Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Women's Studies

First Advisor

Layli Phillips - Chair

Second Advisor

Amira Jarmakani

Third Advisor

Cassandra White


Fourteen women in the United States were interviewed to determine the role mothers played in shaping their daughters’ attitudes toward their bodies and eating, and the extent to which women negotiated the messages they received from their family and larger culture concerning weight and appearance. Results of this study complicated existing theories concerning the factors that most influence women’s self-esteem and body image. The results demonstrated that the women within this sample engaged in a variety of disordered eating patterns, but did not recognize their own actions as out-of-the-ordinary; rather they re-produced familial and cultural messages about women’s “normative body discontent.” Despite their seeming adherence to cultural and familial pressures, women in this sample also demonstrated the ability to be agents and practice resistance within the boundaries and limitations of cultural structure. A number of strategies for gaining family or personal power were introduced.