Can Chick Lit Better Engage with Socio-Cultural Critique?

ImageI have been plugging away at my MRP and finding it somewhat staggering to see the pile of books that surround me daily and realize that someday soon I will have a substantial paper based on it all. This is quite the undertaking. As my last entry talked about the process of writing, I continue to learn more about myself and how I deal with this kind of task. 

Today I have been making notes about postfeminism and chick lit using Stephanie Harzewski’s Chick lit and Postfeminism. In her chapter, “Theorizing Postfeminist Fictions of Development” she situations the term postfeminism in relation to second- and third-wave feminism and commodity culture. I have been finding her take on the term very useful, as many other authors I have read theorize postfeminism as anti-feminism, which is a stance I understand due to it’s relation to consumerism and commodity culture but I do not agree with the dismissal of these acts or the term as a whole. Situating chick lit as postfeminism fiction, highlights the genre’s relationship to and acknowledgement of feminism while opening up discussion about its shying away from identifying or labelling chick lit protagonists as feminist. 

At the end of the chapter, Harzewski points to a few ways that authors in this genre might take their protagonists in new direction so as to better engage with socio-cultural critique and female/feminine experience. She writes, 

“With minimal exceptions we have still to see protagonists in male-dominated occupational fields, and female-populated helping professions like social work and early-childhood and secondary education – historically associated with single women – have yet to be represented. If chick lit is to expand further, authors such as Weiner speculate, it will need to feature plots that include the long-term care of chronically ill or debilitated parents (“Is Chick Lit Chic?”). While protagonists’ media-related jobs often make for exciting plots and working-girl glamour, their creators would benefit by questioning more the media they produce, especially as many were or remain media professionals” (185). 

This has me thinking about how engagement in internet communities such as blogging and e-publishing might assist in opening up different narratives. I also think it is interesting how some of the commodity based narratives may have changed with the recent “economic downturn” as I recall several novels coming out being called “recession lit.” I haven’t read many under this label and I would love to have suggestions! Does this shift open up room for more critical engagement with consumerist culture? Or does it stay to a lot of the same?

What kind of narratives would you like to see, or if you are an author, are writing for chick lit? Will this adaptability keep it alive even among the yearly declaration of chick lit’s “death”?  

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