05 September 2014

Books don't have gender

I've just been made aware that "women's fiction" is a thing. Like, it's an actual, recognized literary genre? I'm ... confused.

Is "women's fiction" supposed to refer to the gender of the author? Of the protagonist(s)? Of the intended audience?

Oh no. It's the last one, isn't it? "Women's fiction" is a catch-all for "stuff (marketers think) The Womenfolks like to read", isn't it?

Oh, I should really not look up the definition of "women's fiction", should I? It'll just annoy me, won't it?



*resis ...* oh, fuck it. *Googling*

Gawd-dammit, I was right. I'm annoyed:
"Women’s fiction is just that: fiction about women’s issues for a female readership. However, it is not the same as chick lit or romance. While utilizing literary prose, women’s fiction is very commercial in its appeal. Its characters are often women attempting to overcome both personal and external adversity. Although women’s fiction often incorporates grave situations such as abuse, poverty, divorce, familial breakdown, and other social struggles, it can also explore positive aspects within women’s lives. Romantic love stories are also part of women’s fiction, and although love stories are found in chick lit and romance, the mature depth and tone of their development within women’s fiction set them apart from other genre classifications." (agentquery.com)
Why?! Why why why do we even have terms like "women's fiction" and "chick lit" - unnecessary, inaccurate, and condescending labels that downplay women as authors and readers.

As if I'm going to browse bookstore signage like, "Oh good, there's a 'women's fiction' shelf ... thank goodness they have a section for the penis-impaired! No need for me to wander into Man-Land where they keep the mysteries and scifi and thrillers and male protagonists. And certainly no reason for the penis-endowed to come anywhere near MY aisle."

Can you even imagine if there were corresponding genres of "men's fiction" and "dick lit"?

Ridiculous, right?


Why would it be ridiculous to corral specific books into a made-up, marginalizing genre of 'men's fiction', but NOT ridiculous to draw that line around what women should want to read - and, by extension, what men should NOT want to read?

There's just no good reason for this divisive label to even exist. Even the definition above makes it clear that the "genre" is a made-up mashup:
"... fiction about women's issues"?
Really?! REALLY?!?!

And what, pray tell, is a "women's issue"?

"Family, romance, and social struggles", say the marketers?

Oh yes, those are obviously the only subjects women want to read about - and, by extension, that only women want to read about - and so they should be clearly labeled as such.
"... for a female readership"?
Well, we wouldn't want anyone getting confused and accidentally reading a book intended for a different gender.

I love books. I love lists. I have soooo many book lists: Literally thousands of titles sorted just about every way you can imagine: By genre, by author, by subject, by series, by date, by cover type, by year read, by year re-read, by to-be-read, by recommendation, by rating, by personal review... Everything marked, everything 'membered.

But it would never have occurred to me to assign any of them a gender.


Nope. Not even that one.

So can we please just liberate the "women's fiction" and let them re-join their long-lost brothers and sisters in the genderless fiction aisles?

Then we can have a talk about those SFF covers.