Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Women’s fiction genre – is it insulting?


On one of the writer’s forums I’m a member of on Facebook one of the other members posted a link to this competition - http://www.handbag.com/life/news/a533675/are-you-the-next-big-womens-fiction-writer-enter-our-book-comp.html and said she felt a bit patronised and wondered if she was over-reacting. There was some discussion over what exactly “women’s fiction genre” was and I referred to this Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women's_fiction and suggested that it was a bit insulting due to this line “There exists no comparable label in English for works of fiction that are marketed to males” . A quick straw poll of my friends also confirmed that some other people found it insulting.


What happened next was that people attacked me for expressing the thought that “women’s fiction genre” is a bit of a contentious term and could add to existing gender disparity in the publishing world. One person said I should get things in perspective and not get “angry” about “little things” and another seemed to say that there was no need to have a “men’s fiction genre” because (and I quote) – “You're not going to find 'mens (sic) fiction' any more than you'll find a 'full sugar coke'. It's just called coke, and diet coke as a branch of that, because coke was around first, and diet coke filled a niche that was required, just like women's fiction filled the need of 'I want to read books about women with a certain type of story (usually self-improvement and overcoming something in the case of women's fiction)'. Since the niche was in the market for women, why not call it women's fiction?


I have patiently tried to explain the faulty logic here, and the fact that the idea that all fiction is men’s fiction & came first is problematic, and provide evidence of disparity in publishing which the arguer asserts that I have “just made up” with links such as this one - http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/feb/04/research-male-writers-dominate-books-world


I have made the point that genre is mainly a marketing tool and having something like “romance” or the derogatively named “chick-lit” already cater for stories that appeal to women more than men and there is no good definition of “women’s fiction” so why is the term being used.

So my question is – is the term insulting?

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