Jenny Colgan, one of the most vocal defenders of chick lit and its writers, argued at the 2003 Edinburgh Book Festival that the term chick lit is being used as a catch-all category to embrace a certain kind of popular literature which can then be casually dismissed. She is particularly caustic about ‘hairy legged’ critics, whom she sees as leading the vanguard of this trivialization of the fiction (Gibbons 2003), while she seems to ignore the machinations of publishers who brand and homogenize such work by the use of packaging and marketing. It is fascinating that a young woman so conscious of the negative effects of over-generalized categorization should resort to one of the most well-known put-downs against feminism — second only to ‘bra-burner’ — used over the past thirty-five years. She need not use the word feminism in her riposte: it is enough to call these critics ‘hairy legged’ for every general reader to be aware that Colgan is talking about feminism and that, furthermore, feminists represent a legion of women devoid of true femininity and hostile to ordinary young women who want to live their own lives. It may be that chick lit is used frequently as a term for dismissing any possible literary worth in a text which deals with the intimate life of a young urban professional single woman, but it is also the case that Colgan herself was all for willingly embracing this term on the grounds that the writers sold under this category knew what they were writing, who they were writing for, and what the genre’s limitations were in cultural terms. The colourful covers featuring line drawings of a martini glass, a shoe, or a handbag are as recognizable in identifying this clutch of novels as is the Mills & Boon rose.
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