Title

What happens when grrrls riot? The relationship between feminism and eating pathology in adolescent girls.

Date of Award

2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Thomas, Cheryl,

Keywords

Psychology, Clinical.

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

Over the past fifty years there has been a marked increase in the prevalence of eating disorders (Steiner & Lock, 1998) with women making up the vast majority of sufferers (Mussell, Binford, & Fulkerson, 2000). Growing up female in today's society is a risk factor for eating disorders. Although girls have more opportunities than previously, they are also confronted with powerful cultural messages to please others, through being beautiful, thin, helpful, caring, and self-sacrificing (Weiland Bowling, Schindler Zimmerman, & Carlson Daniels, 2000). As such, teenage girls are more likely than previous generations to struggle with eating disorders, poor self-image, substance abuse, depression, violent relationships, etc. (e.g., Slater, Guthrie, & Boyd, 2001). Theoretical work suggests girls can learn to recognize and reject unhealthy societal messages through exposure to feminist ideas. Although anecdotal evidence points in this direction (Weiland Bowling et al.), empirical research has yet to support this claim. In the current study, 54 adolescent girls involved in a radical feminist oriented group (Riot Grrrls) were compared with 68 girls involved in a group associated with dominant culture messages about female empowerment, i. e., without the cultural critique and activism of radical feminism (Britney Spears fans). The groups were compared on measures of eating pathology, recognition and internalization of socio-cultural messages related to appearance, depression, self-esteem, and self-silencing. Qualitative questions were included to further explore the relationship between feminism and eating pathology. The observed relationships between Radical feminism and eating pathology were inconsistent. Although Riot Grrrls did not have decreased eating pathology, decreased depression, or increased self-esteem compared to Britney Spears fans, they were less likely to internalize cultural messages regarding beauty or to endorse behavioural components of self-silencing. Qualitative data also suggested positive changes for those involved with Riot Grid, including increased acceptance of themselves and their bodies and increased awareness/critiques of cultural messages about beauty. Moreover, elements of feminism, specifically feminist activism were associated with decreased eating pathology (a relationship mediated by internalization of cultural beauty messages). Implications for treatment and prevention programs, as well as directions for future research, are discussed. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 65-07, Section: B, page: 3713. Adviser: Cheryl Thomas. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 2004.