Why are women consigned to 'chick lits'?

Women know how to do a lot of things - one of them is to pick up a book and read it. Since the 1960s, having been offered the luxury of higher education, women have begun to dominate the arts and literature movements after decades of creative domination by men.

In 2019, over two-thirds of English degrees across Great Britain are accounted for by women. Not only do we appreciate a good read, this means many of us are qualified to offer an opinion. To take on the likes Virginia Wolf, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare- and even challenge, even criticise them. Yet walking into our nearest bookshop, we will nearly always be subtly redirected towards the isle coated in pastel pink paperbacks and the swirly, shiny fonts of the ‘easy read’ romances, better known ‘the chick lit’.

There are many possible conspiracies for this ‘misdirection’, one is authorship. Many of these novels are composed by women. Marian Keyes, Helen Fielding, JoJo Moyes…there are no men on Goodreads list of ‘Popular Chick Lit Romances’.

In consideration, it makes sense for books written by women to be targeted at the female reader however, men are still capable of writing a great love story.

Less than a century ago, the majority of books were composed by men with many remaining timeless love stories. More recently, any novel by Nicholas Spark is praised and wept for by our generation before being swiftly adapted into a screen play. David Nicholls’ novel ‘One Day’ canonised into the romantic genre and was deeply respected by critics.

The stories of these men are complex and complicated; they challenge not only the romantic hero but touch gently on class, morality, family –yet, it does seem too different for the books with the sparkly cover.

What makes the novels of male romantic authors different from the ‘traditional chick lit’ category is the fact they are men. Their novels have been given time by critics who unpack the depth of the text, eventually paying homage to the story and declaring them bestsellers. Meanwhile, female authors are handing their work over to publishers who cover it in glitter and dump it in the ever-growing of ‘chick literature’, branded as ‘easy’ and ‘tacky’ because no one has offered the text time or attention.

It’s the conspiracy of authorship that reveals the real mystery; gender roles. If both men and women are producing romances, maybe we all love reading them. The sad truth is, it’s just as shocking to see a man reading a romance as it is to see one writing one. Therefore, as reader’s men don’t get the privilege of reading a romance without feeling humiliated by the pink and glittery marketing. And as authors, woman don’t get the privilege of having their work read critically and interpreted, instead they are degraded and moved into a humiliating sub-genre.

Rest assured, not all “chick lits” are good texts; the genre is popular for a reason and the majority deserve to be packed into a beach bag with a bottle of tanning lotion and this month’s Vogue. But under the tacky covers, there are many novels left unappreciated and many women being underrepresented because of poor marketing which consigns gender roles and now we are left with so many stories not being told.

So publishers, watch your gender roles.