Literature meant for women has existed through the centuries in one form or another, not the moment to discuss it here. However, I can mark the rise of the so-called "chick-lit" in the late 90's with the popularity of the Bridget Jones book. I remember reading it, already in university, and laughing out loud, thinking "who could be like that?" By that I meant weight-obsessed, bordering on dumb, constantly looking for Mr. Right and "eternal love" as the goal in life. I mean, really? Have we not gone past beyond the prince in the white horse at this point in history? We're talking grown up women in their 30's here. I blame it on Disney and Pretty Woman, but it isn't the point of this post. Anyway, I couldn't understand for the life of me why people would take this character seriously as an example of the young urban woman of the late 90's. I was not like that and my friends either. Light literature for the laughs, yes, but a bitter taste in my mouth too.
And then the books came in flooding: the Marian Keyes books, the Sophie Kinsella's, the Asking for troubles of this world. Ugh. Literally speaking this genre is mainly poor (one-dimensional characters and predictable plots, one step away from harlequin novels) but culturally its influence is gigantic.
Generally when reading early noughtie's chick-lit (after that I lost interest completely), there are certain recurring theme's. Basically, the ingrained ideas that young women are:
- superficial, obsessed with looks (how I look = who I am).
- dumb, not informed, conversation does not go beyond shopping and boys. Also, shopping as goal in itself, indulgent consumism (what I own = who I am)
- the main and only goal in life is to find (catch) the man of your dreams. (my partner = who I am)
- self pity and pity from others abound when said goals are not achieved (I am not complete if I don't have the perfect life = constant dissatisfaction guaranteed).
This constantly playing the damsel in distress, not able to solve the easiest of situations without (male) help gets me on my nerves every time. I feel like screaming Grow up woman! You're not 10 anymore! And let's not talk about being terribly obsessed, dissecting every single sentence or acts of the unsuspecting man looking for "signs". Am I getting entertained by reading about a helpless twat that hires a male escort to be her date at a wedding? NO. Am I getting the message that without a good looking man in my arm I'm a total loser? Hell, yes. Many argue that it's just light entertaiment, not trascendental at all, but that is wrong. There is a message, a strong one, to put me in my place as a woman in society and I just don't accept it.
The implications of these notions are spread all over: distorted body image, overconsumism, self-worth leaned from others, the killing judgment towards oneself and other women, the permanent dissatisfaction. The psichological torture that a modern day young woman puts on herself is worse than anything I know, totally self-inflicted and ... unnecesary.