Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Weighing up Chick Lit vs. Romance

Laura Vivanco

I don't have the necessary expertise to comment on the methodology used in
Kaminski, Melissa J. and Robert G. Magee. "Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?: The Effect of Protagonist Body Weight and Body Esteem on Female Readers' Body Esteem." Body Image (2012).
However, since some of you do, and since it makes a change from the more common concerns about romance having a negative effect on women's relationships, I thought I'd post about it. The authors describe chick lit as "a new genre of romance novels" which "differs from traditional romance novels in its focus on women’s struggles with their weight, dating, and stressful careers." They later add that "Compared with chick lit, traditional romance novels might be less obsessed with women’s body size."

Here's the abstract:
Effects of visual representations of the thin ideal in the media have been widely explored, but textual representations of the thin ideal in novels have received scant attention. The chick literature genre has been criticized for depicting characters who worry about their body weight and who have poor body esteem. Excerpts from two chick lit novels were used to examine the effect of a protagonist’s body weight and body esteem on college women’s (N = 159) perceptions of their sexual attractiveness and weight concern. Two narratives were used to minimize the possibility that idiosyncratic characteristics of one excerpt might influence the study’s results. Underweight (vs. healthy weight) protagonists predicted readers’ lower perceived sexual attractiveness. Protagonists with low body esteem (vs. control) predicted readers’ increased weight concern. Scholars and health officials should be concerned about the effect chick lit novels might have on women’s body image.
The image is one I've cropped slightly, having found the original at Wikimedia Commons. It shows a scene in Berlin in 1947 and came from the German Federal Archive as part of a cooperation project.

1 comment:

  1. I quickly read the article and it seems the authors want to have it both ways. Yes, romance can have a negative affect on readers, but we can also use the novel to positive (didactic) ends. Very interesting.