Here’s what the Internet told me and it never lies. TV, movies, and books said so, too. Full-figured/ample/curvy/large/heavy/fat/plus-sized women are prohibited from doing the following: being loved by attractive men, being on romance novel covers, making love, unless it’s fetish sex (apparently BBW literature involves something more graphic than the innocuous phrase “big beautiful woman” implies), wearing fashionable clothes and makeup, behaving in any manner other than jolly. Exclusions apply only during pregnancy.
The stock photo sites agree with that list of restrictions. I discovered this when I began to design a romance novel cover and searched unsuccessfully for a picture of a curvy woman with a hunky guy. There were, however, endless photos of larger women standing alone, gazing down in horror at the bathroom scales, pinching their inches, and slurping down enormous plates of spaghetti and cake.
Many cover designers conform to this “standard” as well. The first cover designer I approached was eager to have my business and happy to supply a woman of size as a model for a cover shoot. But what size exactly was I considering? I suggested a woman sized 18 or 20. Never heard from that designer again. Another company offered to plump up, via Photoshop, the images of the slender models they already had. Wait, what?
What are we doing to each other? To ourselves? This is more subversive than blatant body-shaming. It’s body devaluing, society-sponsored invisibility. And it needs to stop.
There are three ways we can challenge these body-image stereotypes:
- Model the One who made us and adores us, cellulite and all. The KJV Bible, 1 Samuel 16:7, says, “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” God knows true beauty isn’t found in the mirror.
- Challenge our preconceptions of what characters should look like. Read stories and write about characters who break the mold. Isn’t it boring to always have an impossibly taut and toned heroine? Sure, she gets the guy every time because she’s perfect and she doesn’t exist. According to a recent Romance Writers of America magazine, unconventional heroines, including curvy gals, are gaining popularity among readers.
- Love the unconventional heroine in the mirror, whatever her body type. Adore that healthy, slightly goofy, snorts-when-she laughs, cries-when-she’s-happy, loves-till-it-hurts, extraordinary person that is uniquely you.
Connie Kuykendall is a big-haired attorney & author with a big Southern accent to match. She writes Christian contemporary romance designed to be fun and to uplift women struggling with their faith and self worth. You can find Connie online at: http://www.conniekuykendall.com/