An article in the Guardian says, don’t patronise popular fiction by women. Patronise in the negative sense, not the positive sense.
The attitude talked about here, where women will read books aimed at women OR men, whereas men refuse to even try books written by or marketed to women, is so common as to be systematic. Little girls will happily read books with a male or female narrator/main character; little boys want male leads. Women will respond to ads with voice-overs by men or by women; men will ignore ads voiced by women (unless it’s an extremely sultry voice implying super hotness in an ad for alcohol). Men will get quite shitty with and contradict their GPS navigation system when the voice is female. I am not kidding. They did a study or something.
It’s not so much the automatic rejection, ‘that’s woman-focused, that’s not for me’ – marketing is about putting things into little boxes to reach who you think will buy it (and women buy books for themselves and others, and if men are sick of ‘chick-lit’ dominating the marketplace, they need to starting buying more books themselves). If you can’t bend your mind past the marketing to assess a product on its merits, that’s your issue. And on the other hand, if you’re not interested in a genre, no-one is forcing you to either read it or go online and whine about it.
It’s more the main thrust of the article, that the thought continues, ‘that’s woman-focused, that’s not for me…and therefore it’s crap’. If it’s not aimed at men, it must be trivial and shallow. It’s the same across the board, where women ‘gossip’ but men talk, and women ‘fritter’ their money away on shoes and beauty magazines and I don’t know, anything women like to buy, but men…what, invest in computer games and porn magazines?
So reading about women’s relationships and working life challenges is an empty, shallow pursuit, but reading about men’s relationships and working life challenges is worthy literature or high-brow humour or whatever. (Note: I tend not to read either genre as get bored with real-world settings, but if I avoid one like the plague it’s yet another literary recounting of a middle-aged man having a crisis at work and cheating on his wife).
It’s not breaking any new ground here to say women writers get dismissed as serious literature. And the fact that people reject and disparage a whole genre is hardly surprising (I’m over here in the SF/F ghetto myself, as a reader and a writer). It would just be nice if people could get past the ‘that’s different to my tastes, therefore it cannot be good’ mentality. Grow up, people.