Tuesday, 22 November 2016

What's With The Absence of Fat Girls in Fiction?

Ever noticed that there just aren't that many fat girls in fiction? Why is that, and is it okay?

I'm the first person to admit that I'm a fatty. I'm obese, if not severely, and if you were to name the most unhealthy foods, I could tell you right now that I probably love them. I've never been as big as I am now, and I've never been the right weight for my body size and type, but I seldom care. I eat what I want, and I don't have any physical health problems to stop me. The same can't be said for the fat girls in fiction, which, considering their size, seem damn near impossible to find. I ask you world, where are the fat girls in fiction?

Of course, the most obvious reason to not have fat girls, or boys for that matter, in fiction, is that it's not healthy, and in the most extreme cases, can kill you. Not something you want to be glorifying in front of young, impressionable children, am I right? Alas, growing up, I never read of any fat girls in fiction. Sure, I didn't read as much back then, but still, not a one, and that does nothing for a growing girl whose never had a boyfriend before. I wouldn't, and couldn't wear shorts because they suctioned on to my thighs, and I couldn't leave the house without a coat because I was afraid my bouncing belly would be off-putting. Was my double chin the reason people didn't want to be my babe, or was it my bingo wings, strapped to my arms, denying me a sweat-free life?

In some ways, media as a whole doesn't like to showcase fat girls or women in anything fiction-related, which is all fine and dandy if that's your preference, but there's so few larger ladies around to show growing girls that there curves aren't all bad, and that's not okay. There's a handful of larger women in the media with a big presence, (pardon the pun) and those women do a great job at putting two fingers up at anyone that says they need to change there body, and my god did I need that sort of confidence as a child, but there just isn't enough of it.

Thankfully, over the last few years, I've seen a lot more fat girls in fiction, and I consider this a good thing. Am I saying we should start giving fat chicks a round of applause when they shove their face full of cake? No, but I do think we should talk about the elephant in the room. Books specifically have improved in terms of featuring larger protagonists; series such as Demon Road by Derek Landy, and standalones like Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven and Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, have brought the topic of fat girls to the forefront of our minds, and as a result, have shown people that we fatties are still human beings, with lives to life and friends that care about us. Sure, some of us don't have the pleasure of driving round town in a flesh eating charger, but that's not the point. Film franchises like Bridget Jones Diary and it's sequels, also play a huge roll on showing we people that even the great Patrick Dempsey can be wooed by a slightly larger lady, and that's a-okay.

If our average ladies are 'plus-sized', then that means that our young impressionable girls are starting to get their curves, and I don't know about you, but I'd rather teach a girl that she can save the world, rid of us zombies, or simply pass her high school tests, whether or not she's got handle bars. I want to teach girls that they're bikini ready, with or without a rounded tum-tum. I want to teach girls that they are human beings, worthy of love, worthy of peoples time, and worthy of being a part in our vast, well rounded world of fiction, because whether you or publishers like to admit it, they are, and they always will be. Besides, who doesn't love stuffing their face with cookies and cake?

Have you read any books featuring larger or fat girls?

If so, what are some of your favourites, and would you like to see more of them?

69 comments:

  1. This is definitely an interesting topic. I guess this is something I haven't really thought about before. I also don't think I can think of many recent books where the description of a character specifically states that they're skinny. I mean there are definitely books where it specifically says a character is 'lean' or whatever but I feel like a lot of recent books I've been reading don't actually state the MC's physical size at all. Maybe it's the genre's I'm reading? Or perhaps it's implied in other ways? And I guess this is your point?

    But to be honest I think a lot of YA fiction has started to avoid mentioning what a MC actually looks like. I often realise this when I start to wonder what colour hair the character has and notice the author doesn't mention it, therefore giving the reader the ability to imagine those details themselves. I mean not all books are doing this, it's quite obvious Celaena from the Throne of Glass series has blonde hair, and Rowan has white hair etc. I guess if an MC is skinny or is a 'fat girl' as you so put it then it's possibly relevant to the story line where as usually stating their size won't matter either way?

    I definitely admit not many books specifically say that a character is bigger! I can only think of a few where I know for sure that the MC is a larger size, like Girl of Fire & Thorns. Elise was stated as very large at the beginning of the series but due to her journey throughout the series she dropped weight. But she also changed mentally as well as physically, she wasn't even trying to change her weight it just happened from the change of lifestyle etc.

    I definitely agree if all of the MC's are stated as skinny or lean then that could definitely be damaging to a young person reading all of those books. I just hope there's more of a balance that starts happening!

    Jordon @ Simply Adrift

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is such a great post! I have been thinking about this recently -- I might post about it myself -- beauty in YA. I think we have three YA heroines right now. #1 is the unapologetically beautiful, eg Celaena. #2 is the Cinderella, eg Katniss -- Collins doesn't make a big deal of her looks, but by the time we get to Cinna and the Girl on Fire there can be no doubt. (Interesting thought that's just occurred to me: is Cinna a play on Cinderella? Because he gives her her Cinderella moment?) Then there's #3, the imperfect/not part of the social norm of thin and big-breasted. That's Tris -- small, skinny, mousy -- Clary with her "no boobs" and Cinder with her "boyish figure". Books are OK, apparently, with girls NOT having curves. But they can't quite bear to push it the other way. Unless, that is, it's the focal point of the book, eg Dumplin' or The DUFF, which both have fat in the title, pretty much. (Not that I've read either of them, so can't fully comment.) So whilst books are maybe doing a *little* bit, by saying it's OK not to have boobs/whatever, they're not doing much. (Especially because, for girls who are fat or think themselves fat, that "oh look Cinder has a boyish figure" really isn't that comforting. Like, great. Must be tough for you, Cinder ...) So I would love fat girls where it isn't all about being fat. Which is why I love Amber. Derek Landy is my literal hero. (And can we just say, SPX!!!!!!!)

    I would also like to see more fat boys. Because a book like Dumplin' or The DUFF (as I say, not read them, but yeah) is (I think) saying, IT'S OK, LADIES, YOU CAN BE FAT AND STILL GET THE GUY. Which is a good message, yeah, but what about the other way around? And for those "imperfect" YA heroines I mentioned, they still have perfect guys, eg Prince Kai, our almost sickeningly handsome Prince Charming. I would like to see positive body image / a wider scope of people not considered societally "attractive" widened to avoid boys as well.

    Great post, Amanda! (And the puns were top notch XD )

    Emily @ Ink, Inc.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oooh this is SO. TRUE. The bottom line is, fat is stigmatized everywhere, in every form of media. And so books are no different, it appears. I know growing up that there were NO books with girls that weren't basically perfect. Certainly no girls who were overweight. The kicker is, I wasn't even fat as a kid, just... non-skinny. I swam competitively from age 7 straight through college, so obviously I was active. I was also convinced that I was the fattest person in the history of swimming (spoiler: I wasn't). Most of that I think was that my dad basically policed my food intake since I can remember, always making comments. Add to it incredibly low self esteem... and well, that's a recipe for disaster. So of course, reading all my favorite books and NO ONE being anything less than perfectly thin, it's hard. Same with TV and movies, of course. But books seemed harder to take- like, there could be non-stereotypically pretty girls, perhaps, but NEVER fat. NEVER. Not even a little! So my being slightly fat morphed over the years, as it tends to, and now I feel worse about myself than ever.

    And the thing is, I don't like that the fatness becomes the FOCUS of a book, you know? I just want it to be a THING that is okay to be. And I DO agree about health issues- that is important for sure! But like, someone CAN be heavier and still healthy. It isn't mutually exclusive. Anyway, I think this is SUCH an important post, and one we REALLY need to think about more often. VERY well said, Amanda!!

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