Feminism discussion opens 2013 writers festival

Book clubs killing off chick lit claim

Literary festivals and the F-word make for unlikely companions, but so it was. Last night, in one of the first events of the 2013 Dublin Writers Festival, a panel discussion surrounding the publication of Fifty Shades of Feminism took place in which the rebirth of a movement was saluted.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the UK's Liberty organisation, contributed to the book in which 50 women write short essays.

“It is a response to that book everybody was talking about a little while ago; I think people think there is a little bit more to say,” she said at the Smock Alley Theatre event. “I think it is possibly a reawakening of the feminist movement really.

“Various events have happened in western Europe and in the world and there has been a reawakening. “There has been a bit of feminist anger. There was the Arab Spring and the UK general election a couple of years ago and women were generally excluded from the debate.


“People are beginning to use the F-word again and maybe have a different take on what feminism is.”

This changing landscape has also affected genre sales. The recent and rapid growth in the popularity of book clubs has contributed to the decline of Ireland’s love affair with “chick lit”, ushering in a new era of “accessible literary fiction” in its place.

"It's a huge thing now. Rarely would you find women's literature on these lists," said David O'Callaghan, a senior book buyer at Eason. "Chick lit was eating itself; it was so vast between the UK and Ireland, there was so many authors and so many books." Meanwhile, about 15 competition winners got to meet with The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, who helped to open proceedings with a talk at the National Concert Hall.

The festival runs until Sunday, and features writers including James Salter, Thomas Keneally, Anne Enright, Roddy Doyle and John Banville. dublinwritersfestival.com

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times