Apparently, it’s Things That Bother Me Week. Well, who am I to say no to the opportunity to complain on the Internet. (Complaint is the purpose of the internet, after all. That and porn.)

So. Something that bothers me: Chick Lit.

Chick Lit, to me, literature by women for women that probably has some literary merit, but at the end of day is about Getting A Man. It’s Bridget Jones’ Diary, Sex in the City, modernized versions of Jane Austen that don’t involve zombies* (e.g. Clueless), and other works of literature where sassy spunky heroines decide that their existence is sad and pointless without a man. Chick Lit is the magical lifestyle that Cosmopolitan is trying to sell to you. Chick Lit is close to a lot of feminist ideals that I treasure (sassy spunky heroines, for example), but then falls on its face and undercuts said ideals. Bridget Jones must lose weight to feel worthwhile. Charlotte isn’t allowed by her friends to stop dating just because she has a more fulfilling relationship with her sex toy than she does with men. I love Elizabeth Bennet to death, but she really couldn’t function without eventually finding Mr. Darcy.

The biggest appeal of Chick Lit, to me, is that most of the heroines are Bad Girls. Cameron Tuttle, author of Bad Girl’s Guide series, says, “Bad girls make it happen. A bad girl knows what she wants and how to get it. She makes her own rules, makes her own way, and makes no apologies. […] A bad girl is you at your best–whoever you are, whatever your style.”

This sounds remarkably like my definition of badass. I’d like to see more Badass Girls.  I’m talking girls with a wide range of interests and abilities, for whom romance may be a factor of life, but is not the be-all and end-all of existence. (Who knows, perhaps I’m just sick of stories about marriage.) Now, I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for a woman who’s willing to kick butt and take names, but that’s not the only type of Bad-Ass Girl I can think of. I’m thinking of women who can hold their own, keep to their ideals, and shape their own destinies as much as possible. To name a few:

  • Scout Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Emilia, Othello by Shakespeare (tragically bad-ass, but still.)
  • Molly, Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Mary, Mind of my Mind by Octavia E. Butler
  • Morgaine, Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Tiffany Aching, The Wee Free Men and series (In general, Terry Pratchett’s writing is filled with Bad-Ass women.)
  • Many many heroines of young adult literature. Really, most female characters in the fantasy genre tend to be quite Bad Ass…except Bella Swan, who is the most milquetoast human being possible.
  • And, I’ll admit, of the 1800s British Chick Lit characters, I find Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre to be the least obnoxious. Secretly, though, I think they’ve got nothing on Becky Sharp out of Vanity Fair

Anyhow. While making that list, I found that it was way easier to come up with Bad-Ass heroines for whom marriage wasn’t an option: the very young or the very old. Also, a lot of young adult literature is filled with exciting strong women. So then what happens to our girls (and boys!) who grow up reading books filled with strong girl characters? As adults, the literature featuring women that gets any kind of publicity is Getting Married Stories with varying levels of Sex and Plot. I guess it begs the question: How much of modern femininity is still defined by the woman’s societal duty to marry and/or pop out babies? Am I just jaded because so many of my high school and college friends’ Facebook pictures are weddings and pregnancies and babies?

I’m curious. What’s your take on Chick Lit? How do you define it? Do you find it appealing? Worthy? Vile? Subconsciously antifeminist? What say you?

*I have not yet actually read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I think I should. Perhaps I would like it better?