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Thread: "Chick lit harms body image," study says.

  1. #1
    The colors! THE COLORS! leahzero's Avatar
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    "Chick lit harms body image," study says.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013...lit-body-image

    They adapted a passage from each of them to come up with nine versions for each novel, from an underweight heroine with high body esteem to an overweight one with low body esteem, so there might be a character who states: "I'm 5'4", 140lb, and a size six", or one who says: "I'm 5'4", 105lb, and a size zero".

    They then distributed the passages amongst 159 female university students, who after reading them were then asked to rate how they felt about various body parts and sexual attractiveness. The study found that when the narrative was about a slim heroine, participants felt "significantly" less sexually attractive, and that when it featured a protagonist with low body esteem, readers were "significantly more concerned about their weight" than participants in the control condition.
    I think it's a bit of a logical leap to say that this harms body image long-term, but it certainly seems to raise awareness of body image in the short-term, and can exacerbate existing body image issues (which we know are distorted from all sorts of other sources).

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  2. #2
    The grad students did it NeuroFizz's Avatar
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    Trying to find a cause-effect relationship of this sort from a broad cross-section of organisms as complex as humans is about as hard as jamming soft butter up a wildcat's a$$ with a hot poker.
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  3. #3
    She of Many Names Irysangel's Avatar
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    Seriously? What next? Are we going to distribute murder mysteries and then see if people have more of an inclination to harm others?
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  4. #4
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    The independent variable here is not 'chick lit' versus 'non-chick lit'.

  5. #5
    O_o

    I was under the impression that a healthy sub-genre of "chick-lit" features "average" or "overweight" heroines who are perfectly happy with their size. Eh, I'm generally not fond of "studies" that talk about how a particular genre is bad. There are no bad genres, only bad writers.

    ETA: Also not that impressed that this "study" included a grand total of two books. Really?

    I'm wondering something now though: How many male narrators even mention their dimensions like that?
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  6. #6
    Moderation in All Things AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    As long as there are doctoral candidates, there will be studies like these.
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    Tyrant King jeffo20's Avatar
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    "The results of the study demonstrate without a shadow of a doubt that we can find fault with anything."

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  8. #8
    Kind of a big deal CharacterInWhite's Avatar
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    There's something to be said about "priming" opinions/responses to questions with stimuli.

    If anything, the "study" shows a relationship between reading material and self-esteem--but whether or not the study has appropriately captured the entirety of Chick Lit is another matter.

    Edit: And another thing, they never compared how the women responded when presented with high self-esteem characters that are not underweight.
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  9. #9
    Avid reader and lover of fiction Lexxie's Avatar
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    Why do the women in the stories either have to be 105 pound with a good body image or an curvy woman with low self-esteem? I have read several books in the 'chick-lit' genre with curvy woman with high self-esteem, and I know several women like that in real life as well.
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  10. #10
    resident curmudgeon
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    This is what a friend of mine calls "turdish thinking". If these people are academics, then they hand out degrees purely on the basis of pure crap for brains. They'd make a bigger controbution to the world by seeing how many academics survive a fall off a two hundred foot cliff.

  11. #11
    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    How about Jane Green's novel Jemima J, in which [spoiler alert]:

    Fat girl Jemima PhotoShops her face onto pics of skinny girl and sends them to Internet Love Interest.

    Love Interest bites -- come meet him!

    Jemima loses a ton of weight and goes to meet Love Interest.

    Things seem to be working out until she discovers that Love Interest is just using her as a skinny beard -- he really loves a fat girl!

    Wait, it's good to be skinny. No! It's good to be fat! It's....oh screw it. Where's the cookies?
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  12. #12
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin ocean_of_stolid_seas's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=

    Wait, it's good to be skinny. No! It's good to be fat! It's....oh screw it. Where's the cookies?[/QUOTE]

    Funny, doesn't everyone have issues about their esteem or body image whether or not they are actually skinny or fat? Even the most confident person has to be "like dude I could really lose a bit of weight." It's a complex human issue and not one that stems from "chick-lit" novels. If anything, I'd target "bad girls club" and "jersey shore." When my sister talks about those I feel like finding the nearest trash recepticle.
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  13. #13
    The grad students did it NeuroFizz's Avatar
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  14. #14
    Aerospace engineer turned writer
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    Studies like this are good for a laugh and that's about it.

  15. #15
    Shooting stars. lolchemist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CharacterInWhite View Post
    And another thing, they never compared how the women responded when presented with high self-esteem characters that are not underweight.
    THIS exactly!

    It seems as if this 'study' was specifically designed to yield these negative results. They didn't even bother to include an option where the MC is plus-sized and loving life.

    I'm rather annoyed though that these two options (5'4 105lbs + happy and 5'4 140lbs + unhappy) even affected anyone's body image at all though. But then again, were these gals vetted about their body images before they read the book passages? Nowadays it seems like finding a human being without body issues is akin to finding a unicorn that poops rainbows and pees champagne.

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  16. #16
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson View Post
    As long as there are doctoral candidates, there will be studies like these.
    Yep. And when all the 'research subjects' are "female university students", I suspect it has more to do with convenience than a carefully selected cross-section of the target audience.

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    ... yeah. Well okay. Maybe so.

    But with Beyonce front and center, who's tending?

  18. #18
    υπείκωphobe Wilde_at_heart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger J Carlson View Post
    As long as there are doctoral candidates, there will be studies like these.
    Very true... Along with narrowly-focussed 'Journals' of perhaps questionable academic validity.

    And I doubt chick lit could possibly be worse than photo-shopped magazine covers, or women who constantly obsess about their weight in real life to their friends.

    Quote Originally Posted by lolchemist View Post
    THIS exactly!

    It seems as if this 'study' was specifically designed to yield these negative results. They didn't even bother to include an option where the MC is plus-sized and loving life.
    Quote Originally Posted by frimble3 View Post
    Yep. And when all the 'research subjects' are "female university students", I suspect it has more to do with convenience than a carefully selected cross-section of the target audience.
    Apparently shoddy research methods... no wonder people are (rightly) suspicious of 'global warming' or 'climate change' and its promoters' obsession with Journals and 'peer review'...
    Last edited by Wilde_at_heart; 02-06-2013 at 07:41 PM.

  19. #19
    No I do not want to be king Gilroy Cullen's Avatar
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    Sample was too small (only 159 students).

    Would need to know the state of mine of the students before they read the passages. Did they already have self esteem/body awareness issues? Can't make a broad sweeping judgement with so little information.

    All they say is "than participants in the control condition." So what was the control condition? Did they read the passages as written? Not read Chick Lit?

    These types of surveys bug me too much to have good constructive comments... Sorry.
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  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW flapperphilosopher's Avatar
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    That's stupid. There's about a hundred things wrong with the "study" and its "conclusion". Especially.... seriously? With all the millions of women and representations of them an insecure woman might compare herself to, they think characters in chick lit have a significant effect? As a young female university student when I'm feeling insecure it's because I'm comparing myself to other beautiful talented women I know personally, or who actually lived and actually achieved things (I just found out about the incredibly talented and incredibly beautiful Lee Miller, for instance, who makes me feel about as beautiful and talented as a stick). I think even photo-shopped celebrities and models would come out ahead of fictional characters. This study sucks.

    Also... that thin girl has a BMI of 18. That's seriously underweight. That's flat-out sickly, both physically and in appearance. Don't envy that.
    Last edited by flapperphilosopher; 02-06-2013 at 08:00 PM. Reason: I can't type
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  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flapperphilosopher View Post
    incredibly beautiful Lee Miller
    ... indeed. Worth googling.

    In fairness, though, photography has to be factored in.
    Photographers were much more talented back then,
    and really knew how to draw out the beauty of their models.


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  22. #22
    It's a New Year! rhymegirl's Avatar
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    Someone who's 5'4". 140 pounds is not going to be a size 6.
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  23. #23
    Kind of a big deal CharacterInWhite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lolchemist View Post

    I'm rather annoyed though that these two options (5'4 105lbs + happy and 5'4 140lbs + unhappy) even affected anyone's body image at all
    This phenomenon is unfortunately rather common to us poor human beings. We're rather suggestible. If you tell someone they suck at something right before they do it, they will inevitably suck.
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  24. #24
    Tonight on Mythbusters BenPanced's Avatar
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    As a fellow of the International Institute of Pulling Random Numbers Out of My Ass, I'm here to state our studies have shown 100% of statistics can prove anything.
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  25. #25
    Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. kaitie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rhymegirl View Post
    Someone who's 5'4". 140 pounds is not going to be a size 6.
    I was a six when I weighed 140. Just depends on how you're built. I've put on a bit of weight, but I'm still an eight.

    Granted, I don't think a six now is what it was ten years ago.
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