Methodology

The methodology used in the study is applied discourse analysis from a feminist perspective. Applied discourse analysis is a qualitative methodology that examines text as the object of investigation. The text in this instance is derived from interviews with adolescent women. The choice of applied discourse analysis facilitates understanding of an individual’s experience and its connection to social and political dynamics.

The sample consists of seven young women between the ages of 14 and 20 with diverse demographics including income and ethnicity. The young women were recruited using a snowball technique and confined to individuals outside of the author’s social sphere. The interviews varied from one to four hours and took place in a variety of settings. A semi-structured interview schedule was used as well as some numerically scaled questions. Analysis took place through extensive reading and re-reading of the text from the interviews until particular themes or ‘discourses’ emerged from the data. Particular interest was paid to any signs of resistance to the social pressure to be thin.

Applied discourse analysis also gives us a tool to understand inconsistencies and contradictions in accounts of people’s experience. It theorizes that the self is dynamic and individuals present different selves in different contexts. In this study, text was initially organized into four major categories: psychological mastery, negotiating the body, negotiating gender roles and politics and ideology. Then the various accounts were distilled down to 20 pairs some of which are presented in the Findings section of this website. An example of a pair is when a young women states that she has no concerns with her eating habits, weight or shape but later in the interview will assert that her biggest issue is her looks—this pair would be “body satisfaction vs. body dissatisfaction.”