The dreaded body: disgust and the production of “appropriate” femininity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


While some literature has explored women’s feelings about social identities like fatness, race, disability, queerness, and aging, little research has examined, from an intersectional perspective, how women construct a dreaded or viscerally disgusting body and how this produces “appropriate” femininity. This paper utilized thematic analysis of qualitative data from a community sample of 20 US women (mean age = 34, SD = 13.35) to illuminate how women imagined a body they dreaded. Responses indicated that defective femininity, having “freak” body parts, fear of excessiveness, loathing a particular person’s body, and language of smelliness and disgust all appeared, weaving together women’s fears about fatness, dark skin, and becoming old or disabled. Implications incorporating visceral disgust to examinations of body image, and the intersectional foundations of women’s dreaded selves, were discussed. Further, imagining “Other” bodies may produce especially vivid narratives around social biases and internalized oppression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-196
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2017


  • Body image
  • disgust
  • fatness
  • gender roles
  • intersectionality
  • sexism
  • women's bodies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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