It's Time To Kill The Label Of 'Women's Fiction'

It's Time To Kill The Label Of 'Women's Fiction'

It's restrictive, it's outdated, and it's functionally useless.

Today on "things an undergraduate English scholar thinks are wrong with the literary world," we’re going to talk about "women’s fiction." You’ve all heard the term. It’s what you call the books your grandma, aunt, mom, or yourself reads if you’re female and not particularly inclined towards Robert Ludlum and John Grisham. It doesn’t refer to any particular genre. Books as varied as “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “The Help,” and “My Sister’s Keeper” have been referred to as women’s fiction. As far as I can tell, the only qualifiers for labeling a book as women’s fiction are (pick one, or both): a woman wrote it, or women read it.

My question is, why?

We don’t call the books men read and write "men’s fiction." When men write about spies, war, and history in a fictional context, their stories are filed under the appropriate genre, not sorted by gender. When men decide to write about the hot-button topic of the moment, it’s literary fiction. When men spend an entire book writing about the woman who done me wrong, it’s a classic — see “The Great Gatsby” and “Lolita” for examples. When women do any of the above, it’s women’s fiction, a label that seems to imply trivialness and frivolity.

In order for women’s writing to shed the label of women’s fiction, female writers can’t write simply for themselves, write only to tell the stories they want to tell. They have to write with an eye toward what male readers want.

Take “Gone Girl” as an example. Blood, sex, murder, infidelity — all things that fill the pages of action, spy, and thriller genres — and the majority of the book is written from a distinctly male perspective. The book is a hit and critically acclaimed, precisely because the writer doesn’t care all that much about the female experience. Amy is a cipher, an empty space for every male reader to fill in the woman who done me wrong or for female readers to fill in the woman who done took my man. Amy is there for the reader to hate, which is why “Gone Girl” succeeds where other female-written novels fail.

There’s no room in acclaimed literature for the real female experience, the one that isn’t eroticized, mythologized, or built up simply for male and female readers alike to hate. That’s why the label of women’s fiction exists – to take all those books about the real, messy, uncomfortable female experience and shove them off to the side. Because let’s be honest, as much as we love John Grisham and Robert Ludlum, they aren’t what we’d call character writers, and their plots are often formulaic.

On the other hand, character writers like Jodi Picoult who consistently take on hot-button issues and spend a lot of time exploring the various sides are shunted into women’s fiction simply because of their gender. Forcing female writers into the women’s fiction category limits sales, limits readership, limits the awards and accolades that many of these writers deserve to be able to compete for. It’s a racket, and it needs to stop.

I’m not asking everybody who reads this article to call their local bookstore or library and demand that they sort the offerings of female writers by the appropriate genre, not by gender (although hey, if you feel like it, go for it). I’m just asking that the next time you pick up a book that’s labeled as women’s fiction, ask yourself why it’s labeled that way. Ask yourself what that label does to your perception of the story, of the author. And then take a gander at the latest John Grisham bestseller and wonder why there’s no label for men’s fiction.

Cover Image Credit: christina_diaz04 / Instagram

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12 Signs You're Addicted To Grey's Anatomy


Oh, "Grey’s Anatomy." We have been through so much together. Through the years, we have taken on bombs, shooters, plane crashes, and everything in between. You have loyally stood by me even when I hated you for killing off my favorite characters, or making Merideth and Derek break up. I know that some people may read this and call me crazy, but the real Grey’s fandom can relate. We are the most dedicated group of people you will ever find, almost to the point of insanity…or definitely to the point of insanity. Thinking of diagnosing yourself with Grey's-o-mania? If you meet these 12 criteria, time to strap on your surgical mask and scrub in because you are addicted.

Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead!

1. It has made you want to become a surgeon.

You are lying if all of the drama and medical lingo hasn’t made you consider changing your major at least once.

2. It has also made you NOT want to become a surgeon.

...but then there is all of the blood and the long hours.

3. You compare every guy you meet to Derek Shepherd.

The biggest mystery in all of "Grey’s" is how Meredith took so long to put a ring on that?! I mean, c’mon girl.

4. Hearing the names “Lexie” or “George” may result in an emotional breakdown.

These deaths left us with an open wound that even Mark Sloan’s sutures couldn’t repair.

5. You feel personally attacked every time a character is killed off.

Please refer to #4.

6. You feel like you could actually perform neurosurgery.

I have watched Derek clip so many aneurisms, I could do it in my sleep. Hand me a scalpel and sign me up for a clinical trial, I am ready.

7. You even sat through the musical episode.

Owen Hunt singing around the OR? A little too awkward for most people.

8. Your iTunes library is filled with songs from the show.

“How To Save a Life” by The Fray brings on all kinds of new feels now.

9. The new interns have to prove themselves to you.

Every couple of seasons, they decide to throw us a new crop of interns. This fandom is just as tough as Dr. Bailey when we decide whether these characters have what it takes for "Grey’s Anatomy" though.

10. When a friend is sick, your first thought is to start chest compressions.

After 11 seasons, I am fully prepared for all medical situations. Push one of Epi! We need a crash cart!

11. You have an immediate bond with anyone who says they watch the show.

…Did we just become best friends?

12. You frequently ask yourself “what would Christina Yang do?”

No major decision should EVER be made without asking this first. Of all of the people who have left "Grey’s," her absence is the most strongly felt. No one can replace Christina Yang.

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The Breath of Solitude

A Poem With A Prologue // Polar Viewpoints.



She smacks your parted lips,

sucking the dry,

open cracks to a seal.

Pumping energy into your chest

and sending a continuous shiver

from lung to navel.

You can't help but cough,

as your lungs tighten and twist.

Ringing the frosty sensation out –

slipping through your parted lips.

The same parted lips that

allowed her deliberate fingers

to crawl inside

where she can escape her own dimension

of solitude.

The Breath of Solitude

All I know

is solitude.

We chat

every day

in conversations that circulate

behind the backs

of the present.

Solitude grinds my coffee beans,

as we sit

with our legs crossed,

waiting for dawn

to explode over our opaque landscape.

Solitude runs my bath,


as the Sun crashes

against the diminishing horizon.

But none of this is reality.

I am above

the dimension of reality.

Not theoretically,

but physically.

I am only a tool

to be used in the dimension

of your reality.

Drifting in and out,

twirling through your negative space.

My only purpose

is found through your breath;

but what do I do

when you stop breathing?

I wait for your fingers,

less deliberate than mine,

but filled with that

that I lack.

I cannot see the blood

that sloshes through the veins

in your innocent hands.

The blood that energizes

those fingers

upon which I wait.

But I know

the blood is there.

It isn't

what you do.

It isn't

the way you move.

Simply put,

it is

the way

that you exist.

The sheer fact

that you have a bursting burgundy waterfall


not only through your fingers,

but engulfing all of you

in its rich,



The only waterfall

that I encompass

is the waterfall

that you imagine.

I have no blood;

I have no way to exist.

And so I

wait for your fingers,

less deliberate than mine,

but filled with that

that I lack.

I wait for your fingers

to filter the heat

to a state of regulation,

a state of production,

a state in which I can exist.

The peach fuzz

that sleeps on the bridge of your nose

begins to rise

when your fingers initiate the flame.

The temperature reacts,

as would my heartbeat,

if I had a bursting burgundy waterfall,

or some type of life source

inhabiting my chest cavity.

As the heat

starts to melt

my metaphorical skin,

I become reality.

I don't have a face to smile,

or eyes to produce tears.

But I have thoughts.

I have words to say,

I have feelings to express.

I still can only drift,

in and out,

twirling through your negative space,

but now spiraling

into your positive space,

as well.


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