Sunday, 3 November 2013

Accepting Publicly Your Love For Chick Lit

Would you crack an interview for an editorial position if the answer to ‘who’s your favourite author’ is Sophie Kinsella and not Salman Rushdie?

Late at night, we all love reading about a twenty-something urban girl, who has a career, is willing to have fun, wrestle with weight gain, and ridicule arranged marriages and find love her way. The genre recognisable with its pink cover art of stilettos, martini glasses and lipsticks has been growing in popularity in India as well. Rajashree’s Trust Me is the biggest selling Indian chick lit novel. We all bought Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada and re-read Bridget Jones, nursing our girly-sentiments of a rosy-coloured world with a perfect happily-ever-after with our Mr Darcy. Bollywood movies like Aisha grossed a profit.

But we still feel ashamed to accept our love for them in a social gathering. Why? Why is chick lit as a genre looked down upon with a derogatory glance? Young boys do not feel ashamed to accept that they loved the Pyar ka Punchnama movie. The typical image of a “young boy” is associated with being chilled out, hurling invectives, flirtations and life revolving around friends and a peg of whisky. Not a very pleasant picture. But they are not ashamed of it!

 If a woman accepts that she likes nursing her soft, cushion-y sentiments by reading chick lit and watching chick-flicks, that she dreams of her “perfect man”, her Darcy, and would love to cuddle up with a Teddy Bear sometimes, eating Doritos and drinking Diet Coke would mean she is aligning to the stereotypical image of a girl. And in this male-oriented world, being a girl means being weak. And that is why, in this patriarchal world, a woman needs to portray herself as a ‘strong’ woman, a woman capable of “surviving” (see, implying you cannot “survive” without taking on pretensions). And what you read is what you are. So I would rather praise Arvind Adiga or Arundhati Roy than Advaita Kala, the debutante author of Almost Single.

It might seem to be a trivial thing, but it is a deep-rooted effect of patriarchy; and it is exactly why patriarchy is still prevalent. How can we expect society (that is, men) to see women as powerfully equal when we ourselves are ashamed, embarrassed and feel sheepish about embracing our true selves? What we are trying to become is pseudo-males, which would obviously be second in position to true males, and the society/patriarchy is thriving on this misconception of ours that being a man is better and a ‘womanly’ image is disparaging. There  is nothing wrong with enjoying and reading the books of Paulo Coelho or Ayn Rand, but then neither with Lindsey Kelk’s.

That we are embarrassed at accepting that deep down, within that tom-boyish exterior, or a strong corporate woman attitude, we still harbour ‘girly’ feelings, says a lot about why an egalitarian world is a pipe dream. We need to accept and understand that there is nothing wrong with being girly. Let us embrace our womanhood proudly!

First published on womensweb.in

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