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Reflections on the Waif : Images of Slenderness and Distress in Pro-anorexia Websites


Burke, E, Reflections on the Waif : Images of Slenderness and Distress in Pro-anorexia Websites, Australian Feminist Studies, 27, (71) pp. 37-54. ISSN 0816-4649 (2012) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 Taylor & Francis

DOI: doi:10.1080/08164649.2012.648258


The term ‘thinspiration’ is used within the pro-anorexia (pro-ana) community to classify images of slenderness that represent aspects of anorexic experience and/or idealise extreme to emaciated slender bodies. This paper discusses thinspiration via an analysis of 1990s grunge culture and its stylisation of subjective crisis. By reflecting on some of the meanings associated with British fashion’s figure of ‘the waif’, it argues that images of extremely slender bodies presented in pro-ana thinspiration menus can be located within a discursive field where distress is a problematic signifier of subjective agency and power. It suggests that although some strategies of the pro-ana community are aligned with the feminist challenge to the dominant gaze and its demand for slender femininities, some images of anorexic distress, such as those found in the category of ‘real girl’ thinspiration, have the potential to reproduce oppressive representational strategies and sustain a view in which damage to women’s bodies is promoted as a source of identity. As thinspiration is produced largely online and by women themselves, this paper calls for a renewed focus on the debate about the impact of slender ideals not only on women as consumers but also as producers of images.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Social change
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Burke, E (Dr Eliza Burke)
ID Code:85085
Year Published:2012
Web of Science® Times Cited:5
Deposited By:Research Division
Deposited On:2013-06-13
Last Modified:2013-07-25

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