“What’s missing?” What storytelling & user experience can teach us about lesbian body image Restricted; Files Only

VanHorn, Samantha (Spring 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/sf268626g?locale=en
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Abstract

Offering an innovative approach to studying body image within the lesbian population, my dissertation explains how standardized body image assessments do a disservice to understanding the body image experiences of lesbians. At the intersection of feminist theory, disability studies, and narrative ethics, this project applies user experience (UX) methods to critique existing assumptions of standardized body image assessments and points out how they falter. 

In my dissertation, I ask: to what extent does seeking out narratives and asking questions about lesbian body image from the perspectives of feminist theory and disability studies challenge the basic core concepts, theories, assumptions, and methods of the whole field of body image studies? This study’s participants included thirty-nine self-identified lesbians in Atlanta, GA and New York, NY ages 18-73 who actively engaged in interviews and focus groups about body image. Participants discussed standardized assessments used in body image research including two questionnaires and one visual measure. No participant felt that any of the existing assessments would adequately depict their body image situations or concerns, yet these are the assessments used to formally diagnose body image preoccupations and disordered eating pathology. 

My dissertation concludes that lesbians not only define the concept of body image different, but also experience body image different from what much existing research indicates. That is, the questions and uncertainties surrounding lesbian body image do not simply ignore the lived experiences of lesbians, but they call into question larger theoretical assumptions and approaches to the study of body image as a whole. These conclusions have far-reaching impact for many persons who consider themselves outside of the majority heteronormative patriarchal hegemony.

Table of Contents

“Do lesbians even have a body image?”: A Narrative Preface……………………………………1

Chapter:

Talk About Body…………………………………………………………………………10

Finding a Fit……………………………………………………………………………...23

For FUX Sake: Research Journey and Methodology……………………………………46

Listening to Their Stories: The Lived Experiences of Body Image……………………..62

Appendix A: The Stunkard Figure Rating Scale………………………………………………...79

Appendix B: The Objectified Body Consciousness Scale……………………………………….80

Appendix C: Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire…………………………….81

Appendix D: Interview Guide……………………………………………………………………84

List of Figures

Fig. 1.           UX Honeycomb, Peter Morville

Fig. 2.           Age breakdown of participants

Fig. 3.           Highest level of education

Fig. 4.           Participants by location

Fig. 5.           Racial identity

Fig. 6.           Chord diagram depicting the relationship between qualitative tags

Fig. 7.           Chord diagram highlighting what participants indicated would be correlated with an ideal body image assessment

Works Cited……………………………………………………………………………………...88

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