THE FEMPIRE WRITES BACK

At the end of my lunchbreak, two male colleagues came over to ask if they could use my table. I said sure, adding that I was nearly finished. They apologised for disturbing me then with a nod to my laptop said that I was “probably doing domestic stuff”. I replied that actually I was working on an essay about Katherine Mansfield.

As they sat down they started asking about my novel which I recently completed and asked what genre it was. “Hmmm” I said, unwilling to say retro-hipster-bonkbuster, “its contemporary modern…” “Chicklit” said one, “Sex, shopping and chocolate” said the other.

I’m reticent to use the term “chicklit” to describe my book (although I’m sure that it will be called that by the uninspired) as the term is now almost universally used derogatively towards any book which is written by women that is aimed at women. I do write predominantly for women and I don’t see that there is anything wrong with that – there are loads of books that are written by men for men. Why don’t we call every one of those that comes out “dicklit”? When I put this to them (without the dicklit part) one replied “It’s all part of our conspiracy to keep you in your place.” Was that an ironic barbed comment or an understanding nod towards the complexity of a contemporary woman’s place in a patriarchy?

I narrowed my eyes and gave them the literature speak “I guess you could say that it has some almost Chekhovian sensibilities, although I really see it as an observation on how in contemporary society the more technologically advanced we become the more our haptic need increases.” They looked blank. “Don’t say all of that” one of them said at last “or they won’t publish it.”