So a couple days ago, I launched into a Twitter bonanza about romance novels and the way the heroines usually look. (We got into heroes later, but this is where we started. I had clicked on one of my innumerable BookBub links, and was checking out some trilogy. (I’m not really looking for trilogies, but it was the only free thing in the list that looked interesting.)
And what caught me was the description of the leading lady–since they repeated it in, I think, all three book blurbs.
Here’s the sentence in question:
Despite being smart, pretty, and just slightly overweight, she’s a magnet for the kind of guys that don’t stay around.
Now, most of this I don’t really have a problem with. (Aside from the fact that this is an awful description and doesn’t set her apart from literally any other romance heroine.) What I take issue with is “just slightly overweight.” For one, what does that even mean? To me, it conjures up the girl from the gym who keeps saying she “needs to lose ten more pounds because she’s just way too fat” despite already looking like an Abercrombie model. It’s the girl who eats two slices of pizza and declares that they have a “food baby” and they’re “sooooo fat now.”
The type of girls who drive me absolutely bonkers.
I’m an overweight female-bodied person. According to my BMI, I am Class 2 clinically obese. I need to lose something like 75 pounds to be at a high-end healthy weight for my height. Now, I’ve also been told I wear it well. Most people don’t think I weigh as much as I do, or need to lose as much weight as I do. This does not, of course, change the fact that it’s true. And popular culture doesn’t cater to people shaped like me. “Plus size” is a dirty word, something hidden in the back of a store, filled with clothes bland and boxy compared to all the cute clothes out front. Fat girls aren’t meant to dress nicely. Stores that work against this are few and far between, though DEB, Torrid, and Fashion to Figure do a nice job of working to fill the void.
Equally, fat girls shouldn’t get hot boyfriends. We should all have equally fat partners, because what right-thinking hot guy is going to want to date that?
Then, a friend and fellow author on Twitter, the lovely Laura Brown, pointed out that she struggles with this in men as well–writing guys who aren’t always the stud muffin we see on romance novel covers. She writes her men active, which gives them a reason to be in shape, and I like that idea. But what about the guys who aren’t? The gamers, the coders, the artists? Why can’t they get hot girlfriends? (Or boyfriends? I’m not trying to be heteronormative here!)
Someone else on Twitter pointed me in the direction of an author who specializes in writing curvy women as her leading ladies. I thought, cool! Let’s go see!
Each and every single book has a food object in the title. Usually a sweet or pastry, too. Ughhhhhhh. This is the exact opposite of what I wanted. Really? Brownie Baby? Muffin Mistress? (These aren’t real titles, but they’re close.) Is this really how we want to be marketing these women? I don’t care if the main character makes brownies every day–unless it’s integral to the plot, why are they in the title? For a cutesy setup? No.
Of course, the answer I hear most commonly is “well, why don’t you write one then, Rion?” And the answer is: I should. I might, even, for NaNo since I don’t have an idea. But I shouldn’t be alone in this. I want to start a romance revolution. Chubby girls and geeky boys for everyone! *confetti*
There are worse revolutions to have.
If you’ve got any favorite romance authors who write something like I’ve described, please! Let me know in the comments. I’d love to read a story where the girl looks more like me, and doesn’t spend every second worrying about her weight.