old August 27th, 2010, 1:32 pm
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Re: Feminism and literature

From the article:
The whole term "literary fiction" seeks to exclude science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, and yes, chick lit from the category of Things Smart People Should Read.
Am I being extremely horrible if I agree that chicklit and romance aren't exactly great literary genres? I have read both chicklit and romance and while they may be entertaining on a day at the beach I don't see them as good literature. It has nothing to do with them being about women. There is great literature about women, for example Margaret Atwood who manages to please both literary snobs and those looking for entertainment. Many people view chicklit as feminist literature but I couldn't disagree more. Those female characters are often shallow, living in a bubble, throwing fits over gaining a few pounds and their main problem and issue in life is having to choose between the sweet and shy guy and the handsome casanova who is just going to end up breaking their hearts even though the sex is great. Maybe I am being harsh and I agree that there may be exceptions but this is my conclusion based on what I have read. There is good literature about women, even written by men. Graham Joyce creates very believable female characters and it is clear from his writing that he relates to them and understands them. He also has no qualms about making women main characters. Richard Yates does the same. It shows that men are both willing and able to write about women and they do it so much better than these romance and chicklit writers. My point is that I believe some genres are considered worse than others because they usually are and it might not have anything to do with gender. After all, Elfriede Jelinek got the Nobel Prize and she writes mainly about women.


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Old August 27th, 2010, 1:55 pm
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Re: Feminism and literature

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Am I being extremely horrible if I agree that chicklit and romance aren't exactly great literary genres? I have read both chicklit and romance and while they may be entertaining on a day at the beach I don't see them as good literature. It has nothing to do with them being about women.
Of course you're not horrible!

The only chick-lit I've read is Bridget Jones's Diary and I loved it to bits. I think it's very clever, well-written, very funny, and I do find it feminist, because instead of preaching or criticizing, it merely shows an ordinary 30-something women entangled in all effed-up ideas about what she's supposed to be constantly fired at her from all around, and manages to come to liking herself the way she is. That's my only experience with chick-lit, though.

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My point is that I believe some genres are considered worse than others because they usually are and it might not have anything to do with gender. After all, Elfriede Jelinek got the Nobel Prize and she writes mainly about women.
I can't really agree with this. Some books are demonstrably worse than others, yes, but whole genres? If we look at it from the point of view of genre cliches and most books in a particular genre entertaining those cliches, then yes, but I really can't agree that a genre, in itself, can objectively be labeled better or worse than the others. I think that in literature the major factor in judging what constitutes "good" literature (consequently, which genres get to be included in it) is relevance and importance - and as the article says, the female experience is sadly still considered not that relevant - not universal, but narrowly female. I fully agree with the author on this one.

And I don't think it's about individual writers so much as it is about female-oriented genres, as opposed to books: since I firmly believe a whole genre can't legitimately be labeled bad or un-literary (I think anyone would be hard-pressed to provide reasons as to why), I think the reason they do get labeled such is what they are associated with. Sci-fi and fantasy is associated with fantasy, non-reality - therefore they can't be taken as seriously as socially involved books depicting reality; and romance and chick-lit are associated with women and the female perspective - and as I mentioned, I feel it's still considered not universal enough. After all, the fact that male-perspective/experience literature is read by everyone and considered universally relatable (e.g. Hemingway), and female-associated (or more appropriately for this case, female-branded - it's sort of a stigma) literature is widely considered to be of interest only for women, is quite telling. How many men read books by women in comparison to women reading books by men? I doubt it's merely the quality of writing to blame.

ETA: You know, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that chick-lit is looked down upon more because of its female association than anything else. I mean, I've encountered people calling Jane Austen's works chick-lit (whether they read them or not) just because she's a woman and they are about women and love. This strikes me as a pretty obvious attempt to put the author down as less important than other classics merely because of these works' association with "the female."



Last edited by Yoana; August 27th, 2010 at 2:11 pm.
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Old August 27th, 2010, 2:15 pm
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Melaszka  Female.gif Melaszka is offline
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Re: Feminism and literature

Also, it depends on how we're defining "chick-lit" - as either the article Yoana cited or another article on Jezebel mentioned, I can't remember which, the term "chick-lit" seems to have expanded in recent years to encompass not only fluffy, superficial novels about shopping for shoes, but basically any novel by a woman with mainly female characters.


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