Leveraging New Media Towards Positive Body Image
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Contemporary Western consumer culture frequently promotes monolithic and unrealistic body standards for women. Traditional and mainstream beauty and fashion industries advertise the “ideal” body type as very thin, white, young and able-bodied. Consequently, many issues surrounding body image dissatisfaction and disordered eating in women have often been connected to such exclusive and narrow ideals. This thesis will argue that new media landscapes present new and promising options for women to send and receive alternative and positive knowledge about their bodies. In the first chapter, I outline my personal experiences with disordered eating, in order to provide the reader with insight into the conditions that guide my research, before I review literature regarding disordered eating, the thin ideal and the shift from traditional sources of media to new media landscapes. The body of this thesis surrounds two case studies that work to demonstrate my argument about the possibilities new media presents for women’s body image. In the second chapter, I analyze the first case study, Beauty Redefined, an online media-literacy based brand that highlights conditions and consequences of mainstream beauty ideals and encourages awareness and resistance to them. In the third chapter, I examine the second case study, GabiFresh, a plus size fashion blog by Gabi Gregg that promotes body acceptance and encourages style regardless of size, seemingly in line with fat activism. In the last chapter, I outline possible future research directions, inspiration for a personal project and conclusions about my analysis on the two case studies and new media landscapes. As a feminist, and because of my experiences with disordered eating, I use both feminist media analysis and auto-ethnography as my primary methodologies throughout this piece.