Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mass Appeal

Snooping through The New York Times "Book Review" section this weekend (when one wants to publish her own book, this kind of research is always illuminating), I came across the "Advice, How To, and Miscellaneous Section." Under the paperback list, here are the top four books, in order:

1. The Wisdom of Menopause. Making menopause a time of personal empowerment,and physical and emotional health.

2. Skinny Bitch. Vegan diet advice from the world of modeling.

3. Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom. Advice and information on nutrition, fertility, hormone replacement, sexuality and more.

4. What to Expect When You're Expecting. Advice for parents-to-be.

With all this focus on women's bodies, several questions emerged:

1. First, why are these the top four books on the NYT list? What does it say about women and our bodies?

2. Where are the men's books?

3. Is the "wisdom" referred to twice (and the joy of impending childbirth) enough to counteract Skinny Bitch?

4. Is there really a place for EWHAED (or alternate title)?

5. Which of these have you read? Any comments?


nukkingphutz said...

To answer your questions (in order):

1. It says to me that women are still ashamed of their bodies and still see themselves as having something "wrong" with them. Which is no surprise, really, considering the society we live in.

2. Men's books? Hahahahahahahahaha!!! You're kidding me, right? Men wouldn't DARE read a "self-help" book. They'd be seen as WEAK! And we can't have that, now can we?

3. No. Not until society and the media stop portraying only one specific body type as being okay will anything counteract something like Skinny Bitch. I'd like to see a day when women aren't so obsessed over their bodies and their self-image, but I don't see it happening any time soon.

4. OH GOD YES!!! More women need to hear that they're okay as they are, and that our society's obsession with food and looks is actually detrimental to our health, not helping it.

4. The only one on that list that I've read is What to Expect When You're Expecting - and that was 13 years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child. I don't remember much, except that it didn't really tell me what to expect - my baby wasn't anything like what the book said it was going to be. Prepared? Ha! Not on your life.

Now I'm not saying that once you write the book, it's going to be a best-seller. That would be GREAT... but I don't have a crystal ball. But I DO think that more women need to hear the message. They need to learn that their obsession is harmful. They need to learn that accepting themselves as who and what they are is a good thing, not something they "settle" on because they're not "successful."

And yes, I speaketh from experienceth. ;)

Sarah said...

I haven't read any of those books. I kind of want to read Skinny Bitch but I know that a diet book is not what I need to be reading right now. I would absolutely read your book.

Oh, and I agree with nukkingphutz's #1 about 1000%.

Dara said...

Hi, Dr. Stacey:

This list of the top four says to me that women are hungry for information about how they can feel better about themselves, their bodies and the inevitable life changes we all experience (childbirth, menopause, etc.). As far as titles go, I have to say that seeing "Skinny Bitch" on the book's spine would definitely make me want to pick it up to see what it was about. Getting the book into readers' hands is half the battle -- delivering content that keeps them reading is the other half.

Nicole said...

I only read Skinny Bitch, and it was horrifying. If I can prevent a single woman from reading that book, I'll have done my job. I'll never get that 2 hours of my life back.

Alyssa said...

I was on another blog the other day and we were debating "Skinny Bitch." As you can imagine, a lot of people were horrified, while others wrote things like "Only a fat person would hate a book that promotes thinness." I've read a bit of it, and some of it made me laugh. But I just can't take seriously a diet/health book from a former model and a former modeling agent. I guess it's my own bias. Plus, I've read the magazine that they write for, and it's so f**king (pardon my language) sanctimonious and holier-than-thou that I almost puked. Which, I guess in their eyes, would help me lose weight.
I also read "What to Expect..." during my pregnancies, but found it to be a little preachy. And NO, I was not prepared either,lol!
As far as the menopause book goes, I'm for anything that treats menopause for what it is, a natural stage of a woman's life, not a disease, which is how most people in the medical community treat it.

Anonymous said...

Well it could say a lot of things, obviously. Maybe the fact that women's books are at the top of the list is that women read more, while men are watching sports or playing Madden. Maybe the book about Menopause is popular because menopausal women are feeling empowered and no longer want to hide themselves, but want to enhance this time of their lives. Skinny Bitch- well maybe it's the title. And as for What to Expect, the ONLY reason I have never read that book is that I have never been pregnant. It has been topping best seller lists for YEARS. I see where you're going but somtimes things just aren't as sinister as they might seem.

orodemniades said...

Eh, you know the top lists aren't based on books bought by readers, but by books sold by publishers, right?

Frex, HarperCollins* sells 1 million copies of Neil Gaiman's WorkingTitleX** to 5,000 bookstores. It can then report those books as 'sold' to Publisher's Weekly or what have you. The thing is, Publisher's Weekly doesn't track the number of returns, ie, the number of unsold books returned by bookstores to the publisher. So, of those 1 million books, 999,999 could be returned to HarperCollins but HC will still report those books as 'sold'. And, technically speaking, they have been...just not to individuals.

So, now you know when you see those tables of ridiculously discounted hardcovers at the bookstore why they're so low priced: they're unsold returns (which, btw, the publisher still gets a cut of, as they'll sell the returns to a reseller, who in turn resells them to the bookstore...).

Sign Me,

Confessions of a Former Bookstore Manager

ETA: I was warned away from the What To Expect books. People who've bought them say they are terrifying and poorly writen.

*HarperCollins used as an example, but this is standard industry practice.

**totally made up book, so don't go bug NG about it.

Myriam said...

I actually read SkinnyBitch. I am not skinny, nor fat. The title is catchy. It got my attention and the book was funny. Yes, it was horrifying as well... but I think any book talking about slaughtering animals would be - diet book or not. And no - I am not a vegetarian. ;)

Anonymous said...

I have an idea for a title:

Death By Fixation:
Revealing The Eating Disorder Every Woman Has

~~ Melissa said...

When you read a lot of self-help/diet/fitness books, you certainly notice the repetition. Funny how one author can have great success on a concept that's already been covered by so many others. Timing is everything. I still see so many people looking for the magic bullet in a book. Perhaps a few more viewings of the Wizard of Oz will wake more up to the realization that we've had what we need all along (a body that can tell us what we need, when, and how much). :-)



Spectra said...

Men would never read self help books because like nukkingphutz said, that would mean admitting they don't know anything about something. I know my dad and my husband both think they can install carpeting and fix dishwashers better than any repairman, even though my mom and I know better. I think a lot of self-help books target women because we always feel inadequate SOMEHOW...we're never the perfect size, the perfect shape, the perfect mom, the perfect wife, the perfect cook, the perfect homeowner, the perfect employee, the perfect boss, the perfect decorator, etc. So we buy books to tell us how to do all this stuff better so we feel like we at least can compete with other women. Once we realize that no one really raises their own chickens to get farm fresh eggs to feed their perfectly-dressed twins, we'll probably stop buying so many books.

And Dr. Stacey, I'd totally read your book. It's a topic that's always fascinated me and I think a LOT of women would read it as well.

I've never read Skinny Bitch, but I've read many, many reviews of it and from what I've read, it's basically anti-meat propaganda telling anyone that isn't a vegan that they're horrible people. It's not something I'll be buying soon. I love cows, but not like I love my dog or my cat.

koolbleu said...

I read part of Skinny Bitch and liked it to begin with because it talked about nutrition (the folks at WW never talked about that enough in my experience), but was soon their tirades and Michael Moore-ish approach turned me off.

I then bought a normal nutrition book and learned things about food packaging and processing as well as things like how yogurt works. I like the normal book because it doesn't have the shameful/moral charged feel of diet books. I just feel like I am taking care of myself and learning interesting/useful things.

Anonymous said...

I read Skinny Bitch and it was kind of extreme. But at the end (in small print hidden by sources and publishing information) they say something about not really caring about being skinny, but about being healthy. That made it slightly less horrifying.

PhD in Yogurtry said...

I think books about menopause are to be celebrated. "The change" is finally out of the closet. Women are now empowered to take an active role in managing their menopause. HRT is complex, controversial, and confusing, so the more we read, the better ( right for some women, wrong for others).

The only book I've read is Expecting: a lot of helpful information but overwhelming level of advice. How to eat in order to optimize nutrition - even Oprah with her cadre of specialty chefs couldn't keep up. Too many fears of harming the baby - if I didn't have a generalized anxiety disorder before I picked up the book, I did when I was finished with it. But overall it was a great resource. Again, empowering women to take an active role in managing their own bodies and defend against over-medicalizing their natural conditions.

Reverence Lily said...

I'm a vegan who is fat and is strongly pro-SA and anti-dieting, so I feel a lot more qualified to talk about Skinny Bitch than others (nonvegans) on this list may be.

First - veganism is not an eating disorder, and veganism is what helped me out of my eating disorder. I thought to myself one day, "everyone will think that veganism is unhealthy if they think of my eating disorder when they think of veganism." So, little by little, I coaxed myself out of that place. And y'know? I still backslide sometimes, when I'm stressed, when I'm sad. But I understand that falling into that is self-perpetuating: the more you do it, the more you "need" to do it.

I'm extremely miffed that these authors are essentially promoting an eating disorder in place of actual ethics-based veganism, wherein you eat enough and in fact get BETTER nutrition than omnivores! They set out trying to promote veganism through dieting, and it backfired, and they were wrong to do that in the first place. Vegans come in all shapes and sizes, just as omnivores do. Veganism will not make you thin any more than eating too much will make you permanently fat.

And I can't even bring myself to appreciate the fact that they're bringing veganism to the forefront of our minds. Because it is. It's just WRONG to promote veganism and disordered eating/eating disorders in the same book.

And for the record, a good set of anti-oppression ethics are not possible without practicing veganism. Just like you couldn't call yourself anti-oppression while still reading Hustler, or, yes, hating fat people. All oppressions are intertwined.. you can't pick and choose which ones not to support.