An investigation of the relationship between body image and westernisation: a comparison of black rural and urban women.
Thulo, Lesawana Eliza.
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The ideal of thinness as portrayed for western women has shown a relationship between body image concerns and socio-cultural values as found throughout literature. These concerns also extend to Black African women, although research has proved that they usually display fewer body image concerns than their western counterparts. Haynes (1995) found a significant difference in body satisfaction of white women, black rural women and black urban women. Contact with western values (westernisation or acculturation) was, among other reasons, hypothesised to play an important role in such a variation. The current study aimed to partially replicate Haynes’ (1995) study, considering that it was conducted over two decades ago. The study used a cross-sectional and correlational design. A quantitative research method was employed for this study. Eighty (80) women positioned in different degrees of westernisation (rural and urban) were studied. The researcher exclusively used Black African women who were hypothesised to be exposed to different levels of westernisation. The one group was from Maqongqo village (rural women) and the other group was from the University of KwaZulu-Natal students from urban areas (urban women). The study sample completed two questionnaires namely: the Eating Research Questionnaire (ERQ) to assess westernisation and Body Shape Questionnaire (BSQ) to assess body satisfaction. Furthermore, the Image Marking Procedure (IMP) and the Moving Calliper Technique (MCT) were both used to assess body image distortion. A scale and tape were used to assess the study sample’s weight and height after which their Body Mass Index (BMI) was calculated. Data were analysed using a Statistical Package for Social Sciences. The findings indicated that there was a significant difference in the degree of westernisation between Black African rural women (low westernisation) and Black African urban women (high westernisation). However, no significant differences were found in body satisfaction, body image distortion and weight status as measured by BMI between both black women with low (rural) and black women with high (urban) westernisation. The study concluded that although the urban sample were found to have a higher degree of westernisation, traditional influences prevailed regarding their body satisfaction, body image distortion, and weight status.