Freedom Beat Across America: In Search of America's Heartbeat

A broad is a broad is a . . .

The other day we got into an online discussion of the term “chick lit”. As I remember, it started out as an easy definition of a relatively new type of novel that fit in well with the “Sex and the City” crowd. Then the bookstores picked it up as a genre label for those exact types of stories. Then, for some reason, it became something of a sneer (probably about the same time “Sex and the City” started to lose favor). So, during this discussion, someone referred to “Pride and Prejudice” as chick lit, and another took umbrage. Turned out the first one wasn’t kidding and didn’t even mean it as a dig, but just as a type of story primarily appealing to women.


One gentleman made a comment to the effect that chick lit referred to a “broad collection of fiction” (emphasis mine). Which made me chuckle, but also got me to wondering.

In my youth, “broad” was not an especially complimentary term for a woman, but it wasn’t derogatory either. It was generally used for women who were attractive in an earthy way, handsome rather than pretty, not at all dependent on men but quite accepting of their support, and always happy to have a stiff drink with the boys. In other words, women who were comfortable in their female skin, with or without men, and that was always good enough for me.

Joan and Rosalind

It might have been the feminists or women’s libbers who began to attack any term that men slung off as an easy reference to females. Somewhere along the line it became non-PC to use this one. I remember an older gentleman friend who almost got in a fight with a red-faced but determined young gallahad whose girlfriend had objected to being referred to as a broad. We smoothed everyone’s ruffled feathers and then left, trying to explain to our baffled friend that while we’d grown up with the term and fluffed it off, it was probably the first time that young girl had ever had it applied to her. He honestly hadn’t meant it badly.

the great Lena

So I looked it up, and my Webster’s has no mention of the word “broad” referring to women, so I guess it’s still non-PC (these things fluctuate). It does say that “broad” means wide, spacious, clear, open, obvious, coarse or crude. But it also says that it means ‘tolerant in outlook’ and ‘dealing with essential points’.

the Lady Bette

I’ll drink to that!


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