‘Getting Fuller-Figured Women in the Picture: from Stigmatised Consumers to Embodied Authors’
Date: 16 June 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Management Studies
Whilst the idealisation of extreme slenderness is widely recognised as a problematic issue, the negative portrayal of larger individuals is rarely criticised for its link with stigmatisation and problems with self-esteem. To the contrary, the representation of larger individuals in dehumanising terms – whether in news reports, advertising ...
Whilst the idealisation of extreme slenderness is widely recognised as a problematic issue, the negative portrayal of larger individuals is rarely criticised for its link with stigmatisation and problems with self-esteem. To the contrary, the representation of larger individuals in dehumanising terms – whether in news reports, advertising and research accounts – is generally regarded as a necessary means to encourage the pursuit of a ‘better’, ‘healthier’ self. However, these negative stereotypical portrayals – generally excluding the perspective and consent of those depicted – can also have adverse effects on human dignity, legitimacy and self-esteem of those thus depicted. Building on the work of fat studies scholars, as well as feminist marketing researchers, this research project seeks to contribute to the inclusion and rehumanisation of fuller-figured individuals, by involving them in the dialogue of visual and research representation. To do so, this research invited a group of fuller-figured women living in the UK and Canada, to ‘envision’, ‘model’, and ‘review’ their own self-presentations, primarily via the use of self-directed portraits, blogs, and conversations. Whilst the inclusion of their embodied perspectives is expected to contribute to humanising the representation of larger individuals – and offer a glimpse into what could be if we started considering women ‘of size’ as authors of their own depictions – it also contributes in filling a gap left by consumer researchers who have overlooked the way larger individuals make sense of their selves, bodies and well-being. As such, this research contributes to existing consumer research theories by explaining the ways individuals can envision their selves/bodies in the shadow of, but also in contrast with, the dominant marketplace promotion of slenderness. In terms of contribution, this research illustrates the relevance of therapeutic and embodied perspectives to understand the self, the body and to engage in acts of consumption. A new ‘self-nurtured’ discursive position offers challenges to the meanings generally attributed to larger individuals, and to the traditional approaches taken by consumer researchers to solve the ‘obesity crisis’. Overall, this research provides empirical, methodological and theoretical contributions to the field of consumer research. It also offers practical implications for the representation of larger individuals, and recommendations for those interested in the social marketing of health to enjoin people of all sizes in mindful acts of self-care and consumption.
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