Elizabeth Gilbert Dissects the "Chick Lit" Label

Question: Why did you shift to writing from the female perspective?

Gilbert:    It’s funny ‘cause I wrote for and about men for like a solid decade.  That’s pretty much all I did.  I think I had to work through some issues.  And also, fearful, always, of my own vulnerabilities.  I think I was intrinsically attracted to, like, flinty, macho people.  Wanting to be like that because it’s not, at all, how I am.  You know, I kind of magnetize toward people like that.  And I was interested in them and… You know, I wrote for SPIN for years and I wrote for GQ for years.  They’re both really male focused magazines.  And, you know, I wrote a book called the “Last American Man”, that was this big study of a woodsman.  And then, my novel “Stern Men” was about a girl but it was a girl in a very manly world, on who behaved in a very manly manner, and who was, herself, sort of tough and macho and flinty.  And then, after, really, a solid decade of doing nothing but kind of exhaustively examining masculinity from every possible angle to the point that I even did a story for GQ once where I became a man for a week, like inhabiting it in this really intense and direct way, you know, my life fell apart.  And I wrote my way through it with “Eat, Pray, Love”.  And then, the book came… this became this big phenomenon.  And suddenly, I started hearing myself refer to as a chic lit author which was…  was really strange after a decade of, like, really putting in the hour to write about men and think about men and… Back in my 20s, people use to say that I wrote like a man, which I took as a compliment.  And now, I’m often referred to as a chic lit writer which I… I’m not even completely certain I know what that means except that I’m pretty certain it is never intended as a compliment, you know.  And I… I think it’s strange.  I think it’s curious, this whole idea of, like, gender based writing.  And I also… I have to say, the whole chic lit thing bugs me because, you know, in our culture at this moment in time, it is women who read.  And pretty much exclusively, it is women who read.  And there is this kind of denigration of women’s reading which is a pity because they’re the ones holding that whole custom up right now.  So it’s odd.  And my next book, which is a memoir and a kind of meditation on the subject of marriage is definitely sort of… You know, I definitely had female readers in mind when I was writing it so I don’t think that chic lit label is going to go away anytime soon.  But I don’t know if… I don’t know if there’s such a thing as gender neutral writing, gender neutral thinking, or… I don’t know.  I’m really interested in questions that most of my female friends are really interested in right now.  That’s kind of where I’m at, at the moment.  I might go back to writing about cowboys at some point in the future but I don’t really think so.  I’m not sure what the next thing will be but this is where I am now.

Question: Do women have more spiritual work to do than men?

Gilbert:    Yeah.  Women have special work to do at this point in time.  It’s a really interesting moment in history to have decided to be a woman.  It’s… You know, we have… I feel like any women of our generation… And by our generation, I mean, anybody who is born in the last 100 years, basically.  I think this era of women have become sort of hamsters in a great unprecedented social experiment, which is what happens if you give women a little bit of power, what happens if you give them autonomy, what happens if you give them control over the reproduction, and what happens if you give them earnings, what happens if you give them options, you know.  That social experiment has never been played out before.  And, so we’re kind of… I really do feel like we’re all sort of hamsters in this maze, this big sociological test that’s going on and all of us are sort of figuring out how to do it as we go.  Because we don’t have centuries and centuries and millennia and millennia of role models for how you do this, you know.  We don’t have centuries of epics that are written about how you do this.  You know, we don’t have Odysseus.  We have, you know, Penelope and the big weaving and unweaving and weaving and unweaving scene that just gets repeated and repeated and repeated, that doesn’t really… you know, it’s not really relevant anymore to most of our lives.  And so, we’re all kind of charting our own mythologies as we go.  And one of these great things that I heard once about this was Martha Beck, said that she feels like she’s met only 4 kinds of women in her life recently.  And its women who… The first kind is women who decided to have a family instead of having a career and who feel conflicted about that choice.  And then, there are women who decided to have a career instead of having a family and who feel conflicted about that choice.  And then, there are the women who decided to have a family and a career who feel really, really conflicted about that choice.  And then, there are the mystics.  And that’s the fourth sort of strange category.  And she defines the mystics as a woman from any one of those other 3 categories who has somehow been able to kind of drawn out or, like, drum out all of the other distractions and all of the other options and she’s chosen her life, being guided by some sort of deeply honest, interior voice.  And she has made all sorts of peace with what she’s doing.  And that is who she is and she’s certain of it.  And I would argue that any area that demands that people have to essentially become mystics in order to find peace and happiness is a real tough time in which to live.  Because in other areas and other societies, you didn’t necessarily have to be a mystic in order to be a content person, you know.  A path was laid out for you, that said, this is what a good woman is, you know.  And you went and you did those things and you did them well and you could rest at night, you know, with a certain amount of peace, knowing that you were a good woman.  We don’t have that consensus anymore, about what constitutes a good woman, what constitutes a woman’s life well-led.  I think men, to a certain extent these days, are also struggling with these questions but not nearly to the extent that women are.  I mean, I remember being 18 years old in college and sitting up for hours and hours and weeks and weeks on end with my fellow 18 year old and trying to figure out what we were going to do in terms of when we’re going to have kids and who’s going to raise them and how are we going to have careers, and what if we went to graduate school and what if want to do… you know.  And I got to say, our 18 year old male peers, I don’t think they were over in the dorm room, like, next door having that conversation, you know.  I think they, maybe, joined that conversation after their first kid was born, when they were 36, you know.  But I’m not sure they were worrying about that the whole time.  So it’s hard, you know.  And I’m not the first person to have said that, you know.  But I think, maybe, again, going back to why “Eat, Pray, Love” sort of struck a nerve with people, it’s like I kind of inserted my own version of how to figure out that into people’s conversations.  But it’s a conversation that’s been going on for a really long time.  That it’s not nearly over.

Elizabeth Gilbert spent most of her early career writing about and for men; now, she's labeled a "chick lit" writer.

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.