Hey, it’s no joke.
Two women walked into a bookstore, didn’t like what they saw, banded together and wrote to the company president and had the label “women’s fiction” removed from the store. You can read the whole article here. (Um, after you finish the blog post of course.)
The crux of the story is this: they did not like that all the books under the Women’s Fiction label had pink covers and fluffy titles. There were no heady books, nothing serious, which proliferated the message that that is what women’s fiction is about. So now there’s no women’s fiction section in that store. They won! We won!
Or did we?
I agree with their dismay and disdain for the differentiation — but as you all may have guessed, I have no problem in general with the label women’s fiction. No, there isn’t men’s fiction per se, but I like knowing what I’m in for, what the prize is at the bottom of the cereal box before I dig my hand all the way through the hearts, moons, stars and clovers to find it. (who, me?)
To me, the problem to me is not the category women’s fiction but what is placed under it. If that section of the store had included Margaret Atwood, Elinor Lipman, Meg Waite Clayton, Jane Austen, Anne Tyler, Willa Cather — would anyone have a problem? Sparkles and flowers and Manolo Blahniks on book covers might keep men out of that section of the store — it’s true. But — if all sorts of women’s fiction were readily displayed and available? Hey, smart men know that smart women like to talk about books — so frankly — if they’re not paying attention to women-centric writing today, they’re missing out in a number of ways.
No, it’s not fair that women’s books are lumped together in a unforgiving nature. (Newsflash: Life isn’t Fair) But the solution isn’t to do away with the genre label women’s fiction – it’s to reinterpret what it means for the masses. And I think that conversations like this help to do that.
What I don’t agree with is that all books appeal to everyone. I honestly think — that some (some!!!) books about women are going to appeal mostly to women. I’ve read books for which I’m over the moon and just know that the men I know who are avid readers just wouldn’t get into them. And some other books – absolutely for men and women. I don’t have a problem reading or writing a book that appeals to women mostly – or only. Women buy most of the books. Most of my friends are women. I like being a woman. Equality on the bookshelves to me, means give my book a rockin’ cover and good placement, not — please put me next to a great male author so men see it. If I wrote a book that might appeal more to the men than to women and I was commandeered to the pink department because I’m female — no, I wouldn’t like that. And, I do not like that women authors are not reviewed as readily or as dynamically or in as highly regarded publications as men. That bugs me to no end.
But — books are marketed — I believe (but what do I know?) to the people who are most likely to buy them.
When there was a bookstore in the neighboring town (sigh) — I went straight for the Fiction and Literature section every time and my eyes scanned shelves not only for favorite authors but for book titles and book covers that caught my eye. And usually — I walked away with women’s fiction or, what I’d call contemporary literature. Men were looking at books in the same sections but rarely were we picking up the same books.
When it comes to a section of a bookstore or a category/genre of books — what it’s called on the outside is much less important to me than the substance of what I find on the inside.
Now, tell me — what do you think?