It’s the third Saturday of the month! And that means we have a special reader guest, here to share her (or his, if/when that happens) thoughts about romance novels, or anything. Stacie’s here with a really interesting topic, so stick around! (Oh also? Stacie is freaking awesome she sent me this post way back in April. April 11, to be exact. We also scheduled this post in like :X January or February of 2011. I had to convince her to be a guest blogger. 😉 Although you might remember her from her 2011 RT Recap!)
Also, both Stacie and I would like to note, that the covers shared here are romances that don’t have thin bashing. They’re books Stacie enjoyed.
Oh No They Didn’t!
That was the sound of a trade paperback being thrown across the room. I don’t think I had ever done such a thing before. After all, a trade paperback isn’t cheap. But I did just that a few months ago.
Why would I do this?
Buckle up, Buttercup. I’m about to rant your pants off.
It is no secret that romances have historically had a problem with body shaming female characters. The majority of that body shaming has been targeted at overweight heroines. During the course of the story the unhappy/unloved/virgin character sheds her shameful pounds and ends up falling madly in love with her hero. Yes, she had to change her appearance to be worthy of the hero. This was very common in older romances.
In the past several years there have been many authors that wrote curvy heroines who were happy with themselves. The heroes who fell for these strong women loved them for their curves. This has been a wonderful way to empower a body type that had been vilified in the past.
Unfortunately, some authors emphasize the hero’s love for the voluptuous heroine by mentioning how disgusted he is by thin women. The words used to describe the thinner body type are almost always negative. Skinny, bony, anorexic (don’t get me started) are some of the adjectives used. The book that I launched across the room had a secondary hero that described thin women as “skeletons with skin.”
Full disclosure time. I am thin. VERY thin. I have body issues like any other woman. Probably more. Paying $15 for a romance that basically tells me I’m disgusting does not make me a happy camper. This isn’t the first time an author has made a crack about my body type but this instance was the most shocking. It took several days before I could start reading the rest of the book (which I ended up enjoying BTW).
Thin shaming has become more common as the popularity of curvy heroines has grown. Is it necessary? Do authors need to put thin women down in order to make curvy women better? Why can’t it be okay to be one or the other? Why is one good and the other bad? Authors, if you wouldn’t describe your curvy heroine as portly or rotund then why is it okay to describe the thin character as skinny or bony? All of those adjectives are insulting. You do realize that thin women read romance too, right? Why alienate part of your audience? Why not celebrate all body types?
I had an epiphany about a month ago. I had been on an m/m romance binge and I finally figured out why. I could read an m/m romance without having to keep my guard up. I wasn’t worried that I was going to read something hurtful. How sad is that?
This is one of my pet peeves in romance lately. What are yours? What would make you so mad that you would turn your book into a projectile? Is there a topic that pushes your buttons?
I so agree that many times those women who have a little meat on them don’t get their man, are ridiculed by others and have low self esteem. But in the last little while I too have noticed that authors are using this type of heroine to lure in their man and it makes me oh so happy.
Thanks for sharing – great post.
I totally agree, JoAnne. A heroine’s body type should never be ridiculed. I don’t care if she is thin or plus-sized.
Thanks for stopping by!
Oh yes, I have noticed that, where the hero proves he likes larger women by putting down smaller ones. I don’t get it. If a hero is attracted to a heroine who’s skinny, he doesn’t put down larger women, so what gives?
I read a series back-to-back recently and it brought it home for me. Obviously the hero sees the heroine as beautiful, but there were three “brothers” who each found a super-awesome-gorgeous-beautiful wife and they just kept mentioning how Very Beautiful these women are, even the ones that weren’t their own wives. And it started to feel a little bit… like a clique or a special club where only the most beautiful women in the world deserve a good man and a happy ending.
Great point, Amber. There is also an underlying belief that in order for a heroine to be a desirable woman she needs to be voluptuous. The “real women have curves” cliche. Thin women have curves too and are every bit as womanly as plus-sized women.
I don’t assume these authors are thin-bashing out of spite. I honestly think that they aren’t even aware that they have done it. That is precisely why I didn’t name the author or the book in my post. I don’t want to create drama.
Thanks for your comment! 🙂
I wanted to pop in to mention that Lime and I both chose to use the cover for Lauren Dane’s futuristic romance, Undercover. The heroine of the story is thin. Her body type is shown in a positive light. Both heroes (lucky girl) see her as beautiful. She isn’t made to feel less than because she isn’t voluptuous. You should check it out!
I love this post. I was really excited when you emailed it to me (and so early! Did I mention I love you too?)
I think it’s food for thought – I agree I don’t think authors do it out of spite. It might just be thoughtlessness, or carelessness, or perhaps even jealousy. I admit, I’m envious, if not jealous, of your thinness.
Although in my head I think I see myself as being larger, even by society I’m not. Ish. It’s weird though, because it depends on your social circles. Growing up, and at the wedding I most recently went to I was … (in my mind) the fat girl. (The horrid dress didn’t help.)
I don’t want to hijack the conversation – but my peeve is – as you mentioned earlier, curves. Just because someone has curves doesn’t mean she’s plus sized. I’m pretty sure I can safely say [and people would agree] that I have curves. I’m not plus sized. And like you said – thin women have curves too. Breasts, hips, perhaps a butt. I was thinking about your post while clicking through some recent fashion show pictures, and noticed the incredibly thin model had quite the bust for a woman her size.
Of course there are also the Victoria’s Secret models – and they all have breasts and are crazy thin. But then, they’re models so they “don’t count” 😛 Well, you know what I mean. They can’t, but shouldn’t be used as the example.
I first read an ebook – gosh – Jokers Wild? That series from Samhain :X blanking on the author and too lazy to look it up – but the hero (and his brother) liked larger women. THAT was actually a total novelty to me – maybe a decade ago? But while I didn’t notice it, they very well may have said some less than kind things about skinny women.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been in that position, but I don’t think skinny is insulting. Bony, yes. Skinny I’d think of as a compliment. But then, this from someone who appears to be larger than she is. (I’m so lucky. ::sarcasm:: )
You make an excellent point, Lime. I have been trained by my plus-sized mom and sisters to use the word curvy instead of the dreaded p-word. They hate the term plus-sized. Curvy is a more acceptable term to them. But you are correct that the words are not interchangeable.
I think every woman sees her figure in a distorted way. It really has nothing to do with size. How we are treated or the snide comments we hear influence us more than our own reflections.
Thanks for having me today!
Great point, and I agree. I don’t have anything against saying/using curvy instead of plus sized in normal discourse. (And I can see why people don’t want to be called plus sized. Why does it have to be plus? Why not just whatever size the person is? Stupid fashion/retail industry.)
It annoys me in books more though, I think, because it seems lazy. Like the author is using this default word or a cop out – because usually then “curvy” is used over and over. So it’s perhaps not even the word so much, just… all of that annoys me. When word crutches are used, you know?
Or the implication that one is the other, definitively… or vice versa one means it is A *and* B.
… I’m probably not making sense, but I guess my issue is using words that don’t necessarily fit in the story, or overuse of it. Like curvy automatically describes Jennifer Hudson pre WW, and never Sofia Vergara in books. And that’s definitely not an ideal situation when it’s the accepted norm.
Great post and I agree that authors should really be careful when they are describing body types. Might lose some of their readers unintentionally.
Lime, looking forward to the he reader guest here if/when that happens.:)
Yes I think Stacie said her piece extremely well.
And LOL um – what do you think this was? O_o it’s a reader post! Every third Saturday of the month! 🙂
Yes, but am talking about the “he reader” you hinted about on your introduction, if/when you get one of them “guyz” to be your special reader guest 🙂