Welcome back for another installment in my series about accepting that I’m a romance author. I finished writing this post and realized I was bordering on anger. I needed something to lighten this because these are topics that make me angry. It is my anger that kept me from reading romance books for so long and missing some great ones. To lighten the mood and tone, I’ve decided to insert gifs of my favorite actors, many of whom I can’t in my imagination as I write my books. I hope, at the very least, you enjoy looking at them too.
See, like this…
I’ve been obese for most of my life. This isn’t body dysmorphia. I got close to 300 lbs at my worst and I’ve spent the last ten years dealing with my health, which has resulted in a significant weight loss. You can imagine why it’s aggravating for me to read about narrators obsessed with their weight. It’s bullshit and I’m never not angry about it.
Most of these women aren’t fat. Most aren’t wearing plus size clothing, worrying about becoming diabetic, or trying to get up enough energy to go for a walk. They’re normal women who only think about their weight as it relates to their attractiveness. It’s not the character’s fault that she has body dysmorphia, it’s the author’s fault.
There are two issues at play here, for me: representation and society’s obsession with weight.
I’m not going to argue with you about why representation is important and that race/ethnic representation is critical right now. You’re right, it is. In fact, it’s more important than any other representation issue on the table. I, as a white middle-age woman, have grown by reading stories that don’t reflect my race, ethnicity, and culture. After that in importance is, at least in my opinion, body representation because this cuts across race, ethnicity, and many cultures.
When we talk about body dysmorphia, as a society, we focus on the dangerous behavior that it can lead to, like eating disorders. My friend Jen is a big advocate for fighting the way we tell people they should look and their value. She writes middle-grade books, but this is important no matter what age we are. Books have just as much power over our body image as magazines, photographs, and movies do. If we constantly read about women obsessed with their weight, for no reason, then we think we should too.
I get most obsessed with losing weight when I’ve been reading Romance and Chick Lit books. This is because the message is that I’m fat and should be worrying about my weight. How else will I win a man and have babies? The key is that the right man, the good husband, doesn’t want a fat girl. The character thinks this and, clearly, so do authors. It’s annoying to be in your narrator’s head, reading her obsessions with her weight.
I would love to start reading books where nobody talks about weight. In fact, I took out content from Phi Alpha Pi about Lizbeth going to the gym because it didn’t matter. Weight had no impact on the plot. Nobody was fat shaming anyone. In Modern Persuasion, I think the closest I came to writing about anyone’s body was Fredrick who is very comfortable with his body and being naked (maybe that will help you figure it out who inspired his character). This is also why I often avoid describing bodies and clothes. Unless it matters to the scene (Wil’s Sriracha shirt), then it doesn’t need to be there.
In the comments, tell me some books I should avoid because the narrator or author is obsessed with weight! I’m going to cuddle a puppy and watch an X-Men movie…