Monday, July 16, 2007

Chick Lit Does NOT Set Back Feminism

Five Annoyingly Prevalent Myths about Chica Lit
Myth #1 - Chick Lit Sets Back Feminism
A word of caution before you proceed.

When I write opinion pieces about controversial issues, I usually attempt to adopt a critical yet compassionate tone towards those who do not share my position. This entry and the four that eventually will follow are a MAJOR departure from that tone. I wrote this first installment just as I felt it, and I decided to post it just as I wrote it. The majority of the time, I am a firm believer that one has to take the higher ground and maintain diplomacy even if one is not being afforded the same courtesy by your intellectual opponents.

Sometimes, however, you just need to tell them all to kiss your ass.

And because I have had enough of the "isms" targeted at authors like me, this is one of those times. Now I don't presume to speak for all the women who write chick lit or all Latinas who write commercial fiction or the all of anyone who does anything with which I identify. But I do know that I'm not alone in my hurt and anger at being targeted.

That said, I hope you will read this through, laugh here and there, and most importantly, think about it for a while.


All the snooty remarks about chick lit peppered across the internet really get to me because I get so much shit for being a feminist only to discover that the women who should have watched my back have opted instead to stab me in it.

I get shit from self-proclaimed renaissance men who at once want to exploit the benefits of female sexual liberation and advancement of women in the workplace yet still expect women to maintain the home, carry their children and raise them singlehandedly, and wash their drawers while tolerating a range of sexist behavior under the guise of "letting a man be a man."

I get shit from other women of color who think being a feminist renders me incapable of being just as strident about racial justice because to this day they still have an outdated view of feminism as a White, middle-class women's racket even as they have and continue to benefit from feminist movement.

I get shit from other heterosexual women who are so male-identified that they cling to the homophobic notion that all feminists are man-hating dykes as if never in the history of humankind has a lesbian ever had a father, brother or son and loved him.

The last person I need to give me shit is another feminist who doesn't even know I'm a feminist because she has presumed that because I write chick lit, I couldn't possibly be a woman of intelligence and substance. Are you trying to tell me that every work of fiction written by a female literary author is automatically some feminist tome? Bitch, please. You don't know me. Can you even see me with your nose that far up Jane Austen's ass?

You should be thanking me and other feminists who write chick lit, romance, erotica and for that matter, any other genre of fiction popular among the female readers you have written off in your elitist tantrum. While you shit on what we write without ever reading it, we're introducing feminism to young women through what they are most likely to consume – entertainment. You complain endlessly about how the current generation shuns feminism yet takes its gains for granted, but when was the last time you took a break from preaching to the converted to engaging the uninitiated in any way other than to shame them for not thinking like the woman you are now? (Oh, that's right. You were born a feminist. Me, I was Nefertiti in a past life.)

And what does this rant have to do with chica lit in particular? Because history has given me reason to suspect that you are highly likely to be a privileged White women who does not read anything that does not mirror your own socio-economic experience whether it is feminist or not. Oh, yes, I did go there. You're not reading my books anyway so why not keep it real?

Chances are if you're too pretentious to presume never mind seek the feminist undercurrents that might exist in books by women who have surnames like Weiner and Cabot then hell to the naw are you even picking up anything written by someone whose last name might be Castillo, Singh or Tang. Admit it… you put that book by Foxx back on the shelf because of that suspiciously Afrocentric second X.

BTW, I don't know if any of the successful chick lit authors I alluded to would describe themselves as feminists. That's beside the point. The point is that you don't either.

And then you sit at your meetings, glancing despairingly around the room and wondering Why are there no women of color here?

(A brief intermission so that all the privileged White women who are reading this with pride because it doesn't apply to them can gloat. Say, I bet many of you are editors and agents. You know this whole thing is all your fault, right? Which means you better have my back when all the White women who are offended by this start accusing me of being racist even if they themselves are innocent of the particular behavior that I'm describing.)

Here's the deal. I write what I want to read, and as an activist, a feminist activist, I want to read stories where female characters grapple with the socio-political issues that would rob them of their humanity even as they strive to get their everyday human needs for such things as love and security met. And as much as I treasure literary fiction as much as you do, sometimes I want to read, and therefore, I write stories in the language I live everyday whether that's the King's English, the Queen's Spanish, Bronx Nuyoricanese, slang-laced Ebonics or some combination thereof.

Now if that offends the aesthetics of your narrow brand of feminism, pues pa' carajo 'cause I know damned well you ain't living your day-to-day life talking like the lost Brontë sister.

And what does it say that other chick lit authors and their readers – some who also consider themselves feminists and many who probably don't – have embraced me as I am while you have concluded that I cannot even exist? Ironically, the chick lit aficionados who don't like my work accuse me of being just as pretentious as you. How dare she litter my fifteen-dollar beach reach with talk of domestic violence and rape? Go figure. While you bristle at the thought of having something in common with the masses, I plead no contest.

So if you call yourself a feminist yet insist that a feminist novel can only exist in literary prose, kiss my Audre-Lorde-quoting ass. And if you also happen to be a White, upper-middle class woman over the age of thirty-five who has not read This Bridge Called My Back or Home Girls Make Some Noise!, never mind any commerical fiction by a woman of color, kiss it twice.

As for everyone else, please be advised that this is an equal opportunity tirade in five parts. In fact, if you're a Latina/o who believes that Latina/o authors should not write or be published unless we aspire to emulate Isabelle Allende and Sandra Cisneros, I got something for your ass next. It's been hot as hell in New York City, and my penchant for choosing the more evolved response in the face of narrow-mindedness has been severely compromised. Consider yourself warned and tune in if you dare.

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