Size Acceptance: a Discursive Analysis of Online Blogs
Traditional views on ‘overweight’ suggest that managing one’s weight is a simple balance of energy for which all individuals have the capacity and affordances to control, as long as they have the willpower to do so. This is problematic because such perspectives are drawn upon as resources for social interaction and can thus translate into deliberate negative actions and discriminatory behaviour. Despite recent evidence suggesting that ‘overweight’ is more complex than first presumed, traditional methods of weight loss remain predominant. Less culturally available perspectives do exist such as those presented by the Size Acceptance (SA) movement. SA has recently developed particular strengths because of the affordances of online blogs, including the potential for wider dissemination of less culturally available perspectives. This research explores the more and less culturally available perspectives around the fat body and how these emerge and are taken up in talk online - specifically by those who engage with SA communities. A discursive thematic analysis is used to explore how SA bloggers construct their position and identities online. Creating an awareness of how language is drawn on to construct fat ‘perspectives’ can help with becoming more resistant to hegemonic power. This research offers a unique contribution in its demonstration of how SA bloggers are positioned in such a way as to provide an alternative claim to “expertise”, which enables their views to be heard as a credible and legitimate alternative to those of more established authority-figures - such as health professionals. Furthermore, the creating of an ‘in-group’ allows for corroboration as a ‘community of experts’ and the de-legitimisation of the ‘out-group’ – that is, again, more established authority-figures, such as health professionals. This has implications for both research and clinical practice in that it can enable professionals working in physical and mental health to better understand why individuals might position themselves in ways such as SA, and what they might give up by accepting more culturally available perspectives as ‘truths’. This can help in gaining an understanding of the resistance fat people can have to professionals and change (i.e. weight loss), which might be experienced in clinical settings. Successful weight loss is deemed unlikely by much of the existing literature and failure to lose weight is associated with poorer mental health, therefore SA online might offer positive implications for mental health (regardless of weight loss) even if not for physical health. It is therefore important for professionals to be mindful of the less culturally available perspectives that exist and what online spaces offer for already-marginalised groups, before making attempts to remove or delegitimise such sites.