This started as a response to a comment left by SL:
I haven’t noticed a massive decline of readers of sci-fi/fantasy due to the heroine being thin. I’m not thin. All of my female heroines *are* thin. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. It’s my world that I created and frankly, if I ever attempt to publish any of my fiction, I highly doubt that I’m going to lose readership due to my thin heroines. Then again, I also don’t have my heroines worrying about what they’re eating, or what they’re wearing.
What I had been trying to convey was that romance isn’t the only genre that perpetuates the impossible beauty standard. That there IS something wrong with there only being thin heroines in sci-fi and fantasy, even if they aren’t sitting there complaining about the small portions they have to eat to maintain their figure in space.
Now, obviously, what any one writer produces is up to them. And there aren’t any surveys being done to find out if people stop reading sci-fi and/or fantasy due to a lack of fat characters. But even if no one is giving up on sci-fi and/or fantasy, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.
Oooh, double negative for effect!
If writers were writing in a vacuum, in a world where fat was a totally neutral feature, an individual writer’s choice to write only thin characters wouldn’t rate much attention. Because other writers would be writing fat characters. And characters of all shapes and sizes.
But, since writers do not produce fiction in a vacuum, I think it is reasonable to assume they are writing thin characters for the same reason trolls come here and leave boring, trollish comments: They think fat people aren’t worth the space they take up. Thin people are the people with interesting stories. Thin people are the people that we want to be when we read.
You don’t have to use your fiction to tell fat jokes to reinforce that thin people are the only ones people care about. You just just have to only ever write about thin people, as though thin people are the only normal people. Fat people, in fiction, are reserved to prove a point – generally a bad one.
And, really sci-fi/fantasy is the PERFECT genre to explore the huge variety of humans! Size, skin color, ability, taste in music, whatever. Thin white women are not the only women in space. Thin white women are not the only women to inhabit faux-medival fantasy settings (or other fantasy settings – I have plenty of rants about fantasy tropes as well *laugh*).
If that is all you can imagine, *I* imagine that you don’t have much in the way of creativity.
And, yeah, that is harsh but I mean it. If the only fantasy setting you can dream up involves a lot of thin, perfectly fit specimens (especially if those specimens are white), well, you’re doing it wrong.
As writers, if we notice something is wrong with the world, I firmly believe it is our responsibility to build our own worlds in a way that either a) shows an alternative to that wrong thing (i.e., a solution) or b) shows that the wrong thing is WRONG.
That doesn’t mean I expect fiction to full of political screeds. That can be fun but most often isn’t. But if you have a deep conviction that the beauty standard rampaging through the ranks of women is wrong, I don’t understand how that doesn’t show up in your work in some way. If you are philosophically opposed to the oppression of fat people, and you turn around and your world, that you alone created, contains not a single fat person or, worse, a fat person as the butt of a joke? I don’t think I can believe you anymore.
I posted, the other night, a link to a photo of a naked woman who looks like me. And I talked a little bit – honestly, I rambled a little incoherently because I was so full of excitement and just plain old GLEE – about how incredible it is to see a representation of a woman that LOOKS LIKE ME. This is just as important in fiction. We need representations of ourselves in all media.
And I’m not just advocating for fat women in fiction. I’m advocating for characters that are queer and characters who are people of color and characters who are disabled. I’m advocating for fiction to reflect the diversity in which we live – even if we don’t live in a diverse neighborhood. Trans characters. Poor characters. Poly characters. A whole world of diversity.
Maybe you won’t lose any readers because you only write thin characters. But you only stand to gain readers by writing about characters who move beyond that. Characters who do not default to the thin, white, middle-class gaze.
I have written fiction for years. I have had poetry and nonfiction published (and, you know, that big ol’ nonfiction book Kate and I are working on that will be published) and might, fingers crossed, actively pursue getting some fiction published as well. When I read my old stuff, I can barely stand it. It is so full of evidence of the blinders that I wore when I was still actively hating my body. My thin characters were fantasy characters, even when they were deeply flawed, because I thought being thin was BETTER.
And, you know, the only reason it is better is because society has this thing where it is constructed to oppress women, anyone who is not a white dude, basically.
I am fat. I am confident and happy being fat. I believe fat women have incredibly interesting stories to tell – especially stories that have nothing to do with them being fat!
Here’s the thing – it isn’t like I don’t write any thin characters anymore. But now my characters have a lot more variety to them. As a result, my characters are richer – and I don’t mean that in the fiscal sense.
You as an individual writer, eh, I don’t care what kind of characters you write. But when I look at the sea of books available in any given genre and there are only heroines that are thin? That is a problem and that is not okay. A writer’s choice to only write thin characters reveals something about our culture and about that writer. In our current social situation, it actually DOES do some harm by supporting the hegemony of Thin.
This entry was posted in Body Image
, Making Fat Things
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