Fluffy Women of Color: Examining the Identities of Plus Size Latina and African American Women Through a Lens of Intersectionality
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This qualitative study examined the identities of fluffy women of color through a lens of intersectionality. The term fluffy is an emergent term used to describe plus size women, who also consider themselves to be confident and attractive (Barned & Lipps, 2014). Two-thirds of the U.S. population are considered to be overweight or obese in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those who are women, most are of Hispanic and African American origins. Therefore, this study focused on those groups in regards to women of color. The study was also conducted by a woman of color (Latina), who considers herself to be fluffy. Participants self-identified as fluffy women of color in the recruitment phase of the study. Their ages ranged from 27-63 years old. The theoretical framework of intersectionality was utilized to examine the equation of size, ethnicity, and gender. As this study is situated in the field of adult education, it is important to note that of the limited research focusing on intersectionality, such research seldom includes the identity category of size. Adult education has a long history of discourses related to social inequities and marginalized individuals. In order to create learning environments that are inclusive of all individuals, it is important for adult educators to be familiar with the identities and experiences of learners from all backgrounds, including fluffy women of color.
The research questions examined the participants’ (a) identities, (b) family backgrounds and cultures, (c) successes, (d) experiences of discrimination, and (e) how they responded to those experiences. A phenomenological research framework was utilized to analyze the lived experiences of the participants and collect thick, rich, descriptive data. Data sources included interviews, artifacts, and the researcher’s journal. The participants contributed heartfelt stories about their identities. The findings revealed that the essence of fluffy women of color is complex. The identities of the participants was influenced by their commitment to health, spirituality and inner strength, gender norms, thoughts on stereotypes, and painful experiences of discrimination, including those linked to their intersectionality as women of color and women of size. In addition, none of the women in the study used the term fat to describe themselves. That finding alone is inconsistent with the emerging field of fat pedagogy. This research adds to the fields of adult education, intersectionality theory, and to literature used to inform and advocate for diversity and inclusion.