Fat Sheroes: A Weighty Matter
|"You *think* I'm feeling passion, bub, but I'm|
really just trying to catch my breath
in this corset."
Tall or short, brunette or blonde, mousy or (more likely) modestly and understatedly beautiful: Romance sheroes tend to come in a variety of packages. The two things that stay the same? Their youth and their thinness.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to my gills of the endless parade of young, thin sheroes.
When it comes to portraying younger peeps as if they have a right to all the wisdom I’ve collected as a spicy-smart 38-year-old, I admit I’m as guilty as anyone; my main characters all clock in at under 35. But this is my blog, and I can darn well ignore my faults for now. In this blog post, we’re talking the problem of size diversity – or lack of, therefore -- in the romance genre.
Enter Katana, my plus-size protagonist. I’ve mentioned this in prior posts, but in case it escaped your attention, the shero in Hunted Dreams is fat. I never specify how fat, exactly; I mention her sexy tummy rolls and reference the soft skin of her arms and under her chin. But I don’t exactly provide her weight or calculate her BMI. See, I like the idea of readers of all shapes and sizes of chubby, husky, fluffy, or fat projecting onto her and, for once, finding their body size represented.
Shocking though it may be, I didn’t invent the fat, female protagonist. My big sister, Lauri J Owen, for one, writes books featuring a seriously kick-ass, fat main character. Lynne Murray also writes novels with a fat and savvy, crime-solving shero, and Frannie Zellman, my mentor and friend, writes lyrical stories in which fat characters feature fleshily and prominently. All three of these authors even include characters whose ages (gasp) boil over the magical cut-off of 35.
In reviews of works by authors of fat sheroes, one set of questions inevitably pop up: How much does the shero’s weight matter? Is the story “about fat”? Should it be? Me, I don’t care. Maybe a shero’s fat fundamentally shapes the book, maybe not. Whatever. See, thinness is often threaded throughout the narrative of mainstream romances (think her tiny, trembling body or how loins-firingly adorable she looks wearing the hero’s overshirt the morning after), so I have zero problem making larger sheroes’ body size a big, fat deal.
All that said, in my book, I really didn’t paint her fatness in dripping, neon-orange letters. After much thought, I decided to kind of slip Katana’s fatness into the mix.
Okay, well, I might have included a little bit of size politics, all sly- and implicit-like. Body warrior that I am, I quite consciously made Katana’s foil, the sociopathic Maricruz, the very bloom of delicate femininity. I admit, it tickled me to play up her delicate scent, her creamy skin, her limpid eyes, her rosebud mouth... all while she punches the hero in the face. This isn’t to say thin women are evilly, inherently deserving of villainhood, of course. Heck, some of my best friends are thin! (Sorry – I couldn’t resist.) But still, isn’t it kind of a nice change of pace to find a fat woman seducing the sexy hero while a thin villain watches from the shadows, stroking the corners of her mustache (metaphorically, of course)?
Hunted Dreams isn’t about fat. It is, however, about a strong, self-confident, and self-rescuing fat woman. As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s like Sleeping Beauty, except the fat shero is the one wielding the sword.