The Absurdity of Having Guilty Pleasures

I recently became active on Goodreads. Those of you who don’t know what it is, check it out. It’s addictive. Just remember that I warned you.

I used the Barcode Scan option in the Goodreads app on my smartphone like a baws (I LOVE that little beep it makes! Do you love the beep? And I get excited every time it finds the correct book. It’s…it’s like magic!) and scanned one of my favourite books and gave it four stars even if it is –shudder- “chick-lit”. I then stared at my phone for a few minutes and added in the comments box: “A guilty pleasure.  :)”

I’m not very sure why I felt the need to clarify this to the world. Why did I feel the need to be guilty about enjoying this book?Yes, it’s extremely girly. Yes, it has a corny, happy ending of the kind that “serious” readers abhor. It’s just comforting, entertaining and enjoyable.

It’s true that I generally don’t enjoy this “chick-lit” genre of books, also known as popcorn fiction or beach-reads. I find the very name  derogatory to the “chicks” who may enjoy them, and I find that the stories themselves are  stereotypical and I think they degrade women despite the fact that their target audience is women. I also agree that they give people unrealistic expectations about romantic love. (Trust me ladies, being with a man who gives you butterflies in your stomach each time he looks at you will be very disconcerting and uncomfortable in the long run!)

The thing about me is, I’m constantly on the lookout with books with female protagonists who live normal, relatable lives, to read when I’m down or when I am not in the mood to read something new. Needless to say, this is an uphill task because most female characters in adult fiction are side-lined or entirely generic. And the ones in girly books are, well, way too girly. Or way too helpless. Or worse, way too focused on finding her “soul-mate”. I understand that finding romantic love has never been more important that now, with familial bonds weakening and friends being entirely too absorbed in their own careers, and I am in fact, a believer in romantic love. But what about your life? The one outside of your significant other? It infuriates me, especially when women themselves are the ones producing such tripe. This task was a lot easier when I was a teenager, it seems, and I could comfortably read and reread Jacqueline Wilson books till the books got tattered and the covers came off. I still give them a go sometimes when I’m down, though of course, the age difference is too great for the characters to be relatable now. It’s sad but I now find it easier to relate to a thirty-something protagonist than a teenage protagonist, despite only being in my early twenties. (Except Katniss Everdeen. She’s awesome.)

I must stop digressing.

After looking long and hard, I feel like people imagine that clever, unique teenagers will evolve into dull, man-obsessed young adults and therefore won’t enjoy books about clever, unique girls their age anymore.

Anyway, this book is an exception of sorts. The book was more sensibly written than most chick-lit and I’ve read it more times than I can count. And it’s made me feel fuzzy and happy each time. And this yet again begs the question: Why am I guilty about owning it and reading it and enjoying it? Does it make me less of a feminist to read a book that targets women exclusively? Does it reduce my intelligence in any way to have a comforting book that doesn’t hodge-podge-jelly-brainify me, when I’m having a bad day? (Blog title reference for the win!) Does it make me a fraud of some sort if I own a book that doesn’t make me think or add value to my life in some way, except to make me happy? I think about all these questions and the answer to all of them seems to be no. Doesn’t it?

Yet, this book will only ever be a guilty pleasure in my bookshelves, the one I won’t list as a favourite, even though it probably is. I feel like this makes me a fraud more than anything else. I’m afraid of being judged, as someone shallow, as someone silly, just like I judge people who read “chick-lit”, despite knowing a number of exceptions. I just start off by having this assumption and this makes me kind of snobbish and shallow.

Is there something wrong with reading “chick-lit” books or is there something wrong with the classification itself? Why aren’t there any dude-lit books?  Or is any book that isn’t chick-lit automatically dude-lit? (Excepting feminist literature, I mean) All of these questions confuse me greatly. I feel sad that some sort of patriarchy seems to have seeped into one’s choice of literature as well. When did I become so judgmental? I miss being a child where I devoured every book, including wildly age-inappropriate books without any thought as to whom it may be targeted at.

What is your opinion on so-called Chick-lit and the way people perceive it?

Why do people have guilty pleasure books, movies and shows?  It’s not like crisps, or nutella or alcohol, or something remotely addictive or unhealthy for one to feel guilty about it!

Do you judge people based on their choices in literature, movies or music? Do you subscribe to the theory, “It’s not what you’re like; it’s what you like”? (High Fidelity reference. Read it.)

Do you have any recommendations of books with strong female protagonists?

Do you know of any good books with bookworm protagonists? I miss those.

Tell me in the comments.

Note: the author enjoys nothing more than a good, well-reasoned debate.

Cheers.

Oh, if anyone is wondering, the book I’m speaking of is Bad Behaviour by Sheila O’ Flannagan. I’m cringing as I write this title. I need to do some more thinking about what can only be described as this bad attitude, of mine…

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Taking Stock of the new Anti Rape law: Madhu Mehra

Mixed feelings…

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

This is a guest post by MADHU MEHRA: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, more popularly called the Anti-rape Bill, is now law. The outrage following the homicidal gang rape in Delhi unleashed events that lent force to the longstanding demand by the women’s movement for comprehensive reform of laws relating to sexual assault. These demands were bolstered by the recommendations of the high level committee, headed by retired Justice Verma, that called for reform of criminal laws, police reforms, prevention and education interventions to effectively tackle impunity for sexual violence. With the new bill passed by the parliament, the law stands substantially changed. This article takes stock of the ways in which the new amendments re-framed sexual offences in the law, their significance and the challenges that remain. While being far from comprehensive, these changes substantially transform the way legal redress for sexual offences have been framed in the…

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