Does chick lit make women feel bad about themselves?

A new study says if you are what you eat then you are what you read.

Bridget Jones's Diary

Photo courtesy of Miramax

Chick lit has taken much abuse since Bridget Jones first unveiled her granny bloomers and, through her diarized exploits, launched a whole new marketing genre in fiction.

Disparaged by sophisticated readers and critics alike, chick lit, easily distinguished on the shelf by the inevitable choice of pink stiletto on the book jacket, was eagerly snapped up by female consumers making the leap from Harlequin romance to a more preppie genre.

Fifty Shades of Grey is arguably chick lit on testosterone — or estrogen — if you prefer.

According to a recent story that appeared on Jezebel, the results of a study conducted at Virginia Tech suggest that chick lit can influence the way female readers perceive themselves in terms of — you guessed it — body image! Looking in the mirror can produce the same results but that’s another study.

Research participants were given substantial excerpts to read from selected texts whose content was divided into two points of view, both reflecting the individual female protagonist’s self-image.

One character says in straightforward fashion, “I’m fat,” and the other character laments, “I’m too skinny.”

While many women would argue that you can never be too skinny, the thinner character in this case viewed herself as unattractive and lacking in sexiness — no curve appeal apparently. Did we mention this is fiction?

Female readers reported feeling worse about themselves after wading through pages of the thinner woman’s negative self-take. On the other hand, readers reported no such angst when reading the excerpt from the overweight woman’s tale — but then she was happy with herself and presumably made readers feel equally at home in their own bodies.

So the real story may be something most of us intuitively know already and should remember when we’re tempted to give in to the big whine — negative self-image is not just a personal impediment to happiness, it’s also contagious.

Do you find you take on the emotions in the books you’re reading? Let us know in the comments below.


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