Changing bodies, changing times: The emergence of body dissatisfaction and desire for thinness among black women in rural South Africa
Item TypeConference Paper
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Objective: Recent research has shown that black women studying at a rural, Historically Disadvantaged University (HDU) in South Africa displayed levels of body dissatisfaction similar to their Caucasian UK counterparts. However, the African women were further removed from their chosen ‘ideal’ and more symptomatic than the UK women on scales measuring anorexic and bulimic attitudes and behaviours. The aim of this study was to explore in more depth the reasons for body dissatisfaction and the current desire to be thin among these women. Design & Methods: Qualitative research methods were employed. Interviews were conducted with 17 black women who were studying at a HDU in a rural province of South Africa. Interviews were conducted in the native language of isiZulu and translated into English for transcription. Analysis: The information obtained from the interview transcripts was explored using inductive analysis, based on grounded theory principles. Findings indicate the emergence of body dissatisfaction and the desire for thinness among these women to be part of the social, cultural and political changes that have taken place in South Africa in recent years. In particular, they highlight the current contradictions for women in negotiating their ideal body in a time of cultural transition. Conclusions: The data from the present study reinforce findings from previous studies, which indicate that black women in both urban and rural South Africa may presently constitute a high-risk group for the development of eating disorders. It is proposed that these findings be taken as a prima facie case for psychoeducational intervention.