The ‘Chick-Lit’ category is ‘irritating and insulting’ to female authors – Sheila O’Flanagan

The phrase “Chick Lit” is “irritating and insulting” to female writers, according to award-winning author Sheila O’Flanagan.

She was speaking after best-selling author Marian Keyes warned the phrase ‘diminishing’ made women feel ashamed to take her books.

In the new To imagine series on the BBC, the Limerick author said the phrase was “almost an insult” and noted that books about men’s lives are not “diminished or belittled in the same way”.

At Newstalk breakfast this morning, The missing woman Author Sheila O’Flanagan said she fully agrees.

The ‘Chick-Lit’ category is ‘irritating and insulting’ to female authors – Sheila O’Flanagan

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

“I thought about it for a long time,” she said. “Any woman who writes and is now placed in this Chick Lit parenthesis feels like it’s an insult and it’s being used as an insult.

“In fact, I was recently with a group of successful writers and we all agreed that there is a lack of respect for female writers who write commercial fiction – even if, as with Marian, they cover also very sensitive subjects and dark subjects.

Ms O’Flanagan said some of the best-known male writers would never have been nominated for awards if they were women.

“I think there’s a structural thing and it goes to all parts of society where originally the guardians of literature would all have been men,” she said. “Historically, women had to use male pseudonyms to get their books published.

“I look at someone like Colm Tóibín, who is an absolutely brilliant writer, there’s no doubt about it, but I know that if brooklyn had been written by a woman, it would not have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

“It would have gone straight to the shelf of historical romantic fiction and it would have stayed there.

“Even if it had been written by Maeve Binchy – and it’s a very similar book to what Maeve Binchy would write, with those kind of characters – Maeve Binchy wouldn’t have been nominated for the Booker Award either.”

She said the phrase “Chick Lit” was first used when the Bridget Jones books were published in the 90s.

“They were writing comics, you know? It was about light-hearted women writing for women and ‘Chick Lit’ sums it up – but then it was used for anything written by a woman that wasn’t nerd literary fiction,” said she declared.

“It meant everything was judged, is it sparkling? Is it light? Even when the books are, like Marian’s books, comics that deal with much more difficult subjects.

“So it gets irritating and it gets insulting.”

You can listen again here:

The ‘Chick-Lit’ category is ‘irritating and insulting’ to female authors – Sheila O’Flanagan

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

The main image shows author Sheila O’Flanagan. Image: Grand Central Publishing/Laurie Fletcher

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