I don’t know what this is becoming so much of a fascination for me at the moment, but there’s an interesting article on the Guardian blog about the impossible art of ‘writing for women’.
Yet surely any notion of “writing for women” – of an innately female form, style or content – is absurd. Woman as monolith simply does not exist: either as one who likes chocolate and shopping, or one who has freed her mind from the shackles of patriarchal oppression and is fighting the good fight against “man [and] the imbecilic capitalist machinery”.
As all feminists (and indeed hopefully all women) would agree, any fixed idea about what women like to read or write about is stupid – even dangerous. It reduces all women to the most limiting sort of stereotype. Of course, stereotypes exist for a reason: newspapers offer endless supplements stuffed with diet, cooking and sex advice because this guarantees a particular female readership. And yes, chick lit has an almost exclusively female audience and sells in its droves – hundreds of times better than worthier “literary” efforts. It has done for centuries and in all its incarnations, from wildly popular 19th-century pulp romances to Mills & Boon and Jilly Cooper, it has mainly been written by women for women…
The idea of “women’s writing” is so limiting that many of the best female writers try to stay as far away from it as possible. AS Byatt has famously refused to allow her novels to be entered for the female-only Orange prize; indeed the prize has been called into question by sensible female writers everywhere.