OPINION: I read the book The Devil Wears Prada on a beach once. It was light and trashy and I thoroughly enjoyed it – but I didn’t want anybody to see what I was reading so I was careful to hide its cover.
I was reminded of this on a plane the other day. I saw another guy reading Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies (now popular thanks to the Reece Witherspoon-Nicole Kidman mini-series) with his hand firmly placed over the title for the entire flight.
I recognised the book cover, of course, because I’ve read it too – in the privacy of my own bedroom.
Such novels fit into a category called “chick lit”, aka literature targeted at a female audience.
* Manifesto: Unravelling the myth of the man flu
* Manifesto: Nobody benefits when women are paid less
* Manifesto: Poetry can help men understand themselves
How is it possible to get away with this term? It’d never be acceptable to call Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne novels “dude fiction”.
When I take the concept apart, this idea – that certain literary content is of interest to one gender – is offensive to both women and men. Who’s to say a romantic storyline, a psychological thriller with a strong female protagonist or a bit of light comedy are the sole domains of women readers?
Book publishers, that’s who. That’s why these books almost always feature pink, purple or lipstick-red text on their covers.
I take umbrage at romantic comedy films being marketed in the same way. Colin Firth is fantastic, no matter what he’s in. You won’t put me off seeing him on the silver screen because the title of Bridget Jones’s Baby is in shades of fuchsia.
Just because I want to chuckle at some Brit humour set to the tune of Ellie Goulding, doesn’t mean I’m less of a man. Why does my alternative for a laugh have to be some abysmally-written Adam Sandler Netflix movie?
Books are supposed to be egalitarian. They’re accessible despite geographic borders, and all you need is a library membership to read them for free.
To push some forms of literature to a particular group is to exclude others from an unfamiliar experience.
And isn’t that the point of reading? To educate yourself about things that aren’t part of your normal life? To gain other perspectives?
Maybe it takes a very bold and secure man to read so-called chick lit. Now I think about it, I’d argue that he who brandishes a fresh copy of the latest Gillian Flynn or Jodi Picoult is perhaps the most secure in his masculinity.