Gender and Language, Vol 8, No 2 (2014)

Powerful women, vulnerable men and postfeminist masculinity in men’s popular fiction

Rosalind Gill
Issued Date: 25 Jun 2014


Part of a wider project concerned with the mediation of intimate relationships, this paper examines ‘guy lit’, ‘lad lit’ or ‘postfeminist male romances’. The genre has been growing for the past two decades but has received little scholarly attention. Understood as an answer to ‘chick lit’, the genre is organised around the trials and tribulations of young to middle-aged men as they navigate the perils of growing up and looking for love. The analysis presented here is not concerned with literary merit or cultural value but rather looks sociologically at these popular texts, examining their constructions of masculinity, femininity and intimate gender relations. Drawing on an analysis of 25 novels, the paper explores the ‘unheroic masculinity’ depicted, in which men are presented as troubled, bumbling, hypochondriacal losers in counterpoint to women’s (apparently effortless) success and accomplishments. Although the affable, self-deprecating (un)heroes of postfeminist male romances seem like unlikely ideological warriors, the paper argues that this patterned popular construction effects ideological work by contributing to a distinctively postfeminist sensibility in which male power is repudiated, while feminism is humorously ‘sent up’.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v8i2.185


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