Stonehill Sociologist Serves-up “Low-Fat Love”
October 03, 2011
by Lauren Daley '05
Lean Cuisine TV dinners.
Women today settle for less and learn to live with it, says Stonehill sociologist and pop culture and women's studies expert Professor Patricia Leavy.
Leavy explores "diet relationships" in her debut novel, "Low-Fat Love," (Sense Publishers, 2011.)
Part of Sense's Social Fictions Series, "Low-Fat Love" is informed by social research- but written in a fun, "chic lit" voice, with under-grad audiences in mind.
The novel is a great book club choice or could be used as supplemental reading in a variety of social science or women's/gender studies, or popular culture courses.
"Low-Fat Love" tells the story of Prilly Greene and Janice Goldwyn, editors at a New York publishing press, each have their own difficulty with men in their lives. While Prilly falls for the bad-boy, Pete, who doesn't truly care, Janice is stuck in a loveless marriage of her own making. Along with Prilly and Janice, a cast of characters' stories are interwoven throughout the book.
"Low-Fat Love" is underscored with a commentary about female identity-building and self-acceptance and how, too often, women become trapped in limited visions of themselves.
The Founding Director of the Gender Studies Program at Stonehill, Leavy is using the book as supplementary reading in two of her classes: Pop Culture, and her Sexuality, Love and Relationships Seminar. Alumna Lauren Daley '05 recently caught up with Leavy and below you will find her conversation with her about her debut novel.
Daley: What is "low-fat love"?
Leavy: Settling for less and pretending it's better. You know, I can believe it's not butter. It's the idea that you substitute the real thing, and try to pretend it's real.
Daley: Can men read this book?
Leavy: It's certainly geared toward a female audience, but I have male students reading it, and I hope the messages resonate with everyone. Men can get a lot out of the book if they look at the psychology of a bad relationship: Am I participating in bad relationship in my life?
Daley: What are some questions or topics you discuss in your classes with this book?
Leavy: In the seminar, I'm asking them to unpack what goes in to an unhealthy relationship, the relationship a person has with him or herself, explore low self-esteem.
In the pop culture course, I look at women's media throughout the book- Lifetime movies, little things that I mention (in the book) that have to do with gender and identity. Commercial culture is not kind to women. This is the context in how women see each other.
Daley: What about the men in the book? Pete is the "bad boy." What are we supposed to think of his relationship to Prilly?
Leavy: Pete is a jerk and manipulative- but he's not one-dimentional. He has an artist's persona. I think Prilly's biggest problem with that relationship isn't him- it's her. Whether or not he's a player is irrelevant; he's insecure, and she needs to get out of this unhealthy relationship... Pete's arrogance is just a sign of low self-esteem. Someone who feels good about themselves doesn't treat others badly.
Daley: Why are women drawn to the "Petes" out there?
Leavy: Some women settle in relationship and convince themselves: "He'll change."
But if a woman is with someone who's withholding support, it's that woman who has low self-esteem. If you're with someone who is not bringing out the best version of yourself, that's something you need to work on.
That's my hope with aiming this at college students: to gives them the ability to improve their future choices.
It's easy to blame Pete, but really Prilly's problem is with herself. You don't' have good or bad luck in relationships-you make your own luck. If you really value yourself, you're more likely to have authentic relationship.
Daley: What about the character of Janice, the office "witch."
Leavy: Janice is obviously a difficult person, but what I really liked about her. I thought it was important to show there are all different kinds of dysfunctional relationships. Prilly and Janice are both women who have shaped their identities through men who withheld support- Janice never felt (noticed by) her alcoholic father or her workaholic husband.
Daley: What did you want to get across with the two young cousins, Kyle and Tash?
Leavy: I wanted Tash to would resonate with female college students- the archetype of the party girl who wants attention, who doesn't really feel good about herself. I wanted her confidante to be male, and in many ways, Kyle is the best person in the book. He has the best self-esteem.
Both Tash and Prilly end up in close calls. Prilly could've lost her job; Tash was obviously into a bad scene with her (older boyfriend and drug-use.) I wanted readers, especially college students, to know that if you engage in destructive behavior, something bad will happen.
For more on "Low Fat Love", visit www.patricialeavy.com.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.