Body Image Models among Low-income African American Mothers and Daughters in the Southeast United States


Obesity among low‐income African American women has been studied using the concepts of both satisfaction and acceptance. The satisfaction frame suggests greater satisfaction with their bodies than their white counterparts, irrespective of size. The acceptance frame suggests that alternative aesthetics serve as resistance against intersectional marginalization. Yet, while these women accept their body size in defiance of thinness ideals, they may not be satisfied. We describe cultural models of body image among mothers and daughters in Alabama. We found that respectability, material consumption, and parental support were important factors determining positive body image, exceeding descriptions of physical features. We further found that those expressing greater body dissatisfaction emphasized respectability, whereas those with less dissatisfaction assigned importance to consumerism and physical form. These findings suggest divergences between biomedical messaging and lived experience. They also challenge uncritical or universalist applications of these frames when interpreting African American women’s perceptions of their own bodies.