Wednesday, September 18, 2013

CFP: Chick Lit; Strong Female Characters Created by Men

Via Jen Lois and the Romance Scholar Listserv, here's the text of an email from Adrienne Trier-Bieniek:

I am under contract to deliver "Fan Girls and Media: Consuming Culture" to Scarecrow Press in the late summer of 2014.  I am in need of contributors for two chapters which are outlined below along with a brief description of the book. If you are interested, please send me a brief abstract (200-300 words) and CV by Oct. 1st.  Submissions can be sent to  Those with PhD's or who are in the process of defending a completed dissertation will be given primary consideration.
Thank you!
Description of chapters in need of authors: Please note these are just ideas for the chapters.  They can be developed in any way which best fits the author's focus.

Chapter 3:       Gender, Novels and “Chick Lit”

While the specifics of the chapter will be left to the contributor solicited to write it, this chapter will focus on the ways women who read are often regulated to “fans of chick lit.”  While many women writers present female characters who represent the lives and experiences of many women, (Jennifer Weiner specifically comes to mind), literature is often devalued when it is being consumed by groups of women.  Looking at media coverage of women who read a series like Twilight or 50 Shades of Gray, (generally characterized as read by “women of a certain age” who lust after the fantasy of a younger man), there is a clear gender stereotype of women who read.

Chapter 6:       Strong Female Characters Created by Men

This chapter will focus on the ways female characters are received by female audiences when the creator and mastermind behind a character is male.  This chapter is inspired by the characters created by men such as Joss Whedon (the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, director of the new Avengers movies).  Because media is dominated by male directors, agents, writers, producers etc, there is a need to understand why strong women created by men resonate with (particularly) female audiences.

Overview of the Book

            This edited volume examines the ways gender stereotypes inform the creation and consumption of popular entertainment and media.  The common assumption that “Women don’t go to movies”, “Women are not funny” or “Women don’t like science fiction” continues to be a driving force in the creation of popular entertainment and has contributed to a culture where, particularly, complex female characters are rare.  These assumptions also affect female fans of media because the focus on female consumers centers on traditional femininity. As a result too few scholars have yet to focus on the impact of gender in media consumption, leading to a limited portrait of what male and female fans are looking for.  This deficiency leads to an enforcement of gender stereotypes.  For example, American popular culture commonly characterizes women as fanatical followers of novels such as Fifty Shades of Grey and films like Twilight, both commercially driven franchises whose popularity (and revenue) derives from assumptions about women’s desires to be rescued by men.  In contrast, with female-driven media where women are presented as empowered, labels such as “chick lit” are applied, diminishing any legitimacy for the medium.  Additionally, the culture of mass-market entertainment treats audience members to a never-ending parade of male action stars or men in leading (often dominating) character roles. Women, on the other hand, still largely function as passive characters in film and fiction novels, with reality television compounding the subordination of women by framing them as constant “frenemies.”  Behind all of this is the assumption that women will watch whatever men enjoy and men only enjoy uber-masculinity in their media.

            This book examines diverse ways media consumption is being challenged and the impact this confrontation can have on addressing gender stereotypes.  Each contributor will offer a chapter on a topic related to media and society with a focus on gender and audience consumption.  In each essay, contributors contest the argument of media moguls and academics alike that male viewers dominate media far too much for it to appeal to girls and women (i.e. the fantasy genre, stand-up comedy or comedic films, ComicCon and comic books); explore the ways cultural patriarchy dismisses women’s pleasures in certain genres (e.g., chick lit); or diminish women’s experiences (e.g., women on reality television.)  There are also chapters dedicated to understanding men who write female characters, and the response this garners from fans, as well as how women who are seemingly the “anti-heroine” are reflective of the multi-layered experiences of women.  The chapters will be written by contributors and will be original for this text.

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