Home > writing > Generally speaking, generalizations suck

Generally speaking, generalizations suck

November 16, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

At Bookninja, George comments on a Guardian post that attempts to elevate chick-lit:

I strive to be an equal opportunity belittler of poorly written, philosophically vacant, socially inexcusable prose. But it’s hard when the market is flooded with SO MUCH of the crappy escapism this woman wants us to take seriously.

And ignites a minor firestorm in the comments. The upshot of which is that denigrating said genre is not just sexist, and not just snobby, but sexist and snobby. If it’s meaningful to women then we should accept it as being just as valid as any supposed “literary” efforts, etc.

Meanwhile, at The Literary Type, Melissa muses on why women’s magazines suck:

Who decided that women were so boring?  I want to read about politics.  I want to read engaging short fiction.  I want to read about building my own biodiesel generator.  And damnit, I want to read about flowers that can kill me, and not how to arrange them.  Does this make me less of a woman?

I’m just guessing here, but I’m thinking that perhaps not all women actually like chick-lit. Maybe if we all stopped generalizing….

I was struck by the contradiction in these two discussions. Do womens’ magazines look the way they do because that’s what the audience wants? Or do they, and other media, create their own audience? The snake eats its own tail, thinking all the while that what it really wants is an egg; but if it eats the egg, will there ever be a chicken?

I’m reminded of John Steinbeck’s response to the endless questions of a grad student: “Look. This is too hard. I just write stories.”

I think I’m just gonna write stories, and not really worry about this stuff.

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  1. November 16, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    I’d like to think that I’m not the only woman who is bored with women’s magazines. A friend of mine once said that women’s magazines are created based on two principles:
    1. that women enjoy feeling bad about themselves, and
    2. that all women are latent lesbians (because there are nearly as many photos of scantily clad women in women’s mags as men’s).

    I think it’s more likely that the content is designed to reflect the desires of the advertisers. Advertisers have an obvious interest in modifying the values and behaviors of women to match their interests. That’s why there are so many ads designed to look like content and so much content that is indistinguishable from ads. I not interested in the products advertised in these magazines, so it makes sense that I find the content insipid.

  2. November 17, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Is the content designed to please the advertisers, or is the magazine aimed at a niche audience that attracts the advertisers? Does advertising actually intend to modify behaviour, or does it simply have that effect in aggregate? (Does it have that effect at all?)

    Tough questions. I’m not convinced that we can know the answers.

    I’m certain that a majority of women are bored with women’s magazines, though. And uninterested in chick-lit. This assertion based on my observations of the species in the wild.

    Do these things actually participate in stereotyping women by creating caricatures of women’s interests? Are their defenders, in complaining that it’s sexist to slam chick-lit and women’s magazines, actually promoting this kind of stereotyping?

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