Dialogue with Immigrant Mothers from Chinese and Tamil Communities to Explore Homogenization, Normalization, and Objectification of their Body

Manuela Ferrari, Gail McVey, Joanna Anneke Rummens


The influence of urbanization, modernization and acculturation processes as causes for the development of body image concerns and eating disorders are documented in the literature. Women exposed to a Western idea of "beauty" as skinny and thin may be more vulnerable to body dissatisfaction. The elements of Western society that contribute to women's body dissatisfaction are captured and described in BORDO's empire of images (2003) and FREDRICKSON and ROBERTS' objectification theories (1997). Both theories rest on the assumptions that women's bodies are seen as passive elements in Western society, and that as a result women often engage in activities that measure, modify, and control their bodies to meet Western standards of beauty and attractiveness. Homogenization, normalization, and objectification have not been studied among immigrant women, nor have similarities and differences been explored across ethno-cultural communities. Participatory methodology informed the data collection process and analysis. A series of three separate parent focus groups were held with each of the Tamil and Mainland Chinese mothers of elementary school children respectively, for a total of six focus groups and 13 participants. Through dialogue, newcomer immigrant mothers were invited to define their cultural idea of beauty and to confront it with the Canadian one. For both Chinese and Tamil mothers, the homogenization, normalization, and objectification of their bodies appeared to occur in similar ways. Immigrant women and their daughters tend to internalize the Western ideals of women's thinness; this makes them self-conscious about their own bodies.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs130126


body image concerns; eating disorders; immigrant women; Bordo's empire of images; objectification theory; participatory methodology

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-14.1.1766

Copyright (c) 2012 Manuela Ferrari, Gail McVey, Joanna Anneke Rummens

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