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Disturbances in the Social Body: Differences in Body Image and Eating Problems among African American and White Women

Meg Lovejoy
Gender and Society
Vol. 15, No. 2 (Apr., 2001), pp. 239-261
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3081846
Page Count: 23
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Disturbances in the Social Body: Differences in Body Image and Eating Problems among African American and White Women
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Abstract

An emerging body of research comparing body image disturbance and eating problems among African American and white women suggests that there are major ethnic differences in these areas. African American women appear to be more satisfied with their weight and appearance than are white women, and they are less likely to engage in unhealthy weight control practices, yet they are more likely to have high rates of obesity. Drawing on both Black and white feminist literature on eating problems, this article advances three arguments that may account for these differences: (1) Black women may develop a strong positive self-valuation and an alternative beauty aesthetic to resist societal stigmatization, (2) Black women may be less likely to acquire eating disorders due to differences in the cultural construction of femininity in Black communities, and (3) positive body image among Black women may sometimes reflect a defensive need to deny health problems such as compulsive overeating and obesity.

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