Understanding body size and bisexuality via femme theory: An investigation of self- and meta-perceptions of gender expression

Flora Oswald, Jes L. Matsick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Existing literature fails to address bisexual women’s experiences at the intersection of fem(me)ininity and fatness. Fat fem(me)inine bisexual women experience hyper-visibility in their fatness and hyper-invisibility in their fem(me)inine and queer identities; their concurrent violations of dominant norms of thinness, heterosexuality, monosexism, and expectations of queer women’s gender expression (as masculine) position them as uniquely and multiply marginalized. Literature on these women’s experiences of fat gendered embodiment is lacking but could inform understandings of mechanisms of multiple marginalization. In a sample of 188 bisexual women (61% White; M age = 27), we examined relationships between bisexual women’s self-perceived femininity/masculinity, reports of how others perceive their femininity/masculinity (i.e., meta-perceptions), and their body size. We hypothesized that bisexual women’s self-reported gender expression would not correlate with body size, but that meta-perceptions of bisexual women’s gender expression would. Specifically, we expected others to perceive fatter bisexual women as more masculine given the association of fatness with masculinity and butch lesbians. We found that both self-perceived and meta-perceptions of gender expression were generally unrelated to body size, whether measured via BMI or self-perception. However, moderation analyses revealed that when bisexual women were perceived as sexual minorities, increased BMI was related to decreased meta-perceptions of femininity. The present results suggest perceived sexual orientation may be an important factor in understanding how fatness, gender expression, and sexuality interact to produce the multiple marginalization faced by bisexual women. We discuss the need for closer examination of bisexual women’s experiences of oppression at the intersection of fatness and fem(me)ininity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFat Studies
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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