Sunday, January 14, 2007

Because plus-size is a good size

I really like this blog post from Romancing the Blog.

Let's be honest here: I know I'm fat; I know I'm overweight and I should weigh less for health reasons; I know that I'm slowly working on trying to get the weight off. Trust me, I'd love to weigh 115 lbs, like I did in high school--I was a freaking size 4! (I still have my favorite pair of jeans from then, in the obscure hope that I will one day fit into them. =) But the reality is that there are many, many women in America like me, who are relegated to the plus-size shopping stores: let's call us the Lane Bryant crowd.

Now there's nothing wrong with Lane Bryant. A lot of the clothes are trendy and young enough for me to wear (I'm still in my 20s, after all), and many of them are very pretty. Some of my favorite shirts have come from there, and I've even gotten compliments on them. Yet despite the fact that there's a raging obesity epidemic in America, plus-size women often get short shrift in romance novels, along with just about every other type of novel published. Yeah, there's the sub-genre of "fat girl getting thin and finding a man", but that doesn't really make for an empowering book.

So here's my challenge for the rest of you. Write a short story or a novel, and put a plus-size woman in it. Make her feel beautiful, like she really is; all women have breasts and hips and curves, and every single one of us knows how to use them. Don't be prejudiced against your character, just because she doesn't weigh the same as a feather. Attempt to actually depict the current reality of many American women...you may be surprised with what you come up with!

31 comments:

S. W. Vaughn said...

Wow... this is a great idea!

*steals*

I'm plus size and ... er, can't say proud, but comfortable. :-) Yeah, I should get healthy and stuff -- but that might mean never having chocolate or cheesecake, and then what's life for? *G*

Katharine said...

If your readers write such a story or novel, I'll read it and tell all my friends!

resurrectedwarrior said...

That's an awesome post (the Romancing the Blog post was cool, too).

I'm, um, large, too. And I'd love to see some characters like this in the books I read.

Methinks you've just greatly influenced the physique of my MC's roommate in the story I'm currently developing. The roommate is rather sensual and very confident in herself . . . and now she's plus-sized, too. :o)

katiesandwich said...

Thanks; I needed that!

*Layne Bryant is the best store ever!*

ksgreer said...

I have a character who clocks in at about 5'10" or so; we're talking big boobs, curvy hips, and a waist that's small in comparison (but not too small), probably wears a 16/18.

She's supposed to be Bombshell with a touch of Tough Broad. While brainstorming the character's appearance, girlfriends suggested supermodels. Guyfriends? They named Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Sophia Loren, Anne Margaret, Betty Page (and of course, Jessica Rabbit). These are bodacious, big-hipped, curvy women, with major attitude and self-confidence.

The SO also commented, "Few think Mae West was sexy purely on looks...what made her really sexy was her attitude, her wit, and that sly smirk."

I should also add that the average height for an American woman is now 5'4", and the average weight? 150lbs. The average dress size? 14*.

Also: I just came from shopping for new pants that will FIT my ass. Ahem. Let's see. I could pay $70 for Nine West pants and be a size 10, or pay $40 for Style & Co. and be a size 12, or I could trot over to Target, pay $25, and be a size 14. Good grief, people.

* my understanding is that the 'dress size' basis used is that of sewing patterns, which are standardized.

Cathy in AK said...

How about the plus-sized over 40 heroine? Though, if I wrote about her would it be too autobiographical???

Rae said...

I wrote that book! My agent is shopping it now.

I think a lot of women would appreciate a less-than-perfect protag. Today's standard of beauty is, frankly, dangerous, and so pervasive that most of us are way too in touch with our Inner Overweight Chicks. (Remind me to tell you about a certain ex-boyfriend at the next con...)

Leigh said...

I could pay $70 for Nine West pants and be a size 10, or pay $40 for Style & Co. and be a size 12, or I could trot over to Target, pay $25, and be a size 14. Good grief, people.

Just to add to the confusion, when I was in the military, I had to periodically buy dress uniforms. The sizing on the pants was really screwy--even more so than what you're seeing. Though I was generally a size 12 or so if I went into a store, when I bought the uniform, I had to go to Size 16 or 18. A woman who was running at Size 16 normally was picking up Size 22! Yet, if I bought a standard work uniform (avoiding the acronymn title for it), which was made for men, the size was always small(!).

Anonymous said...

PJ Tracey have a great character in the current series - she's big, she's beautiful, intelligent & sexy as hell - & she's a character you really like as a person. It's more murder mystery/suspension than romance, but this is a great example of the kind of character you're looking for.

Jennette said...

Let's hear it for plus-size heroines - I have one of those! I'm currently revising the novel, and you're definitely on my list of agents to query when it's ready.

I seldom like beautiful-people characters - few authors can make them adequately sympathetic for me.

Bernita said...

I believe Daisy ( https://daisydexterdobbs.blogspot.com/ ) writes books about big, beautiful, bountiful heroines.

Kim said...

Most of my heroines are not drop-dead beautiful or perfect. I write historicals and the ideal woman was rounder because it signaled wealth (kind of like no self-respecting lady would EVER have a tan). Even in the contemporary romance I have in progress, she isn't thin and she doesn't let it bother her.

As for me, I've been back and forth - I love the gym, and actually whittled myself to a size 2 (which I would have KILLED to be in high school *g*), but then I quit smoking and had my second child and yanno, if I get to the gym once a month I consider it a success. However, I also don't own a scale and refuse to buy one. I go by my jeans. If they fit, yay, if not, time to lay off the junk, which is truly my weakness. Who doesn't love chocolate? Do it for you, not because of someone's 'ideal' of what you should be! :)

Ryan Field said...

To set this up: I was always overweight, from kindergarten to high school, and then lost the weight my senior year and vowed never to put it on again. And I haven't.

I've been shopping a novel half-heartedly for about six months, and I keep seeing the main character as a plus size young woman with a lot of talent; but I didn't write her that way, and it keeps sticking in the back of my mind. The problem for me is I don't want her to come off as funny or "Hairsprayish" or campy. I want her to be taken seriously, and the fact that she's plus size is only a minor factor in her life. I do get into it with a minor character; who is actually berated several times in the book for being overweight, and still comes off as a strong, talented woman who slams the people berating her every time. Don't know if this is enough, though.

Glad you posted this; it does deserve attention. Thanks

Kimber An said...

Oh, I have, and she's African American too. And over 60. And her husband thinks she's gorgeous and they jump each other on regular basis too. I'm hesitant to query you though, because it's Romantic Science Fiction. I haven't figured out if you represent that.

Tess said...

Have you read Kathryn Smith's historical romances? She often has plus-sized heroines :-)

Zany Mom said...

I used to be stick thin until after grad school, weight crept up with two kids and stress. Finally got thin again last year and was ecstatic, but stress again has reclaimed me.

This time around I dont' really care that I have a few extra pounds, though, and find it quite liberating, in fact.

The heroine in my new novel, while not plus-sized, is not a tiny waif, either (she's got curves, woman!)

Anonymous said...

If the heroine is healthy and happy the way she is, then why even bring up her dress size or her weight?
Can't she just have a healthy body, two arms to hug with, two legs for walking down the beach, and a smile a mile wide that knocks the hero off his feet?

kiwi said...

Anonymous, she can have all this. But I think what's at issue here is breaking stereotypes; writing a social satire that deconstructs ideas about 'ideal women'. Think of princess Fiona, in Shrek. Think of the transformation she goes through in the course of the first film: from idealised to real. And why do I love this particular franchise: because the real is some much better than the idealised! It's liberating ... it it 'sends up the fairtale' and celebrates the average, ordinary asn plain, it reminds people of what really matters and in so doing frees them from the tyranny of social expectation ...

kiwi said...

Kimber an, your heroine is exactly what we need. I'd read this book. The more counter or anti hegemonic discourse we put out there the better ...

So damn it, query Jenny already will you.

Kimber An said...

Yeah, but, if she doesn't represent in Romantic Science Fiction, it's an exercise in futility. No matter how much she likes it. She won't have the contacts to sell it. Some agents and editers lump this subgenre under paranormal romance. Some who take romance will take any subgenre. Most regular science fiction people won't touch it with a ten-meter long multi-phasic torpedo. The funny thing is, Romantic Science Fiction is doing a lot better in the market than regular science fiction right now. Or, so it seems. Another stereotype shattered - Girls Don't Like Science. Or Science Fiction.

kiwi said...

Kimber an, Jenny's submission guidelines are pretty clear on this: she does almost very form of the SFF genre. Go on, submit.

As for contacts, if Lori's post is accuate, and I expect it is, she frequently submits to all fifteen major NY pubishing houses simultaneously ... that's an agency with serious contacts.

best of luck.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Kimber An, go ahead, girl, and query me already!

And kiwi is right too; I do represent all forms of SFF, and I also do romance. Science fiction romance doesn't seem strange to me at all.

Kimber An said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimber An said...

Well, okay! The first round of queries go out soon.

katiesandwich said...

*Sad and jealous of kimber an because my querying date keeps getting pushed further and further back*

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

One of my favorite characters is an obese music journalist. If you search my blog for Chelle LaFleur, you can meet her. One day, I'll figure out her novel-length story. In the meantime, hang with her at my blog.

agent jennifer said...

Check out _Alternate Beauty_ by Andrea Rains Waggener (disclaimer: not one of my mine but the editor recommended it to me)

Anonymous said...

I'll confess that I read those cat mysteries when I'm bored, on a plane, or unable to think clearly. There's something comforting in the cozy predictability. But anyway, the MC is a man, (Qwilleran), but his female honey is a size 16 librarian--I found that comforting, because the MC's always portrayed as tall and handsome with various women flirting with him, but he likes his woman friend because she's smart and, in his view, beautiful.

I think we need more against-stereo-type characters, for everyone.

Geminipen said...

Well, good luck, all!

First of all, understand that I am plus-sized - to speak conservatively.

I'm a little skeptical that society wants a mc who is overweight, poor, physically challenged, or any combination of the above. Or - God forbid - actually struggles with self acceptance over being any of those things. Maybe the book could be published (I'd love to know who does it), but it will never hit the best seller lists.

Look at Hollywood. There's Queen Latifah, Camryn Manheim, and ???? (At least as far as A-list celebrities go)

Yes, I had my Skeptic-O's for breakfast this morning. Sorry.

Dorez said...

I know how you feel. It's hard facing the fact that you'll probably never wear those size 4 jeans again. I used to hang on to old clothes - hoping against hope to wear them once more. I did get down to that size for a short time...but it turned out I was ill and didn't know it. I can assure you, you don't want to lose weight by becoming sick.

You're not alone in your struggle. But let me tell you that diets don't work...not on a long-term basis. I once placed an ad looking for anyone who had lost weight and maintained the loss for at least five years. I only got one response. So, don't feel bad.
I think the secret (if there is one) is to stop worrying about your weight and spend your time more productively... helping others, reading great books, going for walks, visiting museums, doing volunteer work, whatever... in addition to eating healthier of course. And before long, you'll find that you're a happier person and that you've learned how to love yourself just the way you are. That's what I'm doing and it seems to be working. I haven't lost a lot of weight, but I haven't gained any either. And I don't focus on what I weigh. I'm too busy enjoying life.

Good luck to you.
- Dorez
Jahqoi.com
Unique plus-size clothing for women

Matthew E Taft said...

Hi Jenny,

I ran across this post on your blog today. I realize it is kind of old--I was actually looking for a post on the SDSU writer's conference where I met you back in January in San Diego (I cannot find one...did I just not look hard enough?).

When you and I met, I had just lost 42 pounds! My rock bottom was realizing that I had reached the 200 pound mark. My grandpa told me to just start cutting every meal in half to lose weight. Then my friend starting talking to me about calories, and basically said this:

"3,500 calories is equal to one pound. You can go online and figure out what your BMR is (how many calories you can eat to maintain your current weight). Once you know that, just subtract 500 calories from that a day. 500 X 7 days equals 3500 (or 1 pound) a week that you've lost. You can also find website online that calculate, based on weight / age / sex how many calories you burn doing different activities, and you can mix eating a little less with walking every day."

Of course, I would have preferred to lose all of the weight at one time, but I always get burned out when trying very demanding diet programs. I realized that if I just ate A LITTLE less and walked A LITTLE more, I could lose weight. And it ended up only taking me four months to lose 40 pounds.

In the end, it's all about what makes you happy, but I thought I would just put that out there since it worked for me. Good luck out there in the crazy world of agenting!