Saturday, March 13, 2010

Girl, Please! (A return to chick & dick lit)

Day 32 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project.

Tom, who was reading Misfortune, the Wesley Stace book about a boy raised as a girl in the 19th century, tried to comment on this blog earlier, sent his thoughts to me another way, and I saved his comments on chick lit and dick lit for later.

Later is now:

"Hmmm, here's one gay male perspective. I would have thought Chick Lit would have fallen in the same general category as Chick Flicks, which by my definition are not necessarily by or even about women, but of a certain genre deemed too 'feminine' to appeal to men. My partner and I are always at odds when it comes to films because he tends to like gore and slasher/suspense films (guy flicks), while I am more drawn to more serious, 'thoughty' films, along with romantic comedies and romance in general (chick flicks).

"It tends to be the same with books, he likes true crime and I like books, mostly by women authors (including mysteries by women authors with female detectives), that have a more thoughtful bent to them and are more language oriented. I'd have referred to my taste as more chick lit oriented, but that wouldn't fall under your definition. I hadn't thought of either chick lit or chick flicks as having been necessarily lighter or funnier, but literature that would by a stereotypically male definition, would appeal more to women.

"By the same token, I'd refer to Hemingway and even Stephen King as dick lit because both authors are so prodigiously 'male' in their attitudes that I don't connect to them at all. Which is not to say I'm not male or relate to male authors or subjects, just that I don't relate in any way to that kind of machismo.

"And where do strongly gay male visions like Augusten Burroughs or David Sedaris fall? Chick or dick? Or somewhere in between. This has been a very enlightening discussion. Thanks for sharing. "

I've got to say that Burroughs and Sedaris are very popular on the Selected New Arrivals shelf by the door at Babbitt's, and all the recent buyers have been women!

Rupaul offers a way to look at being human in this Woman Made Gallery Call for Art:

"We are all born naked, the rest is just drag."

Woman Made, as its name will tell you, is a gallery dedicated to exhibiting and promoting work by women artists to help correct a historical imbalance in their representation in the world, but for some theme-based group shows it calls for art from men as well. This is an all gender call, and defines gender this way:

"Gender is a performance, an act that is perpetuated and maintained by societal norms and expectations, but how, and to what extent does it define us? 'Girl, Please!' seeks to push and transcend the definition of gender while also exploring its relation to individual character amongst collective expectations. Bearing in mind Rupaul's statement, drag in this case is not disco, but rather an illustration of feminity and masculinity in shades of grey."

If you are an artist interested in this theme and in submitting work to this show, click the Woman Made link above to learn more about how.

If you want to return to the chick lit/dick lit dicussion or pursue these other ideas on what we mean by "gender," feel free to comment.

Interesting that Tom mentions Hemingway, one of those boys dressed as a girl for a time in childhood, which was fairly common practice, I understand, as one of those 'male' writers.


Mike Peterson said...

Kathleen: remember the story that Hemingway said was his best? "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." No doubt his machismo is based in childhood. If gender is a performance then making it an issue of your art (whether in Hemingway or Atwood) is lousy art. In "The Handmaid's Tale" what is stunning is Atwood's observation that the boyfriend was happy that his girlfriend had to rely on him financially when the government took away a woman's right to have a bank account. Nonetheless, I find gendered writing by either sex obnoxious.

Kathleen said...

Mike! Have you seen the film How to Lose Friends and Alienate People?!

I love the title. It is very funny, with Simon Pegg, etc., and has nothing to do with this blog entry.

Mike Peterson said...

Kathleen: no. Do you think I should see it? Just to see if it knows all the ways to do it?

Kathleen said...

Yes! It is hilarious. Also you should see the opera of Sophie's Choice and tell us about it.

Mike Peterson said...

Kathleen: "Sophie's Choice" is an opera when I read it, but I love "Turandot." That is all glory. I saw Turnadot on cd and I loved it.

nene said...

In reference to 'chick lit' and 'dick lit' paradyms or categories due to explications by influences of 'social norms'. I was born in Mexico, a culture fraught with 'machismo' yet I was brought up by single parent 'mamasita' which causes me to be defined outside the 'norm'; A product of Vietnam draft, I fight at a drop of a hat then cry because I hurt someone. I read mostly contemporary 'non-fiction' a lot of war and battle bio's but love to read sensitive male writers, language based stylist writers like
Pat Conroy and Miquel de Uno Muno, Kierkegaard, etc., who am I?

Kathleen said...

Nene, thanks so much for the comment!

My husband is also from a "machismo" culture in Cuba and was raised by his mother (father left behind, alas, and died before he could get out), and we find all the American culture "identities" do not apply for him, either.

The Vietnam draft bypassed him, a sort of miracle, and he is a pacifist in his dreams, re-dreaming any dream where he has had to kill someone so that there is another solution. (And Nene was one of his nicknames growing up.)

Indeed, who are you? Who am I?

Will you be participating in the Woman Made Gallery exhibit?!