Uniform TitleForming fat identities
NameJaffe, Karen (author), Carr, Deborah (chair), Zerubavel, Eviatar (internal member), Horwitz, Allan (internal member), Worobey, John (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
DescriptionUsing data from a large national sample and 40 in-depth qualitative interviews, I explore how fat identities are formed. To understand this process, I argue one must deconstruct it into both the tangible trait around which the identity is formed (overweight) and the social meaning this trait symbolizes (fat). I conceptualize a fat identity as learned, trying, and all encompassing. It is learned via exposure to messages about weight, trying because of the physical and social challenges being overweight poses, and all encompassing because it permeates all experiences. Based upon these three criteria, I argue that fat identities exist on a sliding continuum.
I found many factors to define the length of one's climb to the fat threshold. This threshold designates the point at which fatness becomes an integral part of one's self concept. Present and past physical weight helps determine one's initial placement on the continuum. However, race and gender help to determine where on the continuum the threshold is placed.
Moreover, I found the physical and social changes that come with aging play an important role in one's slide up and down the fat continuum. Older people are more likely to be concerned about health conditions; younger people are more concerned about the visible and social aspects of being fat. Finally, although I did not find evidence to support my hypothesis that discrimination forms fat identities, I did find that experiencing discrimination strengthens fat identities.
I conclude by calling for future research that follows the model put forth here. By looking at identities as an interaction between a physical trait and a social identity, researchers will be better equipped to understand identity formation, and how to alleviate the hardships involved with possessing a stigmatized identity. I conclude with suggestions for educating the public about the health implications of obesity while decreasing the stigma surrounding fat. I suggest using culturally sensitive plans designed around the specific needs of the diverse demographic of which the United States is comprised.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 189-203).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.