Crafting weight stigma in slimming classes: A case study in Ireland
(2019) Fat Studies, 8 (1), pp. 10-24.
The persistence of dominant social and cultural representations of weight loss renders it as normative and necessary, especially for women. One setting in which the goal of weight loss is relentlessly pursued is the slimming class. Drawn from the analysis of the ethnographic data from a larger one-year narrative inquiry study in four slimming classes in Ireland, this article demonstrates that while slimming is narrated as a positive intervention in the “care of the self,” the crafting of weight stigma is central to the dominant weight loss storyline constituted in the classes. Theoretically, the study weaves insights from the feminist expansion of Foucault’s work on disciplinary power and governmentality, Goffman’s concept of stigma, and narrative inquiry. Three main findings are discussed: the construction of slimming as a quest, slimmer identity, and the overt stigmatizing of fatness. The quest narrative produces a limited set of narrative resources (stories/characters/temporality) that make it very difficult to speak outside the narrative of weight loss. In an Irish context, where the historical circumscription of women’s bodies was pervasive, the findings illustrate aspects of the contemporary mechanisms through which such bodily circumscription endures. © 2018, © 2018 Taylor & Francis.
Critical weight studies; dieting; fat phobia; Irish women; narrative inquiry; slimming classes; stigma