Friday, June 12, 2009

If it's pink, it must be written by a woman

Sigh. It is an old argument and I wish it could be put to rest.

Recently in the NYT, I read a piece about the books of summer, how if something is written by a woman and it is about a relationship it gets the dreaded title "chick lit" or "women's fiction." (Is there such a thing as "men's fiction"? Would anyone dare to say that?) The author of the piece remarked that Updike wrote about relationships, and would anyone have dared to put out his novels with frilly-looking pink covers or cartoon drawings on them? When The Corrections came out it was heralded as something revolutionary, yet this book was really about what women have been writing about for decades. If a woman had written it, would it have gotten so much press? The tired adage is that men read thrillers, historical books and if they read about relationships it had better be written by a man, but how true is that? (It isn't in my world.)

Personally, I prefer my books dark, thorny and full of interesting characters, and what is more interesting than the drama of human relationships?

On that grumpy note, I am going back to writing. It is dark. There is violence and a mystery of sorts. It is set in the 1950s. And it involves the drama of family relationships.

9 comments:

Jeff Lyons said...

C:

I share you ire. "We"'ve made a lot of progress for women, but the old chauvinism is still there. Bottom line is anything feminine is distrusted and down-right hated in most cultures. The feminine is really the "enemy," not women per se. The pink cover problem is just the tip of the same old iceberg. When are we all going to grow up and get over this shit.

J

Caroline said...

I absolutely agree. It's so disheartening and it is in the film industry, too. What is more appalling is the spate of films which have "big baby men" in them. (think Will Ferell--or however you spell his name, Eddie murphy, The Hangover, Knocked Up--the list goes on.) Men who cannot commit, who don't know a thing about being fathers or partners in a relationship and who get women because it turns out they really have a heart of gold. I don't know a single woman who wants a guy like that, yet this model is made out to be highly attractive!

Sorell Says... said...

As you can imagine I loved this post Caroline! I am really tired of this classification as well. As far as "women's fiction" goes...I am a woman...I write fiction. That's it. I am a "chick", I like literature. That's it.
It's all about the story. And yes my characters have relationships...all characters do. But please agents/editors/readers, remember it's all about the story. Just read the story. Don't categorize it. Read it. Please.

Cari said...

Ach! One of my sore spots. Thanks for writing about it.

Katharine Weber said...

Setting it in the 1950's allows you to sidestep the plot problem of hypercommunication options in the present day. Is there an Iris Murdoch novel that would succeed at all if all her characters carried cell phones?

Mr. Snuffles said...

Ha- I put up such a fight with the cover of my novel, which is pink. (As I'm guessing you've noticed by now!) The cover for the advance was beautiful...and serious...and much darker. But no, pink prevailed. I'm still sick over it.

Mr. Snuffles said...

oh! And Mr. Snuffles is Sara Shepard! Goodness, I forgot that was my Google account name...

Clea Simon said...

I wonder what cover they'd put on your book if the byline read "Mr. Snuffles"?

Seriously, can you believe we're still having this discussion in 2009? Haven't we won this battle already? Guess not.

Caroline Leavitt said...

Sara, I had a fabulous dark cover for my novel Coming Back To Me, which looked like an Edward Hopper painting. it was perfect--a man in a lonely diner in the middle of the night, feeding a baby. I loved it. So, what was the paperback? Pale green with a pink bathrobe on a hook and in the middle, an inset of a GQ looking man. I was so upset, I got my agent involved and we got the to take the grin of the guys face and to take the flowers out of his hand, but sales loved it, and so they refused to change it.

I feel your pain.