Weighing in on YouTube: Two women’s experiences of Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery (WLS) is an increasingly popular ‘choice’ and/or ‘solution’ to the avowed problem of ‘obesity’. This thesis explores two women’s encounters of WLS alongside and against a variety of theoretical resources including Foucauldian feminist accounts of ‘fat’, bodies and subjectivities, and theories of embodiment. I draw on narratives derived from Thebandinme and Divataunia’s YouTube vlogs (video blogs) to examine what WLS offers as a mode of being in the world through discourse analysis. In these vlogs, the women have kept a record of their ‘journey’ both pre and post-WLS. These testimonies afford multifaceted and rich insights into the lives and ‘selves’ of these women. I examine the meanings WLS holds for the women and the ways in which my chosen subjects take up, re-work and negotiate the operating discourses around what it means to be a subject, in ‘control’ and what is ‘normal’. The testimonies highlight the women’s nuanced negotiations of discursive formations and describe the ways in which WLS contours embodied subjectivity. The embodied, ‘new’, controlled and normal subjectivities that WLS facilitates for Thebandinme and Divataunia across their WLS journey are the focus of this thesis. I draw on the notion of embodied subjectivity to explore the way weight shapes the subject positions the women occupy across their WLS journeys. I interrogate the idea of control and healthism, and its neo-liberal roots, and examine the ways in which the women understand what it means to be in and out of control. The various ways the binary of normal and abnormal is employed by the women in their vlogs as well as by other people, medical institutions and existing norms such as clothing size are considered. These subject positions are fluid, meaningful, interwoven, multiple and contradictory. Rather than an ‘either/or’ analysis, that is either liberatory or subjugating, of WLS, the women’s narratives illuminate the complex, nuanced, contradictory responses to dominant discourses around WLS, weight and fatness. There is also reflexivity around how and why they ‘should’ enact particular weight loss practices in the contemporary anti-fat climate. From this thesis, three conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, WLS is an ongoing project for Divataunia and Thebandinme. Secondly, dualisms seem to be rather inadequate vehicles to explain the complexity of Divataunia and Thebandinme’s experiences of WLS. And thirdly, the vlogs would appear to be useful sites through which to examine women’s construction of subjectivity.
Advisor: Burrows, Lisette
Degree Name: Master of Physical Education
Degree Discipline: School of Physical Education
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: weight loss surgery; subjectivity; women; discourse; embodiment; vlogging
Research Type: Thesis