Saturday, April 4, 2009

Heroines of Today

Everyone knows I love ABC. Though Jason Mesnick gave me pause about my Bachlelor obsession, I'm still watching The Bachelorette this spring. I've ended my feud with Dancing with the Stars. Team Melissa! Every day there isn't a new Brothers & Sisters episode in my ABC Episode Player, I mope. Not to mention the new kid on the block, Castle. Don't cancel, ABC. I BEG YOU!

You may not know that I also follow The View. I love the ladies' "Hot Topics" more than their celebrity guests. No joke! I watch The View not only because it's the biggest news from an all-women perspective. Instead of the biases you get by watching any big news networks, there's someone for every political view on The View. Joy, the Liberal, Elizabeth, the Conservative and the others hold their own in between. The range is wonderful.

Later this week I was fortunate enough to tune in in time to hear Whoopi discuss something that set everyone at the View table off their rocker. A survey done by Oxygen TV states that 25% of women between the ages of 18 and 34 would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Prize. Even worse, 22% of 18 to 24 year old women who consider themselves attractive would rather lose their ability to read than their figure. All I can really think to say about this is "Holy crap on toast!" I thought women were beyond this, especially after this last election year. It appalls me, and a lot of other women I'm sure, that after how far we've come in the last several years and the current state of our world that 22-25% of us are still this shallow.

Of course, as with so many other things, these numbers made me think of the romance genre. Not only of the incredible women I've met through RWA and Gulf Coast Romance Writers but of our heroines. Women have not only advanced through politics and the work force, but romance heroines have taken several leaps from the days of the "bodice ripper." From inspirational to paranormal, no more will you see legions of Too-Stupid-To-Live's. Judging by sales, I'd say readers approve. In every romance I've picked up since that first Nora nearly a decade ago, I've encountered realistic, intelligent women who would scoff at this survey, too. I will admit, though physical flaws are now more widely accepted in the genre than decades prior, heroines are still more likely to look like the Daphne's as opposed to the Velma's. Yet I daresay none of them would kick their brains to the curve even if it meant fitting into those size 2 jeans.

Ladies, sound off! What do you think of these new numbers. Do they relate at all to romantic fiction?


Marianne Evans said...

Great blog! Thanks for sounding off. Sad commentary on attitudes, but I'm hopeful that the 'audience' they're taping into as a demographic isn't an authentic representation of the truth. I have faith in our collective intelligence as enlightened women! :-) Thanks again for the topic exploration and info!

Sandy said...

Excellent topic, Amber. My question would be how many people were surveyed to come up those numbers.

Some women are so preoccupied with themselves that they only care about their appearance, but I think that's the minority. I hope so anyway. It would be a shame if women decided to dumb down in favor of their looks.


Emma Lai said...

Sad to say, but I do believe that the younger generation are more preoccupied with their looks than their intelligence. We could use biology and anthropology to explain that young women are more concerned with attracting mates and therefore would be more concerned with their looks. It's not PC, but probably relevant.

For my part, my parents drilled it into my head that I should always be able to take care of myself so I gave more priority to my studies. The good news is that I think a lot of women outgrow this particular stage.

As for my heroines, well they are far from perfect and while I do have some Daphnes, I also have some Thelmas. After all, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

Mary Ricksen said...

I don't even feel that this survey is accurate. No one asked me!

That said it is a sad commentary that looks seem to be the most important thing in a young woman's life. How sad.

Hanna Rhys Barnes said...

You're right about the new attitude that our ladies have these days. But I have to say that most of the romances that sell are about twenty-something heroines finding their HEA with a more mature thirty-something hero. That hasn't changed much. However, new sub-genres are starting to open up. Erotica/Romantica of all kinds, including M/M, F/F, M/F/M, M/M/F, etc. are starting to take off like a rocket. In the classic M/F relationship we are to see more and more "Cougar" romances. Women in their forties do still look for love and sometimes age is not a factor where love is concerned. Progress, yes. But I've been told more than once not to write a heroine near or in her fifties because "It won't sell."
I firmly believe that we create that 22-25% by not encouraging a broadening of what is considered "beautiful" and "acceptable". I would chose to be a fit, healthy 50 year old size 16 than struggling to remain a size 2 against my body's wishes. I think we are making some progress in this area as when I talk with the next generation of young girls, they seem at least somewhat interested in saving the planet, discovering the next Tut's Tomb, reading and writing books, among other things that require brain power. We just have to keep them that way past adolescence. Sorry for the rant, but this is a topic close to my heart.

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Funny, but seeing the kids at my son's high school, and some of the younger generation walking around at the place where I work, I never would've guessed this to be the case. Sometimes I wonder if they even look in a mirror before they step outside the house. (No, I don't primp in front of the mirror, my hair is the closest to wash-and-go as possible, but I do prefer some make-up if I'm going out in public.) I'm talking about the people who wear what equates to pajamas and flip flops on casual Friday in the middle of February in WI. It's a place of business, people, dress accordingly! I wonder how many of them were polled by Oxygen TV.

I kinda vented on a tangent here, sorry! Don't get me wrong, I also hate the thought of young women preferring an America's Next Top Model body to Nobel Prize brains.

I think the change in romance to the heroine who has the brains to take care of herself, or at least work with the hero to do something 'great' is wonderful. Romance as a whole can be a very inspiring genre, offering hope and all those happy endings!

Chiron said...

Rather shocking to contemplate, isn't it?

What I find though is that current media entertainment definitely influences self-perception as well as our general definition of success.

There is no "Astrophysicist Island" (First one who defines matter within the context of quantum mechanics wins!)

If asked, most people would probably choose being a celebrity for fifteen minutes than being respected for fifteen years. Why strive to be the next Albert Einstein when a chance remark might earn you a moniker like "Joe the Plumber" and start you on a whole new career as a pundit?

Do these statistics relate to romance readers? Only those who would rather lose their figure than read!!

Great post, Amy!

Chiron O'Keefe