I’m halfway through the readings for this week, but I just finished “Body Image, Mass Media, and Self Concept” and I want to document my thoughts while they’re fresh.
First, the premise of the study is really refreshing. I’ll admit that I haven’t thought about the heteronormativity surrounding body image discussions, but when I think about it I’ve never really seen non-heterosexual women represented in these debates (this often applies to non-white women as well). Despite the strong premise, I’m a little wary of the study’s supposed results. The sample size was very small (<30 women for all groups combined), and throughout the report the three groups were broken up in a way that suggested that each group had a unified front. While body image and sexuality are probably connected, the study drew very harsh boundaries between how the three groups perceived themselves, and to me this was overly simplistic. The authors also edited the conversations and arranged quotes/topics as they saw fit, and this probably resulted in some manipulation (intentional or not) of what the women actually said. These topics are complex and ambiguous, and I’d be shocked if it was as simple as heterosexual women fragmenting themselves and lesbian women visualizing a more unified body. (Again, this goes back to the small sample size.) I also wondered about the racial makeup of the three groups, since only two WoC were quoted and they were both lesbians. I understand that the purpose of the study was to explore body image vs. sexuality, but sexuality does not exist in a vacuum and always interacts with a person’s other identities (class, race, ability, gender, etc.). This was demonstrated in the African-American woman’s frustration with the “collagen lips” trend, as she viewed it as a subtle form of racism and cultural appropriation towards Black women with naturally full lips. If the researchers gathered another group of heterosexual, lesbian, and bisexual women, they might discover completely different perceptions across the groups.
I don’t mean to say that the study was useless or boring, but I’m just taking it with a grain of salt.
(The other readings are great so far too! These topics are a bit difficult for me on a personal level, but I’m learning a lot and am looking forward to this week’s class.)