Chick Lit and Body Image



Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of many chick lits where the protagonist suffers from low self esteem from their body and weight, but what kind of impact does reading these kind of books have on us?



There have been suggestions over recent years that self-esteem, especially for women has been dropping. 

A government study found that even girls as young as five worried about how they looked. It also found that half of men and women had problems with their body image and that it affected them health wise and caused relationship problems.

Adding to this a study has been carried out in the US at Virginia Tech. Their hypothesis was that when women read chick lit where the protagonist has issues with their weight, what effect this has on how comfortable women feel about themselves.

Passages were taken from two novels; Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed and Laura Jensen Walker’s Dreaming in Black and White. In both of these books the protagonist is of a healthy weight but struggles with low self esteem.

The passages were then altered so that the physical features of the protagonist were at the extremes of weight and height. 

These passages were distributed to 159 students who had to rate how attractive they felt whilst reading the distorted passages. 

The study found that the students felt less attractive when the protagonist was skinny, and felt concerned by their own body weight when the protagonist had self esteem issues. 

Melissa Kaminski, who was one of the authors of the study said, “body image research frequently looked at how visual images of thin women negatively affected women’s body esteem, [but] no research had examined how textual representations of body esteem and body weight affected female readers’ body esteem.”

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