You Still Can Have It All, But Just in Moderation: Neoliberal Gender and Post-Celtic Tiger ‘Recession Lit’

Margaret O’Neill
In Volume 5, Issue 1
Special Issue: Neoliberal Gender, Neoliberal Sex


This essay reads ‘Chick Lit’ of the post-Celtic Tiger recession as a central cultural site contributing to the logics of neoliberalism and the gendering of Irish national identity. The economic boom known as the Celtic Tiger saw dramatic social and economic transformation in Ireland. Neoliberal principals resulted in rapid economic growth and the development of a new consumerism. This was reflected in Celtic Tiger ‘Chick Lit’, which foregrounded the woman as an icon of excess. In tandem with this, postfeminist values implied that these consumer-driven lifestyles were available to everyone. This centering of choice in postfeminism is a key site where the gendering of neoliberalism occurs. In ‘Chick Lit’, socio-political interests converge on the body of the woman to become stories of individual empowerment based on market-based choices. Centrally, this essay considers how a recent sub-genre of ‘Recession Lit’ adapts the generic trope of ‘having it all’ in the post-Celtic Tiger economic downturn. It explores three works from 2013: Cathy Kelly’s The Honey Queen, Sheila O’Flanagan’s The Things We Never Say and Cecelia Ahern’s How to Fall in Love. These books centralize individual adaptation in the boom to bust period. Their protagonists are resourceful women, who through their emotional strength and enterprising nature can still have it all, however, in moderation. To varying degrees, these works draw attention to the role of neoliberal policy in the current recession, as they reconcile it. Doing so, they serve to naturalize the structural causes of inequality and intensify the rhetoric of neoliberal choice.

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