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Are Feminists More Open-Minded about Weight?

Posted Sep 22 2008 5:37pm

In light of this year's groundbreaking election cycle, vis-a-vis Senator Hillary Clinton and Governor Sarah Palin, allow me this indulgence on the association between feminism and attitudes about weight...

A New York Times article, dated March 25, 2008, made this assertion: "Perceptions: Feminists More Open-Minded on Weight".

The article's author, Eric Nagourney, boldly asserts, "If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then try to be beheld by a feminist."

Nagourney goes on to report that a Spring, 2008 study found that women who describe themselves as feminists are more forgiving than other women when assessing the attractiveness of women who are either very underweight or very heavy.

Writing in the journal Body Image, researchers said the findings added evidence to the argument that women who considered themselves feminists might be less likely to be taken in by the notion that the most important thing for women is to be thin. That belief, especially in younger women, can lead the way to an eating disorder.

"Feminism," the authors write, "does appear to afford women a more inclusive perception of who is physically attractive."

For the study, the researchers, led by Viren Swami of the University of Westminster in London, showed a set of photographs to 129 women who said they were feminists and 132 who said they were not. The photographs were of 10 women, faces concealed and wearing tight gray clothing, who ranged
in body mass index from emaciated to obese.

The study participants were asked to identify the thinnest and heaviest women they considered "physically attractive." They were also asked to say which woman they thought was most attractive.

Feminists and non-feminists tended to agree on which woman was the most attractive. However, that woman was described by the researchers as somewhat underweight, suggesting that, unfortunately, even feminists are not immune to societal pressures to be thin.

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