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

  • Manuela Ferrari Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Gail McVey Community Health Systems Resource Group
  • Joanna Anneke Rummens Community Health Systems Resource Group
Keywords: body image concerns, eating disorders, immigrant women, Bordo's empire of images, objectification theory, participatory methodology

Abstract

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

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Author Biographies

Manuela Ferrari, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Manuela FERRARI, MHSc, PhD, is a post doctoral fellow in Health Systems and Health Equity Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada. She received her PhD at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, and was a doctoral student at the Community Health Systems Resource Group, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada. Dr. FERRARI is specializing in community-based research related to the prevention of eating disorders, body weight and shape preoccupation in young women. She sees the human body as a locus through which to study, and to foster a better understanding of, weight-related problems (e.g., eating disorders, body/shape dissatisfaction, and obesity), shape/weight (in)equity (e.g., weight stigma/bias), and, broadly, people's identities and social lives. Art-based methods, such as digital storytelling (e.g., photovoice, videos) and theater, are, for Dr. FERRARI, ways to gather knowledge, engage people in critical self-reflection, and disseminate research findings.

Gail McVey, Community Health Systems Resource Group

Gail McVEY, PhD, CPsych, is a health systems research scientist, Community Health Systems Resource Group, Hospital for Sick Children, directorof the Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating Disorders, and an associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Dr. McVEY has published studies on longitudinal research on school and university-based prevention programs, including a web-based knowledge translation resource for teachers and public health professionals. Her program of prevention research is supported by a five-year Mid-Career Award (2005-2010) funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Institute of Gender and Health) and the Ontario Women's Health Council.

Joanna Anneke Rummens, Community Health Systems Resource Group

Joanna Anneke RUMMENS, PhD, is a Health Systems Research Scientist, Community Health Systems Resource Group, Learning Institute, and Project Investigator, Child Health Evaluative Sciences, Research Institute, at the Hospital for Sick Children. She is Senior Scholar and former Director of CERIS, the Ontario Metropolis Centre of Excellence for research on immigration and settlement; honorary Fellow, Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean, York University; Full Member, Institute of Medical Sciences; and Assistant Professor, Equity, Gender and Populations, Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. Dr. RUMMENS' research explores the links between child/youth identities and life outcomes, with special focus on vulnerable, marginalized populations, migrant health/wellbeing, cross-culturally competent health service delivery, and international comparisons.

Published
2012-11-28
How to Cite
Ferrari, M., McVey, G., & Rummens, J. A. (2012). Dialogue with Immigrant Mothers from Chinese and Tamil Communities to Explore Homogenization, Normalization, and Objectification of their Body. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-14.1.1766
Section
Single Contributions