Feminists Forgiving of Fat, Research Says

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Yesterday’s New York Times highlighted some new research on fat and feminism. Researchers (Viren Swami and team) out of the University of Westminster in London showed that those women who describe themselves as feminists were more likely to positively perceive a wider range of body sizes than non-feminists. The research was published in The Journal of Body Image.

How the study worked: Researchers compared 129 women who identified themselves as feminists to 132 women who identified themselves as not-feminists. The participants were asked to rate a series of 10 photographs of women (faces concealed) that varied in BMI (Body Mass Index) “from emaciated to obese.” All of the photographed women were wearing plain, tight, gray clothing. Participants were asked to identify (1) the thinnest woman they considered “physically attractive” (2) the heaviest women they considered “physically attractive” and (3) the women they considered most “physically attractive.”
The Results: Results showed no significant differences between feminist and non-feminists in the figure they considered to be maximally attractive. However, feminists were more likely to positively perceive a wider range of body sizes than non-feminists.
The Hypothesis: Researchers speculate that these results could be attributed to possible protective factors that feminists may possess due to ideology. According to the researchers; “Feminism, does appear to afford women a more inclusive perception of who is physically attractive.” Feminists may be less likely to internalize the hype about the thin ideal and body objectification. In other words, feminists aren’t taken by the notion that it’s very important for a woman to adhere to society’s thin ideal.
Interesting Finding: Researchers reported that feminists and nonfeminists tended to agree on which woman was the most “physically attractive.” The chosen woman was typically somewhat underweight, according to Swami and team, which may suggest that even feminists may still be affected by societal opinions that thin=attractive.
Note: BMI is a standard measurement that researchers use to assess Body Mass Index, a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. While it it can be a reliable indicator when doing research and for medical doctors who are trying to assess whether a person may be at risk for medical problems, it isn’t perfect.Are we making progress of do we still have a long way to go?

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One Response

  1. […] National Organization for Women (NOW),  the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States, is working to educate people about important issues facing all women […]

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