Each day over the next week I’ll post up an abstract for a paper being presented by a member of the Critical Physiotherapy Network at the In Sickness and In Health conference in Mallorca in June 2015. (You can find more information on the conference here.)
Bodies, voice and change: exploring the construction of fat bodies in health.
By Jenny Setchell, Michael Gard and Irmgard Tischner
Recognising the body as a colonised space brings up the question of who has the right to speak about the body. Who determines how it should look, what will make it healthy? Using the fat body within a health care context as an example, I discuss the dominant voice of health professionals in negotiating and defining body weight as simple and under individual control. Despite convincing evidence that the determinants of body weight are more complex than this, this perspective continues to be reinforced and validated by health care professionals (spanning many professions) and mainstream medical research into weight. Relatively silenced perspectives which trouble this simplistic view come from a number of areas including non-dominant cultural perspectives, people who are fat themselves, and the emerging area of fat-studies. Similarly, I show that clients of health professionals are likely to present much more complex or ambivalent perspectives on fatness. How can healthcare practice be changed to give greater consideration to these silenced perspectives? To examine this, I reflect on my own profession of physiotherapy, a large and growing health profession, which is under-researched in the area of self-reflection. I establish weight stigma in this profession and consider how weight is constructed within physiotherapy. I examine and contrast client and health professional perspectives on weight and propose that a model for change can be developed in health care practice based on this process. I reflect on my privileged position as member of dominant communities (that of health care, thinness, whiteness), which gives me opportunities as a ‘gatekeeper’ to challenge dominant practices by listening to and giving voice to ‘silenced’ perspectives. The limitations and complexities of conducting and applying research as a member of these dominant communities is also discussed.