Shaping the online fat acceptance movement: talking about body image and beauty standards
Adwoa A. Afful & Rose Ricciardelli
Over the past decade, in Canada and the United States, blogs have become a popular and important space for fat women and their allies to create and further develop discursive strategies to contest the gendered anti-fat discourses perpetuated by the media, governments and the field of medicine and institutions of public health (e.g., Elliot, C. (2007). Journal of Canadian Studies, 41, 134–149. Gimlin, D. (2002). Body work: Beauty and self-image in American culture. Berkeley: University of California Press; Herdon, A. M. (2006). Social Semiotics, 15, 127 – 141. Rice, C. (2007). Women’s Studies International Forum, 30, 158–174. Currently, popular discourses pertaining to fat people, particularly women, tend to range from larger bodies implicating a ‘moral deficit’ to a ‘risky behaviour’ to ‘political discrimination’ where elements from each discourse shape how fat women’s bodies are read within the broader culture (Fikkan, J. L., & Rothblum, E. D. (2011). Sex Roles, 66, 575–592. Kwan, S. (2009). Sociological Inquiry, 79, 25–50. These messages in positioning the thin body as the ideal body are embedded in neoliberal discourses around citizenship that, in emphasizing personal responsibility, encourage (sometimes) punishing regimens of strict diets and exercise, and perpetuate an image of responsible citizenship as an extension of modern interpretations (Herdon, 2006). Using content and thematic analysis, we systematically analyze how four female self-identified fat acceptance (FA) bloggers discuss beauty standards and body image as a means to challenge these discourses. Findings suggest bloggers import elements from LBGTQ movements to extend dominant discursive strategies, model alternative forms of fat embodiment, and address the economic marginalization of fat women in industry. Moreover, through discussions on beauty and body image, bloggers use online spaces to contest anti-fat discourses and to develop discursive strategies that move beyond the binary of fat as a lifestyle choice, and body size as biologically or genetically determined that dominate the fat acceptance movement.
Keywords: fat acceptance; citizenship; body image; blogging; online activism; beauty
Journal of Gender Studies, 2015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2015.1028523