Steinem calls out "prick flicks"

// 16 July 2007

Gloria Steinem calls attention to the sexism of the term “chick flick” in a post over at the Women’s Media Center.

If we have chick flicks, Steinem proposes, we should have “prick flicks” as well (shortened for length):

The simple label “prick flick” could lead you easily and quickly through the thicket of televised, downloaded and theatrical releases to such attractions as:

All the movies that glorify World War II…

All the movies that glorify Vietnam, bloody regional wars, and the war on terrorism…

All the movies that portray violence against women, preferably beautiful, sexy, half-naked women…

All the movies that insist female human beings are the only animals on earth that seek out and even enjoy their own pain…

Of course, Steinem has a good point: these films aren’t catagorised as “prick flicks”, because male is the default human catagory:

Just as there are “novelists” and then “women novelists,” there are “movies” and then “chick flicks.” Whoever is in power takes over the noun—and the norm—while the less powerful get an adjective. Thus, we read about “African American doctors” but not “European American doctors,” “Hispanic leaders” but not “Anglo leaders,” “gay soldiers” but not “heterosexual soldiers,” and so on.

Steinem goes on to say:

If Anna Karenina had been written by Leah Tolstoy, or The Scarlet Letter by Nancy Hawthorne, or Madame Bovary by Greta Flaubert, or A Doll’s House by Henrietta Ibsen, or The Glass Menagerie by (a female) Tennessee Williams, would they have been hailed as universal? Suppose Shakespeare had really been The Dark Lady some people supposed. I bet most of her plays and all of her sonnets would have been dismissed as some Elizabethan version of ye olde “chick lit,” only to be resurrected centuries later by stubborn feminist scholars.

Also true. But I don’t think the comparison quite works. Because “chick flicks” are not great cinema. They’re crap cinema, which flog their own set of highly annoying, highly sexist ideas. For example, they usually centre on a romance where the girl meets her true love: that one soulmate that is meant to complete us. Plus, female directors are often stuck in the chick flick ghetto, unable to break free and make anything other than romantic comedies.

Have Your say

Comments are closed on this post

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds